The hills are alive with the sound of music

Bev, my travelling companion and I were humming and singing bits and pieces from “The Sound Of Music” as we
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Bev, my travelling companion and I were humming and singing bits and pieces from “The Sound Of Music” as we explored Mondsee, a small town in the Austrian Tyrol. The church in Mondsee was the setting for the wedding scene in the film “The Sound Of Music” and we just couldn’t help singing. Lots of my travel friends have booked to see the show in Melbourne one week after arriving home from Europe, so our visit to Mondsee was timely. This small lakeside resort was a delight and the church was just as lovely as portrayed in the film. I was keen to try Austrian beer, so enjoyed a glass with my strudel at lunch and voted Mondsee, the church, the strudel and beer all first class.

The day’s road travel distance was 175 kilometres and took the usual five hours to complete. We seemed to spend more time stopped in traffic jams than actually moving, but I know now that this is normal. We moved in and out of Germany several times during our journey to the Austrian Tyrol – the German borders are marked by a gentle bump in the road, so we always knew whether we were in or out of Germany. I was thrilled to see a sign marking the turn-off to Obertauern along the way; I had skied there during my honeymoon in 1966. Happy memories.

The scenery was spectacular as we moved up into the mountainous Tyrol region – picture-postcard farms, fields and villages lush with spring growth in the lowlands and immaculately groomed ski slopes above awaiting winter’s snow. Cows were grazing in the higher fields allowing the farmers to cut hay on the lower farmland and prepare winter feed for the animals when they would be housed in sheds. Apparently some farming families supplement their income by working in the ski fields during the season, so if it’s not one field it’s another and win, win for everybody.

Some of my travelling friends chose to take the ski cable, next to our hotel, up the mountain to the top and had the best time chatting to hikers, marvelling at skydivers and watching mountain bikers whiz by. Summer on the peak is apparently almost as busy as winter in the ski season. My friends were surprised by how well-appointed this eagle’s nest was – bars, restaurants and boutiques were up and running and busy.

Meanwhile, Bev and I were stuck on “Doe a deer, a female deer…” as we travelled into Salzburg, the backdrop for much of “The Sound Of Music” movie. Our destination was the funicular – a cog-driven railway – that would transport us up to the enormous medieval castle dominating Salzburg’s skyline. The funicular terminus was not easy to find and we had to seek directions many times; eventually, some most helpful locals guided us to the obscure location and up we went.

The castle dates from 700 AD, and as you can imagine, has been extended, expanded, enlarged, altered and renovated many times over the centuries. It was an archaeologist’s paradise and those archaeologists have exposed some sections of ancient features here and there. It was all so fascinating that we spent a whole day there basking in the history and atmosphere. We lunched on plum pancakes beside the castle wall, served by a waiter in a medieval costume, looking like he was just off to the crusades. Opposite our table was a wonderful sculpture made of cannon balls! Bev and I, now being fans of Austrian beer, indulged again – neither of us are beer drinkers really, but when in Rome…

The big highlight of our Tyrolean interlude was an evening of folk dancing and music. We were keenly anticipating yodelling and lederhosen and were not disappointed. Off we set from our alpine hotel in a small, open, motorised train – journey took about five minutes – to a bar where we ordered rounds of beer and got into the mood listening to toe-tapping accordion music. The accordionist was one of those musicians whose whole body is part of the music. The bar was really crowded and the dance floor full. Naturally we joined the local crowd and were definitely in the mood when the folk dancing began. The entertainment group of about 16; eight young men and their partners; all lederhosen and twirling circular peasant skirts, took the floor and completely captivated the crowd. Much noisy boot slapping and lederhosen clad thigh slapping, yodelling and loud accompaniment from the accordion. The dancers’ coordination and complicated weaving in and out was superb. We clapped and cheered as they danced. Best part was the flamboyant maypole dance. I am always intrigued with the precision required to finish with the perfect pattern on the maypole. When the dancers took a rest, onlookers swarmed onto the dance floor again – the accordionist didn’t seem to require a rest; he continued on with gusto, responding to our enjoyment. What a brilliant dance party!

About 11.30 pm the little train was ready to deliver we exhausted revellers home to bed.

“Edelweiss, edelweiss, every morning I greet you. Small and white, edelweiss…” Will I be humming this gentle tune when I rise at four tomorrow morning for my early flight?

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