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The supposed ‘theme’ of this year’s internationally famous la Biennale di Venezia was the Plateau of Humankind. An art exhibition of such immense proportions that even after about five hours of wandering around just ONE of the sites I still hadn’t seen everything! It truly is a wonderful idea: a beautiful city, where people from all over the world come to see and experience its narrow streets… and an art exhibition with representatives from all over the world coming together to express that common interest. While I was in Venice over the summer, I was informed of the exhibition by a guy in my youth hostel (who I must admit was one of the hanger-types that you can’t seem to shake off). On the first day we were there he decided he would take a look at it. I, while really wishing to take a stroll as well, also couldn’t think of anything worse than seeing it with him… cruel, but true. So I took my time to see other sites first and didn’t make it to the Biennale until my last day. Essentially there are two major areas of exhibition, one of them that contains all of the permanent gallery buildings each designated to a different country – Giardini di Castello (the venue since 1895), and the other the Arsenale which I unfortunately didn’t even get to… the unfortunate result of leaving it so late! In total there were 64 participating nations and 130 artists who were displaying their work, covering almost 27,000 sq. metres of exhibition space. Impressive statistics! * * * Giardini * * * Rather than go through every single exhibition in this op, I would just like to mention some of the most incredible (in my humble opinion) works that I managed to see while there. Right from the word go, I liked what I saw. The Spanish gallery was divided into four rooms, the centre being taken up by an enormous jellyfish of blown glass bulbs. It hung from the ceiling and you h
ad to duck to get to the other side of the room, the gentle tinkling preparing you for each of the three outer rooms that fanned out from the centre. These rooms were each given a different feel through the use of video, colour and sound… one was a pink fluffy paradise of hair dryers and wigs, another had a trough with water dripping from the ceiling and the other a floor of pinpricks of light and windy soaring music. Escaping from the oppression of the heat outside, this display was well accepted. The enormous Italian Pavilion contained many different works, but memorable ones included a series of photographs of people playing in mud, and a video that never ended. It began with a lass sitting a table reading, she puts down her book and walks resignedly towards a lone chair with a gun on it. She picks up the gun and looks dead into the camera, places the gun against her head and shoots, collapsing onto the chair. It then continues in reverse back to her book, which she places down and then this time walks towards another chair – this time with a noose already hanging above it. She quite movingly hangs herself, her swaying feet the last image you see, before the chair suddenly springs back up and restores her life and she continues in reverse back to her seat at the table. Weird and strangely powerful. Israel’s artwork once again involved artwork and drama, but the whole building was used as a kind of 3D theatre with multiple screens located all around you, so you felt the need to spin about. The film that played was full of humans with moulded mask faces, and each screen showed the action in a different perspective. A disorientating, yet somehow exciting experience. The Poles idea was very minimalist but kinda funky. It was a floor. A very bumpy floor. The bumps were painted orange on one side and blue on the other… so if you stood at one end of the room the floor was blue and if you proceeded to the other, the s
ame room had an orange floor. I’ve never seen that on DIY television!! Now the French have always been a little strange. We all know that. But their exhibition at the Biennale was so much fun I couldn’t believe it was art! It was a small obsession with light in various forms and with a layout similar to the Spanish one, except only two rooms on either side of a larger one. One side room had a time-lapse video of an apartment block at night and the other a bus stop kind of thing, but shaped like a tree and with lights instead of leaves. Each had a window to look into the central room, but they randomly changed from clear to opaque glass in a way I couldn’t explain. One minute you had a clear view, and the next it was gone in a blur of light. The central room however, turned out to be a giant game of Pong!! That’s right, the original computer game. In the form of disco light ceiling panels… AND you could control it. So that was part of why I took so long! * * * THE BEST BIT! * * * Now, GB had a nice exhibition… a silver Tardis and a slow motion video of people arriving at Heathrow arrivals to the sound of Allegri’s Miserere Mei (very high church stuff if you don’t know it… also involves an amazing high C from a treble soloist). But it was nothing in comparison with what I saw next. Canada. A single work entitled “The Paradise Institute” created by Janet Cardiff & George Bures Miller. It involved eighteen people at a time entering a miniature cinema, recreated to feel as though you were sitting in the front two rows of the balcony in a real old-style theatre. You placed headphones on and watched a film in black and white – but the headphones offered not only the soundtrack to the film, but the noises of those in the cinema with you… who aren’t really there! So you hear your girlfriend offer popcorn, and munch away herself… you hear the comments made by pe
ople and the laughter they evoke. It is amazing!! Things start to become sinister however, and the line between reality and unreality blurs, leaving a bit freaked out because it feels so real. But for cinema to do that to you is incredible. Well done the Canadians! * * * That’s it… * * * The Biennale runs this year from the 10th of June to the 4th of November, and it occurs every two years (hence the name: biennial). It costs ITL 25,000 (£8.50) full price, ITL 20,000 (£7) concession and ITL 15,000 (£5) for under 26. Well worth the effort… but start early in the morning if you want to see it all!
