World’s first splashpark/garden

Hellbrunn Summer Palace in Salzburg Austria, is about as far from hell as you can get, and like no other garden you can visit. It was finished around 1620 as a “pleasure” palace for weekend visits for prince/Archbishop of Salzburg, Markus Sittikus (good job titles if you can get them). Sittikus was finished himself in 1619 and died. The palace itself and grounds were designed by Santino Solari, including, it’s thought, many of the sculptures.

The gardens are typical parterre gardens of the time, but the fountains and waterworks were far ahead of their time — and still work 400 years later. There are water “automats,” grottoes of birdsongs and floating crowns, trick fountains galore and a mechanical theater with hundreds of moving parts — everything powered by water — even the birdsongs. They’re fantastic feats of engineering.

This was our second trip here. We visited back in the early ’90s when we were last in Austria, but thought our daughter would get a kick out of it. She probably would have enjoyed it more had we not dragged her around all morning visiting the salt mines around Salzburg and Hitler’s Eagle’s nest, which I posted about previously (she’s afraid of heights so that exhausted her!).

If you’re ever in Salzburg, it’s just a few minute drive from downtown and worth the trip. The inside of the palace is a gallery/museum of works original to the house, with some spectacular muraled walls and sculptures.

The trick fountain picnic table from above. The Archbishop would have guests
settle in,then turn on the seat and table fountains. His seat, at the head of the table
did not have a fountain in the seat. Never trust a bishop.
Long view to the picnic table area.
Fancy ball cleaner.

Detail of photo above, of the figure that would stick its tongue out at you
and roll its eyes. I get that a lot.
Even the wall-mounted statues were trick fountains. We’d remembered these from
the last trip here years ago and were smart enough to stand aside. This time.
Piled rock moss gardens dotted the area.
There were about ten of these min-grottoes along a small canal, each with a different
theme and characters inside that moved.

This mechanical theater is completely run on water,
with around 200 figures, each doing a different task.

Hundreds of fountains large and small surround the palace.
You could walk under this without getting wet. Unless you were walking under it
while it was either turned on, or was being turned off.
I’m trying to figure out how to do this in my yard or Garden Walk.
At any given time you could get sprayed from below, from the side or from above.
These came from the risers of a set of steps. It only took a couple times before we
stood away from any wet areas on the ground. Some never caught on.
And kids? They waited for the spray.
From an upstairs window, just one of the many fountain/grotto/pond combos.
Extensive parterre gardens were broken up with shallow ponds filled with HUGE fish.

Loooong driveway.
Here is the pavilion Rolf & Liesl sing “You are Sixteen going on seventeen…”
in The Sound of Music. It was placed here after the movie was filmed.
The trick fountain table overlooks reflecting pools and is in view
from the inside of the house. Where it’s dry.
In the Floating Crown Grotto, the golden crown floats to the ceiling.
Here’s the view from the nearby hillside of much of the grounds.

I have a long-time garden blog, a popular garden on America's largest garden tour, and have co-written a book on garden design titled, "Buffalo-Style Gardens: Create a Quirky, One-of-a-Kind Private Garden with Eye-Catching Designs" When I'm not doing all that, I am an advertising designer always out looking to design things to promote your business. Look me up at #jcharlier.

0 comments on “World’s first splashpark/garden

  1. lovely lovely lovely !!! Thank you, great article. Happy New Year my dear Jim ! Bonnée Année, joie, amour, santé !


  2. Again, we were just there this summer! I still haven't posted a single photo of our trip. But I did a double take on some of these photos! We were at that gaudy yellow-walled garden and saw the pavillion from sound of music, along with the saltmines there. We may have brushed shoulders in passing!


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