The Bullwashers of Salzburg

Salzburg Fortress with the Salzach in the foreground


A mischievous legend of the inventiveness and survival of the Salzburgers

For a long time, the inhabitants of the town on the Salzach have called themselves "Die Stierwascher". This peculiar name has its origins in a humorous and cunning legend that goes back to the early centuries. At that time, Salzburg was surrounded by an enemy war army, which wanted to force the city to surrender by blockading it with hunger. The strong city walls could not defeat the enemies, so their plan was to seal the exit and entrance so tightly that not even a mouse could fit through.

Salzburg Fortress with the Salzach in the foreground
Salzburg Fortress with the Salzach

A clever idea

The Salzburgers quickly recognised the besiegers' intentions and feared that their walls could not protect them. If the siege of the fortress lasted longer, a huge famine threatened. Therefore, the city commander ordered a strict fast. The situation came to a head when only one bull was left that had not yet been slaughtered. It was splendidly brown-spotted and well-fed, and the city commander came to A clever idea.

The city wall

Early the next morning the bull was driven onto the broad city wall, to show the enemies that there was no shortage of food in Salzburg. The following night, the bull was painted white and presented again the next morning. On the third morning, the Salzburgers showed the enemies a pitch-black bull. The besiegers were taken aback and assumed that the Salzburgers must have been well fed for a long time. On a stormy night they secretly departed.

The Sierwascher

Great rejoicing broke out in Salzburg! The citizens led the bull to the Salzach and washed it until it had its beautiful brown spotted coat back. The river was covered with soap scum all the way up to Oberndorf. Since that time, the people of Salzburg have been called "Die Bullwashers". What was once meant as mockery is now considered an honour to come from the beautiful city on the Salzach.

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