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Thursday, June 18, 2015

travels | austria | my day at the hotel schloss leopoldskron


A beautiful family estate, the Schloss Leopoldskron was built in the 1700s by the Prince Archbishop of Salzburg (his heart is still buried under the floor in the chapel).  Over the centuries it had moved into the hands of many, royalty and commoners included.  In 1918, Max Reinhardt fell in love with and devoted himself to restoring and bringing life back into the Schloss.  He was a well known theater director all over Europe and the Schloss was often his stage until it was confiscated by the Nazis in WWII.  Reinhardt never returned after 1938.  Decades later, his son bought the film rights to The Sound of Music.

And that is how the Schloss Leopoldskron is now forever connected to this iconic film.


Mrs. B was responsible for finding and booking our rooms.  The place was sold out and had only Sunday night available, moving across town was required but I don't think anyone minded.  We had a glimpse of the place during our first day of touring (the shot from across the lake), but from the moment we pulled through the gates and onto the property I felt I never wanted to leave.  

Our wonderful Hotel Clerk handed us real keys on ribbons that reminded me of the Bavarian princes, then, telling us that he didn't want to waste any of our "precious holiday", he walked us to our suite.


And I forgot to breathe...


How did they know that this is exactly what we would have chosen?!?  Dear Hotel Clerk showed us around, pointing out the fruit and prosecco that had been delivered earlier (later that evening Anna said "well, I'm off to the front desk to turn this wine into Perrier, need anything?") as he left he mentioned "One more thing, you'll find most doors here at the Schloss open, any door that is unlocked is available for you to explore, enjoy!)

ENJOY?!?  EXPLORE?!?  ME???

I tell you what, at that very moment, I could have died the happiest girl in the world.


After delivering our suitcases, we decided that some solo exploration was in order and that we would need up later for a bike ride.  My heart overflowed as I pushed my way through heavy wooden doors and into rooms that were dappled with afternoon light.  One of my favorite scenes in the Sound of Music is the one where Maria walks into the ballroom before meeting the Captain.  How was I to know that that room was a direct copy of one of the Schloss rooms.  

I happened upon it.


An oriental themed room, all in shades of minty green.


The Marble Hall where breakfast is served each morning.


The world's most perfect home library.  Complete with hidden staircase.



The grounds were absolutely breathtaking.  It was my daily discipline during this trip to mail at least one postcard every day.  I ordered a cappuccino from the cafe and sat down at the patio to write.  Out of the corner of my eye I could see the swing that hung from one of the trees, and do you know what?  Every. Single. Person. who walked by stopped and swung.  They would glance around to see if anyone was watching, back up a few steps and then hop onto the swing, after a few strokes you could see that they were enjoying it far too much to care what others thought.

Brooke and I decided that swinging is good for the soul.  


Before his death, Max Reinhardt wrote to his wife about the home that he had loved...

"I have lived in Leopoldskron for eighteen years, truly lived, and I have brought it to life. I have lived every room, every table, every chair, every light, and every picture. I have built, designed, decorated, planted and I have dreamt of it when I was not there. I have always loved it in a festive way, not as something ordinary. Those were my most beautiful, prolific and mature years ... I have lost it without lamenting. I have lost everything that I carried into it. It was the harvest of my life’s work."


The hotel provided us with bikes for the afternoon and told us that the yellow house used for filming the front of the Von Trapp Villa was only a 10 minute ride away.  You should have seen us trying to navigate those tiny little streets with GPS and our natural instincts, then trying to keep in the bike lane to avoid getting hit by Austrian drivers.  A little more than 10 minutes later, we pulled up to the yellow house.  (the gate in the photo above is the one that Julie Andrews pushes open and sighs "Oh help!" after seeing the house.)


I woke up the next morning to the sounds of church bells and gravel being pushed around in the garden below.  The sun was shining and it was clear enough to see the mountains.  I thought to myself that the curtains on my window would make a very nice sundress.


Breakfast was divine.  Even if the cappuccino machine had it out for me.  We made it last as long as we could before leaving for one more walk around the place.  All throughout the woods were footpaths and funny statues.  And ducks.  Lots of ducks.


Humor me, okay?


And one more photo in front of the seahorses (just look at those happy smiles!).  Our checkout time was 11am, and I think it was 11:15am before we decided it was time.  Not a one of us wanted to ever leave.  Our visit to the Schloss was beyond perfect, the service, the rooms, the setting.  

In a word, delightful.


