As the location and backdrop for one of the world’s most beloved films, Salzburg is now revelling in The Sound of Music fame – and why not?
Throughout 2015, in and around the charming city of Salzburg in Austria, there was a sound of music, resounding in the city streets, through the meadows and over the mountains. The hills were alive and buzzing, celebrating the 50-year-anniversay of the enduringly popular film, The Sound of Music. And the joy continues.
Whether you are a fan or have a tepid response to the tale of Maria’s rise from orphan to convent novice, to nanny, to seamstress, to wife, to escapee and then to international tour manager for the singing family, you will no doubt hum along to ‘raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens’, and you will remember your favourite things.
Being in Salzburg for the official anniversary was a thrill. Members of the original cast were in town plus some of the von Trapp family and, when hearing stories of the making of the film, we were more than surprised.
Fifty years ago, Salzburg went about its quiet and conservative way and didn’t pay that much attention to the spontaneous outbursts of strangers wearing folksy clothes dancing in the elegant Mirabell Garden or to a troupe of children singing as they skipped down the steps from the castle fortress Hohensalzburg that towers over the city.
The locals sniffed when they saw a rather crass gazebo had been built in the gardens of Hellbrun Palace. And when the shrieks of almost drowning children were heard from the lake in front of Leopoldskron Palace – that was quite enough.
In fact The Sound of Music came out to audiences of the western world with a fanfare and was immediately embraced and loved completely. And as the film was seen (and continues to be seen) continuously all over the world, the Salzburgians must have wondered why the tourist hoards had swollen. Before there were the music festival devotees and the Mozart fan clubs – but this was a totally different creature.
Austria had not even noticed the movie, just another American film and it was in English…
It was more than 16 going on 17 years before Salzburg acknowledged the film’s international fame and in an uncharacteristically Austrian fashion – it jumped (more like stepped in a good mannered way) on to The Sound of Music bandwagon.
With much to ponder on the von Trapp family fare, we settle into one of Austria’s loveliest hotels – Hotel Sacher – and yes, it serves its namesake torte for breakfast – so civilised! This beautiful five-star hotel opened in 1866 and has maintained the high level of service and hospitality from the day the doors opened. Sitting by the bedroom window, looking across the river Salzach, with the town’s lights tinkling and reflecting in the water I imagined that the Baroness would be more suited to the hotel than Maria, who would have found it a bit fancy for her Spartan tastes.
The next day we take off to gobble up every Sound of Music (SOM) experience to be had in and around Salzburg.
Leopoldskron Palace, an 18th century rococo castle of confectionery splendour sits close to a picturesque lake and was the original film location for SOM, where one of the main rooms of the palace, the Venetian Room, was replicated to be used as a film setting. Schloss Leopoldskron is now a hotel.
And to The Sound of Music Tour! We head to the pretty village of Werfen (55km – from Salzburg) and enjoy a sensational degustation at the two-starred Obauer restaurant for a wonderful lunch. Brothers Karl and Rudi Obauer have been cooking together for a while now and the partnership has produced a smooth line in patter and a fine menu, specialising in regional produce.
The wines served were from Austrian winery Hopler, which has been producing wines for the Trapp Family Lodge in Vermont USA for more than 40 years.
After lunch we headed for the Gschwandtanger, where one of the most famous scenes in cinema history was filmed. Remember Maria taking the children on a picnic and teaching them to sing Do-Re-Mi in a lush pasture with the Alps and the magnificent Hohenwerfen Castle in the background? That’s part of the quirky Sound of Music Trail.
The hiking path features stations along the way with recollections from the film, and recounts the story of the von Trapp family. There are numerous scenic points on the trail where you can stop and enjoy the glory of this region and perhaps hum a little tune or sing the Goatherd Song…
And back into Salzburg for a lingering departure – and as The Sound of Music dims in memory and we depart this seductive city, all we can say is: ‘So long, farewell, auf wiedersehn, goodnight, I hate to go and leave this pretty sight.’