The poet Georg Trakl was born in Salzburg in 1887. His birth house, at Waagplatz 1a, is now the site of the Trakl Research and Memorial Center. It can be visited on weekday afternoons at 14:00, on guided tours only. The cost as of 2020 is five Euros. The tours are in German only, as far as I know, and the exhibits are entirely in German. Like everything else in Salzburg, the Trakl Center is currently closed (as of April 2020) because of the coronavirus pandemic.
When I took the guided tour in 2016, it began with a half-hour film on Trakl’s life and poetry. It is a beautiful, sensitive film that was made especially to be shown here, but I found it extremely depressing, simply because Trakl had a dreadful life and a horrible death.
The year of his death, 1914, hints that he was a casualty of the First World War, which in a sense he was, though he was not shot on a battlefield. Since he had a university diploma in pharmacy, he was assigned to a first-aid unit in the Austro-Hungarian army. After the battle of Grodek, Poland, he and a few of his fellow medics, without any doctors, found themselves trying to care for ninety badly mutilated soldiers, most of whom were screaming in pain or begging to be put out of their misery. That night he tried to kill himself, but was prevented from doing so and committed to a military hospital, where he died of a cocaine overdose a few weeks later.
Even before the war, Trakl’s life was a hopeless mess. In his letters from 1912 and 1913, some of which are on display at the center, he was constantly begging for money. He was already recognized, by some, as a brilliant poet, but he had no job, no home, no prospects. He was tortured by feelings of guilt about his younger sister, a pianist, with whom he may or may not have had an incestuous relationship — depending on which scholars you believe.
The dark, heavy furniture on display at the center is the original furniture of the Trakl family from the nineteenth century. It was donated to the center by one of Trakl’s sisters (not the one he was in love with), who was still alive when the center was founded in the 1970s.
From their living room window, the Trakl family could see the Capuchin monastery on the hill on the other side of the Salzach River.
This poem by Georg Trakl is posted at the entrance to his birth house. It is about his feelings and impressions in the gardens of Hellbrunn Palace, near Salzburg.
An English translation of this poem, by Jim Doss and Werner Schmitt, can be found here.
And a French translation, by Christian Guernes, can be found here.
Wieder folgend der blauen Klage des Abends
Am Hügel hin, am Frühlingsweiher –
Als schwebten darüber die Schatten lange Verstorbener,
Die Schatten der Kirchenfürsten, edler Frauen –
Schon blühen ihre Blumen, die ernsten Veilchen
Im Abendgrund, rauscht des blauen Quells
Kristallne Woge. So geistlich ergrünen
Die Eichen über den vergessenen Pfaden der Toten,
Die goldene Wolke über dem Weiher.
My photos in this post are from 2016. I revised the text in 2020.
See more posts on Salzburg, Austria.