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Feb 15, 2002
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Salzburg, Austria, part 2>>>
Feb 16, 2002
Salzburg, Austria part 2>>>

February 16, 2002
The Sound of Music
(and crazy Austrians)

Tunnel below fortress in Salzburg

Other side of tunnel

Shore of Salzach River

Shore of Salzach River

Click on pink border photos for full, high resolution photo.
After lots of scary, high-speed mountain driving at night in heavy traffic, seeing the German/Austrian tail lights disappear up, up, up into the dark mountain night like a flaming helium-filled centipede, and
knowing I was an independently steered set of legs, I was in Salzburg, Austria! I'd wanted to see this town mostly because The Sound of Music is one of my favorite movies. Since most adult Americans are familiar with the movie, I reserve the right to to give my own version.

When I arrived I had a problem--I didnít really have a map. I say I didn't 'really' have a map because I did have maps, lots of maps, but none for Salzburg. Small detail I missed there I guess. I'd grown proud of myself with all the seat-of-the-pants driving I'd done in Europe (that's right, I steer with my buttocks) and started getting too cocky.

The language changed again, so I followed a sign that said Salzburg Mitte (could it mean middle?). I was correct and as I patted myself on the back, taking great effort not to pin my steering hand under my shoulder harness, I remembered that my hotel wasnít in middle, but West Salzburg. It took two hours to find Hotel Neutor. I stopped at three gas stations and pulled off the road about 30 times to read maps and clear the confusion. It didnít help much. Most European city signs Iíve seen are very small and very hard to read in the dark. Salzburg was no exception. Besides that, a small voice in my head kept saying,"You're in Salzburg, Austria, in the dark--even your co-workers were too afraid to do this as a group" and it wasn't a tumor. There were all these ghostly looking churches floating in the night above the shadows which didn't look quite as inviting as they did when Julie Andrews was stumbling around them drunk in The Sound of Music, swinging her rifle and singing,"I have confidence in bullets" or whatever she said. Streets were very poorly lit.

One confusing problem is that when you try to drive in the dark, avoid crashes, and negotiate turns while navigating (also being tired and hungry), small things make a huge difference. All the street names ended in 'Strasse' and it took me over an hour to figure this out. Iíd pass a road, and if I could read the tiny sign Iíd pull over to see where I was, and it didnít match anything on the gas station map. Later, when I mentally removed the word 'Strasse', everything made sense! I found my Hotel, and after the desk-dude quickly corrected my pronunciation from "Neuter" to "New-Tore", and after I helped him round up all the male puppies who immediately ran screaming under the furniture, I went to bed.

February 16, 2002: Saturday morning I awoke and looked around. Where the heck was I? Ever had a night of drinking and in the morning it took you a few minutes to figure where you were? I had to put my clothes on and walk outside, and this is what I saw (top photo). Above me was a huge fortress. I guess it wasnít a dream.

One nice thing about German hotels (Austrian too) is they include breakfast in the price. So I got a room for $41 with breakfast included! What a deal! I drove through the tunnel (only 200 meters from my room) that was cut through the hill on which the fortress sat, and parked next to the Salzach River. I tried to get a photo of the Mole hens again, but the cliff was slippery and the ducks were irritable because they hadn't had their morning coffee.
Austrian Mole Hens in the Salzach River
Salzburg was easily as beautiful as any city Iíd ever seen, surrounded by huge, steep, snow-covered mountains, a small, peaceful river (it seems so much nicer in the daytime) and multicolored townhouses and huge old churches and fortresses. It looked much nicer without Nazi flags.

My ride showed up at 9:10am. Iíd signed up with Panorama Tours to see all the places The Sound of Music was filmed and lived. My parents loved that film and I think it is a beautiful piece myself, one of my favorites, but after this trip, I fell in love with it all over again. A Captain with Seven Dwarfs, what's so fearsome about that? We were driven to Mirabellplatz in a mini-van, and moved to a huge tour bus. The first thing we saw was Mirabell Gardens behind the palace of the same name, that is the center of government in the area. This is where the scenes of Maria and the children singing "Do, Ray, Me, blah, blah, blah, blah" were filmed, and then they did that umpa lumpa march around the fountain. We didnít stop, we just drove by, as we also drove by the footbridge used in that same scene, and the Nonnberg Abbey where the real Maria served and was married. This is also where the opening ďnun scenesĒ were filmed as Maria's nun pals sang "How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?". I have a feeling they'd sung that a few times before, because they all knew the words. Some friends. Nonnberg Abbey is the church with the red top.

