Arthotel Blaue Gans, Salzburg, Austria

A visit to the Blaue Gans Arthotel in Salzburg

Reading time: 7 minutes
This man is many things - but NOT the prototype of a hotelier.
Andreas Gfrerer, owner of the Blaue Gans, Salzburg’s oldest guesthouse, can step, or better still run, into the year 2020 full of expectation. He runs 11 km three times a week, and feels he is fitter today than he was ten years ago.
In 2020, his house will have existed for a full 670 years, and is situated in Salzburg’s famous Getreidegasse (Cornmarket Lane), already in the 14th century the main trading route for merchants on their way from Munich to Venice and vice versa.
At that time, the house was already an established stopover to rest horses, have something to eat and drink, and get a night’s sleep.

On top of that, in 2020 Andreas Gfrerer will also look back on twenty years of the hotel business under his management. However, “hotel business” is not a fitting description of the “Blaue Gans”.
He has more regular guests today than ten years ago, and as boss of this establishment, he is not only a hotelier but also host and curator in his own house for contemporary art, literature, design, music, wines and culinary delights.
Part of his collection of contemporary art hangs and stands in the hallways, in the brasserie, in the bar, in the reception area, in the rooms, in the herb garden and in the restaurant.

His flair for modern design is everywhere apparent in the room furnishings in this historic building with its enormously thick walls. Whether it’s a small Scandinavian armchair, Moroccan floor tiles in the bathroom or sofas from Italy - collectibles and found items rub shoulders with designer goods to create a special sense of wellbeing that cannot be compared to conventional hotel rooms.
In this respect, I concur with the many regular guests when they say they don’t “stay overnight” in the Blaue Gans, they live in it.

There’s a reading room on the first floor - open to all house guests - with a samovar, fine teas, and drinks and fruit in front of the door as a gratis service. It’s rather like a special safe haven for guests fleeing from the turmoil and noise level of Salzburg’s Old Town and wanting to acquire some literary learning about the city. The majority of the books have some connection with Salzburg and its history. A recommendation: Book Room 414 and read a couple of books by Thomas Bernhardt... You’ll soon find out! A goosebumps moment.

Maybe it’s precisely because curator Gfrerer buys books for his “reading room” library from the Höllrigl bookshop.
His family has owned the Blaue Gans for more than a hundred years, and when the father phoned his son Andreas more than twenty years ago in the USA – where he was studying for a degree – to tell him that the owner of the freehold would NOT renew their lease, he had the idea of taking it over himself.
It’s as though Andreas manages his parental home. It’s where he grew up, and his parents still live there…. If you’re lucky you may occasionally hear his father play the piano, and he plays beautifully! It’s just another of those goosebumps moments.
In his childhood, Andreas sat on the cold stone steps in the stairway, listening intently to unusual sounds coming up from the cellar. The freeholder at that time had turned the cellar into a jazz club, and Andreas listened enthusiastically.

It seems to have made an impression on him, because today jazz is still a guest in the context of a jazz festival that had its beginnings in the old Blaue Gans wine cellar and has now expanded with 100 concerts across the entire old city – entry is free. And not infrequently, as with many such spontaneous jam sessions, the results are unforgettable goosebumps moments.

But the classics are also a major subject for Andreas Gfrerer – and no wonder, in a city like Salzburg with its festivals, the big stars, the Mozarteum, the Grosses Festspielhaus and many more. The Blaue Gans is a popular stopover for big stars, because it’s a place where everything that happens is discreet, inconspicuous and restrained. A tranquil refuge in the hurly-burly – with absolutely no paparazzi or intrusive fans.
He has regular discussions with opera directors, playwrights, singers or actors, and it goes without saying that he attends the highlights of the Salzburg Festivals.
And before and after one of the premieres or performances, there’s a get-together either in the so-called schanigarten of the Blaue Gans or in the restaurant. The oasis in front of the door on Herbert-von-Karajan Platz, surrounded by palms, olive trees, figs and oranges, is THE rendezvous in Salzburg.

