Fun in Firenze – Singing the sounds of music

By: Michelle Campbell


Because I had the time of my life in Interlaken, thanks to Bus2Alps, I decided to book another weekend trip with them. This time I planned to go to Austria. I’d never really heard anything specific about the country, besides it being the birth place of the famous Marie Antoinette and the location at which the Sound of Music was filmed. Nonetheless, I was excited to see everything that Austria has to offer.

The bus ride was very different from the one to Interlaken. We only had one bus with the majority of its passengers being female. It was also a few hours longer. We arrived in Vienna just as the sun was starting to rise. Everyone piled off and dispersed to their rooms in the hostel. We had about an hour or two to shower, nap, and prepare for the long day a head.

The first thing on the schedule was a walking tour of the city. All 30 of us followed our guide through the streets of Vienna. Our first stop was to the royal family’s winter palace. The Hofburg Palace was grand in size and elegance. Because the structure houses the current President of Austria, we were not able to go inside. Instead, we walked around the gardens located in front of the Palace while our personal guide told us some information about the history surrounding the building.

Once everyone was done taking pictures, we were off to St. Stephen’s Cathedral. One of the girls I had booked the trip with, Katherine, is an art history major with a passion for Cathedrals. Her eyes got bigger as we walked through clusters of pigeons
toward the 12th century structure. To me, Cathedrals just look like the dribble castles I would make with sand on the beach when I was younger (my art history professor in Florence would cringe at that statement), but I know enough about them to respect the historical and symbolic entities that make them so important to Europe. I’m glad I was able to see it and learn about its’ history while in Vienna.

The last stop on our tour was to Hotel Sacher for some of their famous chocolate cake. I’m not a fan of chocolate cake, but that particular one was so good I could have ordered a second if it weren’t for the urge to keep exploring Vienna.

After going through some of the museums and local shops, my friends and I met up with the rest of the group for the Schnapps Museum event. The owner of the museum talked to us about how the liquors were made and how they could be used to make the perfect beverage. Once he was done, it was then time to try them all. He led us into a separate room that contained a bar lined with 20 different liquors. In front of each bottle, there were six shot glasses containing the specified alcohol displayed in the bottle.

In the hour that followed, the room became filled with the clinking of glass on glass and shouts of “Prost,” the German way of saying cheers. I had lost count of how many shots I’d taken after five. Once everyone had a sample of all the liquors, a line formed at the cash register for people to buy their favorite(s).

By the time we left, everyone was feeling pretty good. My friends and I decided to get something to eat and hangout at the hostel before going to the concert at the Vienna Opera House.

I had never been to an opera before and I’m glad I was fortunate enough to attend one while in Vienna. It was a beautiful display of classical music, ballet dancers, and talented singers. If it weren’t for the fatigue I felt from the lack of sleep the night prior, I probably would have been more attentive. However, the concert was beautiful and the complementary glass of Champagne made it even better. It was the perfect ending to a great day.

Before we left Vienna, we took one last journey through Vienna to the Schonbrunn Palace. It was a magnificent structure surrounded by an endless green sea of gardens and walking paths. After touring the Palace, Katherine and I spent the rest
of the afternoon walking the outstretched acres of land. We loaded the bus again around noon and departed for Salzburg.

The three-hour trip went by quickly with the help of Sound of Music. We arrived with a few hours of daylight left. The town was blanketed in a thick layer of snow, making the scene picture perfect. It reminded me of Stars Hollow from the show Gilmore Girls. I would have been perfectly content staying in Salzburg for another day or two to see it busy and alive during broad daylight.

Instead of going to Mozart’s house, Katherine, Sam, and I opted on getting some hot cider and a giant pretzel before making our way up to Hoensalzurg Fortress that overlooked the town. By the time we reached the top, stars had begun freckling the night sky. The view was truly breathtaking. The suns’ dying light was barley penetrable through the mountain valleys, casting a shadow over the town and its’ inhibiters. The streetlights lit up below us, signaling the end to another day. It was sometime in that moment that I truly feel in love with Austria.

The moon was fully visible when we boarded cable car to go back down. We were scheduled to meet the rest of the group for dinner at the Augustiner Braustubl, a local beer hall. I am not a big fan of beer but they also served traditional food and other beverages. I ended up getting an assortment of food that looked and tasted delicious along with two pints of beer. The cool thing about the Augustiner was the way in which their beer was served. Customers were asked to pick up one of the two-pint stone mugs and run it under cold water in order to change the temperature of the mug. You would then go to a station where the mug was filled to the brim with beer.

I sat down at a table with the guide and ten friends. We shared stories of our study abroad experience thus far and enjoyed the great atmosphere. There was an old Austrian man sitting by himself at a table next to ours, one of the members at my table took it upon herself to give him some company. She ended up talking to him most of the night about his life in Europe.

Kathleen and I choose a younger demographic to hangout with. There were a group of Austrian guys all sitting together with some people we recognized from the tour group. A simple “Hello” turned into a two-hour conversation about the American and Austrian cultures. Kathleen and I sat between six shockingly handsome Austrians debating the different stereotypes of Americans. Even though most of them were true, we still held our own when the Austrians started to playfully mock us. We must have made a good impression because after they were done their beers, the guys invited Kathleen and I to a local Irish pub.

It turns out that Irish pubs are the place to be when the sun goes down in Salzburg. There was a live band playing in front of a large crowd when we walked in. One of the guys bought the group a round of beer. We all hung around enjoying the band and off key groupies that tried to sing along. They played a few American hits, which was pretty awesome. Kathleen and I belted out the words to a Killers song, and to my surprise, so did everyone else in the pub. It was a night that I wish I could relive over and over.

Kathleen and I left for the hostel around 2am, right after we made a pit stop for a kabob of course. The next morning was rough due to the lack of sleep and excessive amounts of alcohol the night prior. But it didn’t matter; it was worth the minor headache knowing how much fun it had been to cause it. The one event planned for Sunday was the Sound of Music tour, which wasn’t too extraneous for someone nursing a hangover. Everyone doing the tour got onto a bus and sat back as the tour guide addressed us on the history behind the Von Trapp family.

Between each segment of information, the tour guide played some of the songs featured in the movie. As we made our way into the countryside, it was easy to tell why people owned lavish summer home in the mountains. The scenery was beautiful. The bus driver made a few stops for us to get out and take pictures. We went to Hellbrunn Palace’s park to see the Pavilion where the filming of “16 going on 17” took place. We also went to the homes where the Von Trapp family lived. The movie leads viewers to believe that one location was used as the home for the family. However, two separate buildings played the part. The tour opened our eyes to the secrets behind Sound of Music. It was interesting and worthwhile to see how it was all put together.

I was really upset to leave the gorgeous country of Austria. Even though I missed Florence and looked forward to eating pizza and pasta again, I wish I had more time to explore the county responsible for the best weekend I’d ever had while abroad. When I somehow scrape up the money to return to Europe, Austria is on the top of my list of places to visit.

Michelle Campbell is a student at Florida State University, and a Spring 2012 alumni of the Florida State in Florence program. Michelle will be reliving her individual travels and group travels with Bus2alps during her four months studying abroad. You can read more at her blog,

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