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A Morning at the Schranne

Salzburg’s Schranne is far more than a weekly market. It is an utterly sensual experience. And it is virtually impossible to imagine the weekly routine in Salzburg without it. We spent one morning floating from one market stand to the next.

They were awake long before the first rooster began to crow and have been busy setting up their market stands since before daybreak. Here on historic Mirabellplatz, surrounding beautiful Andräkirche church, it is as if each stand had been threaded one at a time to create strands of pearls that complement this house of worship to perfection. We are talking, of course, about the so-called Standler – farmers and producers from Salzburg and surrounding areas, who offer their goods here at the famous Schranne every Thursday from 5 in the morning until around 1 p.m. And regardless of whether it’s radiant sunshine or pouring with rain: No week would be complete without the Schranne market.

Living Tradition since 1906

It is just before 8 o’clock in the morning when we first immerse ourselves in the colorful hustle and bustle here on Mirabellplatz. A number of people have already gathered in front of the some 190 market stalls. At a baker’s stand, the smells of fresh bread are almost impossible to resist, while the young woman at the flower stand is brushing together a few stray leaves. At the Schranne, in addition to the widest selection of culinary delicacies, from fillets of Angus beef to creamy goat cheese, you can also purchase regional arts & crafts as well as the aforementioned flowers. Incidentally, the term “Schranne” has a number of meanings historically, one of which is that of a warehouse. And quite coincidentally, or not, Archbishop Colloredo happened to build a grain warehouse right here next to the parish church of St. Andrä towards the end of the 18th century. Nowadays, the Schranne is officially designated a “weekly market for rural produce”. But if we look beyond this rather dry and uninspiring description, we discover a deeply rooted tradition that is nurtured and kept alive by Salzburgers with a true passion. The merchants first set up their stands next to St. Andrä in 1906. Today, the Schranne is one of the biggest and most famous markets in Austria, only outshone by two Viennese rivals, the Naschmarkt and the Brunnenmarkt.

“My grandpa used to buy meat here”

More than half of the stands are operated by Salzburg farmers, though some of the merchants have traveled in from a much greater distance – including neighboring Bavaria and Upper Austria. One of them is Franzi Kriechbaum. The junior owner of a butcher’s and delicatessen in Lochen, Upper Austria, he is actually the third generation of his family to make the trek week after week to Salzburg in order to sell their products. He loves to come here, he points out, as he skillfully dissects a piece of meat with an expert sleight-of-hand. “Generally, we are here setting up our stand by no later than half past four.” Having to get up so early isn’t such a big deal for him. “My grandpa used to come here and sell our meat, which is one reason we have so many regular customers today. We get most of our meat from the surrounding region, which allows us to see how the animal is raised and fed. That’s important to us. And we also take care of the slaughtering ourselves.”

Useful suggestions, cooking tips and a brief chat

That quality is one of the reasons that Elisabeth comes to Franzi’s stand quite regularly. Elisabeth, who joined us because she had overheard our conversation, is Salzburg born-and-bred and has been retired for a number of years now. “I’m here every week”, she says and gives us a knowing wink. “Whatever the weather.” Besides the excellent quality, she notes, she also values the good and honest advice she is given. “Yes”, laughs Franzi, “we think it’s important to be able to share a few tips. Especially when it comes to the right way to prepare each cut of meat perfectly. That’s simply part of the job.” And that’s definitely part of the whole “Schranne experience”. Which also includes asking a familiar face how they are doing and expecting an honest answer. People joke and banter, inquire about other market regulars and also about family. “The human aspect – that’s a really big deal”, says Franzi. And Elisabeth’s eyes light up in agreement.

“Everything harvested and made with my own hands”

We say our goodbyes and continue our stroll, along the wall of the church in the direction of Franz-Josef-Straße. To one corner, we notice an elderly lady standing behind a simple wooden table, carefully organizing her jams and juices. Her name is Resi, as we quickly learn. Resi is a retired farmer from Seekirchen. But she still comes to the Schranne every week. As she has for the last 40 years. Set out on her small wooden table, in addition to her beautiful jams, she also has a selection of herbal syrups. “Mint, elder, lemon balm – all out of my own garden”, she says. Did she also pick everything herself, we wonder? “Of course”, she says and smiles, “with these two hands.”

The human touch of the Schranne

We thank her and move on. We stop here and there, sample, buy, chat. Now and then, we receive a friendly greeting from the person behind the stand, who still recognizes us from the last time we bought something there. We return the nod, smile. And therein, perhaps, in addition to the extraordinary quality of the products themselves, lies the actual magic of this place. That special charm that makes the Schranne so unique. The smiles of the people, the bustling activity between the market stalls, the sensual savoring of products, the casual conversations. The Schranne has a human touch you don’t encounter that often nowadays.  And that is something truly beautiful.