Danube Odyssey, Part 9

Mozart and Trapp family home of Salzburg

 

 

1.Flights from Memphis to Budapest, Hungary

7. Vienna's Schonbrunn Palace and museums

2. Budapest Hilton

8.  Cruise on Danube River and Durnstein

3. Visit to Holloko Farming Village

9.  Mozart and Trapp family home of Salzburg

4. Budapest area attraction of Szentendre

10. Weltenburg Monastery near Kelheim

5. Visit to 13th Century Cathedral, Synagogue

11. Nuremberg and Nazi monuments

6. Dreary Bratislava and visit to painters' home

12. Flights from Nuremberg to Memphis

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 Page

 

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

Blue spire of Durnstein Catholic Church

Click Colored Type to Enlarge Photo

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 ruined castle.

 

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

Lewis by fog, clouds over Alps peaks

Click Colored Type to Enlarge Photo

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 coffee.

 

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:

           

ˇ         "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

      Hammerstein.

ˇ         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.

ˇ         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. . .

ˇ         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.

ˇ         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

Lewis, Betty outside Passau Cathedral

Click Colored Type to Enlarge Photo

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. 

 

Continue with next trip segment  /  Return to Nolan Travels Home Page