Danube Odyssey, Part 9
Mozart and Trapp family home of Salzburg
Index to Photos / Page Updated Jan. 19, 2008 -
(More than 200 additional photos taken on the Nolans' two-week cruise through
parts of Austria, Germany, Hungary and Slovakia are posted in several Lewis
Nolan albums at www.ritzpix.com, a website that requires sign-in)
By LEWIS NOLAN
Return to Nolan Travels Home
Nov. 20, 2007, Tuesday - In Durnstein
Our boat, the River Explorer, departed Vienna at 1:30 a.m. when I was fast asleep.
Betty was awakened by the noise of the engine getting underway and ropes being
dragging from the dock to storage on the boat. The
boat arrived later in the morning at the tiny Danube River
hamlet of Durnstein. Its claim to fame is that it was the location where
Englishman Richard the Lion Hart was imprisoned in 1193, in what is now a
Betty walked with a group of passengers and boat crew
members into the settlement, where she took some photos and purchased a few
postcards for the family trip album she'll put together upon our return home. I
napped and worked on my travelogue notes. Her group was treated to a concert in
the old Collegiate Church and wine tasting at old Klosterkeller. Betty found
the locally produced white wine to be pretty good.
We had a tasty lunch of soup (cauliflower for Betty and
gazpacho for me), BLT sandwiches and some yummy cheesecake. The cruise continued
at 7 mph against a strong current on the Danube.
The river through a range of steep hills is fast but only 200 or so yards wide.
The views of the rugged hillsides covered by a great many terraced vineyards
are sensational. This is a spectacular section of the Danube
when measured by scenic beauty. Here and there are red-slate, tile roofed
farmhouses with occasional villages and hamlets at waterside.
I'm surprised by the absence of cyclists since it would make
for a beautiful ride. A lone crew paddled a scull by the boat. We passed the
very pretty village
of Spitz, which has the
remains of two castles and what is called the 1,000 Gallon Mountain, so named
because of its wine grape production on the hillsides.
Nov. 21, 2007, Wednesday - To Salzburg
We were up early for breakfast so we could make the
8:30 a.m. tour bus departure for Salzburg, about
an hour-and-a-half drive through the foothills of the Alps Mountains.
I ate fairly lightly, with bacon, toast, a spoon of scrambled eggs and small
glasses of tomato juice and Coca Lite.
There were four tour buses comprising our caravan.
Ananda, an experienced Dutch tour guide who is a delight, led our
"yellow" group, which mainly consisted of people who took advantage
of the pre-trip extension in Budapest.
We drove through a hilly area covered with fresh snow and stopped in the shadow
of the Alps in a ritzy service station/rest
stop with a large restaurant and big tourism merchandise store.
The snow-capped mountains in the distance protruded
above the clouds and were on the opposite side of a beautiful lake ringed with
pine trees. Betty took several photos that promise
to be quite scenic, from a vantage point overlooking the lake.
The boat docked at the foot of downtown Linz, Austria,
supposedly where Adolph Hitler spent some of his youth. We rode a tour bus to Salzburg, where a local
guide by the name of Monika briefed us. She was a blonde in her 30s who was
smartly dressed in a black leather jacket and matching leather boots. We
learned that Ludwig Amadeus Mozart was born in Salzburg 250 years ago and that his
contributions to music are much on display. We were told that 8 million persons
visit the town annually. The current population is 145,000 and it is a
delightful place to poke around. Near Mozart's yellow stucco house there are an
abundance of bars, restaurants and shops where tourists can buy souvenirs.
Salzburg dates to 700
AD, when Bishop Rupert was given the land in exchange for his promise to
convert to Christianity the former Romans now living in what was called Gaul
and Germania. Steves writes that it is a
"charmingly preserved old town, splendid gardens, Baroque churches and Europe's largest intact medieval fortress. . ." It's
a city made for tourists, with prices to match.
We poked around the Christmas Markets consisting of
souvenir stalls and eateries on the streets and squares. Steel cables strung
over the narrow, medieval streets were being used as props for the erection of
fancy Christmas decorations. We ate lunch at the recommended Zipfer Bierhaus, a
beer garden where a very good local beer is brewed. I had a glass of it along
with a ham and cheese sandwich on a delicious hard roll and Betty had an
enormous piece of apple strudel served with a big pile of cream and a cup of
Under the inviting headline "Sound of
Music" Debunked, the book "Rick Steves' Germany
& Austria" says
that "rather than visit the real-life sights from the life of Maria von
Trap and family, most tourists want to see the places where Hollywood chose to film this fanciful story.
Local guides are happy not to burst any S.O.M. (movie) bubble, but keep these
points in mind:
"Edelweiss" is not a cherished
Austrian folk tune or national anthem. Like all Austrian music in the movie, it was composed
for Broadway by Rodgers and
The S.O.M. implies that Maria was devoutly
religious throughout her life, but Maria's foster parents raised her as a
socialist and atheist. Maria discovered her religious calling while studying to
be a teacher.
Maria's position was not as governess to all the
children, as portrayed in the musical, but specifically as governess and
teacher for the Captain's second-oldest daughter, Maria, who was bedridden with
rheumatic fever. . .
The family didn't escape by hiking to Switzerland
(which is a five-hour drive away). Rather, they pretended to go on one of their
frequent mountain hikes (and) "hiked" all the way to the train
station, which was at the edge of their estate and took the train to Italy.
The actual von Trapp family house exists, but
it's not the one in the film. The mansion in the movie is actually two
different buildings - one used for the front, the other for the back. The
interiors were all filmed on Hollywood sets.
With Betty's maiden name being Trapp, an uncommon
name in our part of the world, we've long suspected that her ancestors were
somehow related to the von Trapps of Austria. The
"von" part of the name is a sign of noble family rank. We were told
that three von Trapps make their homes in Salzburg
today but due to the absence of factual information about any possible links,
we made no attempt to get in touch with them.
As interesting as Salzburg was for us, the visit was a bit
long. Toward the end of the afternoon, due to the cold and dreary weather we
spent time in a McDonald's with several other cruise passengers. It was nice to
have an American burger, which formed a sharp contrast to the rich German food
that is a staple of the food served on the boat. Several of our shipmates
wanted coffee but the McDonald's crew seemed awfully slow to make and serve it.
Nov. 22, 2007, Thursday - In Passau
We docked in an industrial canal on the edge of Passau, a hustling and bustling town that is one of Germany's most
picturesque medieval cities. It is set amid wooded hills and cliffs at the
eastern edge of Bavaria, near the Austrian
border near the confluence of the Danube, Inn
and Liz Rivers. The city's most renowned site is St. Stephens Cathedral, which
houses a monster of a pipe organ that is said to be the world's largest with
more than 17,000 pipes.
The pedestrian mall is only one block up from the
docking area. Like other cathedrals we visited, St. Stephens' interior is
gothic and decorated with gigantic oil paintings of religious scenes. Sadly,
there was no music being played during our visit but we were told there are
five separate organs in the church. It must be a life experience to hear
several of them playing at the same time.
We had to stop for directions downtown several times
before we finally found an internet café in Passau, which was located upstairs in a small
casino. We paid 1 Euro each for 30
minutes of computer time. We found the computer terminals to be a bit confusing
because of the "out-of-place" keyboard locations of several English
language letters and either missing or unfamiliarly labeled functions like
"delete" and "page down." I had 151 backed up emails
waiting and Betty had a similar number. We were glad for a change that most
were junk messages that could be deleted without response.
We shopped briefly after lunch but found the prices
to be rather high so we passed on a walking tour of Passau. Betty did purchase a souvenir thimble
for her collection.
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