The Sound of Music is the third highest grossing box office hit of all time, after Gone With the Wind and the first Star Wars movie, if you adjust the figures for inflation. Do-Re-Mi is one of the most well-known songs in the world and the movie made $1.8 billion in revenue. So I think it’s fair to say that the Sound of Music is a pretty successful film. Starring Julie Andrews as Maria and Christopher Plummer as Captain von Trapp, the movie told the story of a nun who goes to work in the household of a strict captain with seven children. Set in Salzburg in the period just before the Second World War when the Nazis occupied Austria, the Sound of Music is a movie with unforgettable songs, a memorable love story and a spectacular backdrop.
Yet somehow despite its success, the people of Salzburg seem very disinterested in the movie. Our tour guide informed us it’s not because Austrian’s don’t like the movie, it’s because they haven’t really seen it. It is barely ever shown in cinemas or on TV and when it was released, the second half was removed because of the sensitive issue of the Nazis in Austria. Instead Austrians have their own version of the Maria and Captain von Trapp story which is shown on TV at Easter time.
My friend and I have seen the film too many times to count, so we knew on our visit to Salzburg that there was one thing we wanted to do: The Sound of Music Original Tour. Curtain dresses and all.
This is the ultimate of Salzburg tours. We had a few funny looks and reactions from people when we said we wanted to do the tour, but we realise we’re geeks, so that makes it OK. OK? Despite the fact that Yoho hostel is supposed to play The Sound of Music at 10:30am EVERY morning, the girl on reception seemed reluctant to put it on. You might call us a little bit eager, but we got up to specially to watch it, only to find the common rooms were Sound of Music-free. I suppose who can blame her for being a bit unenthusiastic after the amount of times she’s probably had to hear Julie Andrews belting “The Hills Are Alive…” After asking three times, however, she finally got the DVD out so we could sing along to it like the geeks that we are.
We were picked up at 2pm and put on a bus for the Sound of Music tour. Impossible to miss it with that image on the side really. Our American tour guide was very enthusiastic and explained how they shot each of the scenes from the movie in detail, even if she did say it in rather a shrill voice. I felt rather sorry for her having to sing all the songs from the movie when no-one on the bus would participate, but she didn’t seem to be the type to get embarassed.
Our first stop was Leopoldskron Palace, which was used for the scene where Maria and the children fall into the lake whilst boating. We then went to that gazebo where girls dream of a wearing a pink chiffon dress and having a boy sing to them “You are 16, going on 17…” The pavillion was reconstructed at Hellbrunn Palace and is located next to a large park area where lots of people were picnicking in the glorious sunshine.
We then drove towards St.Gilgen and Lake Fuschl, where the scenery for the beginning of the movie was shot. Finally we made an hour’s stop in the colourful village of Mondsee to see Mondsee Cathedral, where Maria and Captain von Trapp got married in the film. There are plenty of restaurants with outdoor seating here to sit and eat some Apple Strudel with a cup of coffee.
From the bus you also see various filming locations in the centre of Salzburg including the Mirabell Gardens where the children dance around the statue of Pegasus singing “Do-re-mi” as well as Nonnberg Abbey where Maria was a novice.
The Sound of Music is based on a true story, but it was slightly disappointing to discover that the story of the real Maria von Trapp was somewhat different. She was not the perfect governess, she was the perfect nun. Maria went to work in the household of the von Trapp family and in the beginning she was rather strict, but the family taught her to be a bit more relaxed and carefree. The children enjoyed having another playmate around, so they asked if they could ‘keep her’. Captain von Trapp thought people would talk if a grown woman and a grown man were living in the same house together and said no. But the children came up with a plan for him to marry her. They asked him if he liked her and he said “Yes, but I’m not sure if she likes me.” They asked her if she liked him, and she replied “Yes he’s alright”. Three Sundays later, they got married at Nonnberg Abbey. They had been touring as the Von Trapp Family Singers, and they did flee the country before the Nazis came, but not by hiking over the mountains. They packed some backpacks, got on a train over the border into Italy, went to London and then caught the transatlantic to America. They set up a B&B, which some of the children still run in America.
The tour cost 37 euros and lasted around 4 hours, plus you can choose whether to leave at 09:30 in the morning or 14:00 in the afternoon. Is it worth it? I would say most definitely. Even if you’re not a fan of the movie, you’re picked up from your hotel or hostel and taken to some beautiful places in the surrounding areas of Salzburg. You’ll see stunning palaces and lakes and have plenty of photo opportunities. Plus Sound of Music fans get to learn all about the making of the film and the complicated filming of each scene. You don’t get very long to take photos which can be frustrating, but there is a longer stop in Mondsee for something to eat. Overall the trip takes four hours, and even though I’m not particularly a ‘tour person’ I learnt a lot of fascinating information about the movie.