10th October 2018

The sun was pouring into our 9th floor apartments when we awoke this morning, and as we stepped out onto our balconies, we were greeted with a magnificent view across Salzburg to the mountains beyond.

After breakfast we took a leisurely walk across the picturesque Salzach River to old Salzburg, which as its name suggests, is the charming original part of this historic city. Its narrow streets were buzzing with people, mainly tourists, from far and wide. The unique Rococo buildings, with many shop fronts, passages and courtyards date from as early as the 13th to 16th centuries.

In one of these residences, on 27th January 1756, Wolfgang Mozart was born. We visited this residence - now a museum - and the nearby family home where he lived later during his short 35 years. We were given a very insightful look, not only at the composer himself and his family, but at life in the 1700s. It painted an even fuller picture of the same period that we had experienced in the UK.

As one would expect, the residents of Salzburg are very proud of their most famous son, and take every opportunity they can to promote their town by using his name on every possible business, and his image to sell everything from after-shave to chocolates, t-shirts to umbrellas.

Equally fascinating, and a very long walk uphill, was the Hohensalzburg fortress, the largest and best preserved citadel in Europe. Construction began in 1077 and up to the 17th century it was constantly being fortified with towers, bastions, walls and entrenchments. In the 15th century it was made liveable, furnished and given its gothic appearance. the virtually 360 degree view was truly spectacular and well worth the steep climb.

Selfie overlooking Salzburg at the Festung (fortress) Hohensalzburg

In the evening we treated ourselves to the obligatory concert (as one does when visiting Salzburg) of mainly Mozart in the Marble Hall of Mirabell Palace. We were charmed by a string quintet plus piano performing a number of works including Pacalbel's Canon and Mozart's obligatory work, Eine Kleine Nachtmusik. The hall, built in the year Australia first made it onto the world's maps - 1606 - was truly enchanting - soft, pink and blue marble adorned every wall in elaborate patterns, decorated with gold. The lighting emanated from pairs of 'electric' candles at intervals around the walls, which were softened during the performance - a pleasant contrast to the darkened concert halls in Oz.

Concert in the Marble Hall of Mirabell Palace

According to Debbie, our visiting music teacher-in-residence, "The performance was excellent, with great attention to dynamic contrast and phrasing. The ensemble was tight and pleasant to watch, each player suitably involved, pitch was accurante, balance was mostly even, and tempo, although a lttle rushed at times, I am told was faithful to the original intentions of the composers. 9 out of 10."

It was a definite high point to be listening to Mozart's music in the actual hall where he performed as a child. It took half an hour for the hairs on the back of Stephen's neck to stop standing up, Steve floated home with a camera-full of photos. Upon their return, the trio found Rona deeply involved in Facebook.

11th October 2018

Besides visiting Mozart's Birthplace, another Salzburg "must-do" was The Sound of Music Tour, which visits many locations where the movie The Sound of Music was made. At 9am we embarked on the long-awaited tour. Our excellent tour guide, Ann Marie and bus driver, Ferdinand, bundled us into our coach. Though 54 years old, this classic musical appears to have lost none of its charm, as evidenced by the fact that two coaches were needed to carry today's guests. Another two coachloads would also do the tour that afternoon.

A fountain in the Mirabell Gardens, that was featured in the movie, The Sound Of Music

We were given a detailed and informative tour of Salzburg and surrounding districts, including a lot of background information about the "real" story of The Sound of Music - how and where it was filmed. Based on what we discovered, the film is fairly accurate to the true story. Scenes were shot all over Salzburg, and we visited a number of actual film locations. The "love" gazebo, where the song "I am 16, Going On 17" was filmed, was originally in the grounds of the Von Trapp home, but had to be moved due to overwhelming public interest, when people kept jumping the fence to reach it on what was private property. It is now in the ornamental gardens of Schloss Hellbrunn.

Our guide, Ann Marie, dances around the "love" gazebo, Liesl-style, in The Sound of Music, now located in the ornamental gardens of Schloss Hellbrunn

The invasion by foreign tourists took the locals completely by surprise, as all movies shot in German speaking countries but recorded in a foreign language are refused a cinematic release in those countries. This resulted in much of the local population not being familiar with the film even today.

St Michael's Church, Mondsee

The tour took us to the picturesque town of Mondsee on the very picturesque Lake Mondsee, where we took an extended stop for lunch in the pretty little village. In the movie, Maria's wedding, which took place in Nonnberg Abbey, was filmed in the baroque, twin-towered St Michael's Church, Wredeplatz, in Mondsee, about 24 km east of Salzburg.


Every cafe and restaurant in Mondsee featured apple strudel on its menu, and since they say, "when in Rome, do as the Romans do", we were in Austria so we did what Austrians do and had some strudel for lunch.

Lake Wolfgang and St Gilgern

On the way to Mondsee we were treated to panoramic views of Lake Wolfgang and the village of St Gilgern from a lookout on the back road into Mondsee. Composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's mother, Anna, was born in St. Gilgen and Mozart's sister Nannerl lived there for many years. It is believed the composer was named after the lake.

Silent Night Chapel

Later that afternoon we took a train to Oberndorf, a town famous for being the birthplace of the Christmas carol, "Stille Nacht" (Silent Night). In 1818 Silent Night was heard for the first time at St Nicola's Church at Oberndorf. Local priest Joseph Mohr wrote the lyrics to music written by music teacher, organist and choirmaster at Amsdorf, Franz Xaver Gruber.

A victim of constant flooding through the ages, the original church was finally destroyed in 1902. The tiny, cute Silent Night Memorial Chapel today stands on the site. It is surrounded by original buildings of the old town, one of which houses the Silent Night Museum. It is well worth a visit.

Oberndorf is less than 30 minutes by train from Salzburg and passes through some very scenic countryside. Be aware that if visiting Oberndorf and you have a Eurail pass, it is not valid on the line to Oberndorf.

Stephen Yarrow and Debbie Hall

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