Wednesday 13 August 2014

European Adventure: Day Sixteen - Salzburg, Austria

As I started planning this trip and looking at various country maps, I was happy to realize how close our timeshare was to Salzburg. It was a place that had always looked so beautiful and was on my list of places to visit. Once I started doing some research both Dad and I were thrilled to realized that Salzburg was the setting of the film version of The Sound of Music! Both he and I love this movie, so we knew visiting was a definite must-do. 

I found a tour by Panorama - The Sound of Music Tour which seemed perfect. I opted to buy these tickets as his father’s day gift knowing how much we would both enjoy it. Brian had the option to come with us, but he decided he would rather stay in Salzburg and tour on his own visiting places like Mozart's birthplace and residence. 

We left Maria Alm by 6:00am and arrived in Salzburg before 8:00am. This allowed us to avoid crowds, find a good parking spot and wander a bit before the streets got packed. The drive was beautiful, with lots of small villages and mountain views. The weather was cold and rainy so we were all bundled in the warmest clothes we had - which wasn’t much. We truly had no idea that the weather up here would be this cold. Luckily Brian and Dad had light jackets and I had a hoodie.

We found another cafe called Mozart’s Cafe (much different then the one in Vienna) and had breakfast there. I just had a croissant but Dad and Brian had their breakfast special which included smoked salmon, eggs and champagne. Luckily for me I got their champagne! Drinking two glasses on very little food probably wasn’t the best idea as found myself even sleepier then I initially was, but honestly when else will I have the chance to drink breakfast champagne in Salzburg?

Its our last name!
We spent the first part of the morning as a group and explored the Fortress Hohensalaburg which is a large fortress built on top of the city. Just before taking the funicular up, the rain started so we had to buy some umbrellas. I also bought a hat – a totally silly and whimsical hat, but one I love! The fortress was interesting but a bit on the boring side. I don’t think it’s a place I would recommend as there are many other places to see in Salzburg. Both Dad and I tend to enjoy more of the Palaces/Castles all decorated and opulent as opposed to Fortresses or Medieval residences.  Construction on Fortress Hohensalaburg (or Hohensalaburg Castle) began in 1077, and was only under siege once in 1525.

Inside the Fortress there was a Marionette Theatre which was pretty cool to see. On display there were many Marionette Dolls some of which were fashioned after the Sound of Music characters. That is something I wish we could have had time for – to actually see a performance of a Marionette show. That is definitely on the list for my next trip to Austria. On the upper area of the fortress were a number of rooms, including a gift shop. There wasn’t a ton of things to see, but it was still interesting because of the history and how old the building is.

My awesome hat!

On our way out of the Fortress there was this cute love tunnel/grotto thing that legend says a couple who kisses inside will be together forever. Of course I dragged Brian inside! However after our kiss I walked the wrong way out, so Brian made us re-do it in case I jinxed it. It was cute!

After the Fortress, Brian went off on his own as he had a long list of sights he wanted to see. Dad and I walked though the University Courtyard which was cool, and along the small streets of Old Town. The rain started pouring so we ducked into Café Tomaselli which is a famous café in Salzburg known for its deserts. We managed to grab the last table and ordered hot tea because we wanted something warm. They had waitresses dressed in black dresses with white aprons who were walking around with platters of cake that you could choose from. I selected this chocolate raspberry roll which was pretty good – but would have been better with vanilla cake. Dad also had a light desert which was delicious.

Once we finished at the café we walked through Old Town a bit more and wandered in and out of a few of the stores. We walked across one of the bridges – which is famous for the locks. Just like in Paris and other European counties, Salzburg has a bridge where couples lock a pad lock on the bridge and throw the key into the water. It was a cool thing to see, as the bridge was full of locks. I wonder how long this will be allowed to go on, as I recently read that the Paris bridge is having structural damage because of the added weight. But it is a really cute idea and fun to walk across.

We made our way over to Mirabell Palace and walked through the Mirabell Gardens which are famous from the Sound of Music. These are beautiful gardens with gorgeous flowers, fountains and sculptures around the grounds. If it hadn’t been raining we would have spent more exploring them because there was a lot more to see especially at the back where there was a dwarf garden – but we chose to take cover in a restaurant instead. These were the gardens used in the “Do-Re-Me” song and we got to see the gardens, Pegasus Fountain and the steps that were used in that scene. 

Lunch was in a packed restaurant where we had an Austrian specialty of a broth soup with shredded pancake. It was very light lunch which was fine because we had both had cake only a few hours earlier.

