Sunday, September 25, 2016

Mozart and Maria or Visiting Salzburg


Mozart Museum
The good people of Salzburg would prefer that this small city be visited for the music of Mozart, the castle fortress and the panoramic gardens rather than one of the most famous Hollywood movies ever made.  So much so, that not one spot in the city is recognized by a sign or plaque - in fact, there is no mention at all of the connection to the multiple Oscar winning, blockbuster, timeless, iconic film! But Sound of Music fans (and non fans) flock to the city to have a chance to relive some of the moments...I admit, this was my main motivation!  It's a very touristy thing to do to get all excited about running around the fountain where Julie Andrews belted out Do Re Mi, but heck, I am a tourist!

I arrived in Salzburg in mid afternoon and took a very short bus ride from the train station to Miraplatz Gardens where I had booked a room at the Miraplatz Hotel.  I chose this locale since it was conveniently located right next to the park where I was hoping to be in time for a 4:30 Fraulien Maria bike tour.  Apparently, the hotel, which I had carefully researched, had overbooked and randomly chose some other abode to which to send me.  The Hotel Mozart was a few blocks in the wrong direction and being rather hot and tired, I was none too gracious about this change of plans! They did give me a Salzburg card worth about 23 Euro which was good for all public transit and entrance to many attractions but that didn't make me feel better as I headed down the street to find my new hotel.  I was greeted at the desk by a very friendly gentleman who probably realized I was pretty cranky so he offered me a drink and quickly got me checked in.  I basically had to drop my bag and head back the way I came if I was going to join the Bike Tour.

I made it with time to spare! The group was small, which is always nice, and consisted of seven Americans, myself and Leo, our guide. Leo was a great laugh, even though he looked like he had spent the previous evening partying and had just barely managed to roll out of bed!  We spent the next three hours or so riding around Salzburg and the outlying area while Leo entertained us with his singing, stories and comments about the world famous movie.

Fountain from SOM
Apparently, the city fathers weren't impressed when the production company hung Nazi flags without informing officials and the whole project was nearly ended.  Rumour had it that Christopher Plummer, a Shakespearean trained actor (and a fellow Canadian), wasn't too thrilled with this movie and spent his time between filming, imbibing in various alcoholic beverages and playing piano at his hotel. The glassy eyed look when he sings Edelweiss in the final scenes was probably due more to the effects of vodka rather than acting skill!  Leo told us that to keep the actress who played Gretal happy, she was fed chocolate pretzels to such an extent that she put on a few pounds over the course of filming, so much so that the gallant Mr. Plummer refused to carry the chunky monkey in the final scene climbing across the Alps.  A slimmer 
Pegasus fountain.
stunt double was used!  Poor Gretal (or whatever her name is) was also the victim of a near drowning during the lake boating scene.  Julie Andrews had been told that the little girl couldn't swim and so when the boat tipped she needed to grab the pint sized actress and carry her to safety (so much for child labour laws in the sixties!)  Apparently this worked for the first four times the scene was filmed but on the fifth shot, Julie accidentally fell backwards and was unable to rescue Gretal.  If you watch the scene again, you can see the chunky monkey go headfirst into the water with just her legs sticking out.  She was pulled out by one of the older children but had swallowed enough water to cause her to vomit...could have been all the chocolate pretzels!

Locale of the outdoor house filming of Sound of Music

We spent the day listening to SOM tunes as we rode through Salzburg visiting various locales including the abbey, the graveyard, the fountain and stairs at Miraplatz, the house used for
Gate in front of the house used for filming SOM.
filming, the house used for outdoor scenes, the famous gazebo and other scenic areas. Apparently, some fanatical fans (yes, there are fanatical fans of SOM) are disillusioned to find out that almost all indoor scenes were filmed in Holywood.  In fact, even the famous gazebo was recreated in Holywood in larger form to accommodate the famous I Am Sixteen dance!  Really people, this was a movie very loosely based on real events...not reality!  There are many tours for SOM in Salzburg but I think the bike tour is great if you want to take a very pleasant ride through the city and outlying park areas and only want to spend a few hours doing so.

Great bike tour!

The iconic Gazebo of SOM.

Graveyard in which escape scenes of SOM were filmed.

Leo, who looked like a man that enjoyed a night out, recommended a beer garden called Die Wiesse which was conveniently located near my hotel.  This establishment was quite a distance from the whole touristy area near the fortress and seemed to be very popular amongst locals.  At a beer garden you will likely be sitting with others and I had the company of a local couple who, although having limited English, tried their best to speak with me and keep me company.  The gentleman told me I must have a minimum of two beers which I obliged while wolfing down a plate of Klacken, a traditional Austrian/Bavarian dish which I think of as Mac and Cheese of steroids.


The next day was spent using my Salzburg card to visit the sites that are recommended by the locals - the Fortress and a Mozart museum.  I also managed to wander into the middle of some crazy Bavarian parade with hundreds of people dressed in traditional clothing.  A final stroll through the gardens where you can enjoy orchestras filling the space with tunes from the favourite son, Mozart.  All in all, a pleasant morning but I must be honest - my favourite part of Salzburg was the whole Sound of Music thing!  I felt like a kid riding my bike through paths and parks with Do Re Mi playing away...all I was missing was my green floral dress made from drapes and Fraulien Maria guiding the way - but I did have Leo!

Miraplatz Gardens

View of Salzburg from the Castle


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