…Are you certain what you wish is what you want? A very interesting question, and just one of the many that are raised in Sondheim’s amazing musical, Into the Woods. I fell in love with this soundtrack a couple of years ago, so much so that I was desperate to see a performance of it. (I do things in the wrong order I know.) I was lucky enough to discover a video had been made of the original Broadway cast production back in 1990 - and if you never get to see a live production of this musical… then buy that recording! What strikes me about Into the Woods, as with many of Sondheim’s works, is that it is more than just pretty songs and a story line. He uses his medium to explore issues much in the same way a good book of literature does. And the more times you read it, the more you understand and think about the issues involved. Having seen the video several times and virtually memorised the soundtrack, I can pretty safely say that I’ve done this. So as you will read, this opinion is about more than the video, but also an instalment of an essay on who I believe to be the greatest of all musical theatre composers. By the way, this is quite long… I’m sorry, but if you get bored just jump to the last paragraph! * * * Once Upon a Time… * * * ACT ONE The first act of Into the Woods is a clever retelling of some of our favourite fairy tales, most of them in their original Brothers Grimm form. It involves the stories of Cinderella, Jack and the Beanstalk, Little Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel and a little bit of Snow White and Sleeping Beauty for good measure. These are all tied together both by a Narrator and by the story of a Baker and his Wife trying to reverse the curse of the witch next door and thereby have a child. The Prologue sets the scene for the story, with Cinderella arguing with her family about going to the ball, Jack’s mother sending him off to sell his best
-friend, the cow Milky-White, and the Baker selling his bread to Little Red Riding Hood (LRRH) and being visited by the Witch. Of course, we soon discover that the Baker’s father had stolen the Witch’s magic beans, causing her to become an ugly hag, and in revenge she took their next child (Rapunzel, the Baker’s sister) and placed a curse so that the family tree would be forever barren. But the Witch also informs them that they can reverse the spell (and also give her back her beauty, but she doesn’t tell them that) by fetching the following items: “One – the cow as white as milk; Two – the cape as red as blood; Three – the hair as yellow as corn; and Four – the slipper as pure as gold!” And it doesn’t take long to figure out where they’ll get those items. So many of the major characters set off Into the Woods to find the things that they desire. Cinderella heads to her mother’s grave to ask her how to get to the ball, LRRH off to her Granny’s, Jack to market, the Baker to get a child. What ensues is a playing out of the various fairy tales, with both lighter and darker moments. These include the stepsisters having their eyes plucked out by pigeons (Cinderella’s friends), and having their mother chop off bits of their feet to fit them into the slipper. As well as Rapunzel’s Prince being blinded by thorns as the witch throws him from the tower, and an incredibly moving scene between the Witch and her adopted daughter as she exiles her to the desert to bear twins (Stay With Me). As you do. Plus some funny moments where Cinderella takes some spills, and the Princes discuss their quest for women (Agony). The Baker buys the cow from Jack (who sings I Guess this is Goodbye) for five beans that he finds in his father’s hunting jacket, and gives the last to his wife. She buys the slipper from Cinderella with that last bean (which Cinderella throws
away), and by giving her some shoes better for running in (A Very Nice Prince). The Baker also secures the cape from LRRH after rescuing her and Granny from the Wolf’s stomach (I Know Things Now), and then his wife pulls some hair from “some maiden in a tower” (It Takes Two). And so “apart from a few minor inconveniences,” they all live happily Ever After. The Baker and his Wife rediscover their love for each other and manage to get a child, while Cinderella finally gets her Prince after running away from him twice. Jack and his mother are made into a very wealthy family, and LRRH gets a new wolf-skin cloak for herself. And true to the Grimm story, Rapunzel’s Prince is drawn to her beautiful song while wandering the