The restaurant was only a few blocks away from the tour starting point, so after lunch Dad and I made our way over there. It was a packed tour – and they ended up having two busses running. The tour guide was amazing – very funny, dramatic and a little but over the top which was awesome! He would act out scenes from the movie, sing songs and kept the bus laughing and having a great time for the entire four hours.

Our first stop was a photo opportunity at the Leopldskron Palace where we got to take photos of the lake where the boating scene was filmed. From this viewpoint we could see the house that was used as the backyard and gardens of the Von Trapp family. It’s now a hotel, and initially the gazebo had been kept here. However for years they had people jumping fences and swimming across the lake to get to the gazebo for photos and to reenact the “16 Going on 17” scene. So they gave the Gazebo away to Hellbrunn Palace, which was our next stop. The Gazebo is in the gardens of the Palace and we had time to walk around and it and take a ton of photos. Some of the couples on the tour were doing cute poses and taking videos of themselves dancing and singing which was fun to watch. It was raining again, so the mood was accurate to the scene in the movie! 

We drove through Salzburg and the tour guide pointed out all of the film locations within the film, as well as other famous places that Salzburg is known for. One of the places we could only slightly see was the house that was used for the exterior shots of the Von Trapp home, and the tree-lined street that was used for the tree-climbing scene. It is all private property so the bus couldn’t drive down it. Since the movie used one place as the house, and another as the gardens and lake – it explained why there were a lot of choppy cuts in the scenes outside when Maria and the Captain are talking. One of them is against the house, whereas the other is against the lake – and you never see them in the same frame because of the two different locations being used.

We were supposed to a photo stop at the leg of the mountain and get a view of Nonnberg Abbey, but the weather was too bad. So we just drove past it. Nonnberg Abbey is where the actual Maria von Tropp was a novice and it is where she and the Baron were married in real life.

We drove out to the lake district and passed Lake Fuschl and Lake Wolfgang which were used in panorama shots and scenes of the picnic were filmed, this ride was an hour and a half, and during that time the Sound of Music Soundtrack was played with the bus singing along. Almost everyone had seen the movie – expect maybe two people. It was funny when we first boarded the bus the tour guide made the implication I was dragging my dad along… LOL. Little did they know how many times he has seen the movie and its his Christmas tradition to watch it at least once every year!

Our drive took us to the town of Mondsee where we were able to see the famous church that the wedding of Maria and Baron von Trapp was filmed. It was an absolutely adorable town with colorful buildings and friendly people. We had about an hour to look around the town on our own, but the rain was insane. Rather then walk around most of the bus sat inside a café and had strudel which was highly recommended to us by the guide. I would love to return to this area and town because it was a really cute little village. On our way back, we watched part of the documentary about the Sound of Music and city of Salzburg which was really interesting. Between Mozart and The Sound of Music, Salzburg gets a huge amount of tourists each year.

The bus was a lot of fun, and the guide/driver sold drinks including beer and champagne. Everyone seemed to have a great time singing and laughing and learning a lot about the movie, as well as the real Von Trapp family. The bus ended across from the Mirabell Gardens but instead of seeing them again, we met Brian near the car. It was already 6:00pm and we wanted to start the drive back before it got too dark. The roads were all narrow mountain roads and the rain was still on and off.

We got back to the resort just before 8:00pm and I led us to a restaurant that I had found on TripAdvisor - Almer Bauernkastn. This was by far one of the best restaurants of the trip. There was a bit of a language barrier but the staff were friendly and the food was delicious. I had this pork dish done with fresh local mushrooms and a Austrian pasta-like dish. Brian had deer and Dad had fish – everything was so fresh and wonderful. It was also just a few minutes walk from the hotel so we made plans to return there again later in the week.

Over dinner we talked about our plans for the next day and mutually decided to forget Munich. Initially we were going to do Neuschwanstein Castle (the castle which was used as inspiration for the Sleeping Beauty Castle which is an hour outside Munich) but when we went online to look at ticket information we found out that it was insanely busy and admission couldn’t been guaranteed. Even if we got there as soon as it opened, we could be assigned a time that was in the afternoon/evening because tickets were available in advance. I didn’t realize this and tickets had to be bought 48-hours before so there wasn’t any way we could even buy them beforehand.

Munich was a city I was looking forward to, but Dad had seen it before and Brian had been there as a kid – and both of them pointed out that 1 day wasn’t enough time to really see anything. Plus all of us were feeling the jam-packed schedule and weren’t really wanting drive three hours each way. Instead we decided to visit Berchtesgaden, Germany a place Brian had suggested.

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