AUSTRIA IS ALIVE WITH THE SOUND OF MUSIC
Recently, on an Avalon river cruise along the Danube River, we stopped for one day in magnificent Vienna and what we saw is indelibly etched into our memory. It’s without a doubt one of the most beautiful cities in Europe.
Our first pit stop was one of the finest examples of Gothic buildings you’ll ever see, St. Stephens Cathedral, Vienna’s number one tourist attraction. Unfortunately repairs on historic buildings like these are ongoing, so some of the church was covered in scaffolding. Nonetheless, it was still an absolute standout.
Highlights of time in Vienna included the opulent Hofburg Imperial Palace, which houses the Vienna Boys Choir and the famous Lipizzaner dancing stallions, as well as the nearby neo-renaissance Opera House. The significance of having an opera house in a city that once had Mozart, Beethoven and Johann Strauss as local residents is monumental. Other famous Austrian composers who have called Vienna home include Bruckner, Haydn and Schubert.
While walking up one of the main streets of Vienna (Graben) we came across a large baroque sculpture/memorial that depicts the era when the black plague was rampant through Europe in the 16th century and we quickly realised that Vienna wasn’t always the wonderful vibrant city it is today.
Statues are literally everywhere, my favourite being the one of Mozart who spent many years in Vienna where he died sick and destitute. You can visit the apartment where he last lived and where he penned the classic opera ‘The Marriage of Figaro’.
If you ever head to Vienna you must try some of their famous cakes such as Sachertorte (chocolate cake) or an apple strudel. I also shovelled down a triple stacked cone of Vienna’s finest gelato and my only regret is that I didn’t go back for seconds.
The following day our adventure continued to the picturesque town of Mondsee, which is famous for its church, the St. Michael Basilica, where Julie Andrew’s character in ‘The Sound Of Music’ got married. Here, charming shops, restaurants and a museum thrive on the riverboat tourist industry.
As it turned out, we soon discovered that the hills are indeed alive with the sound of music, metaphorically speaking. They were awash with brilliant colours and glorious views all the way to Salzburg, the fourth largest Austrian city, which sits on the German border.
Salzburg is renowned as the birthplace of Mozart and the setting for the film ‘The Sound of Music’, and it’s only a 30-minute drive from Mondsee.
Our first stop in Salzburg was the Mirrabel Gardens Fountain; it was here that the Von Trapp children and Julie Andrews sang ‘Do Re Mi’, and that’s exactly what we did, while running around the fountain (thankfully it was a quite tourist day)!
If you have a love for ‘The Sound Of Music’, which recently celebrated its 50th anniversary, there is a designated tour that takes you to all the locations where the movie was filmed, but we decided to give it a miss.
Arriving in Salzburg was like entering a fairyland filled with churches and remarkable medieval baroque architecture. Walking the tiny cobblestoned streets with wrought iron signs above many of the shops, we eventually came across an old apartment block, and this was where the world’s greatest musical genius, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, was born. Today his house is a museum and home to Mozart’s first violin and piano, his original sheet music and other family pieces.
The following day saw us arrive in Durnstein, which is located in the Wachau Valley, a renowned grape growing district. However, it is not the wine that puts this little town of 400 people on the map. England’s King Richard the Lion Heart was incarcerated in Durnstein in 1192 and the castle ruins that held him still stand on the hill high above the town today.
Later that day we went to see Melk Abbey, the largest Benedictine abbey in Europe. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage site and a piece de resistance of baroque architecture. It’s huge library (which has up to 2000 hand written manuscripts), the fresco painted ceilings and the imperial staircases are a tribute to its magnificent design and opulence.
Johan Strauss’s ‘The Blue Danube’ is undoubtedly the most famous waltz ever composed hearing it will always bring back cherished memories of our short Austrian adventure.
HOW TO GET THERE:
Vicki Gilden at Rose Bay Travel (02) 9371 8166