The Sound of Music, coffee, cakes & Johann Strauss
PEOPLE - Joanne Rae M. Ramirez (The Philippine Star) - April 17, 2014 - 12:00am

Austria reminds me of my favorite things (Conclusion)

Read Part 1 here

Salzburg is world-famous for being the setting of one of the most popular and best-loved musicals of all time, Rodgers and Hammerstein’s The Sound of Music. And so after checking in at our hotel, our first stop was the Mirabell Gardens, which Maria ran through while singing I Have Confidence, guitar case and bag in each hand. The wrought iron gates that swung open as she skipped down the garden’s stone steps are still there, and so are the horse fountain and the double row of trees on whose limbs the von Trapp children perched merrily.

From there we walked further to 17th-century Baroque Salzburg Cathedral, where Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, the city’s most famous son, was baptized. Nearby are the 17th-century arches through which Julie Andrews hopped and skipped on her way to the von Trapp mansion. During the filming of the movie exactly 50 years ago, the real Maria von Trapp had a cameo role. She is seen in the movie also walking through these arches.

High up on the hills surrounding the Old Town is the Nonnberg Abbey, a Benedictine Convent that is one of the oldest functioning nunneries in the world. The real Maria was a novice in the convent before she was sent off to the von Trapp household. As most of us know, Maria and Captain Georg von Trapp fell in love, married, raised a family of singers that performed in Austria, then escaped Nazi rule. There are deviations in the movie version of the von Trapp story, however, as the family left Salzburg by train and escaped from the Nazis during a performance in the US, where Maria and the Captain eventually lived and died.

We drove in front of the von Trapp mansion, which became a monastery after the war before it was transformed into a hotel in 2008. Beside it is the train station, from where, in full view of everyone, the von Trapps left Salzburg.

 Salzburg isn’t all about The Sound of Music, although those who grew up with memories of the movie (seen through the years in moviehouses, Betamax, VHS, laser discs and DVD) can’t help but marry the two. The oldest restaurant in Europe, St. Peter’s (mentioned in religious chronicles in the year 803 AD), is in Salzburg. Within the same complex as St. Peter’s is the Gothic cemetery that inspired the cemetery scene where the von Trapps hid when they were fleeing the Nazis in the movie. The cemetery was recreated in a studio, as were the convent and the interiors of the von Trapp manor.

History and reality blend with figments of the imagination in Salzburg. It’s more than just the sound of music that envelops the city. A symphony awaits you there.

 

Vienna

If Salzburg is charming, Vienna, the Austrian capital, is regal and aristocratic. Ordinary buildings look like palaces, and palaces look like, well, opulent buildings. No wonder Queen Marie Antoinette, who was born in Austria, had elegant taste.

The sound of music fills Vienna as well, as most of the most renowned composers of all time like Johann Strauss (senior and junior), hailed from, were educated or lived most of their lives in Vienna: Beethoven (though German-born), Schubert, Haydn, Brahms and Mozart.

Thus, a highlight of any visit is a concert in any of the city’s majestic concert halls, and hearing the Blue Danube (although the Danube isn’t really that blue, “Strauss Jr. must have been drunk,” says our guide.) as performed by a live orchestra in Vienna is like going to Las Vegas to watch a prizefight.

Another highlight of our Vienna visit was a tour of Schönbrunn Palace, about 20 minutes away from the city center. A smaller version (despite its 1,441 rooms, and 4,000 candles, glistening from eye-popping chandeliers) of the magnificent Versailles, the Schönbrunn is 99-percent original. The only part of the palace that was changed was a portion of the ceiling in the gallery that was hit by a bomb during World War II.

It is Vienna’s ambience (just think of the number of composers it nurtured) that makes it like no other city in Europe. With its parks, ponds, fountains and trees, you will be in the mood to relax with a cup of coffee any time of the day, or all day, with a generous slice of Sacher Torte (a Vienna original of layered chocolate cake with a mound of whipped cream on the side). Vienna, a city of only 1.7 million people, has over 800 coffee houses, with over 20 different kinds of concoctions (not just beans, mind you). Some Vienna residents, it is said, give the addresses of their favorite coffee houses as their contact addresses. And they have good beer, too, I was told by my husband Ed and son Chino, who were with me in Vienna and Salzburg as part of a Globus tour of Central Europe.

I was also pleasantly surprised to find “Vienna Sausage” on the menu of a popular restaurant. Expecting finger-long sausages like those in a can of Libby’s, I was served, instead, six-in.-long  sausages with tasty, tangy mustard on the side.

It isn’t just Salzburg that reminds me of my favorite things. Vienna, does, too. Now, excuse me as I have that cup of coffee with Sacher Torte.

 

(For more information on the Globus’ Imperial Splendors tour, please call Baron Travel at 817-4926 or e-mail btcftd@barontravel.com.ph and ftd@barontravel.com.ph.)

(You may e-mail me at joanneraeramirez@yahoo.com.)

COM SACHER TORTE SALZBURG SOUND OF MUSIC ST. PETER TRAPP VIENNA VON
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