Tuesday, March 31, 2009

So Long, Farwell, Auf Weidersehen, HELLO Austria!

Although I didn't sing the entire Sound of Music soundtrack while in Austria, I managed to see a lot of the sights from the filming in Salzburg! I arrived in Munich after a terribly stressful voyage (it consisted of not being able to get a taxi at 430am, running to the bus stop in the pouring rain, missing the bus, sitting for an hour in the freezing cold and being soaking wet, almost not making the flight and a lot of pleading in spanish) but I made it! Dave met me at the train station and we jumped on a train to Salzburg, Austria!

After a quick 90 minute train ride, we were there! It still shocks me that within a few hours you are in a whole different country! Sadly, they are all EU countries, so I never get any new passport stamps, so my passport doesnt show I have been all these amazing places, but you will have to beleive me. Salzburg, is actually a UNESCO world heritage site, as it is the best-preserved cities north of the Alps, so you can imagine how beautiful it is! Not only is it a gorgeous city, but somehow we were blessed with amazing weather - sunny and warm (a rare feat in Germany or Austria). We took advantage and set our bags down and went to explore.

Dave studied in Salzburg when he was in college so he knows the place really well, which was nice. No maps involved and a personal history-major tour guide! Pretty sweet deal! We started off by hiking a million stairs to the top of a hill that looked over the old part of town. With the weather, the view was amazing! The town has so many Baroque style churches, so everywhere you look you see green church tops popping up. In Austria, you are not allowed to build a building higher than the church, and as a result, the green domes stick out starkly against the red roofs of the old buildings. With the Alps in the background, it is just a breath-taking place to sit and look out. The city is on the Salzach River - which basically means Salt River in German. The city became so rich from these salt mines and the name still pays homage to them.

After gazing at the old part and the castle at the top of the hill, we decided to go check them out. Walking through the old part, you pass new modern shops nestled next to old shops that look as if they have been open for over a hundred years. We popped in and out of little shops - trying on old man Austrian hats, clothes shopping and of course christmas ornament shopping. We also stopped by the Salzburg Cathedral - a 17th century of the Roman Archidiocese and also home to Mozart's baptism! A massive cathedral, the inside was actually more cold than it was outside! Not as fancy as churches I have seen in Rome and Florence, the cathedral was still beautiful and boasted an amazing dome - one of the biggest in Europe. I found it interesting that the dome was actually a renovated one because in WWII the dome was bombed crashed through the top of the dome.

When we were done winding through the old streets, we started the trek to the top of the hill where the Hohensalzburg Castle sits. It is one of the largest medevial castles in all of Europe and was used as a fortress starting in 1077. Walking around the fortress grounds, you can still see old cannons, torture rooms and visit the museum and see how the fortress would have been inside from days past. Myself, I enjoyed the small-sized doors since people used to be so short back then. They were perfect for a person like me :D From the castle grounds you can see all of Salzburg, even a better view that our previous big hill. From up there, it just looks like a postcard, and you just have to take it all in! From one side of the castle you have the whole city and to the other side you can see the beginning of the Alps - beautiful views all around. Not only did the castle have amazing sight-seeing, but also an old dungeon restaurant where we made sure to try out the beer. I normally don't love beer, but I figure it is pretty required in Germany and Austria to try out thier beers, and they are actually growing on me. I found a new boyfriend as well - a nice stud in full body armour ha. One more interesting and random fact: this castle was the first of a set of coins of the 'Great Abbeys of Austria' minted in 2005. Completely off topic, but thought it was kind of interesting!

After the dozens and dozens of stairs we took to climb up, I was happy to finally walk downhill! We stopped off a little café for some coffee and then some appetizers at an outdoor bar. We stopped off and did some more shopping and finished the night off at a local beer house. Sunday morning we woke up and headed to Mozart's birthplace - Mozarts Geburtshaus. I don't speak German but I translate that as something like 'get birthed house' ha. Who knows. Anyways, it was a really great little museum filled with history of the family and some of his original music sheets that he wrote, his first violin and more. I found out he produced 626 works of music, was 1 of 7 children (only him and his sister survived to adulthood), and that his sister was just as much of a prodigy as him but since it was a different time, she was not accepted as being as famous as Mozart. He actually learned to read music when he was only 4 and had written his own works by age six - quite a child star! Salzburg loves Mozart so much that they even have a special chocolate in his name. It is a ball of chocolate that has marzipan covered in nougat inside. Pretty tasty and sold everywhere for good reason.

Next we were off to check out the sights of the Sound of Music. Since the movie is actually set in Salzburg, we had already seen a lot of the backdrop - the hills, the churches and such, but Dave insisted on taking me to the Mirabell Gardens. This is where the Do-Re-Mi song takes place in the movie, in case you have the whole thing memorized! Because I have no shame, I took a skipping picture in the gardens while singing a Sound of Music song. While I have no Von Trapp kids at my side, I really felt like the hills were singing ha. As famous and popular as the movie is and was in the USA - it is virtually unknown in Austria. It is a rather historically accurate movie except for a few points I found out - 1) At the end of the movie, the Von Trapps walk off into the hills to Switzerland, but really walked to the train station and took a train to Italy. If they had actually walked into the mountains they most likely would have ended up at Hitler's mountain retreat; and 2) the real Maria Von Trapp was sent to be a tutor to the kids, not a governess. I think that's pretty good Jeopardy information if you ever need to know it! It's been so long since I have seen the movie, but my mom loves it, so I figured she will like this authentic trivia!

Because it had started to rain, we decided to head back to Munich. Once there we checked out the Town Hall and the famous church in Munich before we stopped off at a few local beer halls. An early night, I caught my flight Monday morning and was back in time to teach some more English! Another fun weekend and another country on my list! Also, I have added some new pics to the 'fave pictures' on the side for you to check out the Austrian sights!

Küss (Kiss in German - which is what they speak in Austria!)

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