desert blindly and her tears heal his eyes. The Witch however, “as is often the case in these stories,” loses her powers when she regains her beauty. ACT TWO The second act is essentially what happens after happily ever after. This is much darker than the first act, which despite what I said earlier, is also full of comedy and Sondheim has you laughing quite often with his plays on words. It reopens with the same music as the Prologue, but this time Cinderella wishes to hold a ball, Jack wishes to return to his kingdom in the sky, and the Baker and his Wife want more room in the cottage. Always bloody asking for more! But their protestations of being So Happy are cut short by a Giant stepping on the Baker’s house and the Witch’s garden. Yes, another giant… This time it’s the wife of the Giant Jack killed while escaping with his Harp. And she’s NOT happy…. Rapunzel meanwhile has had a nervous breakdown as living in a tower all her life has left her socially inept and unable to deal with family life. She consequently does a lot less singing and more screaming. The Witch, who claims she “was just trying to be a good mother,” tr
ies again to regain the only family she’s ever known, but fails. Rapunzel’s Prince on the other hand has discovered a girl with “skin white as snow”, but has yet to discover her name due to his thing with dwarfs. Not “dwarves… dwarfs!” And Cinderella’s Prince is also a little bored with his wife and has discovered “a beauty asleep” in a tower surrounded by a thorny thicket. But cannot reach her for fear of being pricked, as he has a thing with blood (Agony reprise). The rest of the royal family go to hide in a far away kingdom while the Princess (Cinderella) investigates news of her mother’s grave being destroyed. LRRH turns up at the Baker’s having returned home only to find her house crushed and her mother nowhere to be found. And Jack, upon discovering there is another Giant on the loose sets off against his mother’s will to kill it. So once again the journey is made Into the Woods by all. The groups collide in a confrontation with the giant, during which the cast are faced with the ethical decision of giving up Jack or sacrificing someone else. This ends in the deaths of the Narrator (he’s expendable), Rapunzel (commits suicide) and Jack’s Mother (“for the greater good”). The Witch upset by the death of her ‘daughter’ (Lament), storms off to find Jack and feed him to the Giant. Leaving their son with LRRH, the baker and his wife split up to find him first. Shortly after, the Baker’s wife runs into Cinderella’s Prince in the woods. He woos her, and she cannot resist his charm… (Moments in the Woods) they kiss and make love in the shadows, only to be separated again as the Prince leaves to battle the Giant. The Baker’s wife has a small revelation about the meaning of life, only to be crushed by the Giant moments later. Meanwhile, the Baker has discovered Cinderella weeping at the destroyed grave of her
mother and leads her to join the rest of the group. We are left with the Baker, LRRH, Cinderella, and then Jack and the Witch when she arrives with him ready to feed him to the Giant. These are the only people left!!! They resolve the situation by first blaming each other (It’s Your Fault), then blaming the Witch who abandons them all to be killed (Last Midnight) by giving up her beans and regaining her powers. The four then plot to kill the giant, finding themselves confused and bewildered in a world that is no longer black and white (No More / No One is Alone). * * * This Production * * * It is an impressive production that won three Tony awards: Best Score, Best Book and Best Actress for Joanna Gleason for her role as the Baker’s Wife. It also stars Bernadette Peters as the Witch, whose humour and ability to make us feel sorry for the witch gives great depth to the story. I really can’t recommend a better group… especially as the West End production was a bit of a flop. * * * Children will listen… * * * Unfortunately, this opinion is already too long, so my discussion of the themes will have to be quite limited. Just form reading the plot however, you soon begin to understand that the musical is not just a retelling of known stories with a dark twist to them. There is a major discussion of how we bring up children, the loss of their innocence (the loss of beans, being drawn “close to her giant breast”, being ‘devoured’ by a wolf), and the morality that we breed into them. Hence the use of fairy tales, and the messages