Clip clop (or rather klip klop) go the horses’ hooves that echo through the pedestrianized streets around the Cathedral and Saint Peter’s Abbey and the Festival Halls of Salzburg. Tourists who want a small dose of nostalgia can go around to Residenzplatz, on the north side of the Cathedral, and hire a two-horse carriage, which in Austria is quaintly known as a Fiaker.
What the tourists in this particular Fiaker don’t know, unless they have turned around and looked, is that they are being followed. They are being followed by a man in an orange T-shirt riding a cargo bike. In his cargo bike are a couple of brooms, a dustpan and a shovel, since it is his job to remove — at once — any manure that might be produced by the horses as they make their appointed rounds.
This scene would no doubt be laughed at by people from earlier centuries:
- A time traveler from the middle of the 20th century would laugh at the cargo bike and insist that the man should be driving a big truck, making noise, taking up space, burning fossil fuel and spewing poisonous gasses out through the exhaust pipe.
- Those from the 19th century or earlier would wonder what the hurry was, since they were accustomed to having huge amounts of horse manure lying around on the streets for days — or weeks, or months — until someone came along to clean it up, or not.
For the benefit of younger generations I should point out that horses, unlike cats, cannot be toilet trained. Imagine what the battlefields of earlier wars used to look like, and when you were shot in battle imagine what you fell face-first into. As late as the First World War the battlefields were teeming with horses — have a look at the fourth photo in my post The Battle of the Somme, to get an impression of how many horses were on a battlefield just over a century ago.
Anyway, Salzburg in the 21st century is a clean city. The writing on the back of the man’s orange T-shirt says “Salzburg Fiaker”, meaning presumably that he is employed by the Salzburg Fiaker drivers to keep things clean. Of course he can’t follow all fourteen Fiakers at once, but he knows their routes and keeps circulating to keep them clean, which is an essential service because otherwise public opinion would quickly turn against them.
Like the hop-on-hop-off buses, the Fiakers also offer Sound of Music tours, taking either two hours or half a day, whichever you want or can afford.
Here is a typical Salzburg traffic jam: a hop-on-hop-off mini-bus, a Fiaker, the clean-up man and a man and woman on bikes, she with saddle bags and he with a trailer. (Is that a dog or a child in his bike-trailer? I can’t tell.)
My photos in this post are from 2016. I revised the text in 2020.
See more posts on Salzburg, Austria.