On a “Musical” Journey in Salzburg

The hills are alive with the sound of music…

Do you remember this song from the movie “The Sound of Music”?

It’s my absolute favorite!

Ever since I watched this movie (and re-watched it about a hundred times!) I made up my mind to visit the beautiful city of Salzburg, home of the Von Trapp family (based on whom the movie was made), before they fled from Austria during the Second World War. Salzburg is also the birthplace of the World famous Musician, Mozart.

The drive from our home to Salzburg took around 5 hours. Since it was Christmas time, we enjoyed beautiful vistas of snow-capped mountains throughout the journey. In Salzburg, we checked into hotel Motel one and took the public bus to Altstadt (Old Town) which is the city`s center. Public transport is pretty cheap here.

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From the moment we set foot on Salzburg, I fell deeply in love with it. Located on the banks of the river Salzach, the city is filled with effortless old world charm. Walking around the old town, we admired the beautiful Baroque architecture found in many churches, museums and residential buildings.

Salzburg Cathedral is the most significant religious building in the city. This cathedral was built in honor of Saint Rupert and Saint Vergilius. Over the years, it underwent extensive damage, especially due to fire, but it has been reconstructed and enlarged ever since.

Towering over the city atop the Festungsberg hill and approaching 1,000 years of age is the “Fortress Hohensalzburg”. A visit to this fortress is a must when one is in Salzburg.

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It can be reached after a strenuous 15-minute climb from the centre, or a quick ride up via the funicular railway! The fortress consists of various wings and courtyards. Some of the highlights inside the fortress include the Golden Chamber, which is richly decorated with gold-studded ceilings and walls, the Salzburg bull organ, Bedchamber, Torture room and the watchtower. The views from the watchtower are spectacular, giving us a commanding view of Salzburg and it’s surrounding mountains, villages, and foothills.

The next day, we took  The Sound of Music tour. It is a bus tour taking us to the sites where the movie was shot. Our tour guide was really cool, telling us anecdotes about the movie, the story of the real Von Trapp Family and some interesting facts about Salzburg. Apparently the movie makers made a lot of changes to the story.

We visited many places like…

Palace of Leopoldskron – The part of the movie where the kids fall from the boat into the lake after the song “Do re mi”, was filmed here with the palace used as the back of the house.

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Nonnberg Abbey – This was where Maria was a nun in the movie as well as in real life, but it was also where the real wedding  between Maria and the Baron was held in 1927.

The Gazebo Rolf and Liesl sang ‘Sixteen Going On Seventeen’ under this Gazebo.

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St Gilden/Lake Wolfgang – This spectacular vista is seen in the opening credits of the movie. Also, on one of the mountains, the starting part of the song “do re mi” from the movie was shot. St. Gilden is a picturesque village by the Lake Wolfgang where Mozart`s mother was born.

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Church of Mondsee  Located in a small town called Mondsee on the shore of lake Mondsee, this is one of the famous churches in Salzburg. This was where the wedding of Maria and the Baron was shot in the movie. The Wedding was shown as a grand affair in the movie  while in reality it was a very simple occasion.

Mirabell Gardens – Finally the tour ended at this garden where the ‘Do-Re-Mi’ song was shot with Maria and the children.

While most of the scenes picturized indoors were shot in Hollywood studios, we got to see the places where the outdoor scenes were shot. We also passed the house which was used as the facade of the Von Trapp family home and the mountain Untersberg where in the beginning of the movie, Maria sings “the hills come alive..”

In the end the Von Trapp family are shown to escape over the Alps to freedom in Switzerland (while in reality they took a train to Italy). The best part of the tour was listening to the songs from the movie and singing along with “Maria” as our guide played them on the bus. I highly recommend taking this tour if you are a big fan of the movie just like I am!

Located in the old town is a small Christmas market, known in German as Christkindlmarkt. We spent some time after the tour window-shopping there before dining at one of the restaurants.

We ended the evening by having the famous Sacher torte, a Chocolate delicacy specialized in Austria, and a slice of  Apple pie, at the Hotel Sacher Salzburg, where you get the original Sacher torte .

(Another Sound of Music fact- Julie Andrews, the actress who played “Maria” stayed at this luxury hotel during the shoot for the movie).

