“The hills are alive, with the sound of — High on a hill was a lonely goatherd ladyodaladyodalayhee — Ti a drink with jam and bread (jam and bread!) that will bring us back to do, do, do, do…” That has been my brain for the last three days. Why? Because each year over 300,000 people flock to Salzburg, Austria to splash in fountains, twirl on mountaintops, and recreate their favorite moments from The Sound of Music — and this year, I can count myself among those ranks. Those of you who know me well know that nothing brings me more joy than a musical, and The Sound of Music is what sparked that passion. As a child I watched it countless times (which surely thrilled my dad to no end), though I understood essentially none of the plot. In my mind, it’s a story about seven children with a strict dad who get an awesome governess who makes them clothing out of curtains, teaches them to sing, and ends up being the best mother in the history of the world (with the exception of my own, of course. Hi Mom.). All that stuff about the Captain and Maria falling in love and the Nazis taking over Austria was basically just a distraction from Gretl’s showstopping solo in “So Long, Farewell, Auf Wiedersehen, Goodbye”. Having since re-watched the movie on the train to Salzburg, I have gained a greater appreciation for the more nuanced and historically significant parts of the film, but it’s still the catchy music and adorable children who have my heart. Our two days in Salzburg were nothing short of magical as we stumbled across iconic scenes at every turn under the graceful majesty of the Austrian Alps.
We arrived in Salzburg around 6 PM and walked to our hotel on Linzergasse, a lovely street lined with bakeries, adorable shops, and an unusually high number of apothecaries. We stayed at the Hotel Amadeus and could not have asked for a better home-base. The rooms were spacious (at least by European standards), charming, and, most importantly, clean. Breakfast was not included, but that turned out to be a blessing as we sought out a unique Salzburg experience each morning. It was perfectly situated, too — right across the river from the Altstadt (Old Town) but somewhat distant from the mobs of tourists. At the end of a long day of traveling, plus a draining visit to Dachau, we were all quite tired. So, after a delicious dinner at a nearby restaurant, we climbed into bed to recharge for our first full day of touring.
Saturday morning, my parents and I went for wonderful runs along the river which gave us our first glimpses of Salzburg’s beautiful scenery and architecture. Though I didn’t know it at the time, I also saw my first SOM sight! For those who know the movie, I ran over the bridge the children and Maria cross on their first day in town right before Do-Re-Mi. Once we’d all made it back to the hotel and showered, the four of us set out to explore the town. We got delicious pastries for breakfast and then wandered across the river through Altstadt to the Hohensalzburg Fortress. Visible from nearly any place in town, this fortress has been around in some form since the 9th century and has been expanded and renovated countless times. Not only did it provide truly breathtaking views, but we learned quite a bit about Salzburg’s role in Austrian history. After we got our fill of fortress, we walked down the mountain back into town on a mission to find Mozart’s birthplace.
It took a few tries, but eventually we stumbled upon the house and headed inside. I had expected it to be set up to resemble what it was like when the Mozart family lived there, but it was more of a traditional museum with artifacts and information from Mozart’s early years. My energy levels were fairly low at this point, so I probably didn’t get as much out of the experience as I could have, but it was interesting nonetheless. From Mozart’s birthplace, we walked back across the river to find the house where he spent much of his adult life. However, since our breakfast had consisted of nothing but bread and sugar, we were all in need of fuel so we stopped for Natalie’s and my favorite German/Turkish lunch, döner. Think of a gyro with different meat and sauce. It’s delicious, trust me. With rising energy and newfound motivation, we walked the few blocks to Mozart’s residence. The highlight of this museum was Mozart’s original pianoforte. Beyond that, it had basically the same information as his birthplace, though there was an audiotour we opted not to do which may have enhanced the experience. Having reached our quota of tours for the day, my parents went off in search of a new charger for my dad’s camera while Natalie and I headed back to Altstadt to do some shopping and wandering. Oh, and we stopped for spaghettieis :) The rest of the afternoon and early evening were spent peeking in stores, the best of which was called “Christmas in Salzburg”. I’ve never seen so many egg ornaments in one place. We also went into one of the most beautiful churches I’ve ever seen. Photo above. My parents met us around 6:15 to explore the cemetery at St. Peter’s Basilica (which inspired the cemetery in SOM where the Von Trapps hide from the Nazis). We then went into a small chapel to hear a 45-minute concert of Mozart’s piano sonatas with an internationally-acclaimed pianist. I’ve never seen anyone play with such passion and finesse. It was astounding. To end our day on a very Austrian note, we had dinner at a restaurant called Alter Fuchs (Old fox) where the waitresses wear dirndls and almost every dish comes with sauerkraut. Needless to say, it was very filling but also very good. Back at the hotel, Natalie and I finished watching the movie so we’d be fully prepared for our 100% Sound of Music day.
