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Oberammergau & Beyond/Part THREE – Salzburg

Author: Lisa C.
Date of Trip: September 2010


Our Final Destination – Salzburg!

After knocking about the streets of A-dam solo, then joining my friend, Carol, and continuing our travels through-out Munich and onward to Oberammergau for our passion play tour, the 9-day adventure grand finale was our 2-night stay in SALZBURG. It was truly too easy to pre-book online with Panorama Tours and we’d decided months prior on a 1/2 day Sound of Music tour, as well as a 1/2 day’s ride through Bavarian Alps and tour of Salzburg’s Salt Mines. Everything we’d planned in advance went amazingly like clockwork, even with Mercury retrograde (the astrologically-minded folk will know…), and we were blessed with impeccable timing throughout our many adventures. We didn’t sleep late a single morning the entire 9 days, with wake-up calls placed for 7AM, and we awoke raring to go each morning after carefully planning our individual ensembles the evening before the upcoming day’s adventure. The taxi stand outside of the Salzburg Hauptbahnhof had several “4-door specs” awaiting, with smiling drivers alongside each, so after selecting the nicest smile, we hopped into a small silver car and were whisked (for a mere 7 Euro) to the Sheraton Salzburg within minutes. Upon arrival at what was billed as the #1 hotel in Salzburg’s New City side, we were greeted warmly and shown to our Executive-level room 227, on the 2nd floor where there was also a complete gym and spa reserved for our exclusive, executive members-only use! After the small confines of our solo adventures, then the ‘standard-issue’ room at the Marriott and small-town, roof-top room with a view in Murnau, this suite was surely heaven on earth; a huge room with an almost king-sized, euro-double signature Sheraton sleeper bedding beckoning, adorned with twinkling mini-lights above the headboard and as well thick, comfortable white robes hanging in the humongous double-closets, complete with spa slippers and top-grade luggage racks to pull out and lay our weary luggage upon, we immediately stretched and yawned our way to unpacked status and refreshed ourselves at the double-sinks in the elegant bathroom that outsized any of our earlier entire suites.

Fortunately, we had enough time before the first tour at 2PM to stroll through our ‘backyard’ at the Mirabell Gardens, taking random opportunities to ask several passerby to photograph our smiling selves first by the gate, then skipping through the arbor and again celebrating our luck atop the Pegasus fountain. (A look back at those pictures later that day revealed our folly as most folks had botched the jobs, cutting our backdrops out somehow, making the shot by the gate look like us shouting, mouths wide-open, beside a wall – completely missing the gate; the two of us, with our eyes closed and clothing askew, skipping through the infamous arbor; most of those were deleted, as certainly none were quite what we had anticipated.) We then skipped over to the Panorama tour office, which was catty-corner across from the gardens and luckily got the two front seats on the Sound of Music tour bus; Peter, our guide, was the most charming host, a true joy to behold and excellent orator; he was most knowledgeable on every aspect of every single scene in the Sound of Music movie and quite good-looking to boot! He had us in the palm of his hand as we drove from Leopoldskron to Hellbrunn castles, the latter being where the Pavilion is located in which the song “16 going on 17” was so memorably sung by Leisl in the movie. The drive along beautiful countryside roads, we passed through St.Gilgen and by Lake Wolfgang and onward through Mondsee, where we tarried for a luncheon of apple strudel and toured the picturesque church where “Maria married the Captain”. Our driver, Lazlo, was along for the stroll and merrily kissed my cheek in a photo-op just before I re-boarded the bus. I think I fell for both Peter and Lazlo, who each made the tour seem timeless; together they certainly are a dynamic duo!

Taking the Autobahn quickened the return trip, during which we were further regaled with scenes from the movie on overhead TV, complete with the musical score, and we all sung merrily along as we rolled back into Salzburg’s New City. Returned to the streets, we promptly marched over the walking bridge and totally lost ourselves in the Old City, climbing the Nonnberg stairs and traversing myriad cobbled walkways, viewing the old city’s fortress, known as Hohensalzburg Castle, from all angles until dark, then walking with tired but happy legs back to our snazzy digs at the Sheraton.

Our next day’s tour was set for 8:45AM, so slumber was short-lived and as we snuggled in those super comfy robes sipping coffee the next morning, everything seemed sunnier and somehow even snazzier than our recollections of the first day’s arrival. We traversed the gardens again pre-tour, taking yet more pictures (ourselves this time) as we posed rubbing dwarf statue heads and smelling the lovely roses. A statue of a burly, iron-chested warrior swooping up a bare-breasted woman made me miss my hubby back home in Virginia (for a minute…), but I had to leave him behind because he would surely have balked the entire 9 days at having ‘no fishing time’ and I’m also sure he’ll never be a believer (or even a happy playgoer!)… I, on the other hand, had always insisted ‘seeing is believing’…and can now rest assuredly that “I do”….believe that is…in Love, God and the whole enchilada. While I am sure there are many ways to experience Love and God, by traveling is best in my own estimation and I am quite sure I was in love with each and every one of the many cities we visited, feeling ever closer to God through-out the entire trip. So, missed husbands aside, the Salt Mine tour was as popular as SOM the day before as an entire bus load awaited our guide, again named Peter; actually a different, slim and somewhat familiar-faced Peter, he reminded both of us of a friend at our local theater named Dave, and acted in both mannerisms and facial expressions exactly as Dave would have in giving an excellent tour. The stunning scenery throughout the Bavarian mountain ranges along the way included the Konigseeache valley where we passed romantic farmhouses, on through the ruins of Obersalzberg, and along the road to the Eagle’s Nest, once Hitler’s hideaway; the entire ride was enjoyable and when we arrived at the Salt Mines we donned the “traditional miner’s clothing” of blue jumpsuits “adorned” with white reflective tape.

