Friday, July 31, 2015

The Hills are Alive and Look Beautiful!

The back of the Von Trapp's"house"
The wedding church

Interior of the wedding church

Salzburg: Special "The Hills are alive" edition

Salzburg, July 31, 2015

After Jocey was safely off the ground, happily headed back to family and friends in Hartland, we went to check into our flight to Zurich, Switzerland by way of Dusseldorf, Germany.  Don't ask.  As we were checking in there was a major power outage throughout the airport. Computer terminals still functioned, but conveyor belts did not, so none of the luggage could be moved.  Everything came to a stand still.  It was hot, and tempers were on edge.  We were flying a German airline which meant that a few of the German passengers were convinced that the whole thing was an Italian conspiracy.  Bottom line is that we ended up in Zurich about 30 minutes later then planned but the good news was our luggage arrived with us.  We collected our rental car and headed for Salzburg.  Before the trip Tim had done a calculation on mapquest and determined it would take about 4 hours to drive from Zurich to Salzburg.  It took closer to 5 and a half. It was probably a breathtaking drive, but as most of it was done after dark we will never know.  The fun started when we arrived in Salzburg as our rental car did not have GPS.  Have you ever looked at a German map? Ever tried pronouncing German street names. It's like talking with your mouth full of Weiner Schnitzel! At 1:00 in the morning we are stopping people on the street for help in finding our hotel.  We are lucky we weren't arrested.  Like much of our travel, we just kept blundering along and finally found the hotel. The hotel and area around it certainly looked better in the daylight then at 1:30 in the morning.

Today's major event, and why we are blogging tonight, was "The Sound of Music" Tour. Tim  picked this one out.  Lynda was happy to go along because, 1. she does like "The Sound of Music" and 2. the brouchure promised a bus ride into the Austrian country side.  She did say she refused to do any of the "sing-a-longs" on the bus.  What a party pooper.  Actually, she did get into the spirit of things, eventually, and joined in enthusiastically on "Do, Re, Me". The tour visited several of the sights where filming for the movie took place. This may shock you, but none of the filming was done in the home where the Von Trapp's lived or the church where the Captain and Maria were married. The Abbey in the movie is actually the Abbey that Maria was in, but, of course, we did not go there.  Two different castles were used to represent the Von Trapp estate, one for front exterior views and one for back exterior views. Robert Wise, the movie's producer, actually wanted to use the original house but at the time of filming the house was owned by a religious sect and they were not happy to have the film crew there, hence, plan B: two houses.  Our first stop was the rear exterior house.  It is a private residence now, owned by Harvard University believe it or not, so we had stand on the other side of the small lake you may remember from the movie to view the house. But still.  Maria and the kids fell out of the boat into the lake there.  Leisl and Friedrick kissed in the gazebo there. An aside: in 1991, the owners of the home donated the gazebo to the city of Salzburg and it was moved to a public park.  Our second stop was the public park to view the gazebo.  We did gather round our guide and sing the first line of "You are 16 going on 17".  At least, most of us did. More inside movie stuff. The gazebo we saw was used only for exterior shots.  It was too small for the choreography of the song. Leisl actually injured her ankle during rehearsal. So an exact replica, one and a half times larger, was built on the sound stage in Hollywood for the gazebo scenes.  Next, we did a drive by of the front exterior house.  It is also a private residence and there was no where for us to park a bus and walk up to get a picture.  It looks a rather bit less imposing in person then on the silver screen.  Our last stop was the church where the Captain and Maria's wedding took place.  It is in this lovely village about 45 minutes outside of Salzburg.  Along the way there was a stop for pictures of some drop dead beautiful scenery.  Once again, it was exciting to immediately recognize the outside of the church as well as the inside once we entered.  It really is a beautiful church. Lynda was so caught up in the moment that she walked down the entire length of the main aisle, holding her book like a bouquet of flowers. We were given extra time in Mondsee, the name of the village, to visit a local souvenier shop for "Sound of Music" cd's and dvd's, plus copies of the books that the real Maria Von Trapp wrote. Ugh!  We did take time to sample a famous Austrian apple strudel. On the way back to Salzburg we watched an interesting video of behind the scenes stuff about the movie with the women who played Leisl as the narrator. This video was unfortunately interupted for a couple of more sing-a-longs. Once back in Salzburg, our guide gave us a quick bonus tour. Next to our drop off point were located the Mirabel Gardens, supposedly world famous gardens, but maybe not so much as Lynda had never heard of  them.  At any rate, these gardens were used for part of the famous "Do, Re, Me" scene in the movie. We saw the fountain where the children walked around on the edge and the steps featured at the very end of the song.