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Finally, on the last day before we began our journey back home, we stopped over at Hallein salt mine. Salt is one of the most important natural resources in Austria. Salz in Salzburg means “Salt”. Archbishop Wolf Dietrich von Raitenau transformed this treasure of the mountain into hard cash and had Salzburg developed into a magnificent Baroque city. This is one of the oldest mines in the world. The tour around the mine can be accomplished using mine trains, mine slides and a bit of walking.

I’m so glad we took this trip. I look forward to visiting this place again, maybe in Summer?

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Love,

Madhurya.

 

A Day trip to Chikmagalur

One of the best trips we took last year was a One-day trip to Chikmagalur. Thanks to my brother and sister-in-law who made this outing possible for me and Mike.

Chikmagalur is a town located in the Indian state of Karnataka. My sister-in-law is well-acquainted with the place as she worked there for a few years; So SHE became our special tour-guide for the day.

We began our journey early in the morning at about 5.30am. With a distance of 150 km from Panemangalur (where we were staying), it took us around 2 and a half hours to reach the town. It was one beautiful ride! India is at its prettiest, very early in the morning, when there is less traffic. Driving through the majestic Western Ghats during Sunrise was absolutely breathtaking!

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Western Ghats

We were quite starving by the time we reached our destination, so we made our way to the Town Canteen. Trust me, we ate one of the best Dosas we’ve ever eaten in our lives (Mike was eager for more!)

After our breakfast, we drove to Mullayanagiri. Located 15 km from Chikmaglur, Mullayanagiri is the highest peak in Karnataka. Standing tall at 6330 ft, it is also one of the highest peaks between the Himalayas and the Nilgiris. After parking the car at the foothills of Mullayanagiri, we began our trek up the hill. Enjoying the panoramic view of the Western Ghats and the beautiful Coffee estates of Chikmaglur, we climbed up further. Talking, regaling one another with our stories, singing and falling (just me!), we trudged on for another hour!

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View from Mullayanagiri hill

We took breaks in between for fruits and biscuits (Again thanks to my sister-in-law, who’d packed every essential needed for this trip!).

After climbing the steep hill, we came across a muddy road used for vehicles, which was closed for construction purpose (Mullayanagiri can be reached through road as well). Another hour and a half’s trek took us to the foot of a temple. A 600 steps later, we finally reached the Shiva temple, which is at the highest point of Karnataka. (Lord Shiva is called Mullaya around here, and that’s how the hills got the name Mullayanagiri). The views atop were awe-inspiring!!

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Steps to Mullaya Temple

A couple of hours later we were back where we began.

And then we drove from there to Manikyadhara, where there is a beautiful Waterfalls (As we were too tired by then, we did not walk down to the falls). The view of Bababudangiri hills from there was Impressive!

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After resting at Manikyadhara, we visited the Bababudangiri shrine, named after the Sufi saint Baba Budan, who was and is still revered by both Muslims and Hindus.

Then we drove to Belur. Located in Hassan district, Belur is one of the major tourist attractions in Karnataka. The beautiful temple sites of Belur and Halebidu, at the heart of the Hoysala Empire, form the richest sources of Hindu art and sculpture in the country. I was too young to appreciate this amazing wealth of art when I came here the first time, so I’m happy I got another opportunity to visit this place. The geometry and design of the Hoysala Temple architecture and the beautiful carvings left me dazed!

Sadly, we were already short of time and had to head back home, so we skipped visiting the temple of Halebidu.

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But I must say I had one of the most wonderful experiences in India and I’m proud to come from a country so rich in Heritage and Beauty!

Love,

Madhurya

A visit to Allmend, Frauenfeld

When Mike suggested we go for a walk on a warm lazy Sunday afternoon, I gave into the idea, but not without a tough fight, as I had to pull myself away from the book I was reading.

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But as we neared Allmend, I had to admit I felt glad to be out and about.

We drove from Dachsen to Diessenhofen, before stopping at Allmend. Located in the region of Frauenfeld (in the canton Thurgau), Allmend is a Natural Habitat for a wide variety of flora and fauna.

Hedges interlink different habitats like dry meadows and forests while the river Thur (which gives the name to the Canton, Thurgau) cuts through the landscape.

