By Barbara Sanders

The Land of the Sound of Music

We said our goodbyes to the team at the Alphof, packed up the SNOW Bernard and asked Moneypenny to steer us toward the Swarovski factory and headquarters in Wattens, Austria. Our final destination today would be Salzburg, but we couldn’t pass up a chance to visit Swarovski’s New Age art museum, where exhibits are created entirely with glittering Swarovski crystals.

The drive from Soelden to Wattens was fast — only once did I have to disobey Moneypenny to veer off the programmed route to snap photos of a lone church, at the top of a peak, with a wall of snow-covered mountains behind it.

Church Austria


We arrived at the Swarovski art museum and entered the strange building through a large human mask carved right into the side of a mountain. The entry was dark; its only illumination came from thousands of crystals. The boys were given a challenge upon entering: If they could answer questions based on the art in each chamber they would receive a special gift… so we set off to discover the secrets of this crystallized underground world.

Swarovski’s art exhibits are a visual feast: part psychedelic mind-blow, part Disney, part Tim Burton film come to life. It is creative, sexy, and transformative all at the same time.

Swaroski AustriaSwaroski Empire State BuildingSwaroski Austria

We made our way through all of the chambers. One of my favorites was a snow-laden tree crafted with clear Swarovski crystals. When we reached the finish, the boys were able to answer the questions and were rewarded with a Swarovski crystal figure. Lori and I then perused the shop, featuring Swarovski’s latest creations, from art to jewelry. But it was time to hit the road, so we went back outside into the daylight and made our way to Salzburg.

The Sound of Salzburg

I begin this section with an apology: I, Barbara Sanders, do sincerely apologize for talking about the wonderful city of Salzburg mostly as it pertains to the 1964 film, The Sound of Music.

It is a gorgeous, vibrant city, and holds its own against top cities around the world. But as an American who grew up with The Sound of Music, I can’t help but see Salzburg through that movie camera’s lens. Charmain Carr—the actress who played Liesl—was a family friend, so I am all that much closer to the film. Just as Casablanca in Africa will always be related to Humphrey Bogart and Rick’s Café, Salzburg and The Sound of Music for me are eternally entwined.

We drove into the parking lot of the Hotel Castellani and checked in. We dropped our bags and met up with Michaela, our guide for the afternoon. We walked the short distance into town where we began our visit at the feet of Mozart. We were standing by his statue in a large courtyard when the church bells began to chime. After our visit to Grassmayr in Innsbruck, I had a much greater appreciation for the chiming bells.

Next we saw the water fountain with the horses that the Von Trapp kids danced around when they got their new play clothes made out of curtains. We peeked into the church and then stopped for an ice cream, where a game of life size chess was just finishing. We made our way through the twisting streets to the cemetery. Tick! Another key venue from the movie—the site of the film’s final scene when the Von Trapps were hiding from the Nazis so they could escape.

We passed churches and the home of the Salzburg Festival, where this year they will be paying tribute to Richard Strauss on what would have been his 150th birthday. We passed the University which led out to the streets and shops and restaurants that make up Salzburg.


Since “salz burg” means the “salt city,” I was compelled to dash into a “salz” store to buy some truffle salt for my friend Andrew and myself. Next we wandered, peering into chocolate shops and Trachten stores until we came to the house where Mozart was born. Pretty nice digs, if you ask me, for this child sensation. Our guide gave the boys the task of finding certain craftsmen based on the store signs that displayed their wares. Since people were mostly illiterate, it made more sense for a shop to make a metal umbrella to hang above the door than to write Hans’ Umbrella Store. The boys found them all, including one that just featured the letter M… yes, the famous Golden Arches can be found in charming Salzburg, though I must say, it is one of the most beautiful Mickey Ds I’ve ever seen, and I bet the McSchnitzel is to die for!

We wound our way out to the river and watched as the sun set and the lights came on. The last place on our tour was another SOM site, the Mirabell Gardens where they all played and sang. Feeling more than satisfied with our lovely afternoon we found ourselves at the St. Peter Stiftskeller restaurant that had been around since Charlemagne’s visit in the year 803, making it the oldest restaurant in Northern Europe. We digested the history of our surroundings along with a big piece of schnitzel. Stuffed, we walked back along the river to our hotel to get some sleep, as tomorrow we would be skiing nearby Flachau!