The Hills are Alive in Salzburg, Austria
by Esther K. Choy
Flying for seven hours is not fun. Flying alone for seven hours on a red eye flight next to a snoring man, who is not my husband, almost makes me want to turn around and go home. But then, there is the thought of beautiful Salzburg and the Sound of Music Tour.
After spending a 60-hour workweek, I hastily pack my carry-on, jump on the Kennedy Expressway and make a mad dash to O’Hare for this long-awaited second honeymoon. My husband has been in Munich, Germany for the last week spending time with family and friends. From Munich, we plan to drive 90 minutes southeastward to trace the tracks of the von Trapp family in “The Sound of Music”.
“The hills are alive with the sound of music, with songs they have sung for a thousand years!” As I sit on the airplane the voice of the inimitable Julia Andrews floats sweetly in my mind. Gratefully, this soundtrack is trumping over the sounds of my snoring seatmate.
In real life, Salzburg lives up to its Hollywood image and reveals a land rich in art, beauty, and history.
In the movie, “The Sound of Music,” Salzburg seems like a fairy tale world. Majestic, snowcapped mountains hover over a city of handsome cathedrals, regal castles and miles of jade green grass. Grand churches with onion-shaped steeples stand guard over the city like lighthouses on a jagged shoreline. Small villages surround the city in clusters of farmhouses with red, slanted roofs. Old cafes, pubs, and boutiques with hanging, metal signs line the narrow, stone-paved walkways of this sleepy town.
In real life, Salzburg lives up to its Hollywood image and reveals a land rich in art, beauty, and history. Roman Catholic missionaries founded Salzburg in 696 AD. It is divided into two main parts: the old town of Salzburg from its original founding year, and the new city, which was founded in 1415. For a thousand years, the Church ruled it until Napoleon assumed power. “Salz” means salt, and “berg” means fortress. The Fortresses of Hohensalzburg and Hohenwerfen were built in 1077 to protect its vast salt mines.
Salzburg runs at a slower pace than other cities I have visited. Initially, my husband and I were still running on “Chicago time” and found this to be irritating. But, we quickly adapted to “Salzburg time” and appreciated their refreshing sense of hospitality. BCB, which stands for bridges, churches, and beer, is a well-known abbreviation in Salzburg for domestic and international tourists alike.
We climbed one of the bridges over the Salzach River and were treated to a panoramic view of the entire countryside. One afternoon we walked up the hills to a castle for the Mozart concert and encountered a group of Polish teenagers singing old church hymns under a tunnel. Their crisp and faithful voices rang throughout the castle and transported us back to a church service in the medieval era.
During our visit the weather was surprisingly cool with afternoon showers and a few thunderstorms. Because of the nature of this great city, that did not put a damper on our vacation. Instead, we found ourselves running through the rain to museums and coffee houses simply enjoying each other’s company. The rain actually enhanced our vacation and left behind an array of low-hanging clouds and rainbows cresting the hills around us.
Finally, on a sunny afternoon, we embark on “The Sound of Music” tour. Having grown up with the film, it’s been my lifelong dream to see the settings of the movie firsthand. We leave on a Wednesday afternoon from the city and head south to Leopoldskron Castle, a rococo building built by Archbishop Leopold Count Firmian in 1731. It was used as the founding location for the very first Salzburg Festival in 1918. Almost forty-five years later, film director Robert Weiss used the castle as the backdrop of the von Trapp family house. To this day, the lake in front of the castle is still as peaceful as it seemed when the von Trapp family drank pink lemonade together on the veranda.
Yes, it’s just as beautiful as it looks in the movie.
The gazebo, where the scenes “Sixteen going on Seventeen” and “Something Good” were filmed, was not originally a part of the castle. The film studio built it and left it behind as a gift for the city. Over the years, too many trespassers climbed over fences of the neighboring houses to dance their versions of these songs on the gazebo. Eventually, the gazebo was moved to nearby Hellbrunn Palace.
The bus takes us to Mount Scharfberg, which was the backdrop of the “Do Re Mi” scene. The tour choreographs the movie soundtrack perfectly between the stops. The last stop was the Mondsee Cathedral, where the wedding of Captain von Trapp and Maria was filmed. Yes, it’s just as beautiful as it looks in the movie.
Our friendly tour guide regales our bus with tales of the real von Trapp family. Contrary to popular belief, the von Trapp family didn’t profit much from the success of the film. Maria von Trapp needed money when a publishing house approached her about their story. Unfortunately, she signed away all of her rights in the book deal without fully understanding the ramifications. According to her autobiography, she was not even invited to the movie premiere*.
After the four-hour tour, my husband and I dive into our much-anticipated Austrian meal at a neighborhood restaurant. Like their German neighbors, Austrians love pork in its variations of snitzels, sausages and cordon bleu, which is deep fried pork filled with ham and cheese. Beware of the vegetarian options. Vegetarian for some restaurants might mean that there is just less meat in the meal. And, since we were in Austria we topped off our meal with a large glass of beer. It washed everything down perfectly!
My husband and I round out our vacation with a hearty breakfast at a local café. We look over our many photos and go over some of the highlights from our trip. The countryside of Austria is picturesque and lived up to its allure. Salzburg reminds me of an enchanted city from the storybooks I read as a child. I look forward to coming back and discovering hidden villages and ancient castles tucked behind an overgrown mountain.
On our way home to Chicago, the frantic and unfriendly airport security system in Frankfurt is a stark contrast to the peace and beauty we experience in Salzburg. But this doesn’t overshadow the sweet second honeymoon we have experienced. Eventually, we get seated on the airplane and stretch out our legs for a long trip home. My adoring husband dozes off soon after we take off, but, thankfully, he sleeps silently most of the way home.
* Author referred to “Maria von Trapp, My Own Story” by Maria von Trapp
Esther and Bernhard used Panorama Tours for their second honeymoon to Austria. You can contact them at: www.panoramatours.com.
Copyright 2004 Wedding Chicago, inc. All rights reserved.
This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.