Thursday, January 3, 2013

Salzburg: Mozart And 'The Sound of Music'

Happy New Year. I want to start off this new year with a pleasant blog about my travel to Salzburg the city of Mozart and 'The sound of music'.

Salzburg is an hour and half by train from Munich. I arrived on a pleasant Thursday morning. A tourist information center is situated within the train station. The center sells tickets for a hop-on, hop-off tour and a day trip ticket that can be used on any tram or bus in Salzburg. The day trip ticket is just 4.5 Euro.

My first stop was at Mozart house. The house was completely destroyed in the allied bombing raids during World War II. What stands today is reconstructed. In a city where Mozart died a pauper and was buried in an unmarked grave today he is celebrated in every nook and corner and his name is used to make money. In the fictional biopic the character of Mozart would protest to the emperor "I am a vulgar man your majesty but I assure you my music is not". In this museum a vivid documentation shows how vulgar Mozart can get. Mozart sent his father detailed instructions for a picture to practice shooting. The instructions and the picture are plain vulgar to recount here. I appreciate the honesty of the museum curator in show casing that too.

Musing on Mozart's prodigy Indian philosopher Radhakrishnan theorized that Mozart's genius could be the result of accumulated genius over many births. Far from it Mozart's genius was the result of very handwork as Malcolm Gladwell highlights in 'Outliers'. Mozart's father Leopold was an accomplished musician and even published well received books on music. Books arranged like pyramids were 'supposedly' read by the Mozart family. Curious items like a Abbot's diary entry about Leopold's death, portrait of Anna Maria Mozart in 'India ink', Mozart's employment contract data 17th Jan 1779 with 450 florins as salary (approx 10,350 Euro today) are all on display.

The display I liked most was Mozart's score sheet for 'Fantasy and Sonata in C minor K475 and 457'. Mozart, myth says, composed music in its entirety in his head before writing down. Not really. Mozart's use of different layout for manuscripts and how the he wrote the 1st and 3rd movements before writing the 2nd are curiosities that shed light on his style. During his Viennese years Mozart used paper imported from Italy for writing his music because it had space for improvisation.

The day I went to Salzburg was 'All Souls Day' and practically everything in the city was shutdown including other museums. So off I went on a tour of mountains of Wolfgang See along with a family from erstwhile East Germany. The tour guide was very knowledgeable about History, US politics (including Obama's pathetic performance in his first debate) and music. The guide introduced me to a music played on an instrument called 'Zither'. I showed the East German family photos I had taken at the Stasi museum. They laughed and confirmed that those were indeed horrifying days. For those looking to a holiday resort spot in Salzburg I'd recommend the 'White Horse Inn' which has a pool that opens to a lake.

Captivated by what I saw in Salzburg I went the next day too. Since I had a Eurail pass I could go any number of times to any place within Germany and Austria for 5 days. Unfortunately I went to Salzburg on Nov 2nd and Nov 3rd. All tour packages stop on Oct 31st. I just visited Salzburg museum and Salzburg cathedral. The Salzburg museum was fabulous as always with intricate arrangement of lighting to accentuate exhibits. German and Austrian museums impressed me a lot.

I've never seen a city that markets filming locations of a movie filmed there as much as Salzburg does for 'Sound of Music'. There are 3 hour tours that would take you to every spot from many famous scenes in the movie. I only walked by the river where Maria and kids run singing 'Do Re Mi'. In a memorable scene Baron Von Trapp would pull down a Nazi flag and tear it. Austria wanted to object to that scene and have it removed since they felt that it showed Austria as Nazified. The director and producers just said either the scene stays or they would show actual newsreels showing Nazi Swastika flags around Salzburg. The Austrian Anschluss, unification of Austria with Germany, was a very peaceful and enthusiastic event. Hitler paraded around Austria like a hero.

Theodore Herzl, father of Zionism, studied in Austria but left Salzburg because he could not practice law owing to him being a Jew. Austria had a deeper anti-semitism than even Germany. Simon Wiesenthal, holocaust survivor who gained reputation as Nazi hunter stayed back in Austria even after the war rather than emigrate to Israel. When Wiesenthal's wife went to a school to admit their kids the official deadpanned "I thought all of you jews were killed off". It is in this city that famous music conductor Herbert Von Karajan also lived.

Food and clothes in Europe are always classier than I'd found in USA. Salzburg was no exception. Thanks to my day trip ticket I could take a tram to an outlet mall at the outskirts of the city and saunter around for some shopping.

Other possible day trip from Salzburg is a trip to 'Wolf's Lair' where Hitler stayed and worked. 'Wolf's Lair' is where an assassination attempt on Hitler was plotted and executed. Hitler survived that attack. I could not make that trip as it stopped after Oct 31st.

Very interesting town to visit. Very urbane and charming.


kumar said...

Awesome !

kumar said...

Makes me want to go to Austria.