Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Sound of Music Tour - Salzburg

The film The Sound of Music is one of the main reasons that Salzburg has become a tourist destination.  It was originally a stage musical by Rogers and Hammerstein, that opened in 1959, and later hit the big screen starring Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer in 1965.  Before all of that there was a book, written by Maria von Trapp herself, recounting how they became the Trapp Family Singers, published in 1949 (Rogers and Hammerstein used this book in the creation of their stage musical).

Although the directors of the film scouted out several locations, they settled on Salzburg, which was most fitting, since the von Trapps were originally from Salzburg.  Since everything in Hollywood is bigger and better, they hardly used any of the real sites where the von Trapps lived and even when they did use a real place, they had restricted access.  Only outdoor scenes were filmed in Salzburg, while the rest took place on the stages of 20th Century Fox in California.

I've always has a special fondness for The Sound of Music since my grandparents were from Austria and before they became United States citizens were Georg and Maria (now George and Marie).  So in my mind, it was the story of my grandparents, even though my dad was an only child and my Opa came over before WWII.

There was no doubt about booking The Sound of Music tour in Salzburg, which runs twice daily due to the high demand from tourists.  Before we went, I decided to read the book that Maria von Trapp had written, so that I could have more insight into the family (even if the tour was about the movie sites). 

Most of what happened in the movie is true.  She was a postulate at Nonnberg Abbey and was sent to tutor one of the Captain's sick children.  Most people wonder about an Austrian Navy since there isn't a coast in modern day Austria.  Georg von Trapp was in WWI, when it was still Austria-Hungary and there was a coast.  He worked mainly with U-boats and was highly decorated.  Maria came as a tutor to the family in 1926 and the Captain was indeed to be married to a princess.  Maria and Georg had very little contact with each other before they decided to get married, and he was not at all as strict as he was portrayed in the movie.  The movie also took some creative liberties with the gender order and names of the children.  In reality, they were (from oldest to youngest) Rupert, Agathe, Maria, Werner, Hedwig, Johanna, and Martina.

Georg and Maria were married in the fall of 1927 (only 1 year after she came to work for them), and they had two daughters, Rosmarie and Eleonore.  They sang at home and quite by accident, they started a career as musicians.  They were overhead singing in private by a famous singer and she insisted that they perform at a folk festival, which they ended up winning.  They sang mainly religious and classical music. 

In 1938, came the point where they had to leave Austria.  Austria had been occupied by the Nazis, and the oldest son, Rupert, who was a physician was requested to work in the hospitals in Vienna.  The Captain had been offered a commission working on the new submarines (not required as portrayed in the movie).  They both declined their offers, but when the family was requested to sing at Hitler's birthday and they knew they'd have to refuse, they decided it would be safer to leave the country.  They'd lost their fortune by this point (the Captain had taken his money out of banks in England and placed it in a local bank to help out a friend, which later declared bankruptcy), and had no money to make the trip to America.  They had taken a train to Italy the day before the border closed and were forwarded money by a manager in New York who wanted them to tour the country.

They made the journey to America, Maria had a son, Johannes in 1939, and they began touring.  They were forced to go back to Europe when their tourist visas expired, and were touring Scandinavia when the war broke out.  They were then forced to flee back to the States and were able to stay since their homeland was being attacked.  The lived in Philadelphia for a time and continued to tour, although they began to notice that their audiences were becoming smaller and smaller.  Their choice of religious and classical pieces didn't appeal to the American audience like it had in Europe, so they began introducing folk songs to bring in more people.

They eventually settled in Stowe, Vermont, which reminded them the most of their home with such vast wilderness and mountains.  The Captain died in 1947 due to lung cancer caused by his time in the WWI U-boats.  Maria lived until 1987, and only four of their combined ten children are still alive today.  Maria (Georg's third eldest) is the oldest surviving at 97 years old.  All three of Georg and Maria's children together are still alive and a fun fact is that their daughter, Rosmarie is known to be living in Pittsburgh.  What a small world!

Outside of the tour offices there was as metal cow painted with scenes and sites from The Sound of Music.

We got on a big tour bus and headed to our first location.  We went to the area with the lake where the children and Maria fell out of the boat.  At this location was also the trees they were hanging from when the Captain came home with the Baroness.

The Reese family had decided to join us on this tour, so the kids were all happy to see each other and it certainly kept Brady from fussing too much.  We had been worried since it was a four hour tour.

The famous "Sixteen Going on Seventeen" gazebo.  It seems small and it is.  They filmed the inside on set in Hollywood, not inside of this one.

Ainsley has seen The Sound of Music many times and loves it, so it was adorable to see her so excited and singing the songs.

The church that has the red steeple is Nonnberg Abbey where the real Maria was a postulate (click on it to see it larger).  They weren't allowed to film inside and were only able to do the gate scene where the kids come looking for Maria after she runs away.

We hopped on the bus and headed towards the scenic lake district.  This is lake Wolfgangsee.  Mozart's mother was from this area and named him after her hometown.

This is the church in Mondsee where they filmed the wedding scene between Georg and Maria.  In reality, they were married at Nonnberg Abbey, but it wasn't as large or beautiful as this church.  Plus, they weren't able to film inside.

Inside the beautiful church.  Andy made a donation and took home a bottle of holy water.  We thought it a little ironic that it was placed in a Jagrmeister bottle.

