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Portraits

Ensconced atop the red beer wagon…

When traffic in Salzburg starts backing up, the reason might not be what you expect: The Stieglbier wagon could well be trundling through the streets again, delivering the Stieglbrauerei’s amber nectar just as they used to back in the olden days. For 28 years, Herbert Schröder has been perched on the coachman’s seat, able to enjoy a whole different perspective of the city …

Has someone been turning back the clock? A thought which inevitably enters the mind, as visitors to Salzburg and locals alike suddenly stop in their tracks, transfixed by the anachronistic sight, face-to-face with one of the two rustic Stieglbier wagons, drawn by an imposing pair of Tiger Noriker horses. Stiegl is the oldest private brewery in Austria – and swears by “delivering” tradition to its customers in every sense of the word.

For the driver of a beer wagon, the day begins early – at 4:30 in the morning! Herbert Schröder and his spotted stallions are a true team. With love in his voice, he quietly chats to the cockier of the two Norikers, whom he’s nicknamed “Burli”, before giving the tackle a once-over with his expert eye. Actually, he originally apprenticed as a carpenter, then became a backhoe operator. But one day, when the company called to offer him a job driving the beer wagon, he just couldn’t resist. Since then, it’s been practically impossible to imagine Salzburg without the sight of the likeable coachman and his two Noriker stallions floating cheerily through the city streets.

In your mind, when is Salzburg at its most beautiful?

When the sun’s shining and there are still only a few people out on the streets. But I have to say, rainy weather doesn’t bother me at all either.

Do you travel on different routes?

Yes. In fact, the route basically changes from one day to the next. Of course, there are certain restaurants and pubs I always deliver to. For example, I drive twice a week to Siezenheim. But then again, I could just as easily find myself heading out to Taxham or Maxglan. So it’s always a bit different, but I always love getting out with the wagon no matter where the day happens to take me.

What’s the most amusing thing that’s happened to you when you have been on a delivery?

Well, once I was standing in a no-parking zone unloading some beer. A very young policeman strolled up and wrote me a ticket. (laughs) He asked me where (on the wagon) he should put the ticket. I suggested he should stick it to the horse’s tail. After all, at some point the horse would have to do “what comes naturally”, with the added bonus that the ticket would be given the treatment it deserved automatically. Killing two birds with one stone, so to speak. Needless to say, that put an end to the discussion. The police officer simply muttered that I couldn’t be talked to and went on his merry way.

What aspects of beer delivery have changed over the years?

28 years ago, there was a lot less traffic than there is today.

Have any favorite places in Salzburg?

The Old City! It’s really beautiful. I also have to drive through there with the horses from time to time. As you can imagine, visitors go crazy trying to snap a photo or two.

Beer delivery in the morning, street theater in the afternoon

The summer months bring yet another special highlight to Salzburg’s streets. That’s when Herbert Schröder and his horses also chauffeur the Salzburg Street Theater around. The theater was founded over 40 years ago. Originally intended for all of those people who couldn’t afford a ticket for the Festival, nowadays it’s part & parcel of the Salzburg cultural scene. As you would imagine, they generally perform outdoors: in parks and other open spaces. On rainy days, of course, they have back-up plans that involve a more sheltered location. Then, Herbert Schröder and his horses wait patiently outside the performance venue until the show is over. The next stop is already waiting, and the horses eagerly paw the ground with their hooves …

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