Friday, November 25, 2016


Here we are in the gardens of the Mirrabell Palace in Salzburg with all the important landmarks in the background.
The Salzburg Cathedral and the Hohensalzburg Fortress.

Day 13 and hello Salzburg!!  Despite our having to negotiate more stairs with heavy luggage in tow, our 4 star Austria Trend Hotel certainly was a welcome sight, right down to the 5 star bar facilities and dinner we enjoyed following our action packed day in Passau.    However, it seemed that the Austria Trend was also a go-to destination for humungous as well as hungry tour groups from other lands far, far, away who,  by our breakfast time the following morning, had swept through the place like a voracious tsunami leaving for us little in the way of clean spaces nor food in their wake.
However, the very wise though eventually headless Marie-Antoinette once said "If the people have no bread, let them eat cake"...varieties of which we had been putting away in copious amounts during our travels, so slim pickings at breaky were soon forgotten and our focus was turned to what lay ahead...our performance at the Salzburg Dom. OMG!!

Life truly is a sequence of moments and this will have been one nobody in our group will want to forget.  To have been given the opportunity to sing at Sunday's 11.30am Cathedral Mass in this gorgeous Gothic place of God; where, at the Mass prior, we were able to witness the pomp and ceremony of a welcome by the outgoing Parish Priest to the new; where surreal was the feeling while standing in the very place of Mozart's christening; where emotions were simply too overwhelming to be confined by words (but hey...enough about me!), this was momentous.

Brigitte Neumeister
Margaret deep in meditation.
With a strict protocol to be followed during the Mass and with it being delivered in the local lingo, German,  Brigitte, our European Representative for Gulliver's Travel was a wellspring of knowledge translating for Alexis and cueing us in for each musical interlude. We almost lost sight of Margaret, installed as she was behind an aged organ but who, ever undaunted, played as she did throughout the tour, with all the skill and quiet confidence we have come to know in her. The wonderfully rich acoustics were exalting and again thrilled each one of us along with a congregation many of whom were forthcoming in their welcome for this Choir from Australia.

Fountain at Residenzplatz square
near Salzburg Dom.
The choir in the Salzburg Cathedral participating in Holy Mass.

When traveling anywhere, there are times when one's expectations prove to be less than that for which one has prepared.  Well believe me when I say Salzburg was anything but an anticlimax!!  Shepherded by our guide, Eric - The Dashing, with his longer length leather Lederhosen hanging off his hips and we hanging off his every word, his spirited and sweeping descriptions at every corner 'had us at 'Guten Tag'.  We meandered along the path through the blooming loveliness of St Peter's Monastery, Cemetery and Catacombs, a replica of which was made for the escape scenes in The Sound of Music.  We were awe-struck by the  magnificent baroque architecture, historic city centre, horse drawn carriages clip-clopping their way through the square, hidden courtyards and lanes spilling with flowers, the stunning charm of the Getreidegasse...the cobble stoned street lined with little shops offering art works, clothing, shoes, accessories and so much more under their ornate wrought-iron guild signs which, in times past, served to tell passers-by what was to be had within.  

Mozart's birthplace in the Getreidegasse.

 At No 9 we had to stop for this was the home of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. The house in which he was born; where he lived until the age of 17, played and composed on his piano and violin; what is now a museum from where we again could not leave without a little something of Mozart in our carrybags. In fact very few places in Salzburg were without some reminder of Mozart's legacy, from the site of his sister's grave reposing in St Peter's Cemetery to the compelling sounds of ensembles and soloists ringing out many of his beloved works from nooks and corners of the old town.

There were also very few places in Salzburg where the grandeur of the Hohensalzburg Fortress did not have people turning skyward to wonder at this 900 year old sentinel standing watch over the city.  It was later when to this we made our way via the Fortress Funicular and in that quiet space between day and night, amid the richly carved portals and marble columns of the Golden Hall, we were audience to a feast of the works of Haydn, Mozart, Dvorak and Strauss by the wonderful Salzburger Mozart Ensemble.

View over Salzburg from the Fortress.


"Look to the left and you'll see the mountain, Utersberg" Ondra explained, "...and up there,  Salzkammergut by the shores of Lake Fuschisee" we dipped, turned and craned at our bus windows to take it all in. If there is one thing the Austrians do well it is lakes and mountains and our drive to the town of Bad Ischl outside Salzburg was alive with these places where Nature's beauty seemed to transcend description; to where tourists and Winter sports enthusiasts flock at the start of the Season.