Different species of birds, amphibians and reptiles make this region their home. Apparently this area is full of Beavers. Though we couldn’t spot any, their presence was evident in many trees, which were gnawed upon so much that they were ready to come crashing down!  Some of them already had fallen, creating dams.

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According to some reports on the Allmend, between 1999 and 2005, more than 800 arenas (the size of 15 football fields) were restored. Some of the barren meadows were sown with native flowering plants, and the rest were planted with different species. However, sadly, due to the recent climatic changes, there has been a strong decline in the flora and fauna. But the Canton is doing its best to protect them.

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We walked around for an hour or so. There weren’t many visitors that day. I wonder whether they allow folks to have picnics or barbecues in the premises. It was very surprising to see the area so clean and well-maintained, even though there were no supervisors around.

Allmend is a fun spot where the whole family can have a great time walking, playing and exploring, while kids can learn a lot about nature. I highly recommend going there to enjoy and appreciate the tranquility and to soak up the beauty around….

Love,

Madhurya

A Baby Shower for my Sister-in-law

Last weekend I held a Baby shower for my sister-in-law at our home.  It is not a typical Swiss tradition, but I thought why not? I’d felt bad that I could not  do it when she was having her first child, so this time I wasn’t going to pass up the opportunity.

We decided to make it a surprise party for her. So instead of telling her that she was going to have a baby shower, we simply asked her and my brother-in-law to join us for dinner!!

I’d planned to have a girls-only party, but since I knew very few of her friends, I decided to have a “Family only” gathering.

So after deciding on the date, I researched some online websites where I could buy the party materials to decorate our home. After a lot of searching, I found this , this and this.

I bought a pretty tableware, a banner, honeycomb balls, balloons, paper plates, cups and napkins and a few gifts. Mike and I had so much fun decorating our home.

We made Cheesy garlic bread for appetizer and for main course yummy enchiladas. For dessert we ordered a customized cake from this bakery (Trust me it was really yum!!).

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The best part of the evening was their reaction to the arrangements as they entered our home. It was a real treat to watch their surprised faces, full of smiles! Well, it was all worth the effort we put in! My Sister-in-law found it hard to believe that we’d worked so hard to make her feel special!

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I loved hosting this special day for my sister-in-law and  can’t wait for the arrival of this sweet baby into our family!

Cheers,

Madhurya.

The Elephant Safari, Corbett National Park

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The Elephant Safari at Corbett National Park is one of the most happiest, most blessed times of my life! It happened last October when we visited the park and its neighboring beauties- Binsar and Nainital. I’m sorry to say I don’t remember the details of the trip; Anybody who knows me, knows all about my poor memory! But thanks to the journal I kept during the trip, fragments of that journey are still recorded for me to look back on, and for you to, hopefully, savor. Here’s what I wrote in my journal-

It (The Elephant Safari) felt so earthly, so primal; I felt as if I was one with nature. An Elephant Safari is much better than a Jeep Safari. With every footstep of the Elephant, every brush of a tree branch, every poke of a thorny shrub, every breath of fresh air inhaled. every grunt of the swaying elephant, I felt more and more connected with Mother Earth. I couldn’t stop looking at Laadli, the Elephant behind us. She looked so lovely and divine, I fell utterly in love with her. We were seated upon Kalina. They both sucked the juice out of sugarcane sticks as they trudged on. And they kept pooping too… Heaps of it. Some floated right across the river we crossed. Ah! Crossing the River! It was an adventure in itself! You should see how an elephant steps on a boulder, ensures she has a firm grip on it, and then moves on. She is onerously careful as she crosses the river. You find yourself rooting for her as she does that!

We went all over Seethavan. We spotted some birds stirring up in the early morning Sun. We heard Distress calls by a Sambar too, which meant a Tiger must have been nearby. And we felt the presence of a male Elephant, as Kalina became too excited and kept veering off to where she wasn’t supposed to go! “Thwack!”, went the Mahout’s stick upon Kalina’s spiky head. Whenever that happened, Medha felt so bad for her. She was almost in tears. She wasn’t enjoying the ride as much. And when we asked the mahout why he punished her so, he explained how an Elephant needed to be brought back on track with a bit of spanking, just the way a kid needed a bit of discipline now and then, and it didn’t mean that he loved her any less! And believe me, I felt his love for the mammoth. He kept telling the other mahout that they needed to come back to clear the web of tangled branches to make it easier for the Elephants to pass.

