"Are these the hills that are alive?"
"Yes, my dear. Yes they are."
After we left Freising, Germany, we drove to Austria. Crossing a border into a new country is always a cause for celebration, and as soon as we entered Austria, Jackie asked, "So, are these the hills that are alive?" Of course they were—we were in Austria! The driving goes a little slower when you're not blasting along at 170 kmh in Germany, but eventually we arrived in Salzburg.
We hadn't done laundry since Crete and pretty much everything we owned was well past dirty. So we found a self-service laundromat in the city and spent an hour getting our clothes clean. And as a super-cool bonus, we found a parking spot across the street from the laundromat! Ah, yes ... the thrilling adventures of the world-traveling family.
When we posted the above image on our Facebook page (which you should totally go like right now if you havent already), some people were astounded at €10 per load. And while I agree it's a little steep this was 1) Salzburg, 2) for 20kg of laundry (our full complement of clothing weighs in at about 18kg), and 3) the first time we'd done laundry in 15 days. So €10 for a full load was a fair price.
We also had some people reply to the photo with the news that they wash their clothes in the sink of the hotel/apartment/whatever. Sure, we've done this too (we use the bathtub, though), but that's only helpful when you have a small load. It was nice to have everything we owned clean at the same time for a change. Too bad it won't last.
After our clothes were clean, we drove down to our hotel, a nice family-owned place by the name of Bloberger Hof. It's a short distance from the city square by bus and suited our purposes nicely. We ate dinner at thier restaurant (it was quite good), then turned in—we had an early morning scheduled.
The next morning, after we woke early and got to take in a view of the hills behind the hotel before we quickly ate some breakfast. As we were finishing up, a small van arrived to pick us up ... it was time for the Sound of Music Tour!
Sound of Music Tour
First of all, I'm not sure why Samantha isn't writing this up instead of me. Second of all, I thought we'd be on a small bus, like we'd had for our tour to the Cu Chi Tunnels. But no, this was a huge tour bus—like Greyhound huge. Third, we were on this huge bus with about 40 other tourists from many different countries. We hadn't been on a bus tour since our Chiang Rai misadventure (although this one was better than that), and we'd never been with a tour group this large.
I know what you're thinking. You're thinking ... Sound of Music tour? Is there singing on a Sound of Music tour? And yes, you'd better believe there's singing. My biggest surprise was the couple from India sitting behind us who really belted out the tunes. I mean, they knew these songs. I'm not sure why that surprised me so much, but it did.
The tour took us through Salzburg where our tour guide, Natasha, who was all decked out in "native dress," pointed out all the spots in town where the Sound of Music had been filmed. But before we really got going on the movie stuff, we got a little background on Salzburg. It was founded as an Price-Bishopric and was once part of Bavaria (which is the part of Germany we'd left the previous day) and the Holy Roman Empire. It's also where Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born. She pointed out Hohensalzburg Castle, which was built under the command of the Salzburg Prince-Archbishops as early as 1077. And that's about all the history we got of Salzburg. From here on in we went deep into the Sound of Music.
Natasha pointed out Nonnberg Abbey, the oldest Benedictine order in the world, where in the film Maria was working on becoming a nun. We learned that only the exteriors were used for filming; the interiors were recreated in Hollywood. In fact, Natasha shattered many illusions about the movie on this tour—like Maria's opening scene which was filmed in the mountains about ten kilometers from Salzburg. She would have had to have run really fast to get to the front door of the abbey as quickly as she did in the film.
Our first stop was at Leopoldskroner Teich, a small man-made lake in Salzburg, where we got out of the bus and walked along the lake until we got a good view of Schloss Leopoldskron. This was used as Villa Von Trapp ... but for exterior shots only. Another house, some distance away, was used for other shots. The famous gazebo from the movie used to be kept alongside the building here, but too many noisy, drunk tourists tried to get in, so they moved it to a more secure location ... guess where we were going next!
At one point, our bus (kudos to our driver, Mr. Abdul—negotiating a big bus through Salzburg traffic is no simple task) passed a field of freshly cut grass and an Austrian rabbit decided to race alongside of us. It was one fast rabbit.
Our next stop, as you may have guessed was the gardens around Schloss Hellbrunn, where we found the gazebo used in the film. Well, that's only partially true. For the singing dancing number, they used a larger version for the scene, which was filmed in the faraway land of Hollywood.
And then it was back on the bus where we took a really long ride through the Austrian Lake Country, past the world headquarters of Red Bull (we had no idea Red Bull was Austrian), until we stopped and got out of the bus to take some pictures of this bucolic spot.
It's an idyllic scene certainly, but I honestly can't remember why we stopped here. But it was on the way to the town of Mondsee, which is notable for St. Michael's Church—the church that was used as the stand-in for Nonnberg Abbey for the wedding of Maria and the Captain.
Then we drove back to Salzburg, singing songs from the Sound of Music the entire way. That's like 45 minutes of nonstop songs. At one point the compact disc (archaic, right?) stopped working but it didn't matter—everyone sang anyway. The tour ended back in Salzburg with a quick walk through Mirabell Gardens, where a few key scenes from the movie were filmed, most notably the steps of the "Do Re Mi" song (which I've now heard enough to last me a few lifetimes).
The Sound of Music Tour people may have picked us up from our hotel, but we had to get back there on our own, which was mildly annoying. But if there's one thing we can do, it's find our way around any city. So we ended up taking the city bus, which conveniently went right by our hotel. On the way to the bus stop, we walked through the Historic Centre of the City of Salzburg (a UNESCO World Heritage site). This included a stroll across Makartsteg Bridge, which is one of those places in the world where people place locks to proclaim their eternal love.
After a short bus ride, we were back at the hotel. We collected our luggage, loaded it and us into Persephone, and headed out of Austria and into the Czech Republic.
Sound of Music
So now that you're all excited about the Sound of Music, go ahead and watch it right now on Amazon Instant Video!