The magic of the elephant

José Saramago, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, succumbed to the magic of the elephant’s journey when he learnt of the history of the pachyderm in question and dedicated a book to it. What’s more, the elephant’s journey is no mythical story. In 1551/1552, an elephant complete with a large entourage stopped in Brixen around the turn of the year and stayed there for 14 days. It was a gift from the Portuguese King John III to his nephew, Archduke Maximilian of Austria, and was on its way from India to Vienna. At that time the exotic animal was a sensation: it was applauded by bishops and cardinals in Trento and received in triumph in Bolzano. In Brixen, too, the townsfolk formed a guard of honour. It is no surprise that the elephant left a lasting impression: today’s Hotel Elephant continues to have a similar effect on its guests.