they bring. In the penultimate song No One is Alone, Cinderella and the Baker try to explain to the children that “witches can be right, giants can be good” and that Jack should not kill the Steward for killing his mother. Yet, quite rightly, LRRH questions the right they have to kill the giant who has lost her own husband. It also raises interesting questions regarding having our ‘wishes’ fulfilled and thinking of the consequences before going out and getting it. Themes of revenge and justice also arise: even in Act One, there’s the witch taking a child for her beauty and the stepsisters being blinded as punishment for being blind at heart to Cinderella’s qualities. And then to throw someone you care about into a desert?! Also of how going ‘into the woods’ - a metaphor for the dark times in our life, sin, betrayal and indecision - is a necessary process before we can ‘know what we want,’ and therefore find ourselves in the woods. The Baker’s Wife’s tale being a prime example of this. Not only is the show tied together with these themes, but musically there are motifs (mini-tunes) representing various aspects of the play such as the wish and the beans that reoccur in what becomes a giant theme and variation. I could talk for hours on this… I know… I’m a freak. To finish, a short excerpt from the finale: “Careful the things you say, children will listen. Careful the things you do, children will see and learn. Careful the spell you cast, not just on children. Sometimes the spell may last, as you can see, and turn against you. Careful the tale you tell, that is the spell.” If you want me to write more on this, please say in the comments. There’s definitely plenty more discussion there!! However, as long as you understand that the musical involves some great tunes, a hilarious yet dark script and much more to think about and analyse than your everyday show, then that’s enough. I hope you go out and see it for yourselves!
The incredible scenery of England’s most south-western corner is truly breathtaking. The rugged cliffs, the crashing waves, beautiful white sand, wind in your hair… and a seagull wailing miserably in the distance as someone sadistically feeds it an aspirin. Combine this with a fine production of theatre and what do you get? An experience unlike any other and surely one I will not experience again for some time. The Minack Theatre, near the town of Porthcurno on the south coast of Cornwall, is truly a magical place. Built almost completely by a woman originally from Cheltenham by the name of Rowena Cade (1893-1983), it not only is an exotic theatre with a summer season of seventeen weeks, but also has an interesting visitor’s centre and a collection of sub-tropical plants thrown into the bargain. Cut out of the cliffs, overlooking the ocean, it’s a nice place to visit at any time of year… although in my opinion, I’m not sure if anywhere in England is pleasant to visit in winter. * * * The Theatre * * * Rowena began the theatre itself in 1929 when she organised a village play to be held in an almost natural amphitheatre. With an enormous amount of hard work and dedication she converted the cliff face into organised row upon row of rock seating. Over many years it has developed under her hands and eventually others as well into the current 750 seat modern auditorium. Each year from mid-May to mid-September, outdoor productions of Shakespeare classics, opera, musicals and traditional plays are staged in this unique setting. This year a total of seventeen different productions were squeezed into this seemingly short amount of time. I visited the area at the end of May while travelling with a friend of mine also from Australia. We had spent the day on the beach in St. Ives, trying to find some proper sunshine and sand, and managed to take the public bus that goes almost directly to the theatre. It is
