My favorite places (Part 2)

Austria, 2015.

Last week, I started my run down memory lane covering much of my older travels, but this week I’m looking at much of my 2015 trip. These locations are more recent but, during them, we explored much less making less choices over what I could revisit. Still, everywhere we hit on that crazy month in 2015 was amazing so I’d truly want to do it all over and over again.

1. Switzerland

We really only hit one thing in Switzerland: Jungfrau or Top of the World.  When we went everything was shrouded in fog but we had such a fantastic time playing aroundin the snow. Because of the weather, they had to shutdown a good chucnk of the outdoor activities and I’d love to explore more and get to take pictures with much less fog.

2. Austria

Austria and Germany are a bit of a blur since we tended to stay along the borders of both and past between them on almost every tour we took, but when it comes to Austria, I would love to revisit the Mirabell Gardens. This is where they filmed parts of Do-Re-Mi in The Sound of Music but there is so much more to the gardens than that. When we explored last time, The rain was starting up which was fun but also made the adventure shorter lived than I would have liked. Plus the movie reference gives you a great excuse to stomp, dance, and sing your heart out throughout the greenery.

3. Germany

Germany is a tricky spot for me but what I loved most were the many stops within the Balvarian Mountains. Whether on break along its giant lake views or venturing through King Ludwig II’s castles, they left so much more to explore. On a trip that I explore alone instead of on tours, these mountains and all their sites might take up the bulk of my time.

4. Netherlands

The Zansee Schans was the perfect stop in the Netherlands that I would visit again and again. Yes, it is touristy but the cheese room alone haunts my dreams! seriously, read the post and go, go, go!

5. Belgium

Just like every other stop along this trip, out time in Bruges was short but so much fun. It was one more city sitting along the channels and exploring them more would definitely be on my list of must do’s. I loved siting in the middle isle, straddling the center bench and watching the city pass me by.

Yes, these were quick but, again, so was the time I got to spend in each of these places. Next time I will be looking over my last 4 countries which I have been lucky enough to visit over and over again – a very different but equally daunting challenge.

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

My favorite places (Part 2)

The music in Salzburg…

Is just about everywhere.

Beautiful lake outlook outside of  Mondsee. Mondsee, Austria. June 2015.
Beautiful lake outlook outside of Mondsee. Mondsee, Austria. June 2015.

In fact, one of the things that Salzburg is famous for is being the home of composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and, as you wander the city, you are bound to run into his image as well as places he grew up. As one of the major draws, these locals get busy during travel season and they do charge admission.

Mozart, however, did not compose the melodies that dragged the Gallagher Girls to this great and historical city.

No, it was Rodgers and Hammerstein and the “Sound of Music,” the heroic tale of love, music, and trials based on the lives and goings on of the Family Trapp who resided here.

Salzburg is a beautiful city and, the truth of the matter is, you can’t wander through the city proper without running into an area that was glimpsed in the film, especially in the overview of the city and jump scenes during “Do-Re-Mi.” But we’ll hit more of that later.

While Salzburg proper houses many locations to peruse, to hit many of the main hubs, you really have to get out of the city—like hours outside. But fear not! Tours from many companies will take you to these scattered locations so there are plenty of options for you to shop around with.

We used the same company as we had the day before (Viator’s Super Saver) and, just like that tour, I could really recommend this one.

Slazburg Filming in Mirabell Gardens. Mirabell Gardens, Salzburg, Austria. June 2015.
Slazburg Filming in Mirabell Gardens. Mirabell Gardens, Salzburg, Austria. June 2015.

Where we didn’t hit as many sights as I had thought we would—this is a half day tour—we hit the big stops that we could, were highly entertained between stops (beware there are long periods spent on the coach!), and very educated on both the film, issues of adaptation, and the true history behind the Trapp’s story.

WARNING (this is one of the things we were told on the tour as well): there are a lot of people who are hung up on the idea that the events of this musical are facts, or at least, close enough to fact to accept them as life affirming truths. If you think I’m exaggerating, the tour guide explained that he has been told on multiple accounts that he had “ruined” people’s lives by talking about these changes, so again, be warned.

If you realized that the story changed (after all, this is Hollywood and based on an extravagant musical—neither of these forms take accuracy over flash and story potential, nor should they necessarily!). But alas, to the tour.

There are three major stops on this tour as well as an optional quick stop after the drop off if you are so inclined, and going back by yourself is an option I wish we’d had time to consider.

