Three suitcases. Seven pairs of shoes. Two nights in a palace.

Oh, and one Foxhound. Not just any Foxhound, but you know who.

And not just any palace, but Schloss Leopoldskron, the palace made famous in The Sound of Music.*  This reason for the visit was Anna Grace’s swan song honor symphony orchestra appearance, hosted this year by AIS Vienna. Except, performance venues in the world’s most livable city are expensive to rent; and, the city lacks youth accommodations large enough for 225 student musicians. So, to Salzburg we traveled.

If I might, a word about this festival. More than 1.000 musicians from over 100 international schools submit a blind audition for the approximate 225 seats divided between the honor band, the string ensemble, and the honor symphony orchestra. Submissions are due in October, with announcements out just a couple of weeks later. From November to the concert gathering the students practice independently; and in the final two days before the performances everyone comes together to make the magic happen.

When Anna Grace began at AISV in Fall 2012 she was encouraged to audition for the European honor orchestra (the orchestras are separated by continent at the middle school level); and she did so successfully. Only I traveled to that first honor orchestra in Zurich in March 2013, as we were still relatively new to international life and did not really understand just how phenomenal these festivals were. Following her remaining two middle school years of successful auditions, Tony and I eagerly awaited her honor orchestra performances in Frankfurt and The Hague.

At the high school level international schools worldwide compete together (though the U.S. international schools do not participate for some reason), so the challenge to earn a chair is greater. Anna Grace was awarded chairs for the festivals in Doha; Luxembourg; last year’s most epic adventure in Singapore; and this year, of course, in Salzburg.

No flights, no visas, no time changes. Just a train down the road three days prior for this final honor symphony orchestra performance. Her musician friends from around the world had been messaging their departures to Austria for a day or so, everyone being excited for this concert.

Tony and I (and the Foxhound) departed Vienna early on the morning before the concert, our plan being to enjoy lunch atop Zwölferhorn in St. Gilgen before continuing on to Salzburg. Though our summer wander in Tirol last July did wonders to ameliorate my fear of ascending in cable cars, I am not completely cured. On the approach to the “nostalgic” cable car my heart sunk when I spied the teeny tiny boxes dangling on cables! But I calmed myself, relatively speaking, and climbed into the vintage sardine can for the eternal sixteen minute ascent.

We wandered just a bit, soaking up the sunshine and fresh air, before the four-pawed member of our group decided it was time we follow him to the Hütte for lunch.

Outside of the Hütte, skis parking.

Inside, savory bowls of Goulash for us; and a plain Frankfurter for our canine guide.

Camera-clicking on the descent through the spotty gondola windows. We observed plenty of Ibex trails but no Ibex themselves. So much for these wild goats being social animals.

Then, on to Salzburg!

After checking in to the lovely, lovely palace we took a stroll around the lake before dinner. Perhaps the hotel terrace looks like a familiar movie scene? 😉

Along our stroll we ran “afowl” of some Gangster Geese who harassed Tony.

There are two restaurants around the lake, and I requested reservations at each for the two nights of this brief getaway. The menu at the first was both Salzburg and eclectic, and most-deserving of its Falstaff one-fork rating. To begin we shared the salmon poke bowl (definitely not Salzburg cooking). Love at first sriracha-dressed bite.

For the main course Tony decided upon one of the house specialties, steak; while I selected the steak tips “with lime creme foam” and served atop pappardelle. Ambrosial is the best way to describe our meal. With no appetite remaining for even a shared after-dinner sweet we made the short walk back to the palace for the night.

The view whilst out with CTF on his morning constitutional. I could rather easily appreciate this each and every morning.

The palace terrace where the Baroness Schraeder attempted to play ball with the von Trapp children.

Another view I could appreciate each and every morning, that of our breakfast room, once upon a time the palace ballroom.

Prosecco with breakfast. There is a word to describe this, and that word is, civilized.

Within the Schloss there are several rooms open to guests, one of them being the library of Max Reinhardt, a famous Austrian theater director and founder of the Salzburg Festival. Herr Reinhardt purchased the palace in 1918 and together with Salzburg artisans restored its former glory.

“Asian Rooms” were the decorating rage in the 19th century; this one I found particularly striking, and pondered how I might sneak that rug home with me.

The most well-known room of the Schloss, perhaps is the Venetian Room. Its style was replicated for, once again, The Sound of Music.

Photo courtesy of the Internet.

In the hours following breakfast and before the late afternoon concert we wandered Salzburg’s AltStadt with CTF, dropping in and out of shops and otherwise enjoying the pleasant weather with no need to sightsee anything in particular.

And then, it was concert time in the resplendent Mozarteum Salzburg. The Honor Band performed first, paying homage to the former empire with the pieces Puszta (in reference to the plains of Hungary) and Under the Double Eagle, a march by Austrian composer (Josef) Wagner, in addition to a couple of other selections.  The String Ensemble followed with a Serenade that was lilting and pleasant.

Our personal favorite, however biased we might be was the performance of the Honor Symphony Orchestra. Our favorite violinist was concert mistress for the first of the two pieces, Bizet’s L’Arlesienne Suite No. I. The second piece performed was Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet Fantasy Overture. Absolutely splendid.

Several of Anna Grace’s classmates and their families, along with her favorite coach attended the concert and were humbled by how impressively these musicians performed. The two-plus hours raced by us, and before we were ready to admit that the evening had ended, it had.

For twelve years the melodic sounds of the violin have filled our home (okay, perhaps not so much in the first year); and for the last seven we have been fortunate to celebrate Anna Grace’s success in beautiful cities around the globe; and this last one, in our adopted country of Austria. A perfect finale.

We bid our violinist Brava! and sat for dinner at the second restaurant on the lake, another eclectic place for which I was most happy to have made a reservation. Our shared Vorspeisen, Sesame Crusted Tuna with Mango Salsa made us happy; the decidedly quaffable Slovenian wine I selected to pair with made us even happier.

And all too rudely our weekend was over on Sunday. The first Wiener Asshat horned me for driving 70 in a 70 zone exiting the A1 into Vienna; and a second Wiener Asshat flashed their lights before passing me while I was driving 50 in the 50 zone on the Hohenstraße. Good to be home, I suppose.

*It is no secret that Salzburgers, and Austrians in general outwardly despise the movie. It is also no secret that these same people inwardly cherish the money brought into the country from said movie tourism. To paraphrase Max Detweiler, “(Austria would) miss the money (they)could have made (from the tourism).”