no matter where you go, there you are

Friday, October 29, 2010

...with the sound of music

Now that I've gotten backstory out of the is a multi-post recount of my visit to Salzburg. I planned 2 days of Salzburg sightseeing into my itinerary. I bought a ticket for The Sound of Music tour offered by Panorama Tours for the first morning and planned to meet Anne midday, after it was completed. We'd then sightsee the following day and a half. Anne already visited the city early in her semester, so she would be able to tell me what was worth seeing.
Anne made the card for me.
My train pulls into the Salzburg station and its snowing. Honest to god, snowing. Of course, the one day of my 3 week trip I'm looking forward to the most, the one day it snows. In a situation like this, you just have to laugh and pray that maybe it will get better. No use getting angry, though shedding the disappointment takes a little more effort. The hostel is nearby the pickup point for the tour so I stop in, drop my bag, and head back out. I'm early and there isn't a place to sit and wait for the tour bus to arrive, however the gentlemen in the ticket booth are really nice. Funny enough, there's a computer guests can use for internet so having to wait doesn't suck too much. It's cold, but hey, free internet.
Church on the square at tour pick-up opposite Mirabell Palace
The bus pulls up and we're ushered on. It's a normal, large tour bus, but it seemed extra comfy. There was a second door in the middle too. It slowly fills to about half full by the time we depart. Our tour guide introduces himself, but I can't remember his name. He's lived in Austria for a number of years, and if I recall correctly, he was American...or at least English was his first language. He's pretty entertaining, making good jokes and smoothly transitions from one thing to another.

We drive around the city and our first stop is Schloss Leopoldskron, a mansion on a lake whose backyard was used for the VonTrapp villa. It is a private home still so we aren't allowed on their grounds, but there is a public path along the water so we walk around to view the house from the far side of the lake. While strolling, our guide points out mistletoe growing, and I learn that it's actually a parasite for trees. Interesting fact. The mansion is large and very pretty from the outside, and if I look hard enough I can see the back patio area next to the water. But the clouds, snow, rain, and fog make it more difficult. Nevertheless, I can see the VonTrapp backyard emerge. Because none of the house was used in the shots, I see they were working in a very small area.
I put the umbrella down so it wouldn't be in the picture...
Back on the bus we continue our drive down a long road where, to the left, we can see the exterior of the VonTrapp villa. Frohnburg Palace, which today houses students of the Mozarteum Music Academy, is the large yellow mansion whose driveway, front and backside were used for the VonTrapp villa in the movie. The Hellbrunn Alley in front is where Maria sings I Have Confidence. There is no public road to it, so you must go on foot if you want to see it up close. Wishing that were possible in the next day, I do my best to soak it all in on the short drive by. It's enough for the time being.

We depart the bus again at Hellbrunn Palace, a popular tourist destination and one I wish I could have explored more. The movie wasn't filmed here at all, but is now home to the famous gazebo. Here's where confusion sets in, but I decide not to question aloud. The gazebo seen in the movie in the exterior shots is only in the background while Georg and Elsa are strolling along the lake. They shot all interiors of the gazebo in a studio on the Fox lot in LA. The sign at the gazebo says it was presented as a gift to the city at the end of shooting and then restored to Hellbrunn in 1991. Did they use it for exteriors, then ship it back to LA, use it for shooting and ship it back to Austria as a gift? Or did they give the one used in the background in Salzburg to the city and build a duplicate in LA that could be taken apart in pieces to fit cameras a lights etc like any studio set? If that's the case, then this gazebo in Salzburg isn't really that cool and is kind of a tourist trap/trick. However, I could be wrong. Either way, the story about why no one is allowed inside anymore, because a 70 yr old lady tried to reenact the bench leaping from Sixteen Going on Seventeen and broke her hip, is pretty humorous no matter what.

After everyone on the tour has gotten their picture with the gazebo, we head back to the bus and settle in for the 30 min ride to Mondsee, the small town east of Salzburg where the wedding scene was filmed. It's a very nice, scenic ride and we get a great narration of the famous landmarks, mansions and lakes we pass even though some are hard to see because the clouds/fog are so thick due to the snow. When we get there, our guide takes us to the church, then gives us a half hour or so to roam the church and surrounding village. He points out some gift shops and small places to eat. The cathedral is very yellow and immediately I know they didn't use the exterior.

And when I enter, I come close to cursing because I think they got it wrong, or we've been tricked into believing this is the church. It's soooo tiny. And pink... But I guess that's the magic of movie making.

I walk up and down the church once, and still don't believe we got the right church. There's no dark stone, no lobby for the nuns, no huge altar. Nothing feels right. The amount of people as extras in the film could never have fit in this church. (For those from Cohasset, it was about half the size of St. Anthony's) I'm in disbelief, until I stand at the side and look at the aisle. There are small altar areas with portraits lining the main aisle, and there it clicks. I finally feel familiar, like I've been here before.
the pieces slowly add up

Just to be sure, I take out my iPod and play the video clip I put on it to compare. It matches. Slowly, but surely, it all comes together. The altar, the skeletons, the paintings, the stone columns. It's definitely the place even if the movie used lenses and people and lighting to completely alter the image. No wonder it seemed like it took Julie Andrews forever to walk the aisle. It was really short, yet made to look forever long.
view from the altar

I explore a couple of the stores and get a pastry at one of the bakeries before heading. On the ride back to Salzburg we watch a clip from the DVD special features that I'd seen numerous times before, but even so it was still fun to watch again. Arriving back at Mirabell Palace and the dropoff point, our guide thanks us, we thank him and as we depart he gives us guides to the rest of the filming locations around the city. The guide, it turns out, along with Anne's knowledge from her previous visit, will become a useful tool in helping me discover the world of The Sound of Music.

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