If you find yourself in the neighborhood...

hotel   |   http://www.schloss-leopoldskron.com/en/home.html
history   |   http://www.schloss-leopoldskron.com/en/history.html

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

travels | germany & austria | part 2


The days we spent in Salzburg are among my favorite travel moments of all.  As we planned our trip, this had been the city I most looked forward to visiting.

It did not disappoint.

We choose a hotel situated only a few blocks from the old part of the city and our tour began the first morning with a wonderful guide who met up with up while wearing lederholsen.  And I thought to myself, THIS is a good day.


We asked for a "Sound of Music" and that is exactly what we got.  


Starting with Mirabel Gardens we walked through the beautiful flowers and found the tunnel that is so familiar to lovers of the movie (of which I consider myself a level 9 fan).  The weather was mostly overcast during our visit, but we were able to make good progress in spite of the rain.


"Sixteen Going on Seventeen" gazebo.  Sadly, this is only a prop.  The gazebo used for filming was elsewhere and we couldn't even go inside since it they'd closed it off.  Apparently, a 90 year old women was trying to reenact the leaping from bench to bench scene and fell.  She probably wasn't feeling 16 after that...


Our tour took us high in to the mountains that surround the city, visibility was limited due to the clouds, but our guide did a wonderful job of showing us around and even had a perfectly timed playlist that made me giggle every time he played it.  (Somewhere there is very embarrassing footage of all of us yodeling up the hill...)

Here is the inside of the church that was used for filming the wedding of Captain Von Trapp and Maria.  I walked in and said "This isn't right.  The train on her dress would fill half the aisle."  Then we argued discussed it for a few minutes and our guide walked up and said "You'll notice that this aisle is much too short".  Mmmhmm...  He told us that is was the correct church, but that Julie Andrews had to do the scene twice and they patched it together.  Movie magic!


Here is the front of the church.  Painted with that glorious Salzburg Yellow!  This color will forever remind me of Austria, its iconic to the houses and buildings.


With dear Mrs. B!  She is even a bigger Sound of Music fan than I am.  We were in heaven the whole week!


We hiked up to Nonnburg Abbey, near the fortress, to see the view and the church where the real Captain Von Trapp & Maria were married.  I've never been in a more peaceful old church in my life.  The stone floors were so old and as no one spoke, a woman was kneeling in the pew, praying and at one point she slipped out without a noise.  I walked along and read the plaques and wished we had more time.  


Our guide had also recommended that us girls not visit the convent, its active, he said.  They're always looking for new nuns!  I decided that if I'm single at 30 and life isn't working out for me, I'll move to Salzburg and become a nun.  

Exit plans, they're good to have.


Oh, how I wanted to flick the water up at this giant horse.  However, there was a huge festival in town and tourists acting like tourists, and I get embarrassed far too easily.  So I did not.  But I stared at it for a good long time.  Statues are fascinating things.


So, something I learned while in Salzburg, was that, the house in the movie is actually made up of several different houses. The location used for the "front" of the house was about a 10 minute bike ride down the road.  It's now a music school and was all but deserted on a Sunday evening, we even walked right through the door and couldn't find a soul.  Anna made a selfie-video of her running up to the door!  A la "I Have Confidence"!  While I humored myself with a Maria themed cutout.


Yes, we had a blast, why do you ask?


This is a snap from across the little lake looking at the house used for filming the back of the Von Trapp house (the patio scenes and when the children are boating).  We spent a night here (it's now a hotel and possibly my favorite place in the world!) I'm hoping to do a separate post on just the hotel.  It was funny to me because, in my head I "knew" the whole layout of the Villa Von Trapp, but seeing the actual locations, every time I walked around a corner it was different than I'd pictured.  Again, movie magic!


The trees that the children climbed as the Captain, Baroness and Max drove along the road.  They've grown a bit over the last 50 years.


Friday, June 5, 2015

travels | germany & austria | part 1

Snapshots and stories from Germany:


Our first stop. directly after an overnight flight into Munich, was to the concentration camp Dachau.  I don't recommend that.  But since we had to drive into the city and it was on the way and on our schedule for the week, we stopped.  I have one photo, taken inside of the Jewish memorial, the lighting was beautiful, but really, the whole place was desolate and depressing and I was happy to leave.


Continuing on, we stopped at the BMW museum!  It came highly recommended and didn't disappoint!  Chock full of vintage BMW cars, convertibles, motorcycles and airplane parts. And currently, a special exhibit of Mini Cooper.  I was ready to pull out my credit card for one of those babies!


