In the months of July and August you typically encounter posh-looking people in sophisticated evening attire on the streets of Salzburg’s old town. They have come to see some of the world’s greatest classical musicians and singers at the world-renowned Summer Festival for music and drama which usually attracts a lot of prominence. People in expensive gowns, polished high heels and dapper suits with black ties make their way to the Great Festival Hall for classical concerts and operas, or to watch the highlight of the festival, Hugo von Hofmannsthal’s famous “play of the death of a rich man”, Jedermann, with the mignificent baroque facade of the dome as a backdrop.
But others head in the opposite direction: down to the river Salzach where a different kind of spectacle captivates the senses. For more than 15 years and running, the river walk between Muellnersteg and Makartsteg turns into a bustling art and crafts market every weekend from late May to September. Inspired by the Parisian outdoor art bazar along the river Seine, the Salzachgalerien (“Salzach galleries”) have become a well-known and popular tradition among locals and tourists who love strolling through the countless little market stalls, browsing for hand-made craftswork, colorful clothes, ethno jewelry and curated artisan products from all around the world.
Settled along the chestnut tree-lined riverfront of Franz-Josef-Kai, the Salzachgalerien are a vivid contrast to the historic and classical side of Salzburg. While most traditional markets in Salzburg have vegetables, fruits and local produce to offer, Salzachgalerien unite local and international artwork, craftsmanship and cultural diversity right in the heart of Mozart’s own city.
You can find all sorts of bohemian lifestyle accessories, antique silver jewelry, Indian harem pants, silk scarves, home-made beewax candles, elaborately carved woodwork, aromatic incense, colorful dreamcatchers, music instruments or hand-knitted baby clothes. Among the market booths are also some food stalls offering freshly made specialties from different countries where visitors can taste the local scents and flavours, like original Thai curries, Berber wraps, Italian cheeses and sausages, or sweet crepes dripping in syrup which even Mozart would have loved.
For the second year in a row, one little market stall among all the others was my Coco & Lime mala shop. It was such a pleasure to show and sell my creative work in line with so many superb jewelers and craftsmen and -women and connect with visitors from all around the world.
On an early Saturday morning when Salzburg’s streets were still pleasantly quiet, I set up the little tent I had borrowed from a friend on the river promenade spot that was reserved for me, and arranged the two long wooden tables in L-shape so people would be able to approach my booth from two sides. Several beautiful mandala tapestries served as wall decorations to emphasize the boho vibe of my business. I arranged my malas and bracelets on the sand-colored table cloth and on the wooden stands my dad had made for me. To my left and right sides other vendors were just as busy setting up their stalls and laying out their products, and slowly but steadily the riverwalk turned into a colorful line of market stalls. When I was done with my shop setup my booth looked just like a bohemian bazar tent, ready to welcome the market visitors.
By 9 o’clock the first passers-by stopped to take a look at my creations, and by midday I had already sold a couple of necklaces and bracelets. I enjoyed chatting with visitors from all parts of the world about gemstone properties, setting intentions and practicing yoga and mindfulness. Many friends who I had told about the crafts market dropped by to say hi and show their support. I also had the chance to meet and connect with some other small business owners, creators and crafts exhibitors and learn about their creative approaches and processes – which was by far the most rewarding part of the whole experience.
The fondest memory I took home from that experience was of a lovely couple from Abu Dhabi who dropped by one evening. While the woman was browsing my items, her husband explained to me that they have something very similar to malas in Muslim culture. The prayer beads they like to use are called Misbaha and typically consist of 33, 66 or, most commonly, 99 beads. The most valued ones are made of amber, but other variants are just as popular. He ended his explanations with a sentence that still lingers in my head: “Rosary, japa mala or misbaha… you know, it’s all the same.”
When I had taken down my little white tent and packed the last unsold mala and the last piece of decoration into my transport box on Sunday evening I felt like a real market-woman. As I was glancing at the line of little tents along the river, beneath a sky of pink sunset clouds and with Salzburg’s fortress towering above the scene, a part of me wanted to quit my day job right away and start traveling from place to place to wherever the next crafts market would take place… I left with a feeling of immense contentment and gratitude for this experience, and already highlighted the Salzachgalerien market dates for the next year in my calender.
Good to know
- Salzachgalerien are open on weekends (Saturday & Sunday) from late May to September from 10 AM to around 6-8 PM.
- The exact market dates are listed at http://www.salzachgalerien.com .
- Since it’s an open-air market, it’s nicest to visit when the weather is good. The market is mostly also open when it rains (which can happen almost anytime in Salzburg), but closes in case of thunderstorms.
- Plan at least an hour or two for your visit to fully indulge in the quirky market feeling and sample yourself through all the culinary delicacies.
- Be curious about the stories and people behind the market shops. Take time to learn more about the artwork, crafts and creative processes. Most artists and vendors are happy to chat and explain more about their work and inspiration.