The Sound Of Music Tour Reveals The Reality Behind The Classic Modern Day Fairytale
Girls That Roam Learns The Facts from The Fiction On The Sound Of Music Tour
by Heather Cassell and Super G
We couldn’t believe it. Girls That Roam were in Austria driving on the famed autobahn heading toward Salzburg singing our “Sound of Music 50th Anniversary” hearts out.
It is the 50th anniversary of the classic film starring Julie Andrews and Christopher Plumber playing, Maria von Trapp and Captain Von Trapp, respectively, this year.
Since its release in 1965, it’s become a holiday classic and made Salzburg even more famous than it already is as the birthplace of Amadeus Mozart. Salzburg is also well known as a creative place drawing artists from all over the world and it’s also been deemed a spiritual center for hundreds of centuries. The Abby Nonnberg, where the real life Maria was a wannabe nun before becoming a tutor of one of the von Trapp children and the future step-mother, is perched on a cliff high above Salzburg where it has resided since A.D. 714. It’s only accessible by climbing up a steep set of stairs in Old Town Salzburg. Quite a workout if you ask us … but we digress.
Yes, Maria was real. She grew up as an orphan in Vienna and trained as a teacher before changing her mind to become a nun in Salzburg. Captain Georg von Trapp was real. Twenty-five years Maria’s senior, he came from a place that is now a part of Croatia. He rose in the military becoming a war hero. He married Lady Whitehead, who died of scarlet fever, and they had seven children. The Captain and Maria had three more children themselves. The von Trapp family was against Adolph Hitler and the Nazi’s and Hitler did try to recruit the Captain. The von Trapp family was a famous singing troupe long before they left Austria.
Salzburg is lush. The hills are filled with evergreens that flourish in the foothills of the Swiss Alps that divide Austria and Germany. It is so green, with its pastoral scenery nestled snuggly within the rolling hills and punctuated with three grand lakes on the outskirts of the center of the city in what is known as the Lake and Mountain District. Salzburg is divided in two by the Salzach River (Salt River), which also brought a great deal of wealth to the region. Austria being a Catholic country, Salzburg is also a city of cathedrals, 20 Baroque cathedrals to be exact, that stand in grand platzs (plazas) whose bells chime on the hour. Then there are the beautiful gardens that led up to grandiose palaces, it is simply stunning, charming and refreshingly relaxing all at the same time.
Walking around Salzburg is like walking on the actual movie set as the movie played a role for 11 weeks in the film as its backdrop. You can dance around the Pegasus Fountain at the Mirabell Palace and gardens, shop at the open air market, climb the stairs to visit the 21 Benedictine nuns at the abby, walk across the Mozartsteg cast iron bridge, which is a foot bridge the Maria and the children run across; run up into the hills twirling and singing “The hills are alive with the sound of music …,” but that’s where it ends.
While we felt that we’ve already been to Salzburg a thousand times because of “The Sound of Music,” we discovered on the tour that the Richard Rodgers, who created the music, and Oscar Hammerstein II, who created the lyrics, took great artistic license recreating the von Trapp family’s story for the silver screen and into one of their most memorable musicals.
It even turned bad girl Lady Gaga into a sparrow singing an amazing tribute to Julie Andrews and “The Sound of Music” at the Oscars earlier this year.
The Very Beginning, It’s A Very Good Place To Start
This is where the spoil alert begins. If you prefer to keep the fantasy and magic of the film intact, we suggest that you stop right here and don’t go on the Sound of Music Tour – any of them. If you don’t mind unraveling the facts from the fiction, then please, continue reading and go on any one of “The Sound of Music” tours – by bike, bus, or foot – during your next visit to Salzburg.
An estimated 300,000 or more tourists from all over the world journey to Salzburg to see where the magic of the film began.
Super G and I were on the big bus, Panorama Tours, being tourists. Our tour guide, Christina, was dressed in traditional Austrian fashion from the early 20th century.
“Salzburg is a city of art, architecture, [and] music is very important,” says Christina in her Austrian accent. “Everywhere there is music [and] performances all year-round.”
“[It’s the] birthplace of Mozart, so music is very important in Salzburg,” she explains to the packed tour bus as we pull away from the entrance into Mirabell Garden where the tour begins and ends.
