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The Daily Bread of Salzburgers

When in doubt, always follow your nose! The ancient craft of the baker thrives at the long-established Stiftsbäckerei St. Peter. With water still drawn from the Almkanal as it was centuries ago, they continue to produce traditional, sustainable and absolutely delectable baked goods.

If you make your way from the Kapitelplatz towards the Festungsberg, you might already be able to smell it – that incomparable scent of bread fresh out of a wood-fired oven. If you turn through the archway leading to St. Peter’s Cemetery, you will discover where it came from: the bakery of the abbey itself. In its own secluded world between past and present, the mill wheel still rotates industriously, while the powerful waters of the Almkanal sweep by. If you now go down the few steps, you will be surprised to find yourself in an old bakery dating back to the 12th century.

The obligations of tradition

It is fair to assume that the monks of St. Peter’s have been baking bread since the abbey was founded. Though the first documentation we have of a mill wheel in operation and grain being ground comes to us from the year 1160, making the Stiftsbäckerei the oldest bakery in Salzburg. In that year, under archbishop Konrad I, engineers cut a 400 meters-long shaft – known as the “Stiftsarmstollen” – to divert the Almkanal through the mountain. Since then, it is impossible to imagine the cultural legacy of this city without the mill and abbey of St. Peter’s. That said, at one point in its history it was in serious need of help: The mill fell victim to a fire in 1455, though the abbot soon had it rebuilt.

A rushing stream and a clattering mill wheel

The teeth of time gnaw away, even on a traditional mill such as the one at the arch-abbey. Which is why, in 2006, the mill wheel needed a few modern adaptations. A gear mechanism that requires essentially no maintenance now powers the generator, and has run without interruption since it was installed. To insure that continues to be the case, they also installed a roof. It is fair to assume that sustainability is of immense importance at such a tradition-rich bakery as that of St. Peter’s. From milling to the finished bread, they do everything themselves. The grain comes from an organic farmer in the Waldviertel region of Lower Austria, while constant quality is guaranteed by warehousing a full year’s supply. And above all, the dough is king. It is given all the time it needs to proof. Something that is practically no longer possible in modern, large-scale bakery operations.

The early bird catches the ... bread

Visitors to the Stiftsbäckerei get to experience the bakery in action, essentially right in front of their noses! If you come in the morning as soon as they open, you can even watch the bakers putting their skills into action – after all, the baking room and the sales room are one and the same thing. The bakery opens at 7 a.m. (except Wednesday and Saturday, when they are closed). The products go on sale either at 8:30 (Monday and Tuesday) or 7:30 (Thursday to Saturday). On Saturday, especially, it’s a good idea to hurry on over! The people of Salzburg know precisely where to find the best bread in town. And standing in line waiting your turn is “good form” and also part of the tradition. Above all, it is their dark bread, made from a natural sour dough – referred to by the locals simply as “St. Peter’s Bread” – that is incredibly popular. That said, their sweet brioches sell out quickly, too. And the incomparable flavor simply whets your appetite for more.