The Hills Are Alive with the Sound of Reflections.

Trip Start Apr 12, 2008
Trip End Jun 18, 2008

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Flag of Austria  ,
Sunday, May 11, 2008

<Brian's brief chronological list of "highlights" (and of whinging)>

- Went on a "Sound of Music" tour which was with "Bob's Special Tours" which had plenty of highlights such as:
            - Bruno the bright yellow taxi driver... yes, we rode in a 8 passenger yellow taxi for this tour with 7 people in the tour all up. Bruno came up with some funny one liners (which brought Lang to tears) like:-
                        - When he was helping one of the passengers into the cab with a cast on her leg, "Be careful with your hand or else your leg won't be the only thing that's handicapped."
                        - When another was stepping on his foot, "Its ok, I've got 2 feet!"
                        - When we were driving past a honey bee farm, "Please close all the windows coz the bees think we are a giant dandelion!"
            - It was amazing seeing sights, statues, fountains that we had walked through obliviously through Zentrum the night before that were scenes from the Sound of Music... (although we had realized some of them ourselves while watching it again). It was amazing to be standing at the same location Maria and the 7 kids had been singing and dancing.. such as the Mirabell Gardens where they did the "Do Re Mi" song... jumping on the stairs, running around the fountain, running through the vine covered arches and even saw the gnome that they all run past and touch... it was pretty cool.
            - The tour also went about an hour out of the city through the meadows to see some of the castles that the movie flew over in the beginning credits and also went to the church where Maria got married.
- Did our laundry... this time it was bit of a trek as we had to catch the bus back to the train station in the new town and walk to a Laundromat from there... with our big bag of stinky clothes... but the result, yay, clean clothes!

