This afternoon I am going to the Rent a Cook culinary school run by Swiss chef Manuel Wagner and his delightful wife. They cater out of their Salzburg kitchen, but have an international reputation and most recently catered a formula one race in Australia. Today we are learning to make apple strudel from scratch, no philo dough, no pre-pealed apples. It was a lovely afternoon and we started with prosecco on the outside patio. Step one, check. After going inside, we donned a fashion apron and each made our own dough. Manuel had done a little pre-measuring on a few of the ingredients. He made a large apple strudel for us to try upon completion and we get to take our personal creation home with us. I was pretty successful on the dough. Step two, check.
Now came time to peal the apples while the dough rose. I was handed a peeler like nothing I had ever seen before. My first apple looked like a shredded carrot; they took it way and had to show me how to use the peeler. Peeling for dummies. Step Three, not so good. We had a community apple bin and I eventually was able to make a contribution. We added lemon juice to keep the apples from browning.
To the apples we added raisins (that had been cooked in butter, rum, and sugar), cinnamon, more sugar, and more rum. After the dough had been left alone to rise about 30 minutes, we rolled it out on lots of flour, first with a rolling pin and then by hand. It was to be as thin as possible. Then we placed the dough on a folded tablecloth and began loading. First the dough was spread with melted butter. Next came bread crumbs that had been fried in butter. The breadcrumbs will help soak up all the juices from the apples and prevent a soggy strudel. Then we added a layer of ground hazelnuts and finally a layer of apples. Check.
Next was the really fun part. After starting the first fold, we rolled the strudel using the tablecloth. Close the long side with more melted butter and then close up the ends. Finally, the strudel was transferred to a greased cookie sheet and the top brushed with a beaten egg and more butter and baked. Check Check.
Did I mention that they were refilling our prosecco glass throughout the process?
The chef’s creation was a little ahead of ours. We watched him then did our own. While ours baked. We got to taste the two large ones he had made. When the strudel comes out of the oven, let it cool and then dust with sugar. Serve warm or cold. We had ours with a warm vanilla sauce and fresh cream. He had told us our strudel would be smaller, but really it turned out pretty large and almost didn’t fit in the box. I really hadn’t been that excited about the class, but I enjoyed myself. And…I graduated! I got a diploma with a wax seal and everything. A great afternoon.
The next morning was our Sound of Music Tour. Seven of us were picked up at our hotel and taken to Schloss Mirabell to board the large tour bus. I had actually learned a little about the movie before the tour. I guess this is the part where I warn everyone that the rest of this post is going to concentrate on the movie and how it fits in with Salzburg, so if you are not interested you can op out of the rest of the post. If you love the movie, but want to continue to believe that it was all accurate and that there was no “Hollywood Magic” used, you may want to op out too.
And just a little background on how Natasha fits in with all this. I have always loved this movie. It was my favorite musical from the time I was a little girl and heard the Broadway recording from a album my parents owned to watching the movie every Christmas on TV with my family. In high school, it was a dream come true when I was cast as Liesl (oldest daughter, 16 going on 17) in our choir production. I was destined to visit this city and take this tour.
How convenient that our hotel, the Schloss Leopoldskron was the site of the exterior scenes. The beautiful rear gardens and the gate to the water with the seahorse statuary appear several times in the film. The gazebo where I-sorry Liesl-sang was built on the grounds of the property. It was left after the production was over but the visitors jumping over the fence to take pictures and dance inside disturbed the conference guests so the gazebo was removed in the 90s. It has been rebuilt at Schloss Hellbrunn near the entrance to the 60-acre parkland that includes the zoo. It is now locked after an 80-year-old woman fell and broke her hip when she was jumping from bench to bench.
Inside the Schloss, the Venetian Room and its beautiful glass was in the inspiration for the ballroom scene. It was recreated on a Hollywood set after the Austrian officials saw all the equipment in the room and got afraid something would be broken during filming. The Venetian Room is among the public rooms open for viewing by hotel guests. Since the seven of us are all guests at the Schloss, we are ahead of all our fellow tour participants. I should mention that the Schloss has one more connection. One of its most famous owners was Max Reinhart who championed the Salzburg Musical Festival; he was the inspiration for the character of “Uncle Max” in the film.
In my last post I talked about Nonnberg Abbey where Maria entered the convent and where she and Captain Von Trapp were later married. They were able to film in the courtyard and at the gate of the Abbey, but not in the interior. They actually used a church in the lake district about 45 minutes from Salzburg to film the wedding scene in the S of M. We went out to the lake district during our tour and spent just over an hour in the village where the wedding scene was filmed. When you look at the picture you will remember those steps.
One of things I had hoped to see on the tour was the meadow where Maria made her famous twirl in the meadow in the mountains. I was all ready to recreate that. In fact there was a woman on the tour in her 30s with her husband in tow who had come in costume to take all her photos. Unfortunately on a four-hour tour there was not time to make it all the way out to the mountains. We had to settle for beautiful views of the lake district with the Alps in the background.
Back in town we drove past the house that was used as the Von Trapp’s Schloss in the film. The road that runs just in front of it is closed to vehicular traffic, so we saw the house from a distance. The Schloss Leopoldskron itself never appears in the film, only its grounds. Next to the Villa used is the tree lined street where the children were hanging down as their father drove by.
The timing of the events in the film was more dramatic than the reality. Maria and Captain Von Trapp were actually married during the 1920s.
When the Captain lost his money in the depression, the family began singing to pay the bills. However, the Captain, as nobility, never sang; he did however come on stage for the ovation. The Captain was drafted by the Nazis to serve in their Navy which he did not want to do. To avoid the commission, the family dressed for a hike in the mountains, but actually went to a train station and escaped to Italy. Their butler Franz was a Nazi, but he was also devoted to the family. He actually helped them escape.
The borders were still open when they left. If they had actually climbed over Untersberg Mountain, they would have been in Germany not Switzerland. (The wrong way to go.) After leaving Italy, they went to England and then toured Scandinavia singing until they raised enough money to book passage to the United States. When they arrived in the US, they only had $4. They eventually settled in Stowe, Vermont. The family received so many visitors they built a Lodge which they opened to guests. Maria and the Captain had three children of their own (in addition to the seven he had with his first wife). The youngest child, a son, Johannes, runs the Lodge. And in case you are wondering, yes I have stayed there. It is lovely in the winter and has an excellent cross country ski course which Boris tried.
When we visited the Lodge, one of the children depicted in the movie, Maria, was still alive. Maria was the basis for the character of Louisa. Maria the governess came to live with the Von Trapps to care for Maria (aka Louisa) as she was sick with scarlet fever. (The Captain’s first wife died from scarlet fever.) Ironically, Maria was actually the one of the seven original children to live the longest. She died less than a month ago at age 99.
Our tour ended at the Schloss Mirabell. We walked through the entrance and straight into the Pegasus Fountain the children danced around. We saw the “Do Re Mi” steps and found the dwarf statute that all the children pat the head of. Finally, we found the trellised walkway that Maria dances down. This one definitely would look better in the spring or summer.
My dream of seeing The Sound of Music’s Salzburg fulfilled, I walked back to the Schloss to meet up with Boris after his meetings, singing all the way…