Even the early morning mist hovering could not conceal the inspiring beauty, perhaps made more so by The Sound of Music resounding from the Bus's DVD player much to the chagrin of some on board.  But who can say that too much  Sound of Music can ever be enough when one is actually driving through the very green undulating hills that make "hearts want to beat like the wings of birds that rise from the lake to the trees"... Huhh?

And what better way  to while away a morning on our last full day in Europe than by soaking up the sunshine and atmosphere in this beautiful spa town where composers the likes of Johann Strauss, Franz Lehar and Johannes Brahms had made their Summer homes?  We also managed to soak up more than sunshine at the famous Konditorei Zauner Cafe and Pastry Shop which has had a history of sweet success since 1832, appointed to be the Imperial and Royal Purveyor to the Court of the time.  Its traditions live on today, completely spoiling us with choices of out-of-this-world cakes, strudels and pastries!

Long walks became mandatory following that decadent foodie fill and Bad Ischl's quaint laneways and streets provided the perfect places to lose the calories or find last minute mementos. Why the Von Nidas even managed to soak in the icy waters of one of Bad Ischl's glassy streams.  How their clothes remained completely dry shall be left to your own conclusions!!

The Traun River in Bad Ischl, Austria

Basilica St. Michael Mondsee

With a boat cruise upon Salzburg's Salzach River scheduled for this day, we had to bid farewell to Bad Ischl  but thanks to our ever empathetic tour guide Ondra, managed a brief detour to the site of Maria's wedding in the magnificent twin towered baroque Mondsee Cathedral.  Such an unexpected bonus as was the hour of relaxation on the river boat 'Amadeus' (no kidding!) from where we could enjoy more of Salzburg's stunning sights.

The view from the River Boat Amadeus. (Photo Kathie Watts)

Weary of walking and depleted of spare spaces in swollen suitcases, many forewent the free time in town and made for the quintessentially Austrian Restaurant Sternbrau where we were to gather for our final dinner together.
With so much to celebrate it was obvious from the outset that we were not going gently into this good night!!  From kickoff, our short term memories were put to the test with Eric's cleverly constructed "20 Odd Question Quiz" which turned cheating into an art form and aging memories into an embarrassment. It turns out that Roger's downtime was not a case of tuning out but an opportunity to twist the words of Stilgoe and Hart's Prima Donna into An Ode to Alexis. (this an excerpt):
Pity the poor Choir Director, Spare her these unending trials! 
Half her choir disappears tasting local beers!
They're either not observing, or they're keeping the Director on her toes!
Who would be so daft to try this?  Only those who sing at Esk.
If the Altos don't miss and the Basses just kiss...Harmony!
It's all we can aspire to and the audience can judge us on the rest!!

Choir Director - great leader of us all,
We love your style and try to smile when you're waving.
How you inspire us to keep to the score
So Choir Director, wave more!!

We supped, we sipped, swigged, we laughed, we learned how to yodel, Austrian style, when three ladies with a harmony of voices too beautiful to be real dropped in to entertain and in a small window of sanity, we gave our thanks.  With Ewald now off duty for the night, we made our way back to the Hotel in mini buses for final packing and to sleep our last sleep together in Salzburg.

 That night it rained and was still raining as our bus departed for Munich Airport at 6am the following morning. It was the only inclement weather we were to experience.  Some said Salzburg shed parting tears for us that morning as most prepared for the long flight home to Australia via a wonderful day in Abu Dhabi, others, on to further adventures around Europe, all with friendships strengthened and memories to last a lifetime.

*Alice laughed. "There's no use trying," she said.  "One can't believe impossible things."
"When I was your age I did it for half an hour a day," said the Queen.
"Why sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast."

To Alexis, our very own Queen of Hearts, who often believes as many as six impossible things before breakfast and has never stopped believing in us, we extend our warmest thanks.

by: Sue Walker
*Louis Carroll, Through the Looking-Glass

A dip in the freeessssshhhh stream in Bad Ischl

Konditorei Zauner Cafe - endless variety

Talented musicians busking in the square

Never let distance be a deterrent.

This Magic Place - Europe.

Thank you