Our first stop—in the rain, obviously, was the backyard of the von Trap house where many scenes were shot, but, most famously, the capsized boat scene and, just down the road, the children playing in trees. This stop is actually not at the house—buses and the like aren’t allowed in, however, you can apparently walk or bike in and take a look around—but across the water from it. This gives you a great look at this famous spot and is great for photos if only show how beautiful it is, if not for cinematic reasons.

Trapp's back garden. Salzburg, Austria. June 2015.
Trapp’s back garden. Salzburg, Austria. June 2015.

But now onto some Hollywood trickery: this house is the backyard and river front of the house, however, that’s all it is. A different house is used for the actual house front and back (you can imagine how many scenes had to be done over and over in multiple locations!) because they couldn’t get permissions in time to use any of the actual house. But you’d never know watching the film, would you? Oh, the magic of Hollywood!

After this stop, you clamber back on the bus to head out to Schloss Hellbrunn which was built as the summer day palace of Markus Sittikus von Hohenems, Prince-Archbishop of Salzburg. We had visited this site earlier in the trip and, Sound of Music fan or not, it’s a spot you can’t miss and will have to stop back at.

The major draw of this sight is the water gardens. You see, the archbishop was a tricky fellow with a very interesting sense of humor. He’d have high class friends come over for food or events in all their finery and the turn up the taps in these trick fountains. This is really notable in the chairs set up around the outdoor table all of which (except the Dukes, of course) have water capabilities which shoot out the middle of the chairs seat. And, remember, you couldn’t stand if the Duke wasn’t standing, so you can imagine that party…

All in all, take a tour of the gardens when you go back without the tour, but stay alert and be prepared to get a little bit wet!

But the reason we mention this stop on the “Sound of Music” Tour is this is the current location of the official gazebo replica featured in both “Sixteen Going on Seventeen” and “Something Good.” The fact is, you can’t see the original—it’s gone—so this is a great substitute. Unfortunately, after an incident with a woman in her 80s trying to recreate “sixteen”’s more challenging dance steps which ended in injury, you can no longer go inside the gazebo, but seeing the size of it is worth it for a fan of the film.

One other extra, if you take the bus to the end of the line away from Salzburg from this point, you’ll be able to take a cable car up to Untersbergbahn which is the mountain that Maria claims to have grown up on and, therefore, where she could never get lost. The views are great (when it’s clear!) from the top and, if it’s a little gloomy, the views from the cable car will help rectify that loss. This isn’t the mountain where the scene is filmed—you can apparently take private tours to that location and run around singing, however—but another bit of Hollywood magic happens here which isn’t hard to track: Maria really couldn’t have heard the bells and run from the mountain tops to the abbey in Salzburg in the course of the song—in my judgement, that would have been almost a day’s trek, but, for cinematic and tonal reasons, this all make sense.

Monsee filming locations. Monsee, Austria. June 2015.
Monsee filming locations. Monsee, Austria. June 2015.

The last major stop is to Saint Michael’s church where Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer “married” in the film. This, however, is not the real location of the Abbey or where Maria and the Captain were wed. Once again, the Hollywood crew was not given permission for those locations, so the movie simply made do. The strange thing about this location was the sense of size. To me, the church and the central aisle felt so much smaller than it appeared in the movie which was disorienting. Still, this is a lovely location and you can take pictures inside of the church at least when service is not ongoing.

Once you are dropped off, you have the option of going across the street with the tour guide to Mirabell Gardens where much of “Do-Re-Mi” sequence was filmed from the ivy archway to dwarf statue to the stairs where the song finishes. But beyond the park, there are many view and filming spots to be accounted for just wandering the city, but to give you a better idea of what to look for here is a list of locations.

If you love the Sound of Music and want to learn more of its history and stories around the adaptation process, this is a great tour. But one last warning, you will have this soundtrack stuck in your head for days to come, so make sure you can live with that!

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

The music in Salzburg…

It’s on to Salzburg

and we just keep flying through.

View from lower part of Eagle's Nest. Eagle's Nest, Germany.  June 2015.
View from lower part of Eagle’s Nest. Eagle’s Nest, Germany. June 2015.

While this trip both felt and really reads quickly as a whorlwind adventure, I will admit I’m glossing over some of our longer travel and slightly more restful days. Our first day reaching Salzburg was one of them.

We spent the day wandering the town, hitting some of the local sights from the famous fortress to the many horse statues to the shop and water spectacle-clad side streets.

