Hit the Road

The hills were alive in visit to Austria

I have this thing about “The Sound of Music.” To put it nicely, I don’t like the musical — a lot.
Before you judge me to be an awful person, let me explain. Some years ago I wrote for an entertainment magazine and had to review three or four productions of “The Sound of Music” — all in the same summer. By that September, if I had never heard another rendition of “My Favorite Things,” it would have been too soon.
So when my husband, Jerry, suggested we take a “Sound of Music” tour during our recent stay in Salzburg, I’m sure he thought I’d refuse. And I almost did, but he promised beautiful scenery, just like the movie, so in a weak moment, I acquiesced.
I’m here to say that I not only lived through the experience (despite the soundtrack from the movie playing intermittently throughout the four-hour trip), but that it was one of the nicest days on our two-week trip to Bavaria and Austria.
In booking the tour, we noticed that the choices were “the original” Sound of Music tour and “the most unique” Sound of Music tour. We took the latter for no reason except that the schedule meshed with ours. From what we could tell, the tours are nearly identical except that “the original” tour give edelweiss seeds to its passengers.
We didn’t miss the edelweiss seeds.
Beautiful villages and chalets set against majestic mountain ranges with snow-frosted peaks kept our eyes and cameras busy. Our guide, Sonja, told us that just two weeks before, Salzburg had been covered with snow, and that summer “had happened over night.” The trees were already a lush green, and the hillsides were replete with wildflowers. I expected someone at any minute to lower the curtain and change the scenery.
Our very comfortable bus took us to several stops where “The Sound of Music” was filmed. As we traveled through the city and the outskirts, Sonja related some of the behind-the-scenes stories about making the 1965 Academy Award winner (it won five Oscars). For instance, the exterior shot of the church for the wedding scene was filmed at the Nonnberg Abbey in Salzburg, where Maria was a nun-in-training in the 1920s. But the interior shots were filmed in a beautifully renovated church in Mondsee, a picturesque town northeast of Salzburg.
Sonja also told us a bit about the real Trapp family and how some of the facts differ from the movie. For instance, Maria and Georg had added three more children to their family before they left Austria after Hitler annexed the country in 1938. Georg’s oldest child was born in 1911; the couple’s youngest son, who was born in 1939, is now president of the Trapp Family Lodge, an upscale ski lodge in Stowe, Vt.
We stopped at the “I Am Sixteen Going on Seventeen” gazebo, which was moved from its original private-property location to just inside a public park because of too many looky-loos after the movie was released.
One of my favorite spots was the hillside overlooking Lake Fuschl and the town of St. Gilgen, a resort area in the lake region about 20 minutes due east of Salzburg. This served as the backdrop for the scenes of the movie when Maria bursts forth with “The hills are alive with the sound of music … ”
One of our stops, though, had nothing to do with the film but everything to do with boosting the income of a local farmer. However, I must admit, it was fun. Our motor coach pulled into a scenic farm, complete with grazing sheep on the hillside, where we were offered the opportunity to ride a miniature bobsled ($9 for two). We climbed onto a small metal car, which was pulled uphill backwards. Then it was a quick but thrilling ride down the track.
We finished off this interlude with a Magnum ice cream bar from the farmer’s freezer.
Yes, the day was a bit heavy on the schlock, but I must confess: I’m ready to see the movie again so we can relive our wonderful trip to Salzburg.

1 comment

Salzburg concerned June 23, 2009 at 3:19 pm

Salzburg is a lovely town, but it located in AUSTRIA not Germany, and is spelled “Salzburg.” I thought your readers needed the correct information so they can learn more about Mozart’s hometown nestled in the foothills of the Alps.

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