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Little Spouse On The Prairie: Farfegnugen

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I’ve loved Mozart since I was a teenager when that fabulous movie, Amadeus, came out. I’m not sure about its historically accuracy, but that film sure went a long way toward inspiring me to appreciate classical music.

I’ve loved Mozart since I was a teenager when that fabulous movie, Amadeus, came out. I’m not sure about its historically accuracy, but that film sure went a long way toward inspiring me to appreciate classical music.

So, while we were in Austria, I really wanted to visit “The City of Mozart,” Salzburg. Though it was a two-hour drive from the mountain village in which we stayed, the adults in the car all believed that it would be worth the trip.

We were correct. The drive wasn’t bad, and we got to travel on the autobahn, the German highway without a speed limit (we had to cut across part of Germany to get to Salzburg, Austria).

As listeners can imagine, this pleased my teen son, although it didn’t turn out to be as glamorous as we had hoped. The friend who was driving did manage to get our little rental up to 120 miles per hour, even with the weight we had all gained, the souvenirs that were mounding up despite our best intentions, and the 72 bags of European junk food littering the poor little SUV’s floor.

As we traveled along, we kept noting signs for a town called Ausfahrt. I mean, we went 50 or 60 miles and saw probably 100 signs for Ausfahrt. I was willing to put up with the bodily function jokes the first 15 to 20 times we saw such a sign. But, for crying out loud, after the 16th and 17th time of hearing someone say, “Who ‘ausfahrted,’” I was pretty much ready to get past this town, or apparently, huge, German city, since it continued for miles upon miles.

We couldn’t believe we’d never heard of this famous place. Even though we have German heritage, not a-one of us was familiar with Ausfahrt. Finally, we looked up the town on a phone.

And that’s when we made the embarrassing discovery that “ausfahrt” means “exit” in German. We all had a good laugh, and the bodily function jokes doubled, because now the kids (and those with a 13-year-old mentality, namely Joel), kept saying things like, “Pull over! I need to ‘ausfahrt.’”

We decided we had better review some basic German vocabulary after that. My grandparents were German and they taught me to count, fed me German foods, and called me names like, “Snicklefritz.” How hard could this be? We practiced in the car. “Zeitgeist!” someone shouted from the back. “Gesundheit!” replied the driver. My thoughtful reply was, “wunderkind.” We felt prepared for future encounters after our cram session.

We arrived in Salzburg, Austria no worse for wear and ready to try our newly rehearsed German. The literal translation for Salzburg is, “Salt City,” and was so named due to its location on the Salza River, which got its name from its status as a shipping route for salt.

We lined up at the first Mozart museum to purchase tickets. I asked if there was a discount for large parties, and the attendant said, “Nein!”

I was impressed. That was quite a bit off.

Seeing the actual violins and fortepianos that Mozart played gave me goosebumps. We got to see his little piano workbook, with his father’s handwritten note that read something like, “On this day, my five-year-old son Wolfgang mastered this piece.”

And the score was way more difficult than those that most much older, advanced pianists can play! I vowed right then and there that my kids were all going to start practicing eight hours a day, six days a week. I was sure the only thing holding them back from being prodigies is lack of practice.

The rather humble items the Mozart family toured Europe with made history come alive. Wolfgang, his father, and his genius sister traveled in a horse-drawn coach with no air conditioning, no radio, and no video games for weeks. Both children practiced nearly constantly when they were stopped in a city.

We got back in our rental car after a long day of touring, and the kids complained because it took a few seconds for the air conditioner to cool, they didn’t have great cell service, and the radio was broadcasting in German. That’s “farfegnugen” for ya.

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