Monday, December 6, 2010

Krampus part 2: Salzburg/Hallein, Austria; December 2009

Krampus loot!

The ay after Krampus-ing in Hellbrun, we strolled around Salzburg shopping for Krampus memorabilia and seeing the sites. We had heard about another run that was scheduled downtown and planned on attending but due to poor calculations (aka misreading military time) we wound up finishing dinner too late to catch the bulk of the run. We did see the tail end which included the Krampuses disrobing in an alley and smoking cigarettes! It was cool but we were a little disappointed. We hung our heads and started off in the direction of one of the many Christmas markets ready to drown our sorrows in pretzels and candy.

Krampus heads on the ground, and unmasked Krampuses taking a smoke break.

Halfway there we heard the deep hollow clanging of cowbells, followed by screams. Then we saw them. Another run!! They came around the corner followed by "Krampus control" (one of our favorite things was the dudes that kept the drunk teens in costume from getting too rowdy) and leaving confused and often irate tourists in their path. We snuck off to the side until they passed (I think I still got hit once or twice) and then followed the procession. We witnessed unprepared pedestrians coming out of shops and restaurants getting swept up in the chaos, as well as parents with terrified children in their arms. The run lasted for about 20 minutes and then the Krampuses dispersed, leaving us much more satisfied.

Our second full Krampus run and "Krampus Control" with a particularly rowdy Krampus.

We decided to head to the main Christmas market (the one we were en route to when we'd been intercepted) to browse the ornaments and hot cider booths. When we got close we heard a voice over a speaker system. As we shoved our way to the front of the crowded square we saw a man with a microphone speaking in German. The only word we could make out was "Krampus" but he said it a lot. A third Krampus run?! A few official looking Austrians cleared a path in the crowd perpendicular to the guy with the mic.

St. Nick, Krampus gang and a scary one up close.

After a few minutes of waiting we heard those ominous bells again. St. Nicholas came strolling out from the left hand side, walked down the path to the middle and sat down behind the MC. Then from both sides came groups of Krampuses! They walked up and almost met in the middle, leaving about 10 feet in front of St. Nick. Then they knelt before him! A few more minutes of Nicholas addressing the Krampuses, then they arose and the two biggest monsters from each side started to dance and bump into each other! It was like a demonic Thunder Dome with Santa as Tina Turner!


KRAMPUS FIGHT!!

They bumped and jostled each other until the rest of the Krampuses joined in. Not long after this they dispersed into the crowd ready to deal out some lashings. The market became chaos for 10 minutes and when things calmed down Jeanne got up the nerve to ask one of the Krampuses if she could take her picture with him. He grunted a positive and I don't think she even got hit! A perfect end to our second Krampus day.

A secret pic of me and a Krampus while Jeanne and Krampus go to prom.

Our last day in the Salzburg area, we went to the Hallein salt mines. It was a bit of a cold tiring hike up to a town in the mountains that almost ended in us not getting into the salt mines because they didn't take credit cards. We scrounged up enough cash to get in, and then donned our white outfits and got on the "train". The train took us deep into the caverns where we watched videos about salt, got a tour about salt and saw some salt. It was actually more interesting than it sounds, but we're not here to talk about salt. We're here to talk about Krampus.

Krampus masks in a mine, and me gettin in there with St. Nick and Krampus!

How does Krampus factor into a salt mine tour a day after the festival. Well, at some point in the tour, everyone got loaded onto a wooden raft that floated sloooooooowly across an underground man made lake. As we approached the other side it looked like there were faces at varying heights in the shadows. When we got closer we could make out that they were Krampus masks! And one of them was moving! Sure enough, there was a Krampus waiting at the other side for us with a St. Nick who had a basket of chocolates. No one else on our tour seemed to know what the hell Krampus was, so they weren't as wary as Jeanne and I about being boxed in with a monster that hits you. They learned soon enough. As everyone piled off the raft the Krampus administered some birchings and our guide explained that one of the guys who carves the masks lives in Hallein which was why they were displayed down there. It added a new level of ridiculousness to the Krampus experience. Not only had we seen more Krampuses than we had planned on but we got to see one deep in a salt mine!

Krampus store front and Krampus pastries in Vienna.

I would be remiss if I didn't point out that Vienna also has some Krampus stuff, though not nearly as much as the Salzburg area. A few shops had decorations and a few bakeries had pastries. We even saw a single run on a schedule for one of the Christmas markets but it had already passed. Don't fret, because what Vienna lacks in Krampus, it makes up for with general weirdness.....we'll get to that in later posts. This trip was one of the best I've ever been on so I would highly recommend it if you like weird/creepy stuff. GRUSS VOM KRAMPUS!!

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