Nonnberg Abbey, Salzburg, Austria
Maria in the Flying scene that opens movie
One of the first things the tour guide mentioned (he was hilarious--wish I had a recording of him) was Untersberg, the mountain used in the opening and closing scenes of the film. Maria is introduced in a long flying camera shot speeding towards her, she spins and then we cut to a close-up of her completing the spin. What we don't see is that in order to get the shot, the helicopter had to fly very close to the ground. Through all the takes of this scene, Julie Andrews was knocked forcefully to the ground by the prop-wash. Here's a photo of the "I'm Flying!" scene at the beginning of the film, just before she lets those pipes roar with "The Hills are Alive!!! Holy Crap!!!" or something like that. It was a beautiful song composed by Roy Rogers and M.C. Hammertime I think.

In the beginning, Maria tells the reverend mother she climbed up the Untersberg and was picking flowers and then when she found she was late she ran down in a few minutes. Untersberg was a 6469 foot rocky mass with near-vertical sides that was

10 km from Salzburg! The tour guide said,Ē Maria was an ATHLETE!Ē She must have had good ears too. Oh, and in the end you see the Trapp family climbing over Untersberg to escape the Nazis--they were crossing into GERMANY! The real family took a train to Switzerland. One thing to note: Salzburg sits at only 1400 feet so the mountains surrounding it, which are very steep and close, look much higher than they are compared to a place like, oh, Colorado Springs, which is around 6500 feet.

We visited Schloss Leopoldskron, the palace used as the back of the Trapp house. Most of the outdoor shots were done here, including the famous scene where George (pronounced "Gay-Org")Von Trapp introduces the Baroness Schrader, his fiancee', to Maria and the children after they'd been out playing all day, wearing nothing but some vertical blinds which Maria had made into play clothes for them. As they approach in a canoe on this lake, singing, Maria stands, tips the boat, and tries to drown them all. It doesn't work. Naval hero George Von Trapp taught his kids to swim.

Rear of Von Trapp home used in film

Untersberg as seen from Schloss Leopoldskron

Close up of Untersberg

Above are photos of Untersberg as seen from Schloss Leopoldskron, and below is the one used as the front--it was the Frohnberg Palace.
The front and back of the alleged Von Trapp home were two different mansions.
Front of Von Trapp home used in film

Captain Von Trapp romances Maria in Gazebo from the Sound of MusicHere is the famous gazebo used in all the love scenes, Liesl, 16 going on 17, and Rolf, 17 going on 18 (he later dumps her for someone 18 going on 19), and to the left, the famous shot of Maria and George Von Trapp (played by Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer) where he proves his love for Maria by picking her nose.

When Maria returned to Salzburg years after the war to reclaim the Von Trapp home, she was appalled by the poverty of the area. So she donated the Von Trapp Villa to Monks. The Monks asked for their privacy but after being bugged by tourists they built a huge wall around the Villa and it couldn't be seen anymore. Here's what it looked like. This is a photo I ripped off from the internet--Maria von Trapp (daughter of George Von Trapp but step-daughter of the infamous Maria Von Trapp), her brother Johannes (baby of the family) and sister-in-law Erika von Trapp, from left, in front of the Villa, Austria. Maria is in the house for the first time since her family fled the Nazi regime to the United States in late 1938.

Sound of Music Gazebo>>>

Real home of Von Trapp Family>>>

The original von Trapp family home has reopened as a hotel to give guests the chance to lay their head to rest where the von Trapp family once lived, get married in the house's chapel, have a Sound of Music dinner in the family dining room, or just sit on pine cones and blow whistles at their annoying kids. Only the ball scenes were filmed in Leopoldskron--when authorities saw the huge lights used for it they were afraid of electrical fires, so the ballroom had to be re-created in Hollywood. Also, due to problems with trespassing tourists, the gazebo was moved to a different location (they took us there) but it was locked, once again, because of tourists. An 80 year-old lady broke her ankle trying to leap from bench to bench as they did in the movie. Mom still has a limp from that.

At this stop one of the other tourists stepped in dog poo and tracked it into the bus. What an incredible smell he discovered! We ventilated for ten minutes as the driver sprayed deodorizer on the carpet and scrubbed. I tell my Yorkie Gizmo that story, just so the entire Salzburg trip has relevance to him.

We left town and drove high into mountain lakes that were used in the opening shots of the Sound of Music, to St. Gilgen. At the time this was some of the most beautiful scenery Iíd seen in Europe. Below, I posted a screen shot from the opening two minutes of the landmark movie, an aerial shot--and below that, a photo I shot from the shore of St. Gilgen. It wasn't until I returned to the U.S. that I realized I'd shot this photo from the same spot as the original airplane in the 1965 film. I was standing on the shore just in front of that church steeple, watching--you guessed it--mole hens. What can I say? I love animals more than people. They're more trustworthy and loyal and loving. My lousy church wouldn't reply to any emails while I was in Europe, but those mole hens came to me.

Aerial photo of St. Gilgen, Austria, taken from The Sound of Music screen shot

Shore of St. Gilgen, Austria