Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Quaint Austria


September 12: We left a wet and dreary Paris bright and early at 6am to catch our flight to Vienna. Originally, we were flying directly into Salzburg, but all flights routed through Vienna anyways that we decided to make it a quick two-day stop over. We arrived at about 11am, collected our bags, and again, with directions in hand found our way to yet another rented apartment. However, this one far exceeds the rest! The pictures on the site didn’t do it justice! Erich, the owner, must do this full time because he does it right! It was spotless, well decorated, and everything a nice hotel suite would have is available to us. I mean, I haven’t had a shower this nice….in about 13 months!

We dropped our bags off and headed to the city center which is conveniently only a 12 minute walk away. We were both starving, so where did we eat our first Austrian meal? An Asian buffet of course! Ha! Actually, it was close to the apartment, well priced (compared the insane prices of Paris) and delicious. The palate change was refreshing as well. I was getting a little tired of eating pizza and sandwiches all the time. And I LOVE pizza and sandwiches!

After lunch we just decided to scope out the city center. It’s lined with historic buildings, shops, restaurants and cafes. We went in and out of a few places, people watched and enjoyed the warmer weather. Double layers were not needed. It was sunny, then it rained a bit, then it was sunny again, so I hope the sun can pull through tomorrow.

We headed to the grocery store to buy some things for breakfast and purchased a salad, a wrap, and some couscous to share for dinner. Being that we are only here for two days, we wanted to go back to the apartment early and plan out our full day tomorrow!

September 13: The weather was not very cooperative today; it rained on and off all day long. We started our day at the Hofburg Palace, home to some of the most powerful people in Austrian and European history and perhaps most importantly; the Habsburg dynasty. From 1438-1583 and then from 1612-1806 it was the seat of kings and emperors of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation, and then the seat of the Emperor of Austria until 1918.

Hofburg Palace
For the cost of admission, we saw the imperial collection of  dinnerware (the silver collection), the Sisi Museum, and the living quarters of the royal family. Also included in the cost was an audio tour which was great since we didn’t have a free Rick Steves one for this.
The collection of flatware, dinnerware, drink ware, and center pieces were quite extravagant. I mean, they were given their own museum! The places settings ranged from solid gold to meticulously hand painted and absolutely beautiful and over the top. I walked through, just day dreaming what it must have been like to sit in a fancy ball gown, in an elaborate dinning hall, eating off of plates made of gold! Talk about living like a queen.

Next was the Sisi museum, dedicated to Elisabeth of Austria. Married to Emperor Franz Joseph I, at age 16, she was….ummm…interesting. The museum was actually quite dark and depressing, but I think that was the point. She struggled with her public role and was not very liked by the people because of her reclusiveness. She went though several bouts of depression, would go away for years at a time, and was obsessive about her weight. In today’s, terms, she would have been called bulimic. She was later assassinated at the age of 61.

Last on the palace tour were the rooms and private quarters of the emperor and empress. Sadly, no pictures were allowed in both the Sisi museum and the apartments. Much like the palace of Versailles, but these rooms were furnished with more original furniture which was cool to see. The audio guide was really helpful. I learned so much about the history of this royal family. Super interesting!

St. Stephens
Our next stop was St. Stephen’s Cathedral. We had a Rick Steves podcast to accompany our visit which enables us to get so much more out of the site. Built between 1339-1365, it stands at the very center of Vienna. A gothic styled cathedral, it had a very similar look and feel to that of Notre Dame. It was pretty to walk around, but I’m not really into that dark type of architecture. It’s not a “warm and welcoming, let’s thank God for all our blessings” kind of places. But I was gald we went in, we leaned a lot from the podcast.

Our last stop was yet another podcast. It was a walking tour of Vienna’s city center. We made started at the famous opera house and ended at the palace where we started our day. It was nice because things were pointed out to us along the way we never would have noticed or stopped in. Once place we visited was Demel Chocolate. Founded in 1786; but it has been at it’s current location since 1857. They use to provide chocolate to the Emperor and Empress! So of course, we went in, bought a chocolate bar and a slice of carrot cake!

It started pouring again, so we grabbed some food from the grocery store and headed back to our apartment. It was such an educational and low-key stop off. We felt like we were in a small city (even though 1.8 million people live in Vienna) and really enjoyed our time just walking the streets.


September 14: “The hills are alive, with the sound of muuuuuusic!” No scratch that, “with the sight of heavy fog.”

We left Vienna at 10:56 via train to Salzburg. We made it to the train just fine, but it was a bit confusing once we arrived. With like no one working there, we didn’t know where we were supposed to sit. All we knew that that we had a second class ticket, but weren’t sure if it was free seating after that.  After just getting on and looking like confused tourists, another passenger cleared things up for us. So frustrating when there is no one at the information booth! Anyways, it was a quick three-hour train ride with lovely views of German style houses, beautiful farmland, and mountains.

Mozart's Pedestrian Bridge
Salzburg is simply just the most charming little city of 150,000 people. Our hotel is not in the city center, we have to take a bus about 10 minutes to get there, but it’s nice none the less. We dropped our bags off and then ventured out. We wanted to start this leg of the trip getting oriented so we headed to the beginning of yet another free Rick Steves city walking tour. However, about five minutes in, the rain just got too comical to continue. It was pouring and blowing in sideways. Our clothes were getting soaked and there really weren’t many places to take cover. So after a light lunch, we headed back to the hotel.

