Salzburg: The hills are alive

Disclaimer: High levels of Sound of Music fandom are about to commence.

I love the Sound of Music. Unabashedly. I remember watching it at some sort of group gathering as a kid (maybe Girl Scouts?) but since I was in college I’ve watched it every year while I wrap Christmas presents. I make hot cocoa, wrap all my presents at once and sing sing sing to my heart’s content.

So while Salzburg is beautiful and full of music and was relatively untouched by the war, I was there on a mission: a Sound of Music tour. Is there anything better than embracing the kitsch with 50ish other SOM enthusiasts?

Outside of Salzburg
Turns out two homes were used for the Von Trapp’s villa in the movie. The house and tree-lined drive (for Maria’s approach and the children in the trees) are a villa that has been converted into a music school. All the exteriors of the house were shot there. The interiors were shot on a studio lot in LA. The gardens and lake (when they fall out of the boat) were shot at a separate villa which we got to go to.

When I first saw the movie I thought Liesl was the prettiest ever and looked up to her like I looked up to the 8th graders at school. So naturally, “Sixteen Going On Seventeen” was my favorite song. 20th Century Fox left the gazebo behind when they finished filming. Through the magic of Hollywood the fully built gazebo is actually a 90% replica and all the dancing scenes were filmed, once again, on a soundstage in LA.

Next, we drove out of Salzburg through the Lakes District (where all the panoramic shots that open the movie were filmed) to the village of Mondsee. The actual Nonnberg Abbey were Maria is a postulate in the movie is in Salzburg (but not available to visit) but the movie wedding was filmed at St Michael’s church in Mondsee. The church is a mixture of Gothic and Baroque styles. Despite being in it, the church still appears so much bigger in the movie. More Hollywood magic!

Do Re Mi: Mirabell Gardens

I found a clip of “Do Re Mi” from the movie. Go ahead and (re)watch it, the rest will make way more sense. I’ll wait.

The montage where Maria teaches the children to sing was filmed all over Salzburg and the surrounding countryside. Many of the city shots for the song were filmed in Mirabell gardens. Formally the palace of one of the Prince Archdukes that ruled Salzburg, today it is the city hall. Behind the building elaborate gardens have been maintained and are free and open to the public. There are several fountains, a rose garden, statues and a dwarf statue collection.

I officially can never make fun of anyone (read: Sparky and Meghan) going to a ComiCon ever again. It was so much fun to embrace the movie magic and see more of beautiful Salzburg along the way!


Vienna: Schonbrunn Gardens

One of the perks of being an emperor is that you get to change houses when the seasons change. Schonbrunn was the summer palace of the Habsburgs. Today it is a museum. The admission price kept me away (and the tour groups and the general imperial excess) but the gardens are free. And the gardens are beautiful.
As I was wandering around, admiring the flowers and landscaping, I found myself underwhelmed by the fountains. After Peterhof and Rome, these guys were letting me down. And just as I was fine tuning my jokes (“Step up your game”, “Holy Roman Schmoly Roman”, etc.), I came upon the Neptune Fountain. And Franz Joseph laughed from the grave.
The grounds are extensive and full of things to explore. The Gloriette was used as a breakfast room for Franz Joseph and Sisi. Perched on a hill overlooking the palace and city, the view is awesome.
Closer to the palace there are a collection of mazes and labyrinths. I’ve never been in a proper hedge maze. I do love me a good corn maze but those typically have directions. Once you were in you were on your own with the elevated deck at the center as your goal. Between Harry Potter and the billion and one British period movies I’ve seen I figured I had it in the bag. Despite its small appearance it took me more than 20 minutes to find the right path. Awesome brain teaser!20130628-190753.jpg
The park is clearly used by ordinary Austrians. I saw many people jogging alone or in pairs as well as families picnicking on the grounds. Heck yes, utilized spaces!

Vienna: Zentralfriedhof

The weather in Vienna wasn’t terribly generous. I arrived and immediately bought a pair of pants and a sweater. After four weeks sweating through southern Russia, Turkey, Greece and Italy, rain was a distant memory. This made ambitious outdoor plans challenging.

