Salzburg – The Commodification of Mozart and the Von Trapps

 

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That’s Mozart for you selling Mozart balls! One thing you can’t and you shouldn’t miss in this second largest city in Austria – Salzburg – is the Mozartkugen (Mozartballs). Such delicious caramel filled chocolates that you just can’t stop at one! Try to buy them in a super market where you could get three packets for 10 Euros. The souvenir stores will give you one less for that amount.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, the wonder kid who began composing music even before he turned five, is Salzburg’s biggest commodity.  Mozart mugs, key chains, magnets, coasters – you name it – and you have it with the child-like face of Mozart looking intensely at you. From every cafe or store, you will hear Symphony 40 that continues to echo in your ears even as you go to bed.

The picturesque city of Salzburg is divided into the old and new towns by the Salzach river. The old city dating back to medieval times on the left bank is home to perhaps the most visited address in Salzburg, i.e. No. 9 Getreidegasse; Mozart’s birthplace preserved as a museum now. The most endearing exhibit in the museum is Mozart’s childhood violin. Staring at the baby violin, I imagined the cute five-year old creating magic on the strings; a rare child prodigy whose music doesn’t fail to transport you to other realms to this day.

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If you haven’t had enough of Mozart, there’s the Mozart Wonhaus, the residence he moved to at age 17. Here, you can go back in time as you take a look at his musical instruments, letters and documents. The audio guides make the place quiet and the sound of shuffling feet is all you will hear other than the commentary. Clearly, this is meant for Mozart fans only! The rest who stray in either rush through and exit or wear appropriate expressions of reverence.

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As if Mozart wasn’t sufficiently commodified, there is an entire family that is. Yes, the Von Trapps. Salzburg’s blue hills, the meandering river, the green grass and Baroque architecture formed the perfect setting for one of Hollywood’s most enduring films, The Sound of Music. As the movie locations are far apart from each other, we decided to take a conducted tour. Our guide, who in all probability, was a contemporary of Julie Andrews, spoke with such passion about the Von Trapps that it seemed they were family for her!

Do you remember Maria and her children singing Do Re Me on steps using them as musical scales? Well, the tour takes you to Mirabell gardens to see this. The garden has several statues of heroes from Greek mythology made by the well-known Italian sculptor, Ottavio Mosto. The relentless rain could not take away our enjoyment of the colourful gardens laid out with geometric precision.

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Schloss Leopoldskron, the residence of the Von Trapp family in the movie is now an exclusive hotel for the rich and famous only. We are given a view of the erstwhile Rococo style palace built in 1736 from across the lake on which it is built.

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The gazebo in which the famous ‘you are sixteen, going on seventeen’ song is filmed is now located in Hellbrunn Palace grounds, looking sad and abandoned. The guide insisted that we all sing the song to make us ‘feel the movie’ as she stated. In reality, we ended up looking like a bunch of fools! A deeply embarrassing moment indeed!

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Luckily, the moment was offset by the drive to Mondsee to partake of the joy of Maria’s wedding in the cathedral.  The hills loomed large all through the 25 minute picture perfect drive that provided bewitching views of lakes and pastures.

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That’s Salzburg! The hills are alive with the sound of music, the chatter of hundreds of tourists tumbling out of buses, crowds that throng every spot from the Castle to the museums, Do Re Me bursting out of toy pianos and cardboard cutouts of Mozart selling balls.

Gita Viswanath

 

 

 

 

 

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