possible to do this, as the length of the production meant we would be able to catch the LAST bus back to Penzance. Probably not a good idea when seeing longer shows. While we were there they were showing a production of “Little Shop of Horrors” which is always good fun to sing along to and annoy your neighbours, so we went along with hopes of embarrassing ourselves totally. With no chance of seat reservation (not for the regular tourists like us anyway) you must line up outside the theatre an hour and a half before ‘curtain-up’ to attempt to secure a good view. Mad rush!! Actually I was a little disappointed it was so orderly and civil… a few elbows here and there couldn’t have gone astray. Since you get there so early, it is advisable to bring a picnic too. It’s a pleasant enough place to have one, and we felt rather left out with our packet of co-op biscuits while the group behind us munched on fresh vegetables and gourmet dips and crisps. We’re poor GAP students, I should point out we were also camping in someone’s backyard in Penzance to save money! Things are all comfortable and great and we’re enjoying the show, until the sun disappears totally. Then it gets cold. Luckily we had planned ahead and brought my sleeping bag… with which I apparently scored high on the opinion poll of my friend, and then lost those points (and more… it was the first time I had gone into negative opinion) when trying to mash it back into its bag and preventing my entire row from leaving. Oh well. Seriously bring warm things though as it does get cold. And the seats (as they are made of stone) are not too comfy after a long period of time. We used our beach towels… they didn’t quite work plus they made our bums wet, so if you have a chance to then bring cushions. It is possible to hire some there. * * * The Visitor’s Centre * * * The Visitor’s Centre
is open all year round and guides you through the story of Rowena and her grand visions as well as many photographs, displays and models of past productions and the theatre throughout its various stages of creation. Plus if you get bored of the extremely close and secluded beach, it’s only a short walk up the hillside to the café and gift shop which are also worth a visit if only for the view and nothing else. * * * Odds and Ends * * * The Centre is open from 9:30am to 5:30pm April to September, and 10am to 4pm from October to March. The costs of these visits are £2.50 for Adults, £1 for students, £1.80 for seniors and free for children under the age of 12. Plus they allow you to return for free anytime up until March 2002. Evening performances usually start at around 8pm, and there are some matinees that start about 2pm. Ticket prices for shows are either £6.50 or £5.50 for adults and half price for children under 16. So even we could afford it! Further information from www.minack.com and future programmes can be obtained by sending a self-addressed envelope to The Minack Theatre, Porthcurno, Penzance, Cornwall, TR19 6JU. And you may have gathered I don’t like seagulls very much. But don’t worry, I don’t really feed them aspirin. :)
One of the biggest joys of my life as a traveller these past two months has to be the recently opened chain of Internet cafes called easyEverything. Cities with an easyEverything are heavenly, because it is just SO good! Although these large “take over the world” corporations used to scare me a little, the easy group (easyJet, easyCar etc.) make travelling that much easier and cheaper, and I really appreciate what they are doing. When I first used an easyEverything in Rome I was amazed at the number of things available and the cheap prices. Most Internet cafes try and rip you off… but here you had everything you wanted, including an air-conditioned escape from the heat, cold drinks and cheap Internet access. Plus when you’re waiting for that late night train, or you’ve got no place to go at night (!) the easyEverything is there to welcome you with open arms. And it’s usually right in the centre of things! I sound too much like an ad. The one drawback for me: there aren’t enough of them!!! And also, as of yet, you cannot use your user code outside of the country you bought it in, which is something that may change with the Euro being introduced. Enough babbling. Now, down to business: *** How They Charge You *** Basically, easyEverything charges on the basis that the more people who are online at the time the higher the prices are. A small TV screen at the entrance shows you the current rate, ranging from roughly (depending on where you are) £1 for 4 hours, to £1 for 30 mins. They also work on a ticketing system whereby you purchase a user code for £2 minimum, and can use it anytime you like for the next month. It can also be recharged as much as you like. The computers simply remember how much money is left on that user code and then works out (according to the current rate) how much time you have left for that session. THIS IS IMPORTANT: The best bit however is the