<Lang's Extended Version>

Today marks the end of our 4th week or the way mark of our grand European Tour.. Only 4 more to go, then a week in Phuket and Kuala Lumpur, then home.. So some observations so far:
Toilets - Go when you can and especially when they're free! Toilets in Rome suck! The majority of them don't have toilet seats on them (not a problem for you guys), so you have to learn how to do squats and brace yourself - thank god for those fitball sessions!! Oh also, there are also so many different kinds of flushing systems that you'll come across - pushing buttons, pull levers, foot peddles etc.. just look around if you can't find the button!!
Beds - When they say they have a double bed, it usually means two singles pushed together.. And their pillows are crap! They are the soft, dead-flat-when-you-lay-on them kind.. We totally hate these ones, so had to fold them like 1 or 2 times.. But don't worry, you end up being really, really tired after a long day of sight seeing that you fall asleep pretty quickly anyway..
Smoking - Yes, smoking is still wide spread here, and is still allowed in some restaurants and also in a couple of the hotels we've stayed at.. It's disgusting and really bad if you have asthma, even I struggle with my hay fever with all the cigarette ash.. Mind you, it's not just cigarettes they smoke too, you see some people with their cigars and pipes around..
Transport - Generally the public transport system is pretty good here. Adelaide can sure learn a lot about the trains and buses here, that's for sure. Learning a new system in each town we go to has been adventure in itself. Also, if crossing the road in Rome, just keep walking and don't stop - the drivers here slow down enough to avoid hitting you, so if you stop, that might ruin their calculation.
Weather - We've had really good weather on our trip so far, perfect for sightseeing. It has only rained a couple of days, once in Rome and the other was the day we arrived in Venice. It actually made Venice even better as you could see the reflections of the buildings, umbrellas and bridges in the puddles. There were fewer tourists around too.
People - The majority of locals in Austria and Switzerland are nice - they are after your tourist dollar after all. As for Italy, it seems the further south you go, the more arrogant they are. For example, the people in Venice and Cinque Terre were always friendly and helpful, but in Rome and especially Naples, they seem so rude.
Food - Pizza and gelato in Italy is generally fantastic, however if you find a place that sells pizza by the kilo, they you'll probably find that the base is at least 2" thick (ok, that's an exaggeration, but still, it's pretty thick!!). It seems that the staple diet in Switzerland, Germany and Austria is meat, sausages and potatoes - so perfect for Brian. Sometimes these meals may come with a salad, but apart from the lettuce and tomato, the other veggies (such as beans or cucumber) seems to be pickled!      
Favourite Place - This is definitely a toss up between Venice and Murren for me. Murren or the Swiss Alps was something I had always dreamt about, and then going up on the gondola and panoramic train through snow covered mountains, that just blew me away.. I also loved playing in the fresh, powdery snow. As for Venice, what can I say? It was just so magical and romantic.
Now onto today..
I had booked us onto a Sound of Music tour run by Bob's Special Tours that I had read about online and also recommended by Rick Steves. It was something that we both kinda wanted to do - afterall that was the whole reason Brian made me watch the movie a month before this trip. Yes, I had been deprived of it over the past 28 years of my life.. =P
Anyway, at around 9am, we were picked up by Bruno in his bright yellow taxi van. He sure was a character.. There were 7 of us in the group, and just before picking up the last lot of 3, the other two ladies, one with a leg brace, decided to swap seats from the back of the van to the front. As the girl with the leg brace was getting in her seat, Bruno goes "watch your hand as your leg won't be the only thing that will be handicapped.."
OMG, Brian and I just looked at each other and then cracked up laughing.. It's politically incorrect, but man, it was just so funny! Luckily the ladies were in good spirits so did not take offence and found it hilarious too.
Then when the last group was getting on the van, one of the ladies was standing on Bruno's foot and didn't notice, so he goes to her politely "You're stepping on my foot, but that's ok, I have two of those.." We totally lost it again, laughing so much that we (or at least I) had tears in our eyes..
So our first stop was to the Mirabell Gardens - this is where Maria and the children were singing and dancing the Do Re Mi son on the steps, in the archway and around the dwarf.. Lucky for Brian and I, we watched half of the movie again last night so it was kind of fresh in our minds and we could recognize most of it.
Another location we went to was to Schloss Hellbrunn, where the gazebo that Liesl and Rolf sang "I am 16 going on 17" was, but it had been moved from its original location to here. The reason for this was that the original palace is a private residence, so people were breaking into there to try and re-enact the scene from the movie. They have also locked it up as some tourists had broken their ankles jumping on the benches and also to stop the homeless from throwing parties inside.
After that, it was onto the lakes district where they filmed the scene right at the beginning of the movie with the helicopter flying over the beautiful scenery. It still is very pretty and picturesque.
While in the area, we also had the opportunity to go on the luge or toboggan run - of course we gave it a go. You'd sit on the luge down the bottom of the hill, then get hooked up and taken right to the top backwards. Once on top, you'd unhook and take your luge to the start of the run, going as quickly or leisurely as you wanted back down. It was heaps of fun!
Oh, as we were driving through the countryside, Bruno asked us to close all the windows as we were driving by a bee farm. Apparently the bees all thought that Bruno's van was a giant dandelion.. hahaha.. right..
Our last stop before our tour finished was to the Mondsee Church - this was the chapel where Maria and the Captain were married in the movie. It was under renovations, but everything looked as it did in the movie.
Anyway, I'd definitely recommend the tour if you are a fan of the movie - and yes, Bruno did play the sound track in the van, you can sing-a-long if you so desired. The good thing about the tour is that they only take a small group (rather than one of those 50 seater tour buses), so you get more time to see things and they also take you through some of the smaller streets to get to the location.
We were dropped back in the old town at around 1.30pm where we grabbed a quick bite to eat at one of the sausage stands. We also walked around a little, back to a couple of the places Bruno pointed out to us on the van for more photos before heading back to our room.
It was laundry day today too as we had pretty much ran out of clean undies and socks (plus Brian had been wearing the same clothes for the past 5 days - check the photos!), so we caught the bus back to train station and done our laundry..
Afterwards, we went to get another sausage each for dinner as it was the quickest and cheapest meal around, and then followed it up with a milkshake and hot chocolate. The chocolate was so thick, it was almost like a pudding, so we decided to go for a walk to work it off and ended up at the Mirabell gardens again.
We had a bit more time to have a look around at the sights, as it didn't get dark here until almost 9pm, then headed back to our room to call it a night..
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starlagurl on

Great tips about Europe, more people should read them and follow them accordingly.

Louise Brown
TravelPod Community Manager

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