Monday, October 12, 2009

Salzburg 1 - Austria's Most Famous Exports

Austria has a bit of an image problem with English speakers. We heard the same story several times in our two days there and saw its effects emblazoned on t-shirts in every gift shop. When they tell a Yank, for instance, that they are from Austria, the Yank is liable to say things like, "Oh, g'day mate," or "Can you sing a didgeridoo?" or some such. The patient Austrian then explains (unless it's on the t-shirt), "There are no kangaroos in Austria."

The Yank is liable to be puzzled at this statement. Of course there are kangeroos in Australia! That's when the Austrian will say, "The Sound of Music" and comprehension dawns. The Alps! Do-Re-Mi! Salzburg and Vienna! Mozart! Yes! That Austria.

We awoke in our van Wednesday morning, had a wonderful, provincial breakfast of Broetchen and Nutella and hopped on the bus into the Salzburg Altstadt (old city). We spent two days in Salzburg and surroundings, so we're going to break the part down thematically and focus on the Sound of Music and Mozart today.

The bus dropped us off in front of the Mirabelle Gardens. Lots of decorative flowers, lots of statues of two or more people - some fighting, some helping their pedestal buddy, some doing other things. The fountains are impressive.

The Gardens are next door to a palace and the Baroque Museum, which oddly enough was preparing to do a Classical music concert. It's like going to the BeeGee's museum to hear MC Hammer.

Sound of Music fans may recognize the Mirabelle Gardens as the scene for Do-Re-Mi.

In the Salzburg Castle (Thursday) they had a puppet museum, complete with this cut out from the Sound of Marionettes.

Also in Salzburg is a wonderful trick fountain garden we'll describe later. At the trick fountains is the gazebo where they performed 16 Going on 17.

Our big ticket item in Salzburg was Wednesday night: a dinner theater entitled The Sound of Salzburg. Four singers performed most of the Sound of Music repertoire, Austrian folk favorites, a couple Mozart pieces, and had some fun. Joy LOVES dinner theater, so this was on a per with the gondola ride for romantic moments. Dinner was very good - I loved my 'typisch Deutsch' pork roast with sauerkraut. I was one of the lucky people called up from the audience to dance and sing. Joy got video of much of it, but I spent the dancing bit paying attention to getting the steps right while hidden behind another 'couple' and wasn't paying attention to the audience, so you won't see those videos. The song after that, though, was one I recognized (Once an Austrian went yodeling...), so I sang along with gusto ... much to the shock of the singers. In the next verse, they grabbed the hat off my head to swing around.

Mozart's Birthplace, the building declares.
Much ado about nothing, the online reviews of it declare. It's all 'period' furniture, but none if it was the Mozarts' and you can't touch anything.

So we toured Mozart's Residence across the street from the Mirabelle Gardens instead. Photography was not allowed (I learned after taking a small handful of shots). We learned a lot about the Wunderkind, including how he married an ex-girlfriend's sister.

An organ in the residence. The great thing about the audio tour was that in addition to the spoken word, they played various lesser-known but beautiful Mozart selections. My favorite were the passionate, almost Romance period, religious pieces he composed at his mother's death.

Mozart has never been a favorite musician for me. For my taste, his great works are overplayed and his lesser works are finger exercises. After saying that, though, I was shocked this week in listening to some Baby Mozart to realize the he wrote the music for Twinkle Twinkle (aka The Alphabet Song; aka Baa Baa Black Sheep; aka....). We've all been singing Mozart to our kids for a long time!

Between the puppet museum, the Sound of Salzburg, Mozart Residence, and other random televisions around, we saw no fewer than 4 different renditions of Papageno's introduction and marriage from The Magic Flute (for my money, Mozart's best work).

That week they were also honoring Mozart's good friend, mentor, and colleague: Joseph Haydn. This is (a copy of) Haydn's death mask. The two of them, despite being 30 years apart in age, apparently had very high regard for each other. Haydn's head has quite a story behind it: separated from his corpse by phrenologist grave robbers and only reunited in the tomb 145 years later.

Oh, one more Salzburg export: another Austrian hat for Derrill. My other two came by way of Disney World's Epcot center and Austrian tourism boards. It's nice to have one I can say really really came from Austria. It has a very different feel from the other two - much firmer and less peaked.

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