THE HILLS ARE ALIVE

We have done a lot of truly incredible things on this trip, but I was probably most excited for The Sound of Music Tour. Our friend and former veterinarian in Austin (if you ever need an awesome vet clinic in north Austin, email me and I will give you her info) went to Salzburg with her husband a couple of years ago and they did The Sound of Music tour by bicycle. Their pictures were beautiful and I thought that sounded WONDERFUL. So, when we started planning our trip, I wanted to do the bike tour. Thankfully, Doug noted that we would be going in winter and that while the tour wasn’t his first choice of excursions, he was a hard no if it involved cycling about in late November. That was a great point in the end because it never got higher than 25 degrees that day. Sari and Ashley were both extremely excited for a tour, so I booked one through Panorama Tours what was 4.5 hours long and would take us up into the lakes region to see even more locations of scenes. We climbed aboard our tour bus at 9 am, and got rolling.

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The tour was sold out and every last seat of the bus was full. Our guide, Peter, was hilarious, and kept us highly entertained with his fantastic sense of humor and terrible jokes from the moment the tour started. The tour was great because it was not only about the filming of The Sound of Music, but it also included a lot of history about the city of Salzburg. Since I didn’t know anything about Salzburg outside of the fact that The Sound of Music was filmed there, it was all welcome information. I also didn’t realize that the movie is hugely popular everywhere in the world, except Austria. Apparently, they had a more accurate German version first, then America released our highly inaccurate version which no one there cared to see.

We started the tour at the Hotel Schloss Leopoldskron which features the lake that the children fell into with Maria and served as the area behind the Von Trapp mansion.

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It was beautiful. The estate is now a hotel, so we could not go inside the property. They planned to film several indoor scenes there since it features a gorgeous ballroom that has mirrored walls, but once the state officials saw the number of actors, crew, and equipment that was inside, they cancelled the filming for fear that it would damage the historical building. So, most of the interior scenes were shot on a stage in Hollywood. The scene were Rolf the Nazi Postman throws pebbles at Liesl’s window was filmed on the side of this building. It is also where the gazebo was originally constructed for the film, but the owners got sick of the tourists hopping the wall to look at it, so it was moved. And our next stop was, the gazebo!

The pavilion is now located near Schloss Hellbrunn and is accessible to the public. You can’t go in it because some little old lady broke a hip dancing around on the benches in there, but it is still neat to see.

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We also saw the tree-lined avenue that Maria skips down with her guitar for the first time on her way to the Von Trapp’s residence, and the trees where the children are hanging like urchins when the Captain drives by with Baroness Fancy von BlondeFancypants.

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The yellow house below served as the exterior of the Von Trapp mansion, and the gate (which is open, so you can’t see it) is the one that Maria stands at after dancing her way through her Confidence song on the way to their home.

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We next went to the lakes outside of Salzburg. Our first stop was at Wolfgangsee. It was totally stunning.

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You see that little snow-covered tip of the mountain to the left? It has a hotel on it!

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I was grumbling about how I wish I had known about it so that we could have stayed there when Sari politely reminded me that it was probably way out of our price range. You can take a cable car up, and it’s featured in the film when the kids are singing and playing with Maria on the mountain top.

Our final stop of the day was at Mondsee where the church is that Maria and the Captain were married in. It was super pretty, and the lake there was also gorgeous. Can’t go wrong in Austria!

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We also stopped for apple strudel and coffee before leaving because when in Austria, eat the strudel.

The tour ended at Mirabell Palace and our tour guide graciously walked a herd of us over to see the filming locations there. We saw the fountain that the children play in, the ivy tunnel they run through, and the famous stairs they hop up. It was a beautiful garden, and we felt thoroughly satisfied with our tour. Worth every penny!

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Our tour guide suggested Augustinerbrau zu Mulln for drinks after the tour, so we walked that way.

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Even writing this I cannot get over how beautiful Salzburg is. It looks like a Viking River Cruise commercial.

When we arrived at the beer hall, we were hugely confused as to what to do. All of these little old men were getting mugs off a wall, then getting in a line. We decided to do as they professionals do, and followed suit.

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We quickly learned that you got your mug, bought your beer, then took it to be filled. We then moved on to find seats in one of the halls. We got there right after it opened and it was easy to find a seat, but by the time we left the place was hopping.

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We bought an array of meats, cheeses, and breads from the food booths, and enjoyed our beers. It was a really relaxing way to end the day.

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Mugged By My Own Mug

We left Vienna on Monday morning to make our way to Salzburg. Ashley and I were interested in stopping at Melk Abbey on the way, but I really struggled to make sense of their website for so long that I wasn’t even sure the thing was open after October. I finally decided that it was open in winter as long as we took a guided tour at 11 am or 2 pm, so we aimed for 11. The Abbey was imposing and stunning on the hillside as we arrived in Melk.

