Monday, June 28, 2010

Riding the Riesenrad

My friend Beverly Malley just got back from a trip to Vienna, and in her photos that she posted on Facebook, there was a shot of the giant ferris wheel that lives  in the Prater, Vienna’s famous amusement park. Speaking of dreams come true, did that bring back some memories…

When I was a little girl, I was fascinated by the album cover of the Boston Pop’s Viennese Nights, because the photo was of the most enormous ferris wheel I’d ever seen. My father told me it was located in Vienna, and it was largest ferris wheel in the world, with cars that held about 20 people. One day, he said, he would take me to Austria and we would go for a ride on it. Life circumstances interfered with that little plan, but although we didn’t get to ride the Riesenrad (the great wheel’s official name) together, he did make sure I got to it when I went off on my post-college backpacking trip with Hope, Ellen and Heather.

Two weeks into the trip and we finally made it to Vienna. The Riesenrad was a Holy Grail of sorts for me. Thanks to the guidance of my father’s friends, the Eggers, (remember them? I talked about them when I wrote about the Sound of Music Tour) who we visited on our first afternoon in the city, we found our way to the Prater. The quest became even more significant, because when we were at the Eggers' house, I made a phone call to Papa, only to discover he was in the hospital, recovering from a mild heart attack. I was told there was no need to come home – but at that moment, I was tempted to catch the next flight. Instead, at the urging of all, we went to the Prater and rode on the wheel. I sent this postcard to my father:

If you can't read it, it says:
Dear Papa and Jan, 
I finally got to ride on the big ferris wheel. I've finally fulfilled my childhood dream. We've also been to the Spanish Riding School, but couldn't get in - only saw some of the horses. The highlight of Vienna was our afternoon with Herr und Frau Egger - absolutely lovely people! We had a swim in the pool and then were invited for dinner - probably the best meal we've had in two weeks! After this experience, my travelling companions are very eager for me to call all your other friends, and I certainly will! We've decided to add Brugges, Belgium to our trip if there is time. There is so much to tell you, Papa, so get well quick for me. I love you! Francoise.

How often do we get to realize our childhood fantasies like that? I’m not even sure Hope, Heather and Ellen realized what a big deal it was for me to finally make that wish come true. The view at night was amazing. Well worth the effort if you ever get the chance.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Salzburg 2010

Lots of starts and stops  lately – some memories turn out to be just too personal to put in a blog, you know? I think its time to fast-forward to recent events.  If  that triggers other memories, I'll get back to them.....

I fulfilled an almost-life-long dream last week (life-long, in regards to my daughters’ lives.) I finally took them to see Salzburg. The city holds meaning for me way beyond the Sound of Music. I’ve now been there four times, although 20 years passed between the second and third visits. My father would have been pleased, I think. He died before my girls were born, and I’ve always been sad that they never got to know each other.

It was a quick trip. We were in Germany for two weeks visiting Holger -- also Jessie and Savannah’s first visit there -- so we took the train from Munich to Salzburg just for the day. It’s so hard to cram everything in – and we didn’t want to cram. We weren’t there to just be American tourists – 10 cities in as many days. This is just a starter trip, with many more to come. So we decided the Salzburg visit would be treated as such. We stuck to what we could get to on foot from the Hauptbahnhof.

I had a plan – take them the same route I took my first time – by the International Youth Hotel where I'd stayed with Hope, Heather and Ellen and two years later, with Katie, to the market at St. Andrew’s Church across from Schloss Mirabell, across the river to the Ă–esterreichischer Hof, where my parents stayed on their visit, to the Alte Stadt (old city). I mapped it out in my mind – get out of the Hauptbahnhof and turn left, walk to Paracelsustrasse , go right, the International Youth Hotel would be there… Except I hadn’t counted on so much renovation…

We arrived in at the station, completely under construction. I was lost. I pretended I knew where I was going. 15 minutes later as the girls informed me we’d just made a huge circle, I gave up and reluctantly admitted I had no idea where to go. Savannah pointed out the information booth. We went in, got directions….and a map…. and set out again. Jessie took charge of the map. I gave up on finding the International Youth Hotel. It was hot and humid – unusual for Salzburg, and there were more important things than my trip down memory lane. Plus, I reminded myself, this was a scouting trip. I toyed with taking them on the Sound of Music Tour –but an afternoon on a bus was not what we had in mind, after a morning on the train. I thought about taking them to Aigen to see my father's house. We all agreed –next time! The rest, we could see on foot.

Once we got past the new construction, things started to look familiar. There was St. Andrews Church and the market, in full swing. Drinks all around, and cross the street to Mirabell Gardens , where scenes from the Do-Re-Mi sequence were shot. Recognize anything?

We crossed the river. Last time I was here, my mother asked me if I went into the Ă–esterreichischer Hof? Honestly, it never even occurred to me to go inside a hotel where I was not a guest. So this time, we went in. It’s now the Hotel Sacher Salzburg, having been acquired by the Hotel Sacher in Vienna. Still, it was the same building, and very elegant. I felt out-of-place and oh so American just walking into the lobby. The original plan, just have coffee and cake in the restaurant. Not happening - we were waaaaaay underdressed. The man at the reception desk “ Kann ich sie Hilfe?” (Can I help you?) Flustered, my resolve to use my newly acquired German flew right out the window. “Um, nein, Danke. My parents stayed here years ago…. I just wanted to see it.” I thought about coming right out with it “my father, Rupert von Trapp, used to stay here when he visited Salzburg.” Couldn’t do it. Not sure why…

So then – on to the next destination.. the Alte Stadt (old city). All the way, I pointed out other Sound of Music spots to the girls, in addition to Mozart’s birthplace.

We rode up the funicular and took an audio tour of the Festung, and then visited some of the museums within the fortress, the Salzburger Marionettentheater museum among them. Among the recent productions is, you guessed it, The Sound of Music. I wondered about the Lonely Goatherd scene – marionettes playing with marionettes –a bit ironic, don’t you think? They had those cutouts where you stick your face in and take a photo. There was a nice British couple who offered to take our photo, if we would take theirs. Sure, I said, wondering what they would do if they knew a real von Trapp had taken their photo at this spot. But neither the girls nor I offered the information. It was more fun to fly under the radar and keep it to ourselves.

Lunch at the top, then made our way back down to tour through the churches. Jessie and Savannah were awed by splendor of these cathedrals, especially when you consider the period of time when they were constructed. As for me, I was just pleased that they could appreciate all of this at age 16.

By evening, we were ready to return to Munich – slept most of the way… already thinking about what we’ll visit NEXT time…