Medha kept mumbling about how she felt the Elephants looked like Lord Ganesha himself and as soon as we got down, she simply bowed in front of them. And I too couldn’t hold back. I hugged and kissed Kalina and Laadli both!”

For all those of you who need more information, other than just the ramblings of a romantic fool, here are some details I found in the mail the proprietors of the Safari sent us (We booked the Safari days (months?) in advance)-

1. Only Sitavan (Sitabani) Zone is available for the Elephant Safari.

2. Morning – 8:00 am to 10:00 am (We had it changed to 6-8 am as we had to head towards Nainital the same day.
Plus, we love to explore the jungle early in the morning)

3. Boarding place – Dhikuli Village at 7:45 am 
4. 2 Elephants for 8 Pax. We were 8 passengers, including 4 kids.


Terms & conditions for Safari advance booking

 (Subject to availability & approval from forest department and weather conditions)

 1. Safari permits are booked in 100% advance payment basis.

 2. To book the safari will require name, age, gender of All the passengers, Photo ID and details Issued by GOVT. 

 3.As per jungle safari regulations, once confirmed and booked, the booking amount of Elephant Safari is Non-refundable and non transferable. 

 4. Maximum four persons are allowed to sit on an Elephant.

 5.In case of any natural calamity ( rain, flood etc) there will be no refund.

  6. Timing Might change because of Weather Condition & Season.

  7. When You Reach ( Corbett City Ramnagar / Resort / Hotel ) Inform Us.

 8. Cost of Elephant Safari – Rs. 3500 per Elephant for 1 to 4 Indians Inclusive of Elephant Fee And all taxes. (2 Elephants x Rs. 3500 =Rs. 7000 for 8 Pax.)

Love,

Manasa

Chaplin’s World, Vevey

I don’t know if it was the love for his movies or the charisma he brought into the film industry or just the sheer romance for the classics (which I inherited from my dad), that when I read the news that a Charlie Chaplin Museum, “Chaplin`s World” had opened in Vevey, in the French part of Switzerland, I decided to go.

After Charlie Chaplin presented his film, “Limelight”, on a European tour, he was denied re-entry into the US because of McCarthyism. And so, he decided to settle down in Vevey, along with his fourth and last wife Oona O’Neill Chaplin and their children. The family stayed in the Manoir du Ban in Corsier. It was in this mansion, built in the neoclassical style and set in a vast park that Chaplin spent the last 25 years of his life. He died there at the age of 88 in 1977. It has now been converted into a museum.

It took us almost 2 and a half hours to reach Vevey from Winterthur by train. From the train station there is a bus which takes you directly to the Chaplin Museum.
The entrance to the Museum costs – 24CHF for adults (from 16 years) and 18CHF for children (from 6 to 15 years).

The mansion and the 14-hectare park with unobstructed views of the Lac Léman (Lake Geneva) provide insight into the everyday life of the Chaplins. An exhibition hall has been built nearby as a mock-up of a Hollywood studio focusing on Chaplin’s movie work. Apparently this museum took around 15 years of planning before it came into life.

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As you enter the mansion, a wax figure of Chaplin warmly welcomes you inside. A Family tree of the Chaplins and their lives are depicted on the walls. Visitors can walk throughout the huge mansion into the living room, dining room and library, where Chaplin used to write his autobiography and prepare scripts.

Chaplin’s World features (both inside the mansion and the studio) around 30 wax figures created by the Grevin wax museum in Paris. These include lifelike models of Chaplin, his wife Oona, actors and actresses from his films, and friends like Albert Einstein, as well as artists inspired by his work such as Michael Jackson, Woody Allen and Federico Fellini.

Out of all the rooms, I loved best the library (Ofcourse!). Big wooden shelves carried immense number of books. I could imagine myself sitting by the window with a beautiful view outside and enjoying a nice cup of coffee while reading. A second room next to the library was decorated with clippings about Chaplin`s achievements and stories from newspapers. It just seemed like the design of every room was thought through carefully and each furniture setting and the decorative item was handpicked with care. After walking around the mansion, we took a stroll into the beautiful garden soaking as much sun as we could.