Delicacies from the “food factory” of the Blaue Gans are served, since of course physical well-being also has top priority for Andreas Gfrerer. A “Schotterschnitzel” in the Schanigarten before the performance of Jedermann (Everyman), accompanied by a glass of cool Sauvignon Blanc from Styria – a moment of pure delight!
Every one of the senses is addressed in the Blaue Gans.
Visually through art, through design and – very important – the right lighting. The lighting concept is constantly being revised.

For taste, through epicurean delicacies, not only in the house’s own restaurant but also at the “EAT & MEET” culinary festival at the Blaue Gans, and through the finest wines from the well-stocked wine cellar!
Acoustically through music, like the jazz festival mentioned above, or through good literature, e.g. at the annual literary festival which Andreas Gfrerer actively supports... or – simply quietness.
What about fragrances? Alongside the tasty bread rolls and the smell of croissants that creeps under the door in the morning, and other appetizing smells from the kitchen, the man of the house plans its own fragrance.

What does the Blaue Gans smell like?? We look forward to it expectantly!
The next goosebumps moment awaits us.

So let’s wait and see, or rather smell, whether I notice a fragrance in the room when I next visit – otherwise I’ll look out of the window in Room 316 at the herb garden in the inner courtyard and sense the aroma of oregano and basil, or I look at the rocket by David Moises installed there below alongside the bed of greens, as though it was unsure whether it should lift off now, or preferably not at all.
Andreas Gfrerer might perhaps also have become a good journalist (for his guests he regularly issues the GÄNSEHAUT magazine, which he designs himself), or a lighting artist, or a director, or a literary agent, or a spatial art designer, or, or, or …
In any event, he made a good decision to take over the Blaue Gans twenty years ago, because that has now become his “stage”.
Here he can fully live out all his interests, preferences and passions, and we guests profit from it – and his team as well!
Because he manages the house not as a hotel but as an “overall concept”, as a meeting place, as a place of understanding, of exchange of views, a place of mourning, of joy or of inspiration, humor and gossip, and the whole spectrum of life finds shelter here. Why are some encounters with people more intense than with others?

Why do the eyes sometimes light up, or in other encounters nothing like that happens at all? Transposed to Andreas Gfrerer’s philosophy and that of his “Blaue Gans Team”, it means feeling a resonance in the contact with the guest, and sensing how the other feels – i.e. meeting on the same wavelength.
And that’s what these special moments are like; the welcome one receives at the reception desk or in the restaurant, the way one is impressed by the contemporary art in the building and in the room, and the effect created on oneself by the atmosphere in the entire house.
The Blaue Gans is not a hotel. The Blaue Gans is a special place where one can also live – even if it’s only for one night!
During a literature convention in the house, Max Goldt once asked, more rhetorically than in the expectation of a reply, whether geese really can be blue. From the resulting answers, one of the literature festival poets could easily have conjured up a surreal ode on a goose.

The guest present in my room was a blue goose, which is really a blue squeaking duckling that keeps me company in my bathtub at home, reminding me to plan the next stay in the Blue Goose ART HOTEL in Salzburg.

A goosebumps moment to take away!

If you‘ll book a room at ARTHOTEL BLAUE GANS, please mention that you‘ve read about it on roosensTRAVELWORLD! Then there will be a little surprise for you upon arrival!

From the 1st of July 2020 the Arthotel Blaue Gans will be open 24/7 to welcome guests in the hotel and the restaurant. As of now, bookings will be accepted.

© Ingrid Roosen-Trinks
March, 2020

Ingrid Roosen-Trinks stayed at the hotel BLAUE GANS several times as a self-paying guest. Like all our authors, she does not allow any hotel to invite her and pays for every booking privately.

Photographs by: © Ingo Pertramer