hidden rule of easyEverything. Now, when you logon you accept a thing that states the rate at your time of logging on. This means that easyEverything may not charge you any higher than the rate specified when you log on. So while the rate may be becoming dearer yours will not, as long as you’re online. For example… You log on when it’s £1 for 2 hours. While logged on it falls to 3 hours, so your rate also falls. Also while you’re online it rises again gradually to 1 hour, but your rate rises and stops at 2 hours. So if you logon early in the morning when the rate is at it’s lowest and not many people are there… you can maintain the lowest rate well into the day. £2 literally buys you 8 hours! WOOHOOOO!!!! *** What’s Available *** Internet Chat Webcam (streaming or digital photos) A Café with hot and cold drinks, snacks etc. Internet phone calls Microsoft applications, eg. Office Printing in colour or black and white CD burning Plus storage space on the computer while you’re online and the ability to download *** Current Locations *** The following cities currently have the luxury of having an easyEverything: Amsterdam (2), Antwerp, Barcelona (2), Berlin, Brussels, Edinburgh, Glasgow, London (5), Madrid, Manchester, Munich, New York, Paris, Rome, Rotterdam … and keep an eye out for one near you, as I’m sure it won’t be too long before everyone wants one! Visit www.easyeverything.com for more details and location maps.
The most underestimated instrument EVER! Now not many people know anything about the bassoon (unfortunately dooyoo cannot spell, unless they've turned french), so I thought I would give you all a bit of a rundown. *** THE INSTRUMENT *** The bassoon and the contrabassoon are both members of the woodwind family and are related to the oboe in that they are double-reeded instruments. What later developed into the bassoon was begun about 500 years ago with an instrument called the dulican, meaning soft and sweet. Then in the mid 1600s, French instrumentalists created a four piece instrument with the english name of Bassoon and the German name Fagott (laugh as much as you want, I've heard it all before!), meaning bundle of sticks. Gradually a system of keys was added to allow it to play more notes, which was mostly redesigned in the 1800s by a German named Heckel creating the most widely used type of bassoon today. The modern bassoon is 2.4 metres in length (but is doubled up on itself), has five pieces plus a reed, and a range of about 3.5 octaves. *** MY EXPERIENCE *** I have played the bassoon for eight years, and have loved it from the very beginning. People always ask why I chose the bassoon, and the real reason is my singing teacher suggested I take it up. Since then it has become the main focus of the music in my life. I have since played with several different orchestras, both in school and professionally, and have discovered it to be an essential instrument to the orchestra: why then does no-one know what it is? Well, for one thing, it doesn't often have the big tune, or when it does people just don't think about who is playing. The bassoon is also given the title of the clown of the orchestra due to its ability to play dry, short notes very quickly. (Listen to Dukas: The Sorcerer's Apprentice - it's on Fantasia). The truth is however, I have found it to be capabl
e of so much more with a range of expression very similar to a human voice of the male range. *** WHERE TO LISTEN FOR IT *** The bassoon has been used in the orchestra since the Baroque period of music, often doubling the cello or bass line. Yet one of the greatest champions of bassoon music was Vivaldi who wrote over 38 concerti for bassoon and string orchestra. Mozart's only surviving concerto for bassoon is probably the most widely heard of the repertoire and demonstrates the wide range of tone the intstrument is capable of. Also, listen out for the very opening of Stravinsky's "The Rite of Spring" where the bassoon plays what sounds like an impossibly high passage. Prokofiev's Peter and the Wolf casts the bassoon as Peter's grumpy Grandfather. Other famous orchestral excerpts include the Overture from Mozart's "Marriage of Figaro" and "In the Hall of the Mountain King" from Grieg's Peer Gynt Suite. *** IN THE END... *** I have to say there is no other instrument with the ability (if played well) to capture so many different moods. Keep an eye out next time you're in the CD store, or listen out for that very unique sound when listening to an orchestra. It's an amazing instrument and once you fall in love with it, you'll understand why it is so much more than a clown and completely underestimated.
