In Salzburg, music can be found everywhere. That’s a good thing, because “The Sound of Music” was filmed there. Take this tour of the sights by song, and you may just find yourself singing a tune or acting out a scene or two.
Visitors to Salzburg should be aware that Austrians generally are not familiar with “The Sound of Music.” They know of it, but do not know anything other than it brings the city lots of tourist dollars. The movie is the story of an Austrian nun who was a governess to a Naval officer widower. They marry but do not stay in Salzburg for long. When Adolf Hitler comes to power, the von Trapps decide to flee. The movie tells the story of Maria von Trapp through song, and here are twelve places in Salzburg inspired by those songs.
Maria von Trapp’s actual abbey is in the Altstadt neighborhood of Nonntal, with Nonnberg Abbey on the Mönchsberg mountain just below the fortress. Enter the abbey through a wrough-iron gate and open intricately carved wooden doors into the nave. It’s chilling and peaceful and almost always tourist-free. Outside, admire the Alps to the south.
“I Have Confidence”
Strut across Residezplatz to the Residence Fountain with a giant Triton and horses and confidently splash your hand in the fountain. Here, you can take a Fiaker ride, and the horse-drawn carriages and drivers have not changed much in the years since the film. The cathedral is also located here, at Domplatz. Its soaring ceilings with hundreds of murals and the five organs are a sight to see.
“Sixteen Going On Seventeen”
The gazebo used in the film during this scene with Liesl and Rolf and later in “Something Good,” the love song between Maria and the captain, was shipped back to Salzburg after filming was complete in Hollywood and placed in the gardens at Schloss Hellbrunn. Take Bus 25 to get here to visit the ample grounds at this palace of Markus Sitticus, one of Salzburg’s former prince archbishops. After touring the trick fountains that spray water at unsuspecting guests, walk down Hellbrunner Allee to see Schloss Frohnburg, the palace used in the film as the front of the von Trapp house.
“Climb Ev’ry Mountain”
To climb the mountain the von Trapps climb to escape to Switzlerland, ride the same Bus 25 to its final stop at the Untersbergbahn in St. Leonhard, a small village just outside of Salzburg. The cable car takes riders up 2.5 kilometers to a height of 1776 meters. The summit is another 196 meter climb. If the von Trapps would have climbed this mountain to escape (they really took the train to Italy), they ironically would have been headed in the direction of Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest in Berchtesgaden, Germany, one of his main work stations during the years of the Third Reich.
“My Favorite Things”
Maria takes the children into town after they sang about their favorite things. One of their stops is at the Universitätsplatz market. Area farmers bring their produce, cheese, sausage and desserts to this market every day except Sunday, so this square bustles from early morning until early afternoon with residents shopping for organic goods and tourists admiring the wide range of colors, sights and smells. Shop around for a picnic lunch and then cross Mozartsteg, a white metal bridge used in the movie, and pick out a spot on the grassy Salzach riverbank to eat and rest like the locals.
Mirabell Gardens, the most iconic sight in the film, is where the children run through gardens singing, along with dancing through a vine-covered tunnel, tapping dwarves on their heads, skipping around a fountain with a Pegasus statue and end the song running up a set of steps. The view from these steps is outstanding — flowers lead to fountains which lead to baroque buildings ending with a direct view of the Festung.
“The Lonely Goatherd”
Visitors to Salzburg have two opportunities to see performances of their favorite “Sound of Music” songs. Tourists can see a marionette version of the production at the Landestheather or attend a dinner theater performance of songs from the movie, along with opera and Mozart pieces, at the Sound of Salzburg Dinner Show at the Sternbräu restaurant.
Maria and Georg, along with the children, sang “Edelweiss” on the stage in the Felsenreitschule as their final song before leaving Austria to escape the Nazis. The hall looks just as it did in the film, so the Nazis standing in all of the arches surrounding the stage and an audience full of Austrians singing along are easily envisioned. Tours of the three-hall performance complex are available daily at the Festspielhaus at 2 p.m., with added tours at 3:30 p.m. in June and September and also at 9 a.m. in July and August.
“So Long, Farewell”
The cemetery at St. Peter’s Church is filled with plots for Austrians (and one American) marked by black, iron crosses and decorated with flowers and candles. The graves are extremely close together and rents are due every ten years. When rent isn’t paid, the grave is dug up and someone new is buried. At the edges of the cemetery are gated graves that were used as the basis for the graves the von Trapps hide behind at the beginning of their escape from Austria.