Salzburg and The Sound of Music
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Few movies have boosted a city’s
tourism in quite the same way as The
Sound of Music, launched in 1965 by 20th Century Fox and
featuring the beautiful buildings and magical mountains around Salzburg. In half a century, it’s been seen by more
than one billion people across the globe and those memorable melodies by
Rodgers & Hammerstein have entered into many a family’s play list.
Fifty years on, tourists still
flock to Salzburg to dance and skip in the footsteps of actress Julie Andrews
and her screen family of cute kids. So
having grown up with the movie myself – and made sure my children grew up with
it too – I couldn’t resist an invitation to attend the 50th
Anniversary Gala concert in October.
If you know the film, the city
seems instantly familiar. Producer
Robert Wise did a sterling job in splicing together the best views around
Salzburg to create a scenic backdrop to songs such as Do-Re-Mi. And if you want to skip round the Pegasus
Fountain in the Mirabell Gardens as movie-Maria does with her von Trapp
charges, nobody is going to look twice.
There might, however, be a raised eyebrow if you tried to recreate the scene where Julie Andrews and the young actors wave to Christopher Plummer – Baron von Trapp – from a rowing boat and tip over into the water – in reality the lake at Schloss Leopoldskron on the edge of the city. The castle was bought in 1918 by Max Reinhardt, theatre impresario and co-founder of the Salzburg Festival, and is now an atmospheric hotel.
"We did that scene several times
and the water was murky and icy cold", revealed actor Nicholas Hammond – who
played Friedrich – at the international press conference. "And
Kym Karath who played little Gretl was just 5 and couldn’t swim, so Julie
always had to try and fall in the same direction so she could rescue her!"
It was a surreal and very special
moment for me to meet Nicholas and three of his fellow ‘von Trapp children’ –
Duane Chase (Kurt), Heather Menzie Urich (Louisa) and Debbie Turner
(Marta). Nicholas spoke for them all
when he said Salzburg was in their DNA and how much they always enjoyed coming
back to revisit locations for the movie that changed their lives.
But nobody’s life was influenced
more by the story of Maria Kutschera and Baron Georg von Trapp than Johannes
von Trapp, their youngest son, born in 1939 after the family emigrated to the
US. Now President of the Trapp Family
Lodge resort hotel in Vermont, he toured the world with his musical siblings, performing
not Rodgers & Hammerstein but classical works by composers like Wolfgang
Amadeus Mozart, Salzburg’s other big musical export. Visit the city today and you’ll find The Sound of Music or Mozart round every
Must-do trip for movie fans is the
coach tour operated daily by Panorama Tours from beside the Mirabell Gardens. The 4-hour trip takes in key film locations in
the city and beyond, including an atmospheric stop at Mondsee where the
interior of the basilica was used for the wedding scene. The real wedding, however, took place in 1927
at Nonnberg Abbey in the town centre – the convent where Maria was formerly a
novice – so as the doors of Mondsee basilica open in the movie, the panorama behind
the newlyweds is, of course, the rooftops of Salzburg.
If you’ve time to spare, I’d
recommend hiring a car to explore the Salzkammergut, the lake district of Mondsee, Fuschlsee and
Wolfgangsee which lies to the east of the city. I also enjoyed the pretty village
of Werfen to the south, dominated by the Hohenwerfen Fortress that features not
only as a backdrop to Julie Andrews and the children but which also took a
starring role in Where Eagles Dare. Climb up the new 1.4km Sound of Music trail to the movie location then reward
yourself with a Michelin-starred meal at Obauer back down on the main street.
When you need a break from Maria,
it’s an easy switch to Mozart. The boy
genius was born in a modest apartment in the centre of Salzburg in 1756, the
family moving to more spacious accommodation nearby in 1773. It doesn’t take long to tour Mozart’s
Birthplace but there’s lots of interactive fun in the Mozart Residence,
including some short films that show how hard life was on the road for the
family, touring the courts of Europe with Wolfgang and his musically talented
When the urge strikes to feed body
rather than soul, Salzburg offers plenty of tempting cafes for coffee and cake,
tucked in the quaint streets and broad squares of the Old Town. The historic area, tucked beneath the
clifftop fortress, is easy to explore on foot.
Browse the boutiques and admire the wide choice of dirndl dresses,
collarless jackets and leather shorts, but if that’s a fashion statement too
far, just stock up on scrumptious Mozart chocolates filled with pistachio
marzipan and praline. Then take the
funicular to Mönschberg terrace and the Modern Art Museum, or head up to the fortress
for sweeping ‘Sound of Music’ views of the town.
Salzburg sells itself as ‘The Stage
of the World’, and not just for Mozart or the movie tunes. The Salzburg
Festival runs for six music-filled weeks from mid-July. Miss it and you can still take in the stage
production of The Sound of Music, a traditional marionette version at the
Puppet Theatre, or maybe a costumed Mozart concert.
But for me, the most iconic concert
venue of all has to be the former Summer Riding School – location for the famous
festival scene in the film and setting for the 50th Anniversary Gala
Concert. As we all swayed together to a
closing chorus of Edelweiss, there was hardly a dry eye in the house, but they
were happy tears. Head to Salzburg and
you can’t help but find some of your favourite things as you climb every
mountain … a delightful city break at any time of year!
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