Liesl & Marta Take Austria: Day 3, Salzburg
Let's start at the very beginning…. And let me tell you, the very beginning of today started very early, at 5:30 AM to be exact. Day 3 in Europe and why on earth did we get up before the sun has even risen? For Fräulein Maria and a trip to Austria, of course.
Less than a week ago, Margaret and I were at long last finished with finals and had officially graduated (minus my summer class) from the University of Georgia. So naturally, the end of graduation meant that it was time to finalize the last minute details of our trip, such as checking the weather. To our dismay, we discovered that it was supposed to rain all for our two days planned to spend in Zell Am See, Austria, this tiny lake town known for its hiking – and llama tours – in the summer and extravagant ski resort in the winter. Margaret originally found Zell (not the Zell B. Miller Learning Center) on Pinterest, making us the most stereotypical white girls to ever live. Despite this, it looked absolutely gorgeous as the perfect location for hiking, but not for anything fun to do during inclement weather.
We spontaneously made a last minute decision to change our trip and visit Salzburg, Austria and Venice, Italy for one night each in an attempt to avoid the downpour. With a visit to Salzburg in mind, I had hopes of dragging Margaret with me to live my lifelong dream of taking a Sound of Music tour and embrace my inner love of musicals. Through this research it was here that I discovered the one and only Fräulein Maria Bike Tour.
If you haven't been #blessed with discovering this gem, the Fräulein Maria tour takes you on a four hour bike tour of Salzburg, while showing you the many sites used in the filming of The Sound of Music as well as places inhabited by the actual Von Trapp family. In case I needed more convincing (which I didn't,, the tour’s website boasted of its 5-star trip advisor review, which is pretty dang impressive. However, the only way for us to make the 9:30 tour was for us to take the 6:23 AM train to Salzburg, hence why our day started so terribly early.
I awoke after sleeping a mere 4 hours feeling unrested from noisy roommates again, but pumped to go to Austria for the first time. Margaret and I woke up with plenty of time, but were moving slowly due to being slightly groggy and having to check out from the hostel. At 6:10 we were sprinting across the street, suitcases flying as we made it onto the train with time to spare, which we obviously used to grab croissants. The weather outside was cloudy and looked as though it may rain, but didn't perturb us since Fräulein Maria’s is the real MVP and bikes rain or shine. Margaret was the greatest and didn't complain in the slightest, which I was so thankful for, since leaving Munich in time to make it for the tour had been my idea and I knew it was a lot to ask.
Upon arriving in Salzburg, we successfully deciphered the bus map and bought two tickets for bus 5, which would take us to JUFA Salzburg, the hostel where we would be staying for the night. After throwing our bags in their luggage room, we sprinted to Mirabelle Garden, the meaning point of the tour. Power walking through Salzburg was oddly reminiscent of every Tuesday and Thursday of this past semester, when I consistently made us perfectly on time, but never early, to our 9:30 classes. My bad, but this time it was unavoidable and as always, we arrived at exactly 9:30.
Immediately upon arrival, we were greeted and welcomed to the Fräulein Maria Bike Tour and given the bikes and a basket that we would call ours for the next four hours. Our guide, Claudio, had lived in Salzburg his entire life and like the majority of Austria, had not grown up having never headed of The Sound of Music. So typical that only tourists are the ones fascinated by the film.
Yet despite all of the trials and tribulations getting there, the tour was absolutely incredible, better than we could ever have expected, and worth every penny, or euro. The tour began by taking us all through the city of Salzburg, sharing insights and history of its founding and joining to become a part of Austria. Salzburg is the most bike friendly town that I have ever seen or imagined and it truly caters itself to bikers and a common reliance on public transpiration, which I love. We rode through bike paths under bridges, zig zagged over the cobblestone, up an intense incline on the mountain, and biked throughout the countryside. It was absolutely gorgeous and I cannot recommend it enough as an amazing way to see the city regardless of if you are a Sound of Music fan. Claudio made the tour fun and informative and was a hilarious guide along the way.
I saw my life flash before my eyes on multiple occasions, mainly due to the fact that I was looking through the viewfinder of my DSLR while zooming through the countryside on a bike. When we were biking through fields and the countryside, Margaret and I naturally were the most uninhibited of the group and may have started the singing while biking because we are officially those people. We met the sweetest family from New Zealand who were on a similar tour of Europe and had two little girls wearing matching outfits.
I keep getting asked if I was actually offered a job on the tour or if I was exaggerating. The truth is Margaret and I were singing and said “You should be giving tour. If you ever want to come work for us, let us know”. And just like that, Liesl and Marta were employed after graduation with the coolest job ever. Can I get a GO DAWGS?
One of the last stops on the tour was the famous Sound of Music gazebo. Claudio explained that this was the gazebo used in the film for outside shots and that the footage of the characters dancing inside was filmed in Hollywood. He also told the group that for the past ten years, the gazebo has been closed because a woman had been dancing on the benches and fallen and broken her foot (one person always has to ruin for the rest of us...) As we approached the gazebo to take pictures in front of it, a woman dressed as Maria from the film walked up, opened the gazebo and walked inside, as a man holding a classical guitar followed suit. We asked Claudio if his story about the woman breaking her foot had been a joke and if the gazebo was indeed always opened, but he shook his head no, his wide eyes saying that he had never seen it opened before.
A crowd of important looking people scurried out of the adjacent building to form a crowd around the gazebo, where Maria was doing vocal warmups. Do Re Mi anyone? She soon began singing a gorgeous sound of music medley, with a slight German accent hidden by her beautiful singing voice. After the performance, she posed for a picture with two of the important looking people and left the gazebo. Out of corner of our eye, we saw a woman with the key to the gazebo making her way over to lock the door. We saw our opportunity and went for it. Margaret tossed Claudio her phone as we sprinted into the gazebo and posed for a picture before running out. One other person made it inside for a picture before the woman with the key (we’ll call her the gazebo curator or the keeper of the keys for a nice Harry Potter reference) shut the door and locked the gazebo for good. Claudio says that we lucked out and that our timing was incredible, to say the least. As we were leaving, we spotted pseudo Fräulein Maria smoking a cigarette next to the gazebo.
After the tour delirium from sleep deprivation began to set in, as Margaret and I found an Italian restaurant to order vegetarian pizza. Yay for finally having vegetables again, even if they were just on top of pizza! A common theme of this trip has been us falling asleep at meals, but hey, I certainly didn't come to Europe to sleep. By this point it was late afternoon, so we headed back to JUFA to take a much needed nap, that turned into us sleeping until 8:30 PM. Since JUFA boasts on their website of showing The Sound of Music in the lobby every night for guests, we decided to go and watch it and just rest for the night. When we walked up there, they weren't showing it, so we asked the woman at the front desk if she would put it on for us. Unfortunately, the iconic scene began with Maria singing in the mountains of Austria, just in time for us to realize that the speakers were not working and without “sound” or “music”, the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic was simply “The of”, which isn't the greatest silent film.
Oh well, all in a day's work. So long, farewell, Salzburg, and onward.