Gherkins by Erwin Wurm. Salzburg, Austria. June 2015.
Gherkins by Erwin Wurm. Salzburg, Austria. June 2015.

This really is a great city and well worth a day to wander. Alas, I’ll cover some more of these sights next week when I talk about the hills and music—if you can’t guess where this is going, you’ll just have to tune in next week!

In your wanderings, don’t forget to take a selfie with whichever Gherkin most looks like you (this is an art exhibition by Erwin Wurm)

But moving on to another active day on the road.

Salzburg is an Austrian city closely bordering on Germany which means it is the hub for many tours between the two countries and, as our travels centered around World War II (another hint for next week!), this was one of the many reasons we stopped here.

Our big tour for this destination went through Salzburg Super Saver, which, throughout the course of one day, let us visit Eagle’s Nest, the Durrnberg Salt Mines, and the Bavarian Mountains.

Eagle’s nest

If you don’t know what Eagle’s Nest is, here’s a little back ground. This was one of Hitler’s bunkers which he apparently did not visit often as the man was afraid of heights. It’s located on the peak of a mountain, meaning that, on a clear day, you feel like you can see the whole world.

But since this was a Gallagher girl adventure on a mountain, we got rain and fog. Still, this was a cool but very quick stop on our tour and, since it was first thing, there was no time for the gloom to burn off.

Since this is a major attraction, the bunker gets busy and everything is highly scheduled whether you are on your own or in a tour. You have to schedule leaving on the bus down the mountain before you head up into the bunker but they tell you you’ll need no more than two to two and a half hours. For us, the tour stop was quick but much easier than doing it on your own.

However, be aware when you are scheduling this tour: There is one tour which says you’ll go to the Eagle’s Nest and another says you’ll get a great view OF Eagle’s Nest—Huge difference. We met a couple who got confused by this so it’s very easy to do. You have been warned!

Slat mines:

This was a fabulous stop and there are a lot of different tours which will let you explore these once-working salt mines.

With lots of history, tools to look at, interactive areas, and slides and trains to get you down to the various levels, this was easily one of the highlights of the trip. We were shocked we didn’t have to stop my mother from licking the walls!

You are outfitted with a jumpsuit as you enter the main building and these women are magic—they never seem to get sizing wrong! It can get cold down in the mines but be careful of layers that night bunch up as you don’t want to spend your tour trying to readjust your outfit at every turn. There are also lockers in the main building to store your personal belongings—just don’t forget to get your money back from the locker once you are finished!

A warning must be issued: when you are given your jumpsuit and you are on a tour, don’t mess around! If you miss the train you are supposed to be on and end up on the next one, you will miss your bus and, therefore, miss out on some of the exploring you are paying for! Not to mention, you are wasting everyone’s time which ends with you being the people everyone glares at on the bus.

One other warning: Be ready to get up close and personal with strangers. This is mainly for the train ride in where you are in a single file train car, sitting by straddling a cushioned pole, sandwiched between your fellow adventurers. It’s a quick trip, so it’s really not much of a struggle and well worth it.

Bavarian Mountains:

Well worth the short hike. Bavarian Mountains, Germany. June 2015.
Well worth the short hike. Bavarian Mountains, Germany. June 2015.

This whole areas is breathtaking.

You are surrounded but mountains on all sides and faced with a huge serene lake which reflects the sun in an indescribable way—the whole view is really indescribable.

To get to where you can really appreciate this, however, you have to make it through the long row of tourist traps—ie. shops and stalls full of overpriced wares.

You can stay down by the lake’s edge and get a great view, but I highly recommend a short walk through the greenery to the left; at a mild walk, this will take about 15 minutes (you’ll pass a trail up to a building but keep going) where you’ll see some steps down to a quiet lookout point. We spent half an hour out there in the quiet and only a few people came by so it really is a great place to take a break and relax.

There are other tours to the mountains which give you other perks, such as a two hour trip on boat to middle of lake where they apparently blow a horn and let you hear the echoes from all the surrounding mountains (this could easily be something I do the next time around).

I love the tour my mother picked and I highly recommend it but, again, there are many to choose from so shopping around is a great option. This tour gave the perfect amount of time for us to explore, relax, and enjoy every minute. The tour guide was great, entertaining and helpful. So, if you haven’t guessed, this is another tour I would definitely recommend if you are anywhere in this region.

Next week, we’ll talk a little more about Salzburg and hill and music, but until then,

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

It’s on to Salzburg