Fiddlesticks’ 2008 May Tour to Austria

Following Lincolnshire in 2007, a more ambitious May Tour was planned for 2008 – Austria. Mike and Melody, knowing the area around Salzburg, undertook the planning. So it was that in late May one group of dancers and musicians flew to Salzburg while another group travelled by minibus, transporting garlands, sticks, musical instruments and heavy luggage. The adventures of the minibus party are not recounted here – they would require a volume of their own – but they did eventually arrive safely at the Berghof Danter on Mount Lichtenberg,, our accommodation for the weekend.

The serious business of dancing was preceded, for early arrivals, by a visit to Hallstadt and a trip down the salt mine. This included the excitement of descending at high speed via a miner’s slide, with a souvenir photograph for purchase at the exit.

Our first morning’s dancing was in Salzburg, in the Mozart Platz and AlterMarkt Platz. Such beautiful weather! A long lunch break allowed time for a sightseeing ride in a horse-drawn carriage. Five of us piled into the open carriage, along with a set of 9 garlands, a basket of our decorated sticks and all our personal kit bags. A bit of a squeeze! Julie sat up front next to the driver pointing out locations from The Sound of Music.

Off to the nearby Kapitel Platz for the first dance session in the afternoon. A good audience, but it turned out that some UK tourists initially mistook us for traditional Austrian dancers. With our green skirts, at home we often get mistaken for Irish dancers.

After more dancing in Mozart Platz, we started off on the 15-minutes’ walk to the Mirabelle Palace and Gardens, stopping to look round the shop selling decorated eggs, a speciality of the area. This had to be done in relays, leaving one person outside, as we daren’t wander among the stacks of eggs with our bulky garlands. Further on, a small street market was the source of paintings of a couple of our dance spots, as souvenir presents.

The Mirabelle Gardens provided, first, a cafe for refreshments, and, second, a lovely setting for our dancing. Of course we had to have a group photo taken on “the Sound of Music steps”.

The final dancing of the day took place back at the Berghof Danter, followed by a well-earned dinner and a music session.

A late breakfast on Sunday was preceded (or followed, by late risers) by a climb to the viewing tower further up Mount Lichtenberg for superb views of the surrounding countryside. We then loaded up the minibuses for the short drive to St Georgen where we danced for the townspeople, who then kindly provided lunch for us.

Then off to St Gilgen where we caught the cable car up Mount Zwolferhorn – fantastic views on the way up. A wooden platform provided a suitable dance area, and there was even a small audience. Some members of the party then climbed to the actual summit, while two members decided to walk down a little way to the cafe where they purchased the last two Magnum ice creams. Not too popular with the summiteers arriving subsequently.

Back down in the cable car and off in the buses to St Wolfgang where we walked down to the jetty. A good-sized audience watched this, our final performance of the day. After refreshments at a nearby cafe, needed for the steep climb back to the buses, we returned to Berghof Danter and dinner.

Monday – our final day in Austria. The buses were loaded for our departure to Mondsee church, used for Maria’s wedding in the Sound of Music film. Well worth spending a while looking round the ornate interior. A few dances outside were followed by a re-enactment of the wedding for Julie’s benefit.

Next stop: Hellbrunn Palace and a tour of the Water Gardens. Some surprises were in store for us here. Good job it was a hot day and our clothes dried out quickly. Lunch was followed by dancing near the Orangery and at the Sound of Music summer house, looking rather smaller in real life than in the film.

Return to Berghof Danter for a final evening meal, collection of luggage and travel to the airport for our journey back to the UK. End of Tour. Mike’s provisions for wet weather had not been needed at all. Many thanks to the Anglo-Austrian Society for their support.

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