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Inside the studio, we were shown a short movie about Charlie Chaplin and glimpses of scenes from his best movies. By the end of this film, the screen opened itself for us to walk through. Walking through the 16-metre-high studio, fans can learn about Chaplin’s early humble beginnings in London and his meteoric rise to become one of the biggest names in the film industry at the age of 26. With the recreated sets and embedded film screens inside the studio, visitors can experience what it was like to stroll down “Easy Street” or be in a cabin teetering on the edge of a cliff, like in Gold Rush, or sit on the barber’s chair from “The Great Dictator” or view the restaurant where he dined in “The Immigrant”.

In a narrow room resembling a Swiss bank vault, some of the iconic objects associated with Chaplin’s work are on display, including his bowler hat and cane of his Little Tramp character, the certificate signed by Queen Elizabeth II when Chaplin was knighted in 1975 and his awards.

I think this has been one of the best experiences I have had so far in Switzerland. I was so in awe the first time that I decided to bring my parents along when they visited. And guess what, they too had a great time!

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Love,

Madhurya.

Reichenbach Falls

Being one of the biggest fans of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle`s fictional detective, Sherlock Holmes, paying a visit to the Reichenbach Falls, was on my travel list for a long time! So when Mike took me, my parents and my mother-in-law there as a surprise on my birthday, my happiness was boundless!!

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Reichenbach falls are a series of waterfalls in the Bernese Oberland region of Switzerland.

Now you may wonder what is so special about this place and how it is connected to Sherlock Holmes? This is the location where Sherlock Holmes fights with his arch nemesis, Professor Moriarty at the end of “The Final Problem”, first published in 1893. By the end of the story, Holmes and Moriarty both fall to their deaths down the gorge while locked in mortal combat.

On his vacation in Switzerland, Sir Doyle visited many waterfalls in the region. Apparently Reichenbach falls made the greatest impression on him, that he decided to let his hero die there.

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(Conan Doyle meant to stop writing about his famous detective after this short story; but the pressure from fans eventually persuaded him to bring Holmes back in his next stories).

Taking a train is not the best option if you are planning to go on a day trip, as it takes at least 4 hours to get there, and you might need to change 3 trains in between. It is better to drive as it takes fewer hours to reach.

From the parking lot, the falls are made accessible by the Reichenbach fall funicular.

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At the station on the top, there is a viewing platform. The actual ledge from which Moriarty fell is on the other side of the falls from the funicular, but we decided not to walk that far.

From where we stood, we could see the narrow column of water making its plunge from high above. It wasn’t the “dreadful cauldron of swirling water and seething foam”, as the author describes the “final” moments of his protagonist, but the height of the column and imagining the scene where Sherlock Holmes and Moriarty fall to their “deaths locked in each other’s arms”, sent a chill down my spine!

(The falls are open only part of the year, May through October. The funicular runs from 9:00 until 18:00. Adult return ticket costs CHF 10 and a one-way ticket is CHF 7. For children ages 6-16, a return ticket costs CHF 8 and a one-way ticket costs CHF 6.)

On our return journey from the hike and the funicular ride, we drove to the small town of Meiringen, to have our lunch at a nice Pizzeria (Thanks to my mom-in-law for this treat!).

After lunch, we walked around the town. We spotted the Sherlock Holmes museum, located at the basement of the Anglican Church near the train station. It is dedicated to Holmes. Though we did not go inside the Museum, we enjoyed the walk around it, which has a life-size statue of the detective.

For anyone visiting Meiringen, the Aare gorge (known locally as the Aareschlucht) is not to be missed. The Haslital, one of the large valleys in the central alps, stretches from the Grimsel Pass to the Lake of Brienz. The flat valley floor of the lower Haslital is separated from the upper valley by a transverse rock formation. Over thousands of years, the Aare River eroded a path through this rock formation resulting in a gorge which is 1400 metres long and up to 200 metres deep.

Since 1889 the gorge has been open to the public and nowadays a fully accessible walkway runs along the bottom of the cliff wall. It is a one of a kind experience to walk through this gorge.

(Entry ticket for an adult costs CHF 8 and for children between 6-16 costs CHF 5. (Children below 6 years can enter freely)).

I must say this was one of my best birthdays ever. I got to spend time with my family and finally got the chance to pay my tribute to the great legends of all time. Thanks Mike!

Cheers,

Madhurya.