After a wonderful night of sleep we wandered into the old part of Munich.  To get the full "German Breakfast Experience", we were told to eat the white sausage.  The heart of the city also hosts a Glockenspiel that performs every morning at 11am performance.  We found a cafe with a great view and sat down to order our breakfast!  The sausages came out in a white ceramic urn filled with steaming water to keep them hot while we ate.  Pretzels and grainy mustard rounded out this complete breakfast. Wheaties are overrated.


The Glockenspiel as seen from the top of one of the churches.  We hiked up hundreds of stairs, single file, but the view was wonderful.  I always love getting a birds eye view of large cities.  Rooftops, gardens and seeing the bustle from above.  It's even better when you spy a farmers marked only a few blocks away. Munich is a particularly old city, just look at that architecture!


Our afternoon was spent wandering through the Residenz Munchen (the German Palace).  It started to rain and was perfect timing for leisurely roaming through the rooms and apartments.  One of my favorite things to do is to soak it all in, imagining what it must have been like to live here everyday.  And you look at little closer at the woodwork and start to see doors, and wonder where they go.  We met the most perfect southern belle one morning while leaving our hotel in Austria, and as we swapped travel stories, she mentioned that every time she walks into a large estate or castle, she just sighs and couldn't feel more at home.  Yes.  Her parting words to us, I will treasure forever, because they made me laugh, and because I understand completely "Y'all, its yours and mine". 


I loved the moody artwork, the gilt frame and the use of green in this room.  The color scheme was so inspiring to me.  Goes to prove my point that "all greens go together"!


One of my biggest dreams was to see Neuschwanstein Castle.  High up in the Bavarian Alps, this was King Ludwig II's fairytale castle.  In my imagination the castle was tucked away from civilization.  I was so surprised and delighted to find that it stands guard over the picturesque village of Hohenschwangu.  The meaning is "high swan county" and named after the swans that could be found on the mountain lakes and ponds.  Two castles are here, the original (pictured above) was build as a summer residence for King Maximilian and his family (Ludwig's father).  After his death, King Ludwig, wanting a monument of his own, built Neuschwanstein "New Swan on the Rock".  It took him 17 years to complete and he only lived there only for a minute before his country had him declared insane and he mysteriously died. 


Hiking up the winding pathway to Neuschwanstein...


Once you reach the castle at the top, the massive wooden doors and a courtyard greet you.  Part of the magic disappears here because you are forced into a line and hundreds of people are waiting to get int.  For the castle being so massive, our tour only lasted about 20 minutes.  Oh how I would have loved to have a unguided tour around the place!  I wonder what the application process is to work here???


I found that I loved Hohenschwangu even better than Neuschwanstein.  Shocker!  The original castle, although overwhelming and regal, was surprisingly comfortable.  The rooms were wood paneled and warm, staircases and hallways narrow and the rooms you could tell had been lived in. 


Swans were throughout the entire place.  Golly, I love a good family motif!



Swans.  Everywhere.


How tiny Neuschwanstein looks from the garden of the other castle!


There wasn't a bad view in this village.  And may was the perfect time of year to visit, the forests were so very lush!  Everything was green!


Eating breakfast in Europe is my most favorite thing.  Give me a hotel breakfast and a castle and I'm the happiest girl in the world.


On the border of Germany and Austria is the town of Bertchesgarten.  Most famous for being used as one of Hitler's lairs and home of the Eagles Nest.  We had a brilliant three hour tour that took us all over the mountain side, showing us what was once a Nazi hot spot and now is reclaimed forest.  Both the museum and the tour guide did a great job of giving the historical significance of a place like this and also giving fair a solid look at how much harm socialism can cause.


The mountain held several miles worth of tunnels and bunkers.


This was taken inside of Hitler's private elevator.  It's polished brass and still in perfect working condition.  It took forever to get all the way to Eagles Nest.  When they say top of the mountain, they really mean it.  Two bus rides and an elevator later, you find yourself inside of an unassuming building.  On a clear day you can see the mountains and even Salzburg in the distance, not on the day of our visit.  But it was so much easier to focus on the history and I learned a ton!


Once you arrive at the top, the actual Eagles Nest isn't much to see.  It's a restaurant now.  All of the fixtures are original, including this red marble fireplace.  You can see that it has been chipped away, our boys did that during the war.  Never underestimate American GI's and their love of a good souvenir!