Hellbrunn Trick Fountains:
Hellbrunner Wasserspiele

The Trick Fountains of Hellbrunn (in German "Hellbrunner Wasserspiele") are one of Salzburg′s most outstanding sightseeing attractions: An array of Manierist (early Baroque) fountains built to represent, entertain and flirt with the concept of nature as a dark and mysterious place celebrated in an artificial outdoor environment. Such trick fountains were popular in particular in Italy (Tuscany, mostly), but the ones in Salzburg are considered the best-preserved worldwide.

The oldest parts of them were built for Prince Archbishop Markus Sittikus in 1613. The outlay of the trick fountains was inspired by the villa of the Roman Emperor Nero, the famous Domus aurea and its extensive gardens. A contemporary model for the trick fountains was the Villa Tivoli, also in Italy. The trick fountains comprise of several grottos, ponds and little houses, where fountains emerge in unexpected locations and various mechanical gimmicks are operated by the kinetic energy of water.

Outlay & Cultural Context of the Trick Fountains

If you want to go to the trick fountains, always keep in mind the time when they were built: In the early 17th century, the sophisticated technology behind the fountains must have been mind-blowing for visitors. The reflection on nature, the mythology of antiquity and the "vanitas" motive of the Baroque age added an almost religious dimension to the trick fountains that extended far beyond a leisure park.

The trick fountains are arranged in a series of individual sections. They start with the Roman-style "Theatrum", the core of the facility. In front of it, you will see a stone table with one seat for the Prince Archbishop and a set of chairs for his guests. It was custom that nobody on the table was allowed to get up until the Prince Archbishop had finished his meal and indicated his permission to withdraw. The bishop could trigger the fountains hidden in the chairs of his guests and enjoy watching them get soaked whilst he remained dry in front of his meal. In case they would run away nonetheless, there were additional fountains hidden further away from the table.

The sections following the theatre and the table are ponds and grottos with tritons and depictions of Bacchus. Water and wine were the driving forces for good nights at the trick fountains. There is also a storage facility for wine, which was built in the late 17th century for Prince Archbishop Guidobald von Thun. Various follies refer to myths of Greek and Roman antiquity.

Grottos, Fountains & Wells of Hellbrunn

Under ground, in fact under the palace of Hellbrunn, you can see five different grottos of varying size. All of them are covered in shells and other maritime things, but they are dedicated to individual themes - such as birds: Mechanical pipes and flutes driven by water imitate the songs of local birds. The grotto assembly is followed by a set of follies depicting creatures from Greek and Roman mythology and smaller ponds. After that, you get to the "Mechanisches Theater" or "mechanical theatre", one of the most recent additions to the trick fountains.

The mechanical theatre was built in the mid-18th century and comprises of a model of Schloss Emsburg (which you will find just outside the parks of Hellbrunn) and 100 wooden models of artisans that move, twist and turn - all powered by water and a sophisticated machinery, similar to a clockwork. Since this machinery makes some noise, there is an automatic organ that plays music and distract from the fact that this is a machine.

The next stop is the Mydas-Grotto or "Crown Grotto". At the centre of this grotto you will find a well that has a golden crown on top. If the water fountain is switched on, the crown hovers above the stream of water. The tour through the trick fountains finishes with another set of five or six fountains, wells and follies. Due to the wet nature of the attractions in the trick fountains, they are open only during the warmer part of the year: From early April to late October.

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