204. Day 8: Are you sitting comfortably?

Glory be, I’m tired! Today we did Salzburg: 16,959 steps on the pedometer if you are counting. So I fear you’ll need to make do with the highlights before I go completely onto standby. ActorLaddie is already knocking out the zeds as I type this.

Now, we’re suckers for an audio guide, ActorLaddie and I, and today we had ample goodness for our ears. There’s a chap called Rick Steves who records guides for many major tourist attractions. We’d used and liked his podcasts on Rome: he has a nice manner, is informative and, above all, lets you download his work for naught.  So, even though I see us more as travellers than tourists, nevertheless I popped some onto our phones before we left Blighty.

There are official guides a-plenty, of course and our host Beate had left a selection of leaflets in our digs.  For a mere €50 we could have toured the salt mines: apparently Salzburg gets its name from being the town where everyone came to get their salt, Rick told us. Tempting but no.  For €26 they offer a Mozart City tour, including a gander at his birthplace.  And for only €42 you can experience the Sound of Music tour, seeing the spots where they did some of the location work and look at the outside of the Abbey where the real Maria was a novice and where she married her Captain (wimples not included.)

We decided to stick with Rick.  One of the beauties of his guides is that if you get to somewhere you want to explore further, you can pause his podcast, explore away and then pick him up again. Which we did at assorted museums and churches.

So today I’ve learnt about Salzburg- including some Sound of Music stuff – with Rick.  We went into the city museum and listened to their audio guide on the history of the city.  We went into the house where young Mozart and his family lived and listened to  their audio guide.  I’ve been guided to the gills and I’m now going to share my learning with you for free.  Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin.

  • Wolfgang was one of seven Mozart children.  His father was extremely strict and, having been a captain in the navy, made the young Mozarts line up in the hall each day at the sound of his whistle.  Each child had their own individual whistle call and Wolfie used his as the basis of the bird-catcher Papgeno’s song in The Magic Flute.
  • Mozart senior was himself a respected composer and insisted that  his children learnt music from the start.  In the Salzburg museum they have the actual manuscript which is believed to be Wolfie’s first composition, at the age of five.  It is labelled K1 and underneath the manuscript the young lad has copied out “Doe a deer, a female deer; Ray a drop of golden sun.”  He has then transcribed this into the key of Bb minor

Statue of Mozart in this morning’s rain

  • In the Salzburg museum they also have the manuscript for Eine Kleine Nachtmusik (K525) and a letter which the nine year old boy wrote to his mother about the rapturous reception in London of his Val da furor patata (K21); this he has illustrated with a drawing of a metal dog he saw next to a London police box (K9).
  • In Mozart’s boyhood home they still have his piano, violin and harpsichord but they wouldn’t let us take photos.  They also have the remains of the curtains which Wolfie’s nanny used to make the children playsuits.
  • There are many many churches in Salzburg as well as the Cathedral – or Dom, as we have learnt to call it.  The Dom has four organs, some of which Mozart played (one at a time of course).  The Dom is designed so that it’s quite dark as you enter the nave but the chancel has large, clear windows which draw you on, from dark to light, as it were.  I took this photo of the inside of the dome by lying flat on one of the pews.

Glorious, isn’t it.

  • Nearby the Dom is the churchyard of St Peter’s, which has a memorial to Mozart’s sister.  It also has the arched cloisters which inspired the scene in the film of The S of M where the Von Trapps hide from their Nazi pursuers, though the ones you see in the film are a set.
  • They did really, however, film quite a lot on location in the Salzburg Old Town.  Apparently the local council were not happy with the film producers putting up swastikas on a building for one scene.  So the film producers threatened to use instead some archive film of Hitler being cheered through Salzburg.  The council relented.
  • The Salzburg museum has a couple of rooms remembering Nazi propaganda including photos of books being burnt in the marketplace just outside the museum.  You can actually see the space through the window as you look at the photos.  It’s chilling.  Another example of the past being looked squarely in the face.
  • The Von Trapp family didn’t actually escape over the hills to Switzerland: they caught a train to Italy.  And Edelweiss is not a traditional folk song: Mozart wrote it especially for the film.

We saw the outside of the house where M was born.  As you’ll see, the lower half has been carefully preserved as a Spar supermarket.  It’s what he would have wanted.


Tomorrow, we head off to Vienna.  But before I sign off, I must show you where we’ve been staying these couple of nights.  We have the whole apartment and there’s even a log burner.   Bliss.


So, in the words of Amadeus himself: so long, farewell, auf weidersehn, adieu … (K2016)

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