We hope this quick, bonus edition of the blog hasn't bored you. Tim, in particular, found the tour to be exciting and great fun and was anxious to share it with you.  Tomorrow we will get back to more mundane travel news about Salzburg and include a review of our dinner/concert tomorrow evening featuring Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.  Maybe the "Sound of Music" Tour looks better now.

Guten Tag

Thursday, July 30, 2015

The Last Days of Rome

St. Peter's Square - The Vatican

St. Peter's Basilica

The Pantheon

Piazza Navona

Jocey at Trevi Fountain

Jocey in Trastevere, Rome

Arreviderci Jocey and Italy, Guten Tag Austria

Rome, Italy    July 27, 2015

Monday morning we had an uneventful drive from Montepulciano to Rome through the beautiful Italian countryside. Our rental car has GPS which is a godsend because it directed us very efficiently and quickly to our rental car drop off point.  GPS would have saved Tim much stress over the years but he would not have some of the wonderful stories to tell of his driving adventures  in Europe.  We took a taxi to our apartment which is located in the Trastevere neighborhood of Rome.  The neighborhood is a warren of small little winding streets.  For a long time it was a working class neighborhood but in recent years has become the location of many restaurants, bars and lower end of the market shops.  Our apartment is tiny, our least favorite of the four we have rented.  After a brief meeting with our landlord we went out exploring.  Tim was still not feeling well so he sat and sipped a Sprite while Lynda and Jocey shared a pizza.

We really did not do justice to Rome.  There are two reasons. 1. The intense heat has finally got the best of all three of us. 2. Tim has had a bug since Sunday.  Tuesday we walked to the Vatican and joined the line to enter St. Peter's.  It was a humungous line but moved suprisingly quickly.  By now, Jocey was suffering from a migrane so we were a pretty miserable lot.  Even so, we were in awe of the beauty that is St. Peters'.  We marveled at Michealangelo's "Pieta".  Pope John Paul II's tomb is located in the main bascillica. We also went down into the crypt where all of the rest of the popes tombs are located. Most impressive was a view of the location of the the remains of St. Peter.  Upon leaving St. Peter's the plan was to visit the Sistine Chapel. We were all whipped so we went back to the apartment where we all took naps.  Later in the day, we walked across the river to the Pantheon, what we think is a very underappreciated landmark in Rome.  The Pantheon is an impressive domed structure that is actually a church. It is also the resting place of the remains of Victor Emmanuel, considered the father of Rome.  Jocey, feeling better after her nap, was very impressed with the Pantheon. It was a short walk from the Pantheon to the Piazza Navona, probably our favorite spot in Rome. On our first trip to Rome, in 1984, we stayed in a hostel run by Dutch Nuns for non-catholic visitors that was located just off of the Piazza Navona.  The Piazza is a huge open plaza surrounded on all sides by wonderful  restaurants and numerous souvenier shops.  At night it comes to life with the central part of the plaza covered with artists either trying to sell there art or offering to do sketches of the tourists.  In 1984 we had sketches of both Jil and Jeff done that still hang next to their senior pictures at home. Five years ago we surprised Jil and Rob with a sketch of Madison and on this evening we had a sketch done of Jocey.  Besides the artists, there are also entertainers on the Piazza.  It really is a wonderful place to visit on a night in Rome.  We completed the evening by having dinner at a trattoria across the alley from the entrance to the hostel that we stayed in all those years ago.

