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My first day in Salzburg began in the most cheesy possible way: the Sound of Music tour!  A half-day bus tour with a fantastically funny tour guide (can you see him posing at the end of the bus?) through parts of Salzburg and the lakes region just out of town.  I joined several dozen tourists, most of them American, many of them happily singing along to the soundtrack that played as we wound our way through the sights.  We visited the beautiful mansion (photographed from across the lake) which served as the backyard of the Von Trapp family manse.  Did you know that the backyard facing the water, and the actual back of the house, are in fact two different locations?  And that all scenes had to be filmed twice, so that when Julie Andrews was talking to Christopher Plummer in the backyard, she would have the lake behind her and he would have the house behind him?  So we saw the mansion from across the lake, then went to visit the famous “16 Going on 17” glass gazebo, which was built by 20th Century Fox for the film and given to the city of Salzburg when filming was finished.  We also drove by the walled front of the Von Trapp manse, which could only be seen from about 1/4 mile away so I couldn’t take a picture of it.  Then we set off for the lakes region, where the wedding scene was filmed in a town called Mondsee, at St. Michael’s church.  A real live wedding was about to start in the church, so I didn’t get a picture from the inside that day (I did see it again the next day, and got a picture then).  The tour guide was full of interesting tidbits about the film, plus a lot of really bad jokes such as “Why did it take so long to film The Sound of Music?  Because Plummers don’t work on Saturdays…”  Are you groaning?  Of course there were more film sights to see, but the rest I would have to explore on my own.

The tour was over by 1pm, which meant that I still had most of the day to myself.  I crossed the Salzach River and headed straight into the Altstadt (old town), absolutely packed with interesting sights, the most famous being the Mozart Geburtshaus, the house in which Mozart was born and spent much of his youth.  There’s a museum in there, but I visited it last time I was in Salzburg and just couldn’t muster the interest to see it again.  Not a problem, because there is so much to see!  I wandered around and did some souvenir shopping, then headed over to another Sound of Music sight: St. Peter’s cemetery connected to the Nonnberg Abbey, site of the film’s convent scenes and also the abbey where the real Maria Von Trapp was a nun.  I’m pretty positive that the climactic cemetery scene in the film was shot here in this cemetery – it just looked right.  For one euro I visited the catacombs, a downright creepy series of rooms built into the side of the mountain behind the cemetery which, I’m pretty sure, has housed the bones of deceased in the past but is now empty.  Seriously creepy.  The cemetery itself, though, is really pretty.  Most of the graves are marked not with stones, but with pretty tin markers that are painted with the name of the current skeleton underneath; I’m pretty sure these particular markers are made to be re-used as sufficiently old bodies are dug up and replaced with more recently dead bodies.  But don’t quote me on that, I have nothing but intuition going there.  The inside of St. Peter’s is absolutely gorgeous!  It’s unpainted, pure white plaster, like a huge Baroque meringue.

Overlooking the Altstadt is the foreboding Festung Hohensalzburg, the commanding Medieval fortress that protected the city from its origins in the 10th century.  You’ll see more of it on Day 3.

In the evening I went to the Salzburger Marionetten Theater, and saw their famous production of Die Zauberflöte (The Magic Flute), the only Mozart music I heard all weekend.  This was my first time at a marionette performance, and it was strange and enchanting.  The stage was so tiny!  I probably wouldn’t see another such performance, but I am really, truly glad that I experienced it.  Definitely a singular experience, and a kind of storytelling all its own.

I ended the day with the best meal I’d had in a looooong time, at a tucked-away restaurant called Shrimps.  Can you guess what I had?  Yes, the avocado salad with shrimp – a beautifully colorful plate of greens, half an avocado dolloped with pesto, and a bunch of shrimp in thousand island-ish dressing.  It was fresh and exactly what I needed.  I ate well and slept very well.

Day 2…tomorrow!

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