Is it Australia or Austria? Venice or Vienna? So many people asked me which place I was going to and with similar names, I guess that can be hard to keep straight. Australia is a continent; Austria is a country in Europe. Venice has the water streets and Vienna has… well, where do I start? Vienna, at one point in time, was the center of the world when it came to art and music. Unless you’ve studied art history, you may not know much about what’s there. But really, the entire country of Austria is worth mentioning! At least Hollywood thought so! From the east side to the very tip of the west Austrian border, here are a few noteworthy places that you might recognize from the movies:
Just last year, Reese Witherspoon featured in a fun comedic thriller with heartthrobs Chris Pine and Tom Hardy called This Means War. In one of the scenes, Chris Pine’s character tries to woo Witherspoon by showing off an impressive collection of Gustav Klimt‘s most famous paintings. Klimt just happened to be her favorite artist and Chris Pine just happen to have a collection of Klimt masterpieces in a random shady warehouse.
Sorry Reese, but those weren’t the real ones. Gustav Klimt’s real painting of The Kiss is housed in the Belvedere in Vienna. Here you can see the actual painting in all of its glory. Recently The Kiss has become quite iconic, but unless you’re standing in front of it and gazing at the amazing color contrasts and sparkles of gold, you can’t get the full effect. I got as close and I could and I was amazed by the different textures and brilliant tones of color that Klimt used. In the Belvedere, you can also find lots of other astonishing art painted by Klimt as well as artwork by Egon Schiele and Claude Monet.
If you’re American and you’ve ever visited Austria, don’t deny that you were probably singing “The hills are alive…” in your head. Thank you, Julie Andrews. Maybe you haven’t been there yet so all that you know of Austria is taken from watching The Sound of Music.
Ironically, if you ask most Austrian locals if they have seen or even heard of The Sound of Music, they have no idea what you’re taking about. They may not have seen the movie, but some of the locals got smart and made a bus tour out of the film for the Americans. For about 40 Euro you can go on The Sound of Music tour and see the church where Maria was married, visit the gazebo where Liesl and Ralf confess their love for each other, as well as visit other significant movie sights. When I was there, I was too cheap to pay the 40 Euros, so some fellow students and I found the most important Sound of Music spots ourselves and made our own tour of the place.
Let me tell you – the hills are alive. There is a huge castle on top of the hill that overlooks the river splitting the city down below. I hiked up to the top and watched the sun set, just as an old Austrian princess would have on a daily basis. When I descended into the town again, there was an evening outdoor festival to watch and lots of little shops to explore. Such a picturesque place to be!
Remember the scene in Quantum of Solace when Bond is running around the stage to spy on the bad guy? Well if you didn’t notice, there was an incredible opera going on in the background of his stealthy mission. To make it even more incredible, this opera, Giacomo Puccini’s Tosca, was being performed on a stage in the water. Pretty cool right? Well sorry to burst your bubble if you thought otherwise, but James Bond is not real and neither are a lot of what is going on in his movie. However, this stage on the water is real!
Located on Lake Constance in a small Austrian village called Bregenz, an entire venue was built on the coast here. Bregenz is right on the tip of Austria and across the water from Germany and Switzerland. During the summer, the locals host the Bregenzer Festspiele, or Bregenz Festival Plays. The set designs are magnificent and the performances fully utilize the fact that they are on a floating stage on the water. I saw Verdi’s Aida on this stage and it was unlike any other performance I had been to. During the show, they lifted huge (previously submerged) set parts up out of the water and above our heads. Dancers pranced in and out of the water and a giant elephant statue floated in for Aida’s triumphal entry. It was phenomenal.