At 6:30pm we headed to the grocery store right behind the hotel (the only thing near us) but to our shock it was closed! They close at 6pm on Saturdays! Well, that was our dinner plan, so now we had to search for something else….in the rain. Besides the grocery store, the only thing close to us food wise is a McDonald’s. Ugh, we had no other choice. We ate our burgers and then returned to the hotel to watch the ‘Sound of Music’ so we were ready for tomorrow! Fingers crossed that the weather tomorrow is a little bit more cooperative!

 September15: Today is the day! We took a gamble on the weather and booked a four-hour Sound of Music tour for 9:30am. We were picked up at our hotel at 9am and collected a few more tour-goers on the way to the large charter bus covered in an obnoxious scene from the movie and the worlds” The Official Sound of Music Tour” pasted along the sides. So cheesy, but I loved it! Our tour guide, Natasha, was fantastic and so animated. It made the whole experience even that more enjoyable.
Along the way, between stops, we were given not only movie facts, but also a great tour and history of the real Von Trapp family as well as Salzburg itself.  It felt like a two for one tour!

Our fist stop was the beautiful “Von Trapp house” in the movie, (it was not actually the Von Trapp
home). The backyard of this house was used in the film, but filming was not allowed to take place inside the house, and the house itself wasn’t supposed to be recognizable. It’s now the Leopoldskron Palace and was once the home of a famous Jewish Austrian that had to flee during the Nazi overtake. The sensitivity of the matter and the timing of the movie made it not possible to film in the house. The pond however, where the children and Maria fall out of the little canoe, is government owned and therefore they were allowed to film in it. The shots of the outside of the house from the front, remember it’s yellow, was a totally different house which we were able to see from across another street. Sadly, we could not go in as it’s privately owned. Any scenes filmed in the inside of the house were actually filmed in a studio in California. But the rooms were modeled after the Leopoldskron Palace. There is so much more info I’d love to share, but this blog post would be WAY too long. Regardless, the palace was absolutely stunning and the scenery was breathtaking!

Me 'leaping'!
The next stop was the gazebo. Where “I am 16 going on 17”, and “Must Have Done Something Good” were sung. It was not actually a part of the gardens of the Leopoldskron Palace, the producers brought it in. It has since been removed from the garden and passed around. No one wanted it because of how many tourists flocked to it. It ended up in the corner of another palace which we got to see. Sadly it’s locked and we learned that the dancing scene in it was once again, filmed in a studio, in a mock gazebo. But it was still so fun to see!

Along the drive we were able to see Nonnberg Abbey, where Maria was practicing to be a nun. The drive itself was so gorgeous. Nonnbery Abbey allowed them to film some scenes there but not the wedding scene. That was filmed at a different church in a different city. Mondsee Church was another site we drove to and were allowed to go in. The town it’s in was having a harvest festival so it was fun to see the residents walking around in traditional dress. Andrew and I bought two brats and apple strudel for lunch after touring the church. I can’t describe the beauty of this city and our pictures just don’t do it justice.

We also walked through the Mirabell Gardens where much of the “Do Re Mi” song was filmed. Mirabell garden is so beautiful filled with perfectly manicured trees, flowers and fountains. No wonder they shot some of the scenes there! We walked across the Motzart pedestrian bridge, saw where they filmed the kids playing in the trees, where they sang as a family at the festival before escaping, as well as several other little memorable scenes.  We even had a sing-along on the bus as the movie soundtrack was played! Seriously so cheesy and so much fun! I loved every minute of this tour!!
Mirabell Gardens - Can you picture "Do-Re-Mi?!"

After the tour, Andrew and I decided to finish the Rick Steves audio walking tour that yesterday’s weather did not allow. It led us all around the old city and into two different beautiful churches and a graveyard. We even got to see the house where Motzart grew up. We really lucked out on the
weather and were so thankful for that. It was such a great day and we learned SO MUCH about Salzburg and The Sound of Music!

September 16: Rain, rain go away! Our plan today was to tour the fortress that looks down over all of Salzburg, Festung Hohensalzburg. Built in 1077, it housed many prince-archbishops. It’s also the largest, most intact castle in all of Europe. It took us about 15 minutes to walk to the top, in the pouring rain. Honestly, it was a huge bust. Part of it was the weather and part of it was the poorly marked fortress itself. Being that it’s one of the biggest tour attractions in Salzburg, you’d think there would be direction signs telling you where to go and things labeled in English. Not the case at all. We moseyed around, went into a few disappointing ‘museums’ and climbed the tour to get a full view of Salzburg while listening to the audio tour. I’ll admit that the view was pretty great and would have been so much better had it not been so cloudy and rainy.  I thankful for the perspective the tower gave us on the town but if we ever make it back to Salzburg, it’s a site I would skip.

Fortress...in the rain.
All in all, Salzburg has been one of my favorite stops. Its charm, gorgeous sites and small town feel make it a place I would love to come back to. I love the laidback lifestyle and I could never get sick of the views! My ONE complaint is that there are seriously no restaurants. It’s very hard to find a place to eat that isn’t a café serving only café foods. We got a little tired of eating Weiner schnitzel’s and kebabs.

We will be returning to Austria, mark my words!

"I have confidence in ME!" --On her way to the Von Trapps
Wedding Cathedral 

"Do-Re-Mi" --They ride their bikes through this tunnel!

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