Wednesday morning we started the day at Trevi Fountain.  It is said that if you stand with your back to the fountain and throw three coins over your right shoulder into the fountain you will return to Rome.  Who are we to argue. It worked for us.  Unfortunately, to do this, the fountain has to be open. It is currently closed for repair and refurbishing.  There is plexiglass surrounding the fountain so you can still see what it looks like.  Jocey said it would be impressive when operational.  We were amazed at the number of tourist there to see a closed fountain, but, of course, we were there. After lunch, Jocey and Lynda visited the Cappuccin Cyrpt. This crypt is the repository of the bones of all the Cappuccin Monks since the 1500's. In one room all of the thigh bones are arranged in an artful design, the next room will have all the femurs, etc.  The Cappuccin's must be some fun group of Monks. From there we took a taxi to the Colosseum with the plan to see how long the line was to get in.  Once we pulled up to the Colosseum Jocey announced that she had seen enough so it was back to the apartment where the adults again took long naps.  Wednesday evening was spent strolling about Trastevere and enjoying one final dinner together in Italy.

As we write this blog on Thursday morning we are at the Rome airport, having entrusted Jocey to Delta Airlines to safely return her to her parents.  We will catch a plane to Zurich, Switzerland, collect a rental car, and drive to Salzburg tonight.

Jocelyn has been a wonderful travel companion. She was always willing to explore with us and was even comfortable enough to go out on her own for very short excursions.  We saw very few sites that were new to us, but loved watching Jocey experience them for the first time. We are also looking forward to hearing what she told her parents about her travel experiences with her grandparents.

Our next report will come to you from Salzburg.  In the meantime, we recommend that you watch the movie, "The Sound of Music" so that you are in the proper frame of mind for our next blog.

Ciao/Guten Tag

Monday, July 27, 2015

Views of Montepulchiano

Montepulchiano at Night

View from our Montepulchiano apartment

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Lost Day in Montepulciano

Montepulciano   July 26, 2015

Saturday morning we left Florence driving through the lovely countyside that is Tuscany. Jocey was doing yeomans work at reading and watching the scenery at the same time.  She multi-tasks just like her grandmother. We stopped in one of our favorite Tuscan towns, Greve in Chianti. Unfortunately, it was market day so  we could not enjoy the beauty of the town square.  One of the reasons we love Greve is the butcher shop that has been in business since some time in the 1700's. There are legs of ham hanging from the ceiling everywhere in the building.  Jocey was less then impressed with the cheese cellar.  We bought some of their homemade salami's to give Mienrad Fleurer, our friend in Switzerland. We continued our trek through Tuscany through intermitent showers.  Our next stop was Badia a Coltibuono. We believe that Badia is home to an order of Friars. They produce their own excellent wine and olive oil as well as run an excellent restaurant that we have dined at on several occasions.  Our destination was Montepulciano, a lovely hill town in the eastern part of Tuscany.  Interestingly, we drove out of vineyards and olive orchards into an area of large wheat fields.  Our instructions from our landlord was that there was a car park a mere 100-150 yards from the apartment.  He neglected to tell us it was straight up hill. To add insult to injury the apartment was on the third floor of the building with no elevator. There was urgency to getting the luggage to the apartment as there were very dark clouds moving  in with rumbles of thunder. The apartment is beautiful.  We think Jocey wants to stay here forever. The women folk collapsed with their books whilel Tim found a nearby bar for a very welcome cold beer. When he returned to the apartment Jocey was still reading in her room and Lynda was napping.  After Tim dozed a bit he suggested that he and Jocey go find a gelato. While walking about the city eating our gelato we discovered the Museum of Torture. There was no doubt that Jocey wanted to go in and that grandpa would accompany her. Parts of the museum were really quite disturbing.  We won't go into any detail here but if you are interested, we will talk to you when we get home. But be forewarned. Tim did not sleep well last night.

This morning the first person up was Tim at 10:00.  By noon we had ventured out to find lunch. During lunch there was discussion of what to do the rest of the day. Lynda and Jocey wanted to drive out into the country side, find a quite place to sit and read.  Tim was not feeling well and wanted to go back to the apartment.  Which is what we did.  Tim slept and read. Lynda read and did laundry. Jocey read.  Only Jocey felt like going out this evening so we sent her on several trips to pick up pizza and coke for our evening meal.  She did this quite willingly.  We actually had to stop her from going out again.

While we did not see much of  Montepulciano, after the whirlwind of Venice and Florence, it was probably a good idea to have a quiet day before we head to Rome tomorrow.


Friday, July 24, 2015

Florence - or Firenze? - in Pictures

The Duomo 
Ponte Vecchio

Ponte Vecchio at night

Enjoying David's behind