Going from Venice, Italy, to Salzburg, Austria, the cultural division is as abrupt and harsh as the Alps themselves. No longer did we hear the melodic sounds of the Italian language. Now we were immersed in the comparatively harsh tones of Bavarian dialects. Instead of saying “scusi” and “permissimo” as we maneuvered through the crowds, we now heard and said “entschuldige, bitte” or “verzeilhung!” My high school German finally paid off!
Our travel day was rather long and uneventful, although we did have a birthday in the group to celebrate with breakfast in Venice, lunch at a “raststatte” along our route, and dinner in Salzburg, which lent itself to all-day singing and cake!
May 13, Mother’s Day, and we started the day by attending church, in a manner of speaking. Our timing was perfect, and we were able to observe a portion of the Sunday church service in Mondsee. If Mondsee doesn’t immediately ring a bell, think again. The chapel there is the very one used as the wedding chapel in the movie “Sound of Music!”
Our guide played CD selections from the musical on the bus speaker throughout our day, enhancing our views of the alpine meadows and cathedrals and abbeys where the real-life story of the von Trapp family had unfolded during the Second World War. The gazebo used in “Sixteen going on Seventeen” was one of our short but sweet stops as we toured the Lake District.
We also visited the historic district of Salzburg, where Mozart was born, baptized, and played the church organ. Our guide joked that by this time we might think we were on the “ABC” tour—“Another Bloody Cathedral”—but then reminded us that “Stille Nacht” (Silent Night) was first sung in a nearby cathedral in Oberndorf, Austria.
That evening we had several Mozart concert options, and I chose the one in which selections from four of Mozart’s operas were performed between dinner courses by a chamber orchestra and two singers dressed in period costumes. It was held at Shiftskeller St. Peter, which is the oldest restaurant in Central Europe, dating back to 803 A.D. Obviously, the term “Mozart ate here” was more than just supposition!
I thoroughly enjoyed the extravagant elegance of the occasion, and although opera is not my first or even fifth choice of music, some of the selections from Don Giovani and Figgaro were easily recognizable. My personal Mozart favorite, “Eine Kleine Nachtmusik” was also performed.
The evening ended with a relatively short cab ride back to the hotel, and I fell into a happy sleep humming the stirring chorus of “Climb Every Mountain.”