I spent five years at boarding school in Melbourne. During that time I passed through a series of three different boarding facilities: each of which really progressed on to the next! The first was a separate boarding house for middle school students (yrs 7 & 8). This house had six students to a room, in bunk beds that had a cupboard and desk underneath your bed. Very cramped, but I guess economic in terms of space. The worst thing about these living conditions was the smell of living with five other boys... all of whom would come back from sport and leave their dirty clothes all over the floor. If you know me at all... I was wiggin. Anyway... the other delightful point about these facilities was the shower was a communal, no curtains shower! hmmm... don´t drop the soap boys! I then moved into the senior house, where I had three others in my room... a normal bed and my own parition of space, which I must admit makes a huge difference. Also the showers were separated by dividers... but still no curtain. And then... in 1998 a new senior boarding house was opened with only single or double rooms. In yr 9 and 10 you shared a room and then in 11 and 12 it was a completely private accomodation. Plus for every twelve people there were two shower cubicles and toilets, a fridge, a microwave, a kettle, a toaster and a constant supply of bread, butter, spreads... we even had internet connections in every room. FANTASTIC! well... if some of the other stories I´ve read are anything to go by, it´s one of the most advanced and comfortable boarding houses around. Concerning food, the problem here is that a catering company is usually hired by the college to run this dept. I know many colleges at Melbourne Uni use the same suppliers and all it depends on is whether the "good" cook is on that night! But of course all of this luxury comes at a price... but that is the same with all forms of accomodation. So i
f you´re prepared to fork out the extra money, the facilites will be grand. Unfortunately, living in a community like that is not just about facilities. Getting on with your roommates and neighbours is very important, and many a time must you grit your teeth, smile and bear it. Having friendly staff also helps alot, as it is often necessary to have someone to talk to... especially if you have just left home. Keep all of these things in mind when choosing a residential college. A lot of the time, whether you enjoy it or not will stem from the attitude you bring to it. Throw yourself in and meet people, and I don´t think you can regret it.
Many times has it been mentioned, but many are too afraid to admit that they have been on The Original Sound of Music Tour! While in Salzburg, I thought it wise to give it a try, especially as I would probably not return to the city for a long time. The day began with me watching the film at my hostel, just to refresh my memory and annoy every one else by singing along. Conveniently, tickets for the tour where available at Reception... so during "Somewhere in my youth or childhood etc etc." (the WORST song in the film) I went and bought a ticket for the tour. At 1:40pm, a coach picked me up from the hostel to take me to Mirabellplatz, along with a girl called Siobhan (it looks so odd written) who had, apart from that morning, NEVER seen The Sound of Music! I was horrified. Having grown up doh-a-deering and climbing every mountain in an incredibly bad falsetto, I couldn´t comprehend such a fate. It was here that the tour began by taken a look at the Schloss Mirabell gardens that feature in Do-Re-Mi. Our tourguide Dave, who had seen the film almost as many times as me, pointed out that eight scenes were filmed here. From there we boarded the coach again (a very comfortable, airconditioned one at that), and headed for Castle Leopoldskron... which is obscurely the back of the Von Trapp family home... where the children fall in the river, the Baroness and Max drink pink lemonade, and they play that hilarious game of ball where the children piff it at the baroness!!! HA! Take that bitch! ahem... sorry, get a little carried away sometimes. Meanwhile, we also saw the front of the house (only from a distance however), Nonnberg abbey (also from a distance), the Gazebo (which is now nowhere near its original position... besides, the dance scene was filmed in a studio), and the Church at Mondsee which was used for the filming of the wedding. But now for the best bit. Not only do you see these sights, but the c
