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The Sound of Music

Salzburg is the birthplace of the incredible and sublime Mozart; and 300,000 fans descend on Salzburg every year to follow the trail of … The Sound of Music.

After visiting Mozart’s house and attending a fabulous concert I decided, what the hell and booked a Sound of Music tour with Salzburg Sightseeing Tours – a must for all Sound of Music fans.

Our bus was just half full but it was full-on with enthusiasm. Our guide Barbara was of unspecified age (or, as she sings to the famous tune – ‘I’m sixty going on seventy’) and has been guiding this tour for the past seven years and loves it as much now as when she started.

The film is loosely based on the story of the von Trapp family’s escape from the Nazi and the tour visits both real life sites and film locations. But a word of warning, if you are obsessed by the film story you might not want to disillusion yourself with the truth as opposed to the Hollywood version of events.

Our tour starts beside the beautiful Mirabell gardens in central Salzburg where Maria and the children dance and sing “Do-Re-Mi” around the Pegasus fountain and use the steps up to the Rose Hill as musical lines, singing a note for each step.

Everyone on the bus had already seen the large Baroque fountain in Dom platz where Maria sings to boost her confidence before meeting the Baron von Trapp.

The first stop is at Schloss Hellbrunn Palace Park where some house scenes were filmed and the gazebo where Rolf and Liesl sing “16 going on 17” has been relocated to. Fortunately just as we were leaving three packed tour buses of American, Chinese and Japanese tourists arrived which turned the little location into an absolute scrum.

Next stop was the Palace Leopoldskron where the boating scene was filmed; Maria and the Baron dance on the balcony and sing “Something good”. Barbara regaled us with lots of insider information about the events surrounding this location.

The next two film sequences did not involve a stop and they were the footbridge where the children sing and Nonnberg Abbey where Maria was a novice nun and several scenes were shot.

All the scenes so far have been in or close to Salzburg. We next was a half hour drive to the village of St Gilgen and Lake Wolfgang which are surrounded by impressive mountains. It is a classic Austrian scene and was included in the films opening-scene.

Our final destination was the small town of Mondsee (Moonlake) the film location for the wedding of Maria and the Baron at Basilica St Michael. Barbara provided a spoiler for some fans by explaining that in actual fact they got married in Nonnburg Abbey where Maria had been training to become a nun.

A frequently asked question is ‘where is the hill they climbed over in their final escape?’ The hill escape scene is pure fantasy and would actually have taken them disastrously across the border into Germany, in fact to the foot of Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest hideout. In real life the von Trapp’s simply took a train to Italy and then later, onwards to Switzerland – another Hollywood embellishment to the story.

The tour really is excellent for lovers of the film, because, apart from visiting beautifully scenic countryside, the locations would be difficult to find without a guide and the snippets and gossip from a good guide are gold dust.


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I’ve been writing about travel for the past 14 years and have travelled extensively from [A]ustralia to [Z]imbabwe. I’ve been around the world a few of times and have written widely for the international press in America, Australia and the UK, for newspapers, magazines and websites.I am also the author of a definitive guide to Wildlife Conservation Volunteering (Bradt, 2012) and have worked on volunteer projects in South America, Africa, India and Europe. Working from a riverboat on the Amazon has to be my favourite conservation project – a bit of comfort and luxury at the end of the day after getting filthy ploughing through the muddy jungle.I think the best way of getting around is travelling by train, not just because it’s eco-friendly but because I enjoy the journey as much as the destination. I’ve written a lot about train travel and am a contributing author to Great Railway Journeys of the World (Time Out 2009). My enthusiasm for travelling on trains culminated in 2011 – 2012 when I travelled around the world by train - from London to Sydney. This was the most amazing trip I’ve ever done and I spent three months because I couldn’t stop myself getting off to explore what couldn’t be seen from the window.Naturally it’s now a book!

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