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In search of Stefan Zweig

We have been visiting Salzburg for a weekend. A wonderful city, full of culture, music and history. It was also the home of Stefan Zweig for a few years.

We did a lot of sightseeing but I had saved the best to the last day, that is, a visit to the house once owned by Stefan Zweig (1881 -1942). He was an Austrian author, and at the height of his career, one of the most popular writers in the world. He was a journalist and excelled not only in fiction but also as a biographer and playwright. He grew up in Vienna, and studied philosophy at the university there.

Between 1919 and 1934 Zweig lived in Salzburg, He bought a mansion known as the Paschinger Castle on Kapuzinerberg. The building dates back to the 17th century. Here he wrote several of his most successful works. He travelled extensively in Europe at the time, being involved in many cultural projects. In 1934, due to the Nazi Party’s rise in Germany, Zweig emigrated to England. He moved on to New York and then Brazil in 1940. At the time he was much disillusioned about the future of Europe. He wrote his last book and memoirs Die Welt von Gestern (The World of Yesterday) in 1942, shortly before he and his second wife Lotte committed suicide. The book looks at the declining years of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and has been called “the most famous book on the Habsburg Empire.” (Wikipedia and Giorgio Manacorda (2010) Nota bibliografica in Joseph Roth, La Marcia di Radetzky, Newton Classici quotation: "Stefan Zweig, l'autore del più famoso libro sull'Impero asburgico, Die Welt von Gestern.)

The house has been in private hands for some time and not accessible to the public. However, in 2020, a member of the Porsche family bought it, and in co-operation with the Zweig center, opened some of the rooms as a museum. A must visit for me, in other words. I had seen a picture of the house, a stately, pink house on the hill, and had located it by vision from the other side of the river.

The start of the climb to Kapuzinerberg #5, the address of Zweig's house. Not so steep, yet, but there was more to come. We started the serpentine road up the hill. I would not say the road was vertical, but at least 80% was. It was really hard to try to walk up the road. Finally, up ther, no signs to guide you to the house. I had to gather my breath before trying to find out where the house was. We were standing at a view-point over the city and surroundings. To the left were stairs leading down the hill to the city. A little bit further down, just below the monastery was a big, pink house, that looked liked the one I had seen. We started down the stairs, and I was thinking, that if we would have to go up again, I would not make it. Finally, down by the pink house, but it was not anything like a museum. A private name at the door. Asking people passing by did not help. Nobody knew where the house was.

What don’t I do for literature? I did venture up the stairs again. Martin had already gone up, but I needed to stop every 10th step. IT WAS STEEP. And, it must have been far more than hundred steps. It felt as I could have ended up at the hospital with a heart condition. Once up on the hill again, having caught my breath, I saw Martin speaking to someone from the monastery museum. It turned out that the house was situated just opposite the monastery. I had already taken a photo of that building (on top here) which you could see over the garden area. But, the house was yellow?! And … it was closed for renovations. I was somewhat mad, since it said on line that the museum was open.

The pink house I had seen on-line was the Zweig center which is situated on the other side of the river. No time for a visit there, but one has to leave something for the next time. I do hope the house is open as well. We slowly took the stairs down again, and made it to our hotel to pick up the luggage. No more sightseeing that day ... or the next.

To be prepared

I was not sure they would have any books for sale at the museum, so I had visited a bookshop downtown, and purchased the two books by Zweig they had in English; Messages From a Lost World, Europe on the Brink and, The World of Yesterday. Lucky I did. I am reading the first one now.

If you are interested in what we did in Salzburg, and other places, you can subscribe to my The Content Reader Newsletter.

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