Trip date: April 3 – 5, 2003
I grew up watching The Sound of Music but not quite understanding the story. I don’t think I’m alone in this. I mean, what young girl didn’t whirl around in her backyard and pretend she was Maria in the opening credits? Or jump from couch to chair to ottoman to couch again singing something about being sixteen going on seventeen? Or wish that they had clothes made out of drapes and a singing family act? I knew who the bad guys were and that in the end the Von Trapp family had to leave Austria because Captain Von Trapp wouldn’t join them, but that was about it. I remember watching the movie when I was grade school and realizing what it was really about and I couldn’t believe it – such a beautiful film set in such stunning location against the backdrop of Nazi occupied Austria. This element of reality in the film actually made me like it more – I respected the characters more. And I felt way more sorry for Liesl. Her boyfriend didn’t just leave her, he joined the Nazi’s. If you ask me, she really dodged a bullet there. And was there ever a more beautiful cast? Christopher Plummer with those eyes? Julie Andrews, I mean – come on!
As if that wasn’t an obvious lead in, let allow me to tell you where I was this weekend… Austria! More specifically, Sound of Music Austria. Kristin #2 and I decided that we love The Sound of Music too much NOT to see where it was filmed. Well, that’s not entirely true. I decided that I loved it too much and literally begged Kristin to go with me. I thought it only fair to give her fair warning that random outbursts of song were not only likely but probable, but that didn’t seem to hinder her from joining in on the adventure.
This trip was extremely last minute, seeing as we went to the travel agent to buy train tickets only three hours before it was to leave the station, but that made it all the more fun! We opted for an overnight train for Thursday night, change trains on Friday morning in Innsbruck and arrive in Salzburg at 9:29 for a tour that was scheduled to leave the city center at 9:30. And, because that isn’t crazy enough and we really like a challenge we planned on catching a 6:30PM train that night back to Rome, arriving Saturday morning. Yes, that’s 24 hours on a train for 9 hours in Salzburg. But it gets worse.
Of course, our train out of Rome was over an hour late – Italian trains are never on time, I’ve learned this by now. This caused us to miss our train from Innsbruck to Salzburg and, therefore, our tour. But we are resourceful women! We found a pay phone and called Salzburg to reschedule to the afternoon tour. And Innsbruck… I can think of worse places to be stuck for a few hours. A skiing town right in the middle of the Alps at sunrise… absolutely gorgeous! We were in awe as we watched the sun rise over the mountains, blanketing the icy glaciers in beautiful colors. It even started to snow lightly, adding to the Alps experience. All of this was watched first from the train window and then from a little cafe near the train station, sipping hot chocolate and snacking on a croissant. One of my better layovers.
Finally we got the next train to Salzburg, arriving in the city at 11:30AM. We had no idea what to see or do, so we got a map at the station and started to walk along the river. Eventually we found the Mirabell Garden and decided to have our picnic lunch on one of the benches near the Pegasus horse. It wasn’t until we’d been sitting there for a good fifteen minutes that we discovered we had already started the tour! Mirabell Garden is where the Do-Re-Mi scene was filmed, that’s why the Pegasus horse looked so familiar. Now, anyone who knows me can probably guess what I did next. Much to Kristin’s embarrassment, I reenacted the scene. I even ran through the archway with the ivy while singing the song. I blame a) lack of sleep and b) The Sound of Music for making me feel like a six year old again.
Salzburg is a charming city with two claims to tourist fame: The Sound of Music (obviously) and Mozart. Yes, that child prodigy was born in Salzburg and my goodness are they proud of this fact! We looked into going on a Mozart tour as well, but realized that the timing didn’t work to do both tours in the same day. Instead we ambled around some more, unintentionally bumping into Mozart landmarks, thus making us feel like we’d actually done that tour as well. Before our Sound of Music tour started we popped into an adorable cafe for a bit of caffeine and a lovely lemon pastry. The cafe was so quant, all decorated in yellow and lace and wicker furniture. I am sad that we were only able to stay in Salzburg for a few hours, what a lovely city!
Finally it was time for the main attraction… the famous Sound of Music tour! I don’t think that Kristin and I were prepared for our tour guide, but there she was. Enter Sue. “Good day! I’m Sue. It’s a short name, easy to remember and hard to forget. Like me!” Kristin thought I was bubbly but compared with Sue, I was rather sedate. Sue was a bundle of energy and possibly the best part of the tour. Have you seen Three Men and a Little Lady? Fiona Shaw, the actress who plays the headmistress of the school where the sour Englishman wants to dump Mary. Also the one who plays Aunt Petunia in the Harry Potter movies… well, it’s not entirely conclusive, but I’m pretty sure that’s really Sue. She was an amazing look-alike and she is, quite possibly, the nicest and happiest person in the entire world. Oh, Sue. I wish I could keep her in my pocket and pull her out when I’m feeling glum.
Sue directed us toward her white van where we met the rest of our group: two Japanese couples who spoke little to no English, but who had clerkly seen the movie and were excited to get going on the tour. Our tour started with various spots in Salzburg that were used in the filming of the movie including the house (actually two houses, one for the front and one for the back), the lake, the gazebo, the convent, and the amphitheater. Funny note about the gazebo… until a few years ago they used to have it open to the public. They had to close it, however, when an eighty-year-old woman fell and broke her hip while jumping from bench to bench singing “Sixteen Going on Seventeen,” so now it can only be viewed from the outside. Also, the interior shots of the gazebo were done in a studio. The actual gazebo is far too small for that dance number.
We then drove out in the country to see the church where Maria and Captain Von Trapp get married and the area where the opening credits were filmed. We got to spend some time in the country and Kristin and I treated ourselves to some “crisp apple strudel” at Sue’s suggestion. Mmmm! The movie soundtrack played the entire drive and our fellow tourists in the back mumbled along, clearly not knowing the lyrics. It was funny at first then kind of cute then, but, by the end of the tour, completely annoying.
The scenery from the tour coupled with the gorgeous sunrise in Innsbruck and the rest of the views admired from the train confirmed what I’d been thinking all day: Austria is the most beautiful place I’ve visited thus far. I would have loved to have stayed longer… everyone we met was so kind and welcoming. The city itself was incredibly clean, especially after coming from Rome. But all good things must come to an end. Sue dropped us off at the train station and we caught our train to Innsbruck. We ate dinner in Innsbruck at what seemed like an Austrian version of Chili’s, walked around a bit more and finally caught our train back to Rome. To save some money, we opted to forego the couchette both night on the train. Going to Salzburg were were surround by empty seats so were able to spread out and sleep a bit. On the trip back, however, a woman woke us up in Bologna at 4am, threw her enormous bags (four of them) on two of the seats and on the floor and left the car. Thus our leg room was drastically reduced and my long legs cramped up for the remainder of the trip back to Rome.
Our main reason for not spending the whole weekend (or even a night) in Austria was to spend Saturday and Sunday in Rome. I’m scheduled to leave in about a month and I know how much I’m going to miss it. We got back to Termini at around 7am, caught a bus back to the Romecenter and slept for a few hours before heading out again with Kristin #1. NOTE: TOURIST SEASON IN ROME HAS OFFICIALLY BEGUN! Oh my gosh, I’ve never been so frustrated (I’m sure the lack of sleep didn’t help my situation) with all of these picture taking, map holding intruders taking over MY city. I know, I’ve become a little possessive. My, what the first weekend in April will do to a touristy city!