If you watch the “Do-Re-Mi” song you get a tour of Salzburg.
“The ‘Do-Re-Mi’ song was filmed all over Salzburg in many different places. In the movie they seem all very close, but they are not,” says Christine. “They are spread all over Salzburg really.”
The tour in the movie is just under five minutes and you won’t get to spend four hours with Christina and your new friends traveling around Salzburg and the Lake and Mountain District to the movie sites, singing along to the songs from the movie, and learning about Salzburg’s history.
The tour doesn’t go into the center of Old Town Salzburg where Maria steps onto the bus singing “I Have Confidence in Me” in Residenzplatz (Residenz Square) or into the vegetable market where Gretel drops the tomato. The groups are too large and buses aren’t allowed in the historic part of town.
The Sound of Music Inside and Out
We receive a special tour from Roman Forisch, a native of and an expert of Salzburg. He took us up close and personal to St. Peter’s Church graveyard where the family hid in the movie, past the Residenz Fountain in Residenzplatz, through Mirabell Garden, and through the market to name a few spots he points out to us.
The bus tour does take visitors out to the Palace Leopoldskron, which serves as the back of the von Trapp home and Frohnburg Palace serves as the front of the house in the movie. The real von Trapp home, which is now a bed and breakfast, the Villa Trapp (Traunstraße 34; +43-662-630860; Villa-Trapp.com), never appeared in the movie. The Palace Leopoldskron, named after a celebrated Prince Archbishop Leopold, is now owned by Harvard University, Christina tells our group as we look across the water to the dock where Julie Andrews and the kids fall into the lake.
The gazebo where Lizel and Ralph secretly meet was once at the Palace Leopoldskron, but was later moved to nearby Hellbrun Gardens. However, all interior shots, including the gazebo were given the Hollywood treatment as sets on sound stages in Los Angeles.
Perhaps the biggest illusion and literary license Oscar and Richard took was dramatizing the von Trapp family’s story adapted from Maria’s memoir The Story of the Trapp Family Singers. The escape scene would have been too boring if it was told as it happened with the von Trapp family booking a performance in Italy, boarding a train with all of their instruments and most cherished possessions, and leaving their life of luxury behind in 1938. They then traveled to France, then to England, and finally resettled in the United States in Stowe, Vermont, where the next generations and Maria and the Captain’s Maria’s eldest son, Johannes von Trapp, still lives, Christina tells our group.
You see, the von Trapp family was already a well-known musical troupe singing “folk songs, Christmas carols, and church songs,” she says, for more than a decade and Maria and the Captain were long married in 1927 (an 11 year gap), just not returning from their honeymoon when Hitler invaded Austria. The same can be said of the church at the abby, where Maria and the Captain really married. Oscar and Richard chose the more picturesque St. Michael’s Church in Mondsee, about 30 minutes from the center of Salzburg, for the wedding. However, it was all much more dramatic for Maria and the Captain to have a grand wedding and for the newly formed family to have to flee Hitler over the Swiss Alps into Switzerland, which was a neutral country. Christina points out “there is no Switzerland near Salzburg.”
“On the other side of the mountains is Germany,” she says. “If they escaped via these mountains here they would have gone right into the arms of Hitler and the Nazis.”
Sadly, Maria wasn’t a very good businesswoman. The von Trapp home in Salzburg was sold to the Catholic Church for very little money and the family never made any money from the classic Oscar-award winning “The Sound of Music.”
A Flat Note
The reality of “The Sound of Music” Tour is that while we were exited to go on it, we were also disappointed by how it was organized. The tour could have been better using the “The Sound of Music Sing-Along Edition” and telling the real story of the von Trapp family and the making of the movie in between as we go through each site. Christina tried by playing clips of the movie and singing songs, but it was a struggle for her to get everyone into the spirit during the long silence driving into the hills and around the lakes and ultimately on the autobahn back to Salzburg where she plays a video about “The Sound of Music.” Super G even took a nap during those long pauses. The interaction with the film and each other by quizzing our “Sound of Music” knowledge would have helped greatly to fill the long awkward silence.
The tour wasn’t a complete snooze, however. The sites were fantastic. We learned some things that we didn’t know and we had some memorable moments visiting each site.
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