I had really wanted to check out the Zentralfriedhof cemetery in suburban Vienna. The cemetery has a unique history. Built in 1863 anticipating continued population growth (which fell off considerably after WWI), the governing board decided to welcome all faiths in. Austria is a heavily Catholic country and has deep ties to the Church through several centuries of Holy Roman Emperorship. Many people were not pleased. The cemetery today has over 3 million bodies interned and while largely Catholic there are noticeable sections for Protestant, Jewish, Muslim and even Buddhist families.

It had been raining on and off for a few days but finally I decided to bite the bullet and go. About 20 minutes after I arrived, there was a torrential downpour. This is why you always carry a book, kids.

20130628-175333.jpgVienna is famous for its musical contributions and many famous Austrian composers have been buried there. I checked out some of the Big Guys.

20130628-175512.jpgThe markers are very intricate. I found some distant relatives (Moser was my maternal grandmother’s maiden name) and liked the graves that were turned into small flower gardens.


20130628-175829.jpgThen, the shocker. That’s an OPEN TOMB, kids. The zombie apocalypse starts in Vienna, calling it now.


We beat DOMA!

Congratulations to all my friends and fellow humans whose relationships became further legitimized in the eyes of the state even though they have been legitimate in the eyes of their friends and families for much longer. Today is thanks to you.

Congratulations to anyone that has ever come out of the closet. We do not live in a post-gay anything. Making a declarative statement about who you are and making your sexuality available for public consumption is intimidating in ways I won’t ever fully understand. Today is thanks to you.

Congratulations to my fellow activists who have fought, campaigned, organized, written, chanted and marched to bring this day as soon as possible. Today is thanks to you.

Congratulations to all the allies that kept on loving, kept on talking and kept on proving that one relationship does not diminish another. Today is thanks to you.

Marriage is not the end. But victories make us stronger. Victories prove to us that struggle works, that united we are strong, and that politics and action matter. Solidarity wins. Love wins.

Vienna: Graffiti along the Danube

Vienna has art all over the place. I think one of the side benefits to having castles and monuments everywhere is that people just get used to constant decoration.

There were many large scale pieces along with meters and meters of really intricate tags.




And, being me, I always have a soft spot for the political graffiti. I’m sure there was more but my language held me back.


Vienna: Its good to be Habsburg (Updated)

I went on a scenic monuments walking tour today. Lizzie style, of course, with lots of stops for coffee, books and pretty windows. The Habsburg dynasty ruled their giant empire from Vienna and at it’s peak stretched from the Balkans to Bolivia. It is good to the the Holy Roman Emperor. 20130625-175720.jpg Sweet digs, yo.20130625-175806.jpg Volksgarten20130625-175837.jpg Parliament

Updated! I forgot Freud! Hi Siggy!

20130626-103234.jpg (This omission clears points to a distressed childhood or some such.)

Night train to Vienna

After my first (and terrible) experience with overnight trains I took steps to make my trip to Vienna a smooth one. I arrived early, had dressed expecting to sleep in my clothes and had pulled my basic toiletries out of my big suitcase. I was prepared. I was totally not prepared to have an entire six person sleeping compartment to myself. Score!

The trip itself was uneventful and quite pretty. Unfortunately, the sun seems to have remained behind in Italy as I woke up to overcast and rainy in Vienna this morning.

20130624-125152.jpgLast of the Italian countryside.

20130624-125248.jpg 1am at the border (I woke up when the train stopped moving for a long time.)

20130624-125354.jpg Good morning, Austria.

Venice: The Peggy Guggenheim Collection

For my last day I had intended on checking out the Venice Biennial but when I arrived I discovered the prices were well beyond my budget. I shifted gears and checked out the Peggy Guggenheim Collection and I’m so glad I did. First, that woman could collect art. And after Italian Renaissance overload I was so happy to not see a single biblical reference!




The collection is displayed in her former home and in much the same way it was laid out when Guggenheim lived there. Each room had a picture of the room as decorated in the 1960s. It was interesting to see the art in a non-gallery context.

20130624-123935.jpgDining room then.

20130624-124008.jpg“Dining room” now.

The gardens were my favorite part. All the brick walls were covered in honeysuckle. Currently in full bloom, the smell is intoxicating.

The space is so lush and green. Just the type of space to relax and escape the bustle of Venice.