After a jam-packed Saturday, we decided to have a leisurely Sunday morning. My parents went running while Natalie and I showered and then my mom, Natalie, and I had a wonderful breakfast at Café Fingerlos. I had scrambled eggs for the first time since Nebraska and they were SO GOOD. My mom returned to the hotel to meet my dad while Natalie and I walked to the Mirabell Gardens where much of Do-Re-Mi was filmed. Unfortunately, the weather took a turn for the worse (though it wasn’t good to begin with) and we ended up caught in a small rainstorm. After seeking shelter in Schlossmirabell, we began to question the practicality of the Sound of Music bike ride we had booked for later that day. There was much texting with my parents about whether the less unique but more dry bus tour would be a better choice, which resulted in them walking to the gardens to meet us and discuss. Once we determined that we would stick with the bike tour, we took advantage of already being at the gardens and took some photos in the most famous SOM spots. The gardens are incredibly beautiful and the atmosphere was enhanced by the big band music wafting through the air. With only a few hours before our tour, we went back to the hotel to gear up for biking in the rain, rested for a bit, and then returned to the gardens to meet our guide.
We booked our SOM experience with Fraülein Maria’s Bicycle Tours and we could not have made a better choice. Our guide, Sharron, was hilarious and acknowledged the kitschy-ness of the whole thing without making anyone feel embarrassed. We were in a group of 12 enthusiastic riders who all loved the movie and were just as thrilled to see the filming locations as I was — maybe even more! It was an absolutely beautiful route, despite intermittent periods of rain, and we got to see all of the highlights from the movie: Nonnberg Abbey, the “Sixteen Going on Seventeen” gazebo, the Von Trapp’s house (two houses, actually, as they used one for the front and another for the back), and so much more. Once we were out of the city, Sharron played the movie soundtrack from a speaker and we all sang along as we biked through the breathtaking countryside. It was the perfect way to see the sights, get some fresh air, and make my younger self happier than she ever thought possible. I would highly recommend it to any SOM fans visiting Salzburg! You get a much more personal experience than the bus tour, though you do sacrifice seeing a few sights which are too far away for bikes. Totally worth it, in my opinion!
We were all feeling a bit sick of heavy food, so we opted to go to a burger joint for dinner. Right across the street from our hotel, BioBurgerMeister lived up to it’s name (bio=organic) with fresh ingredients for a fantastic and yummy experience. Even though burgers are traditionally American, we all agreed that what we had was superior to much of what is offered in the States. The homemade chips weren’t bad either! After dinner, we went to a nearby café and had apple strudel for dessert. After all, “crisp apple strudel” is one of Maria’s favorite things! It would have been a crime to miss that Austrian specialty. The rest of the evening was spent packing so we’d be ready to catch our train to Venice this morning.
There were still a few things to check off our Salzburg list before leaving, so Natalie and I woke up with plenty of time to spare. We went to a small supermarket right by our hotel to get some last-minute treats and to a bakery to grab breakfast and lunch for the train. After dropping our purchases off at the hotel, my mom joined us for a final Austrian treat: a Salzburger Nockerl. It’s hard to describe but it’s essentially eggs, butter, and sugar whipped into an airy foam with a thin layer of jam on the bottom. Kind of like a soft, warm meringue — zero substance, but mouthwateringly tasty. Our hearts happy and stomachs full, we returned to the hotel, gathered our luggage, and walked to the train station.
As I write there is about half an hour left in the first leg of our journey to Venice. We’ll change trains in Villach and then have one more three-hour ride between us and the start of our Italian adventure! The next post will most likely be on the 21st or 22nd and will cover our two days in Venice, as well as possibly our day trip to Verona, so keep your eyes open for that :) I’ve heard both that Venice is the most amazing place in the world and that it’s totally overrated — I guess I’ll find out soon enough!
Until next time, tschüss!