- It’s rather strange that in Italy, where so many rules are ever so gently skirted, the non-smoking policies are strictly observed in bars and restaurants, while in Austria smoking is allowed everywhere. I had forgotten that there are no smoking restrictions in most places in Austria. And boy do those Austrians love to smoke - the air at the Cafe Bazar on a rainy Friday afternoon was a delicate shade of nicotine gray. The other thing that I’ve noticed in Austria is the number of drunks - particularly near the train stations - you see on the streets. A drunk is something you very rarely see in Italy unless its a young tourist freed from the restrictions of home - generally Italians don’t drink to get drunk but as an enjoyment.
- After 30 odd years - and I do mean odd - I guess Laurent and I have habits that we don’t even think about anymore. On Saturday afternoon we were having lunch at Nordsee - a fast food fish restaurant chain - and a young lad at the next table was watching us with some bemusement. I wasn’t finishing my vegetables and Laurent was absent-mindedly spearing roast potatoes from my plate as we talked. I guess every old couple has these little quirks..
- I was in Salzburg BTSOM (Before the Sound of Music) - my first visit was in August of 1969 when most people were coming for the Festival or to visit the house were little Wolfgang sprang into the world presenting it with a symphony he had written during delivery. Two years later the town had been taken over by blue-haired ladies of both sexes, some dragging long-suffering spouses along, on their pilgrimage to see the sacred spot where Christopher Plummer had kissed Julie Andrews, the place where they were married and the Von Trapp family schloss. Now almost 40 years later it is still a big industry in town - if it doesn’t have Mozart’s picture on it, guaranteed it will have Julie Andrews skipping over hills that are alive! Even the world famous Salzburg Marionette Theatre does a wooden puppet production - though a few cynics ask how that is any different from the film?
- People can be deceiving - take the audience at the Festival. They appear to be a conservative, even slightly dour, group of upper middle class people in the 60-65 range. That is not to say there aren’t young people in the audience its just that this sort of Festival and its rather pricy tickets do attract a certain demographic. The dress is conservative and there is often a whiff of mothballs as evening dresses and shawls are pulled out of armoires for the annual airing. When not sporting tuxedoes Gentlemen tend to wear suits, even to the morning concerts, and many Austrian men wear their formal trachten and the ladies are garbed in elaborate dirndls which can be stunningly beautiful but are still very traditional. When you reach your seat it is still considered good manners to greet the people on either side of you with a good morning or evening and even to say auf wiedersen on leaving - though the strolling counter clockwise in the reception room I recall from my first visit has given way to the general bustle of any theatre lobby.
As I said very traditional and conservative - until it comes time to pay tribute to the performers. At that point decorum is thrown of the Untersberg - cheers ring out, feet are stamped rhythmically and the applauding and bravoing can go on for a good 10 or 15 minutes. This is an audience that knows its music and what it likes - and when they like a performer they are not shy about letting them know. One of the joys of this Festival is seeing the smiles of the musicians as they are called out for the fifth or sixth time. There must be a great feeling of satisfaction to feel that much appreciation and love sent in your direction.
- Its been a long time since I have stayed in a hotel like the Bristol - probably the last time was over 25 years ago at the old Plaza Hotel in New York. The Bristol is still family owned and operated and nothing, and I do mean nothing, is too good for its guests. Frau Doctor Hubner, the charming owner, and her son seem to be on duty 24 hours - though I’m sure they do get some rest. In conversation with the Frau Doctor she mentioned that the first thing she looked for in an employee was a love of people, everything else could be taught. They do not have a large staff but a very dedicated and exceptional one and there isn’t one of them that doesn’t live up to her requirement. Take Gunter, the young bar man. Tall, slender, boyish, a bit gangly, he has a smile that lights up the room and an open desire to make sure his guests are happy - and boy can he mix a martini.
01 guigno - Santi Marcellino e Pietro