After the tour, both Brady and Sam were exhausted and luckily they both fell asleep in their strollers as we scoped out a few more sites from the film on our own.

This is the Mozart footbridge where the kids are beginning to sing "Do Re Mi" in their "play clothes."

This is Mirabell Gardens where a good bit of "Do Re Mi" takes place.

The fountain they dance around.

The archway they run through while singing.

The steps from the very end of "Do Re Mi."  It's really cool how it's a straight shot of the city and the fortress in the background.

A little bit of movie history with my baby boy ;)

Overall, I was glad we went on the tour and got to see the sites from the movie.  The only part of it that annoyed me a bit was that the tour guide was telling people about the real von Trapps and had quite a few of his facts wrong (which I only knew from reading the book that week).

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Trip to Salzburg

When we knew we were coming to Europe, and especially southern Germany, I immediately put Salzburg on our list of places to visit and there was nothing that was going to change my mind.  Like many of the 300,000 tourists yearly, I also wanted to go because of the Sound of Music.  Most come for the film, but I wanted to go because that was actually the home of the real von Trapp family.  That's not all that Salzburg has to offer, and it's a remarkably beautiful city.  We caught a quick glimpse as we passed through on our train home from Vienna a month ago and were instantly struck by the Alpine views.  It's also the birthplace and home of Mozart, so it's often called, The City of Music.

As you can see from the map above, Salzburg is right on the border with Germany.  It's a little over an hour train ride from Munich, and took us almost four hours by train from Stuttgart.  It sits right at the northern edge of the Austrian Alps.

Although, we don't get the American holidays over here, it just so happened that Pentecost fell this weekend, which would give us Monday off anyway.  That made it the perfect three day weekend to visit Salzburg.  We arrived around 1PM, dropped off our bags at the hotel, and headed out to explore the city.  The one thing that I didn't like about Salzburg compared to the other places we've traveled, is that they only have bus transit.  It's much slower than train travel, and much harder to stand while holding a stroller still. 

The bus dropped us off  downtown and we first grabbed some ice cream.  There's a big joke that if it's sunny out, the Germans (or in this case Austrians) have ice cream.  Even when it's cold out, if the sun is shining, they've got ice cream (even in their winter coats).  We decided to follow suit since it was a pretty warm day.  Along the Salzach River, there were tents set up, so we decided to take a stroll and look around.  It was similar to what you'd see at a craft fair, etc., so we had fun looking at all the stalls.  There were many things we'd love to have, but the question always arose, "How would we get that home?"  We did end up getting Brady a really great wooden sword and shield.  The wooden toys are amazing here, but usually pretty pricey, so it was a steal to get both for only 21 Euros.  At the end of the tents, I turned around and took a shot back at the city.  You can see in the picture above the beautiful city with the fortress sitting up high.

The Salzburger Dom (or Salzburg Cathedral in English) from the side.  It's a 17th century baroque cathedral and was the site of Mozart's baptism.  Salzburg was an independent church state until 1811.  It contains hundreds of Catholic churches and only one Protestant church.

The Salzburger Dom from the front.

We walked inside to take a peek and guess who we ran into?  The Reese family!  It was not entire coincidence.  They had been in Vienna the days before and we both knew we'd be in Salzburg at the same time.  We were in the process of texting back and forth to figure out where the others were, when we just happened to run into them.  Salzburg's not a huge city, with a population of only 150,000.  As you can see, both Sam and Brady were happy to see each other again.  Brady kept asking where the baby was the day after they left our house.

A look inside the Salzburger Dom.

One of the main attractions in Salzburg is the Hohensalzburg Fortress.  We took an incline up (how very Pittsburgher of us).  I'll have to take Brady on the incline when we get home.

A view of the city from the walls of the fortress.

A family shot above Salzburg.  Getting the whole family in one shot is a great perk of traveling with friends.

The Hohensalzburg Fortress, is considered a castle and happens to be one of the largest medieval castles in the world.  Since Salzburg was an independent church state, it was created for the Prince-Archbishops of Salzburg.  Initial construction began all the way back in 1077.  Entrance to the fortress included several attractions, starting with the marionette museum (below).

Brady and Ainsley as part of the von Trapp family.

I don't think this one could have turned out any better ;)

Sound of Music marionettes.

Tom had some marionettes at home, so he was able to operate the one they had out with ease.  Both Brady and Ainsley got a kick out of it.

Next up was the fortress tour.  It included an audio guide, and they had a special narrative for kids, so Brady walked around listening to what it had to say.

Inside the torture chamber.

Gorgeous Alpine views.

A look down into the fortress walls from the very top.

Brady with Salzburg in the background.

The Reese family checking out the view.

Scale model of the fortress.

Like two peas in a pod.

The guys decided to stay outside with the kids (minus Sam who was asleep in the carrier on Bethany's back), while Bethany and I scoped out the private chambers of the prince-archbishops

The details in this room were just incredible.  The amount of gold reminded you that the Catholic church is never hurting for funds.

A gorgeous stove.

When we came out, we found the guys watching the kids climb an old cemented stack of canonballs.

After the fortress, we decided to scope out the souvenir shops and the boys all waited outside.

Buddies ;)  It would be so great if they make it back to Michigan as well, since all the kids have a great time together.

Ainsley testing her skills as a photographer.  She did pretty well since her subjects aren't the easiest to get looking in the same direction.

Bethany and I on the lock bridge.

Mozart's residence.

Mozart's birthplace.