Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Germany Trip Part 6 - Salzburg, Austria, Day 1

Our trip to Salzburg took us through the Alps at sunset and it was truly beautiful.  Oh, and S got his personal best speed on the Autobahn!  The numbers on the spedometer are in km/hr, but it converts to 150 mph!
We got to Salzburg with our GPS directions to our apartment rental for the next 3 nights and then immediately hit a roadblock.  Literally.  It turns out that the Old Town Salzburg area where we were staying is only open to motorized traffic between 9 am and 11 am.  We were arriving around 7 pm.  We tried to get up to the apartment 3 different ways, the third of which led us to a tiny little alleyway surrounded by tall stone walls in which our big BMW barely fit.  S was driving and wound up having to perform a VERY stressful "3 point turn" (it took closer to 9-10 points) in said alley without damaging our rental after we'd hit a dead end.  At that point we called the landlord and she rushed down to find us and lead us to a parking garage.  We then had to basically jog through Old Town, hauling our luggage over the cobblestones so that we could catch the very last train, or festungsbahn, up to Salzburg castle.  
Why were we catching the last train up to Salzburg castle with all of our luggage at 8 pm?  Well, the apartment we were staying in was actually IN the castle!!!!  Hohensalzburg Castle is one of the oldest castles in Europe, it's first structures being built back in 1077!  The picture above was taken by S and the building up at the top of the hill is the castle.  We unfortunately did miss the last train up another night and had to walk up that massive hill, but that's later in the story...  So we finally made it to our apartment in the castle, ate some sandwiches for dinner and passed out from a long, eventful, and unfortunately at the end, stressful day (don't forget, this is still the same day that we went on the 2 castle tours!)

The next morning we woke up to this.  Nearly deserted castle streets and a crazy beautiful view of the valley and the city of Salzburg below.  Day 1 in Salzburg was going to be a busy day - we were heading out on the Sound of Music tour (touristy I know, but SO worth it) and then finishing up our day with a Mozart concert and dinner.
Funnily enough, most of the people of Salzburg have never seen the Sound of Music.  It was filmed there, but it was never shown successfully in the theaters of Austria - they have no interest.  Despite this, tour advertisements are all over the place for us American tourists who just can't get enough of the VonTrapp family!  K and I were giddy and S was mildly interested (though he did wind up enjoying it)  The tour started off with the gazebo from the backyard of the VonTrapp family mansion, which has been relocated since filming completed as too many people had tried to break into it to re-perform the scene from "16 Going On 17".  After seeing the gazebo we headed over to the lake and backyard of the VonTrapp family.  Little known fact: the house and the backyard/lake are two very separate sites in Salzburg and they are brought together in the film by the magic of Hollywood.  You'll notice now that I've mentioned it to you that in the movie you never see both settings in the same shot... The house in the middle picture is the site of the backyard and the lake behind it, surrounded by beautiful trees and mountains was absolutely picturesque.
From there we headed into the Alps toward the little town of Mondsee, where more scenes were filmed.  On the way, we stopped along the road for a photo op - a lake and small town surrounded by snow capped mountains.  According to our guide, there is usually too much fog to get any kind of good view here, but we happened upon an absolutely beautiful day with few clouds and clear views - lovely!

Our next stop was the town of Mondsee where we were given a little over an hour to explore on our own.  Mondsee contains two classic scenes from the movie: THE church where the wedding was held and the avenue of trees that the kids climbed in wearing their play clothes made of the old curtains.  The church was absolutely magificent, the interior was quite large and filled with domed ceilings, black and gold statues, three organs, and a huge balcony.  It was like the Neuschwanstein of churches. After exploring the church we stopped in a little cafe for some pastries and then took a look at the avenue of trees before heading back to our bus.

Our tour then took us back toward Salzburg, passing by the yellow house that was actually used at the VonTrapp family "house" in the movie (we didn't get to go in and unfortunately I didn't get a good picture when we drove by) and ending at Mirabelle Gardens, where Do-Re-Mi was filmed.  It was a beautiful garden with a fantastic view, elaborately swirling flower beds, marble statues, and fountains that have been carefully refinished to dissuade Sound of Music aficionados from marching atop the perimeter a la Maria.  From there we quickly walked back into Old Town and caught the festungsbahn back up to the castle to change for dinner.  We walked back down through the main square and over to the St. Peter Stiftskeller, the oldest restaurant in Europe, for our 3 course dinner accompanied by a Mozart Concert!

This was also a bit touristy of us, but it was another experience that we all very much thought was worth it.  Mozart was born and raised in Salzburg, so he's huge here - we got to listen to his music in the very town in which most of it was written!  The food was quite delicious and all of the musical selections were pretty familiar, at least for someone like me who grew up playing piano.  To be honest, S knew most of them too as the themes are used in movies and such all the time.  The performers did a lovely job and the singers especially put on a very lively performance.  The biggest surprise of the night, though, was how much we all enjoyed the White Lemon Soup with Curd Cheese Rosemary Dumplings...
The dinner let out long after the festungsbahn had made it's last run of the night, so we enjoyed a steep, meandering trip up to the top of the hill on foot in order to make it back to our apartment for the evening.  We actually got to walk through the "front door" of the castle, though (to which we had an actual key!) so that was a part of the castle that we all agreed we probably never would have gotten to experience otherwise.  All in all, day 1 in Salzburg was thoroughly enjoyable!

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