oaches take you into the surrounding countryside that inspired Maria so much. If for nothing else, go on the tour for this! It´s such beautiful landscape, and the tourguide even puts on a recording of the REAL Von Trapp family performing local folk music in german (I thought it was a bit strange to be singing about tea with jam and bread when you´re from Austria). You get taken to St. Gilgen, which is a small town on one of the Lakes of the Salzkammergut - it´s connection to the Sound of Music was not apparent to me, but I´m sure it´s vitally important! Unfortunately, as with most tours, there are time restrictions, so our stay in this region was shortlived. But we got the idea. Our guide also pointed out some local sites as we went along... Nannerl Mozart´s house in St. Gilgen (Mozart´s sister), and the Dragon Wall, where legend has it the strip of woodland is a sleeping dragon who wakes up every now and again and scorches the town of Mondsee, which conviniently has burnt to the ground at least ten times. Sadly, the tour came to a close all too early for me (it last´s about four hours). As a parting gift, we were all given a packet of Edelweiss seeds to take home with us... may they bloom and grow forever. So when you´re in Salzburg, do make the effort to go on the Tour. It´s only 400 schillings, or 350 if you buy the ticket from your Youth Hostel (see my op on the YoHo). Tickets can be bought from the stand at Mirabellplatz where the tours depart from. If in doubt, remember to climb every mountain, follow every rainbow, till you find your dream...
The is of course about the YoHo International youth hostel of Salzburg. A crazy and exciting place to stay while visiting this amazing city. If you haven´t heard of it, then you obviously haven´t been on the youth hostel circuit long enough... it is THE party hostel of Austria. I arrived at the hostel early in the morning, only to find the lady behind the counter not letting me check in until 10am... so don´t worry about catching that early train! Once I did check in, she was very friendly and welcoming, and had lost my reservation... but luckily she said it didn´t matter. Immediately upon entering my sixbed dorm, I noticed how similar to other hostels it was...three bunk beds, a communal cupboard (lockers were outside the room), mirror and sink, but no private bathroom... so no change there... but did notice the wafting sounds of THE SOUND OF MUSIC! From deep in the depths of the building I could hear Julie Andrews and imagined her flailing arms upon those green hilltops. It was not, as I hoped, the large-but-ever-so-homely cook singing to her heart´s content, but only the daily screening of the film in the bar below my room. Daily. EVERY day. That combined with the reduced price Sound of Music Tour, the photos from the film and its locations on the wall, and many images taken of the REAL VonTrapp family led me to believe that this film might possibly have some connection with the local area. The bar turned out to be the hub of night life in the city... beers were cheap (and local) and there was many a sing along of classics such as "American Pie", "Land Down Under", "What´s going on?!" and the much-loved "Wannabe". This goes on until the small hours of the morning... please don´t try to sleep. Many a table and chair is accosted by the drunken, stamping feet of Aussie girls doing their best not to be shown up by the boys.. drinking as many Stiegls as one could buy. Thank God, t
his being a youth hostel, the money available for such things isn´t very much. Unfortunately, after a night of such debauchery, one is forced to emerge before 10am if you wish to keep your bed for another night (you can´t pay in advance). Consequently, it is a common sight to see many ashen-faced persons downstairs trying to pay for another night... bedhair, pyjamas and all! One more setback is the extra 10 schillings for a hot shower (50p)... you buy little tokens that you put in these slots.. and it then fires hot water at you for six minutes. And then abrupty as it started, it´s over. All in all, an enjoyable stay, as long as you´re in the mood to socialise and do a bit of singing (sound of music or pub songs!). The food is excellent and very cheap, offering all meals and snack machines. Plus a bar open all day long! To reach it from the station is a five minute walk... just make sure you orientate yourself before leaving the station, unlike me who started out in entirely the wrong direction! Turn left when you exit, and left again when you reach the underpass. Then when you reach Paracelsusstrasse, turn right and the YoHo is not far down that road... there is clear signage, so you should be right!