Our mine tour was given by a nappy dressed young man speaking in German, so we had to take MP3 players that were attached to lanyards and easily worn around the neck; these transmitted the tour information in English (or any other language) and were timed to play automatically at each segment. Beginning the tour by straddling original mining wagons and chugging along in the dark tunnels, we shortly disembarked the wagon only to be guided over to a padded stopping arm set up to hold you from sliding too soon down the 100-foot-wooden slide (faulty bladders beware!) where you land unceremoniously within the grottos here the salt was mined; along the route many graphic displays and miniature replications gave one the idea of the hard work that is salt-mining, as well there was a film showing the origin of the salt deposits and a murky, sporadically illuminated boat ride across an underground salt lake which was quite fun. After our tour of the mines, we had a brief stop in the beautiful town of Berchtesgaden for luncheon where I most fortuitously found a second-hand store selling a selection of dirndls. I quickly haggled for a checked-blue one on a whim, replete with apron and ruffled under-blouse, which was sold as a set for 20 Euro. I will likely only wear it at Halloween since dirndls don’t exactly jive with my home girl fashionista friends in Virginia.

Later in the afternoon we found our way back into the Old City, riding the funky old funicular up to the fortress for stunning 360-degree views, then stopping in each of the plazas for photographs of horse-drawn carriages, Mozart’s stately statue, street musicians strumming ancient instruments and finally, a spectacular night shot of Neptune’s fountain with the fortress set aglow behind it. Our second evening was our final fling so we dressed with flair and flounced over to the Hotel Stein, an older-styled 8-story hotel along the river’s side with a rooftop bar where one can behold the entire Old City of Salzburg glittering throughout the night. The drinks were perfectly foo-foo and the antipasto platter was to die for. I had a yellow bird cocktail and Carol had her usual, a strawberry daiquiri; our super-friendly waitress took our picture enjoying our final nightcap together. We would be back at the ‘real’ salt mines, otherwise known as our day jobs, within a short time and neither of us wanted the evening to end. Our final ‘to do’ item when we got back to the hotel was to visit the spa, where we decided to head into the steam room in our bathrobes but couldn’t figure out how to make the steam ‘flow’ — pushing a large silver button by the door repeatedly, but it didn’t seem to make anything happen; a few moments later when the sexiest concierge you have ever laid eyes on came running into the steam room, saying we had pushed the EMERGENCY button — we figured out that the steam room closed at 10PM, hence no steam! Oh well, so much for our translation skills! We laughed ’til we cried and Carol said she only wished it was that easy to find a good-looking man in a REAL emergency!

Our final itinerary item, the SMS shuttle between Salzburg airport and Munich, was arranged for the next morning at 9:50 and, as I stood solo watch outside the airport, feeling quite sure it would arrive timely, it arrived at exactly 9:49, the driver quickly loading us and our belongings tout de suite. We arrived in Munich airport with two hours to spare, gratefully so as we still had a few shopping errands to complete such as searching for Jacob’s Coffee and other pesky last-minute travel trinkets. One further confirmation of our impeccable timing was the coffee shop manager’s complaint that “Soon enough, exiting Oktoberfest tourists would arrive hung-over, blowing grits enroute to their airplanes”! Yikes!! As it so happened, we arrived in Salzburg just after the last of the Music Festival worshippers had left town, so the early-September timeframe we had chosen was such a blessing in so many ways, before late-September’s beer-fest but just after the final week of the music festival. I flew home knowing one thing for sure, that God is good! I sincerely hope to revisit Oberammergau again in 2020, and, God willing….many other places in between!

*Here is the promised segment about the Passion Play’s history in Oberammergau, for the uninitiated: (Excerpted from the web at Wikipedia and Oberammergau’s Passion Play has been performed since 1634 as a tradition by the inhabitants of the village of Oberammergau, Bavaria Germany. The town’s residents vowed that if God spared them from the effects of the bubonic plague ravaging the region, they would produce a play every ten years thereafter for all time depicting the life and death of Jesus. The death rate among adults rose from one in October 1632 to twenty in the month of March 1633. The adult death rate slowly subsided to one in the month of July 1633. The villagers believed they were spared after they kept their part of the vow when the play was first performed in 1634. The the most recent season consisted of 102 performances taking place from Saturday, May 15 until Sunday, October 3, 2010 and involving over 2,000 performers, musicians, and stage technicians, all residents of the village. The play comprises spoken dramatic text, musical and choral accompaniment and tableaux vivants, which are scenes from the Old Testament depicted for the audience by motionless actors accompanied by verbal description. For the past four centuries the tradition has continued, every ten years. Only villagers have been allowed to take part and they devote a year of their lives to re-enacting the life, death and resurrection of Christ. All performers are laymen and pursue their usual careers as wood carvers, house wives and so forth. In real life, for instance, Jesus is a psychologist and Mary Magdalene works as a flight attendant. Like everyone else in the village, ‘Jesus’ and ‘Mary’ are ordinary people. By taking on these roles, they are fulfilling the promise to God made by their ancestors, celebrating their faith and sharing it with the world…as Oberammergauers have for some 375 years!

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