DSC_0186.jpgDSC_0150.jpgDSC_0154.jpgOur tour only had two others on it, but we were lead by the enthusiastic Anita who looked to be in her late 20s and was SO EXCITED to share the history of the Abbey with us. She seriously made the tour, and Ashley and I wanted to take her with us. If you ever visit, regardless of the time of year, I highly recommend a tour. I would have been 98% less interested if it had not been for Anita because I typically do not care much for religious history (with the exceptions of its relevance to royal history). Thankfully, there was a small overlap as Leopold II gave his castle to the Benedictine Monks to use as an Abbey in 1089, and Maria Theresa and Francis I even visited. While most of the wealthier guests of the Abbey gave richly decorated items of high value to the Abbey in appreciation for their stay, Maria Theresa sent portraits of herself and her husband. I loved that little tidbit. OF COURSE they would think that portraits of themselves would be the greatest gift anyone could ask for.

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(not my photos as pictures were not allowed inside the Abbey)

We started the tour by going up the Imperial Staircase, named so because it was the staircase used by Maria Theresa and Francis I when they visited. So fancy.

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We walked through an exhibition on the history of the Abbey which featured a lot of the treasures. The Abbey has been operated by Benedictine Monks since it was gifted to them in 1089. The Abbey as it stands now in it’s overwhelming baroque style was the result of a renovation in the early 1700s. The Abbey survived emperors who seized other Abbeys, Napoleon, and Hitler. We then walked out onto the terrace at the front of the Abbey which offered a beautiful view of the chapel and of the city of Melk.

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We then walked through the library which was beautiful (from Wikipedia):

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Then into the Church of the Abbey. It was honestly overwhelming with all of the colors. The below picture is from Wikipedia, but I need you to see this thing.

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It was all very beautiful and ornate, but it was just a lot of gold and bright, cherubic colors to process. They also had displayed skeletons which was something I hadn’t seen before, and an interesting story about their patron saint. I am glad we stopped because I learned a lot and it was really pretty.

We drove on to Salzburg and arrived mid-afternoon. We stayed in a cute one bedroom apartment that was at the base of Fortress Hohensalzburg in Old Salzburg. We could look up out of our window and see the Fortress and Nonnberg Abbey (where Maria von Trapp was a candidate with the intent to become a nun).

img_0810Once we got unloaded and checked in, we ate a quick lunch, then made our way up to the Fortress (by funicular because the sun was setting and no one had time to climb a mountain). The view was SPECTACULAR.dsc_0210 dsc_0216

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Fun fact: the above massive mountain, Untersberg, is the mountain that Maria was on in the beginning of The Sound of Music. She made it down from the top of that and across the 10 kilometers from the base of it to the Abbey in just a few minutes!

The fortress was also neat, but by the time we got up there, we weren’t able to go inside and tour it because we missed the last entry time.

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When we got down, we stopped by the Christmas market at the base of the Salzburg Cathedral.

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I also made a total idiot of myself there. I ordered a beer, watched the guy pour it, then watched him place it on the counter in front of me. Despite the visual evidence that the mug was full of beer, I took it and immediately turned it upside down pouring the beer all over myself. I had no idea what had happened, even after seeing myself covered in beer and watching my friends laugh hysterically at me. I knew that the mug had been full of beer, but I also KNEW that it was upside down. I couldn’t figure out how I KNEW both of those things until I looked at my mug again:img_0887 THAT LOOKS LIKE AN UPSIDE DOWN MUG. I felt like an idiot, but when that thing was eye level on a counter with me, it really looked like it needed to be turned over (the physics of the liquid inside BE DAMNED). I convinced Sari to go get me a refill because I was too embarrassed to go back over to the site of the spill, and this mug will now be coming with me as a memento of my poor spatial relations.

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After the Christmas market, we shivered our way across the river to dinner at Andreas Hofer Weinstube which our apartment hostess had recommended as her favorite place in town. I decided to order a dish that was listed as “cheesebread” because I figured that there was no way that could go wrong. It arrived as what looked like a fried crab cake in broth. I was worried. I am very delicate about textures, but I forged ahead bravely in the name of adventure. It turned out to be a fried cheese dumpling with herbs in a beef broth and it was FANTASTIC. I took a picture on Snapchat, but forgot to save it, but I can assure you that it was wonderful and you should try it should you ever get the chance. Picture below from the internets.

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We were all extremely happy with our respective meals, and it is always so fun to eat in the cozy restaurants in this region. 

