May 14, 2011
Distance Traveled Today: 145 miles
Distance Traveled So Far: 10,477
A Trip to Soundofmusicland!!
The hills are alive!
Saturday morning. Excited about my day trip to Salzburg, I hurredly showered and got ready. As I was dressing, I noticed a sound coming from the windows. A soft pattering sounds. Not an upleasing sound, yet on this particular day a decidedly unwelcome sound. With mounting dread, I pulled up the shade. Rain! Bah‼ I realized I hadn’t checked the weather for today. Maybe it’s just Munich, I said to myself, firing up the laptop. Nope. Rain in Salzburg also. Damnit!
So much for my plan of wearing short and a T shirt. Trying to minimize my martyr-like sighs, I pulled on jeans, a shirt and my stupid, faithful, huge green trenchcoat that has served me so well on this trip. I made my soggy way over to the main train station.
Do you recognize this fountain? HINT: Not a MALE deer, but a . . . .?
An observation: European cities don’t have the 24 hour mentality that big American cities have. People actually close their stores on Sundays, not because of archaic Blue Laws, but because, uh, they don’t want to work on Sundays. City streets in Europe are very very quiet on weekend mornings. I was practically alone in the subway on my way over to the main train station where I was to meet my tour.
D'oh!!! Ray: Me.
It was a small tour group of seven: A nice young Toronto straight couple in their 20s, a very friendly and uber- gay couple from Vegas, a sinfully handsome young Omani named Abdullah, a German woman who didn’t say ten words the entire day except for fretting over the trail of personal belongings she lost across the city of Salzburg, and your faithful correspondent.
Our tourguide was Susan, an eight months pregnant half-German, half-English sweetheart who was moonlighting while in the middle of her three-YEAR paid maternity leave from her regular job.
My new pal Abdullah
It was a lovely two-hour train ride southeast to Salzburg, city famous for salt (hence its name), Christian Doppler (yes, discover of the eponymous Effect), Mozart, and that little musical film starring who was it again? Oh, yes, I think it might have been Julie Andrews. I warned John of Toronto that, due to the campy nature of the tour, that exposure to too many of the day’s projected locations could spontaneously turn him at least temporarily homosexual. He noted the warning with good humor.
For only three Euro, you can take a couple of potshots at the town. It's all in good fun, and it keeps the population in check.
When we got there, things were pretty gloomy for the walking tour portion of our day. I was constantly putting my camera back into its protective plastic bag between shots. We began to work our way through some of the major locations in the film. I got a shot at what I call the “Do Re Mi” fountain, the plaza where Maria sings the written-for-the-movie “I Have Confidence,” and even a shot in the graveyard where th efamily hid from Nazis. Of course, in the film the graveyard was on a soundstage, but the event evidently actually occurred in this particular graveyard.
Leisl! Friedrich! Don't let the Nazis see you!!
Of course the city has much more to offer than just Sound of Music porno for middle-aged Americans. It’s a perfectly beautiful place, well worth a visit even if you were utterly indifferent to screen adaptations of Rogers and Hammerstein musicals.
This beautiful statue of Mary is part of a cool optical illusion. The cherubs who seem to be crowning her are actually on the exterior of the church about 60 yards behind this statue. You have to stand in the exact spot where this photo was taken to make it look like she's about to have the crown placed on her head. Those tricksy sculptors!
Happily, when the walking tour was done and our free time began, the sun came gloriously out and I headed up the funicular to the spectacular hilltop fortress with the other homos. At the top is where I managed to get my obligatory “Julie spinning on a mountaintop” photo. I then had a lovely lunch with the Mos, who are named Dave and Sing.
That Wacky Darwin
After a few minutes Abdullah joined us as well. I’m tempted to say that made us a quartet of queers, but of course I cannot be sure about Abdullah. For all I know he’s as pure, 100% straight as Ted Haggard. Abdullah, if you are reading this, I promise you I have no intention to offend, and also I freely admit that my gaydar is notoriously unreliable, particularly when the data is very likely distorted by wishful thinking. But be that as it may.
I have confidence in Julie!
He told me that, while still conservative, Oman isn’t nearly as repressiv e as Saudi Arabia and some other Islamic states. Many women wear the burka, but it’s entirely voluntary.
Abdullah works in media in Abu Dhabi (which is more liberal than Oman), and has a college degree in, of all things, English Literature. I asked him who his favorite writers in English were. He told me he preferred American writers to British writers (booyah) and that he was particularly fond of Huckleberry Finn. I said, “Believe it or not, that book is still controversial in American schools,” which amazed him. I said it was amazing how some controversial books can stay controversial for long periods of time.
REJECTED SALZBURG PHOTO LOCATION
“Take Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species
. It’s still very controversial in America.”
Abdullah nodded emphatically. “Oh, yes, it is in my country too. People don’t like that book.”
This is what they used for the exterior of the Von Trapp villa in the film. It's smaller than I would have expected. The magic of the movies, huh?
“Yes. We are taught that Adam and Eve were the first people, and they had a child of each color, and that’s how all the races were made.”
I remained calm. I smiled.
Yes, as in the Effect
“Okay… you do realize that isn’t true, right?”
“I don’t know. What I told you is simply the story we are taught from the Koran.” He clearly seemed conflicted on the issue. And the more he talked, the more I understood that this isn’t a kid who’s wants to refuse to budge from the familiar thinking he grew up with. He’s done a lot of traveling, and is clearly curious about the world. We talked about other books and Dave and I insisted that he should consider trying To Kill a Mockingbird, a title he eagerly wrote down. We told him the story of Truman Capote and Harper Lee, and how many people believe Harper Lee didn’t actually write the book (I am not one of them).
This July he’ll be heading to Wyoming, of all places, to do some sort of very fancy internship that he applied to more than once before getting accepted. He’s a really good guy, and we wished him well in his continuing adventures.
On the train ride back I had a nice long chat with the Toronto couple, who eventually admitted to me that they were evangelical Christians. This surprised me, simply because I don’t think of Canadians as being that evangelical. “We’re a very small community in Toronto,” they said. They were in the middle of a three week romp across Italy, Germany, France and the UK.
The very McDonalds where Maria took the children in the movie. Remember how mad Christopher Plummer got? I loved the song! "Hurry, hurry, Gretl, hurry, finish eating your McFlurry...." etc.
Oh, Please Stop Believin’
A peek at the old city wall
Speaking of irrational belief, when I got back to Munich and said so long to my fellow tour members, I sat down to grab a quick bite and had to endure, over the loudspeaker, one more rendition of Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’.” I swear, this song is following me everywhere on this trip. It needs to stop. I can think of few songs which are so famous and so beloved and so enduringly popular and yet so vapid and uninteresting. I sincerely don’t get why people are so fond of that damned song. I much prefer the soulful “Lights.” Don’t you?
I was somewhat pleased with my excursion to Salzburg. It wasn’t a complete success; the weather compromised my photo opportunities. Also, since this was just a day trip, we couldn’t see some of the most important movie locations, like the gazebo and the palace used for the Von Trapp family villa. Also, the convent and the place where the family performed were not available for photos. But still, I got some fun shots, and it’s a perfectly charming, beautiful place. I’d go back in a musical-comedy heartbeat.
Well-Beloved Boring Mediocre Pop Songs
- “Juke Box Hero,” Foreigner
- “Private Dancer,” Tina Turner
- “Roxanne,” The Police
- “Don’t You Want Me,” by Human League
- “Do You Really Want to Hurt Me,” Culture Club
- Every Journey hit except for “Lights”
- Pachelbel’s Canon (a three hundred year old pop song that still torments us)