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Buzz, Moz and the Bees by Roch Carrier

Mozart's Travels

Does travelling all over europe from London to Vienna, from Rome to Amsterdam sound exciting? Well, maybe for a vacation, but not if you have to travel as a performer. It's a very difficult lifestyle, even today, but just think of what Mozart had to endure back in the eighteenth century! There were no airplanes, nor trains, nor even buses only horse-drawn carriages that were unheated in winter (and were much too hot in summer), which travelled along bumpy dirt roads. They offered little protection from rain and snow, and breaking down in the middle of nowhere was a constant danger. There were only dirty, uncomfortable inns to stay at, which served food that often made you sick. Thieves were everywhere. Yet young Mozart, accompanied by his father and sometimes other members of his family, spent most of his childhood on the road � about 3,700 days, which adds up to more than ten years!

Think of the people Mozart met on these tours! On his first tour, at the age of six, he played the harpsichord (an early form of the piano) at the Imperial Palace in Vienna for the emperor. When Mozart slipped on the polished floor, a little girl helped him back on his feet. This was Marie-Antoinette, who later became Queen of France. Little Wolfgang played for royalty all over Europe, met famous people, and earned great praise (and money!) everywhere he went. He was quite a spectacle. Along with his sister, Nannerl, who was also extremely talented, the Mozarts became a kind of travelling circus.

Learning on the Road�

All this travel was an education in itself. Mozart was exposed to a tremendous range of ideas, thoughts, customs, and lifestyles as he travelled about. He saw plays and read newspapers in several languages, learned how composers in other cities and countries wrote their music, and acquired a vast knowledge of the world that others couldn't even imagine. Travel was good for business too. As Mozart's reputation grew, any music published with his name on it was almost guaranteed to sell well (some dishonest publishers put Mozart's name on inferior music by other composers just to boost sales).

The map above traces Mozart's famous travels. Vienna, which you can find to the right of the map, actually lies in the heart of Europe, on the banks of the great river Danube. The city was a natural centre for the distribution of goods of all kinds throughout Europe.

Adventures on the road�

One of the hazards of travel in those days was the risk of catching a disease. When Mozart was eleven, he caught one of the most dreaded diseases of the time: smallpox. He came very close to losing his eyesight. He was in bed for two weeks with a fever, sore eyes, and even delirium at times.

 

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