Palace Parties

We continued walking around and looking at the massive palace complex. I really wanted to see the State Library which is not actually located in the official library, Österreichische Nationalbibliothek. So, we walked back and forth for what felt like 27 miles before we found the right place in the Albertina Museum. Not the Albertina:

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The Albertina:

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I was very frustrated that the library was not in the library. Anyway, no one else was interested in paying to go into the State Library, but OH MY GOD IT WAS AMAZING. I could not believe how huge it was. I think my mouth was hanging open the entire time I was in there.

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It was incredible. We had reservations for a tour at Schönbrunn Palace, so we had to hop on the train to head there. To our continued delight, there was also a Christmas market there too!

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I wore a wool cape that day because I have been looking for one for years, and finally found one just before this trip. Unfortunately, I didn’t consider how impractical it was. You can’t wear any over the shoulder bag or purse with that damn thing. And, I wore a turtleneck, so between it and the cape, I felt like I was strangling all day. I still love my cape, but it was a mighty inconvenient.

The Palace was beautiful, but we couldn’t take pictures inside (UGH). We went to dinner nearby at Maxingstüberl where I had some fantastic schnitzel. It was an old and cozy restaurant, and we loved getting to eat there.

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After dinner, we went back to the palace for an evening Mozart concert. We couldn’t take an pictures during the performance, but it was a really neat experience.

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We got home after 10 pm and we were beat. We had walked almost 10 miles and we were all struggling. Although it wasn’t our longest walking day, we had been standing for long periods of time during that day, and that was exhausting. It was a good day full of fun, but we were happy to be home and laying down.

Royal Day Out

We started our first full day in Vienna at Belvedere Museum which is an art museum housed inside of the Belvedere Palace. Art is not really my thing, but we wanted to go in the palace, so it was time to view some art.

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There was a beautiful view of Vienna from the back of the palace, and I did not realize how ]St. Stephen’s towered over the city.

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There were several cute young couples taking what I assume to be wedding photos, and the women looked gorgeous in their dresses.

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I couldn’t take any pictures of the art in the palace, but the ceilings were spectacular.

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I was happy because there were a lot of royal portraits, and some pieces and artists so famous that even I recognized them. They also had several pieces from Gustav Klimt, including The Kiss and Judith and the Head of Holofernes, which were absolutely gorgeous.

We had lunch at the Christmas market in front of the palace. We all went wild for the fried potato tornadoes.

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It’s always hard to know exactly how much time you will need in place, and I usually err on the side of allowing more time than I think we will need because I hate to rush people when they are interested in something. We wrapped things up at Belvedere a lot more quickly than I anticipated, and we had a few hours to kill until our next stop, so we rode the tram back up to the Hofburg Palace area to keep looking around there. We started at Maria-Theresien-Platz and there was, conveniently, another Christmas market!

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It was such a stately and magnificent area befitting the badass that Maria Theresa was. We enjoyed some gluhwein and did some shopping! The rest of our royal day later today.

Ye Olde Gold

After touring the apartments, we viewed the imperial silver collection which was included on our palace tour ticket. I wasn’t sure we would be able to get Ashley out there because she loves throwing a dinner party and finds china patterns to be absolutely thrilling. I almost skipped it because I wasn’t psyched about a bunch of dishes, but I am glad that I went because it was everything Donald Trump wishes he could be. It was just endless rooms of insane gold and china tableware and setting pieces.

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To keep the theme of ALL THE GOLD going, we then went to see the museum holding the Imperial Treasury. Also, gold overload, but they did have some really lovely chandeliers which always brings me joy.

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And what all imperial treasuries of quality contain – a unicorn horn:IMG 0417More commonly known today as a the tusk of a narwhal whale.

And this super casual bassinet for your next royal baby:

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And some fancy medieval coronation robes:

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And, finally, the good stuff:

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We cruised around outside and enjoyed the Christmas market in front of the palace, then walked over to Sacher Cafe in the Hotel Sacher to get a Sacher-Torte per Ashley’s request. I had no idea what this was, but I learned from her that it’s a world famous chocolate cake that has a top secret recipe that includes apricot jam. She told me all of that information, then I took a bite of my slice and said, “Wow, this takes like it has fruit in it or something!” She just stared at me with disappointment.

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We then walked to our car and drove to our apartment to get checked in for the night. Vienna was super pretty in the rain with all the Christmas lights.

IMG 0446We walked to a restaurant near our apartment for dinner, and I ordered the classic Viennese dish of Tafelspitz. It’s a piece of boiled beef that came with a horseradish apple sauce and a chive sauce. I’ve only had boiled beef once in my life, and since it tasted like the bottom of a sad old shoe, I wasn’t excited to try it again. Much to my absolute delight, it was completely delicious. I would definitely order it again.

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