The sun shimmers on the lake as we descend into the waterside village of Mondsee to the soundtrack of the Sound of Music. I think The Gluhwein may be helping to remove inhibitions as our coach of tourists sing along to ‘Do Re Mi’ and other songs from the film. Birgit, our guide, does a fantastic job of entertaining us in her goatherd costume accompanied by a dancing goat. As she saunters up the coach, singing and dancing, encouraging guests to join in, the coach meanders around the narrow roads of the Salzkammergut. Welcome to the Original Sound of Music Tour which takes enchanted tourists to key film locations of The Sound Of Music.
Introducing the Sound Of Music
For the uninitiated, the Sound of Music is based on the true story of the Von Trapp family, an Austrian musical sensation in the 1930s. The musical, written by Rodgers and Hammerstein, debuted in 1959 and just a few years later Fox Studios bought the rights for $1.25 million. Film production started in 1964 and the premiere took place in 1965 to great critical acclaim. The film went on to win 6 Tony awards,
5 Academy Awards and became hugely successful, spawning a new tourist market in Austria.
The film was set in Salzburg and many of the scenes were filmed at locations in and around the city over 11 weeks. Panorama Tours escorted the cast to film locations and thus have fantastic tales to tell during this tour.
Joining the Original Sound Of Music tour
We join the Original Sound Of Music tour on Mirabellplatz near the Congress building. As we had pre-booked, we simply offer our names and receive two plastic entry tickets to board the bus. From there we drive the short distance to our first spot and catch our first glimpse of one of the film locations from the film.
Film Locations of the Sound Of Music
The Mozart bridge, named after the musical genius of course, is the first location we spot from the bus. Crossing the river Saalach, it’s an ornate art nouveau affair and in the film, you see the children racing across the bridge in their play clothes as they head off on their picnic. If you walk from the Mirabelle Gardens to the Old Town, you will spot incredible views of the Old Town through the gables on the bridge. There is also a very quaint coffee shop on the end of the bridge below the old town.
Shortly afterwards, you will catch a glimpse of the Frohnburg Palace, one of the two locations used as the Von Trapp family home in the film. This beautiful yellow mansion, now a music academy, was only used for scenes of the front of the family home.
You may recall Maria skipping down the tree lined drive outside the house and racing across the courtyard past the fountains. To follow in her footsteps take the pathway from the Hellbrunn Palace towards the town centre. You won’t have time to do it during the tour but will have plenty of time in the afternoon should you opt for the morning tour.
Our first actual stop of the day is the Leopoldskron Palace. This palace features as the second location for the Von Trapp family home. Only the terrace at the rear of the palace was used for scenes featuring the baroness and Max drinking lemonade and the baroness playing ball with the children.
The most iconic scene filmed here however is the boat scene with the children falling into the lake. Of course filming was not without some drama. The youngest child was unable to swim and had to be rescued by one of the divers underneath the boat!
The romantics amongst you may recall the beautiful gazebo which featured in the garden during the film. This gazebo was relocated in 1991 to the Hellbrunn Palace as the Leopoldskron is now a hotel and conference centre. In the 1970s excitable youngsters would flock to the gazebo to recreate their own Sound of Music moments. Unfortunately their boisterous behaviour proved disruptive to those attending conferences. Initially the gazebo was moved to the opposite shore of the lake, then in 1991 it was moved to the Hellbrunn Palace into a more secure location to protect it from vandals.
We leave the Leopoldskron Palace for the short drive to the Hellbrunn Palace where bright yellow walls hide stunning gardens within. Just steps inside the main gate you will find the sun dappled gazebo, sunlight streaming through its windows. It has been wonderfully preserved and you can glimpse the stone benches circling the interior that Leisl and Rolf danced around during ‘Sixteen going on seventeen.’ We chuckle as we recall the words from the song. No self respecting sixteen year old today would agree to ‘belong’ to a man or allow someone ‘older and wiser to tell her what to do.’
We discover some interesting facts about the gazebo during our visit. Firstly, the actress Charmian Carr who played Liesl, slipped while filming the gazebo scenes. Her foot crashed through one of the glass panes but after applying a bandaid filming continued – after all the show must go on! Furthermore, the gazebo looks considerably bigger in the film. That’s because a reconstruction of the gazebo was created on set which was bigger than the real life gazebo.
Salzburg Lake District
From the Hellbrunn Palace we head to the Salzburg Lake District. We pass the Red Bull headquarters and a stunning viewpoint overlooking Lake Wolfgang before we descend towards the quaint village of Mondsee.
Sing-a-long to the Sound Of Music
As we travel out to the lake the inevitable happens. Birgit erupts into song to the movie soundtrack. Before long, others join in, some a little more enthusiastically than others. The star attraction is ‘the ‘Lonely Goatherd’ and as Birgit dons her traditional Austrian hat replete with long blond plaits laughter erupts on the bus. Out comes her little goat – he may be lonely to start with but on the return journey there’s a whole family of goats onboard. Many guests choose to shop for Sound of Music goat souvenirs.
The colourful Austrian town of Mondsee is little more than a few streets arranged around a picture perfect yellow cathedral. The Basilica Minor St Michael is the film location for the wedding scene in the film. You can step inside and follow in Maria’s footsteps as you wander down the aisle.
You will also have time to wander the charming streets of Mondsee. Colourful shops and restaurants line the cobbled roads and souvenirs hang from stands on the pavement. Note if you want any Sound Of Music souvenirs this is the place to buy them. Austrians do not pay much heed to the Sound Of Music elsewhere in the country and we tried in vain to find a Sound Of Music themed fridge magnet in Salzburg. Note the real Captain Von Trapp actually married Maria at the chapel in the Nonnberg nunnery in 1927, not in the 1930s as in the film.
From Mondsee you will head back to Salzburg on the autobahn for the last stop of the tour. During the journey a video featuring Charmian Carr plays and explains how the Sound of Music is a huge draw for visitors to Salzburg. Whilst Austrians may not hold the film in high esteem, more than 300,000 visitors a year flock to the city to visit locations from the film.
The Mirabelle Gardens by the Salzburg Congress are the backdrop for the Do-Re-Mi scenes and our last stop of the day. The fountains and covered walkway remain intact although you can not walk through these in winter. Simply enter through the courtyard from the Rainerstrasse and you can admire the stairs used for the final scene of the song. I was hoping to recreate the scene but sadly the area was not open during our visit. At least the locals didn’t need to don their ear plugs!
Once the tour comes to an end you can wander into the old town across the Mozart Bridge. Climb the staircase to the Nonnberg Abbey for incredible views over the gables and domes of the city. You will instantly recognise the view of the imposing Hohensalzburg Fortress high on the hill above the convent and the latticework of the gates from the film. The Fortress dates back to 1077 and is the largest in Central Europe.
Sadly the Prioiry is not open to visitors however it is possible to visit the chapel providing there isn’t a service ongoing.
The Priory remains a convent to this day and is the oldest convent north of the alps with just 16 nuns in residence. The real Maria Von Trapp originally arrived in 1924 (not in the 1930s as you see in the film) but not long afterwards she was sent to assist the Captain with one of his children who was sick.
The Real Von Trapps
The Captain and his first wife, who he married in 1910, had seven children during their eleven years of marriage before she died in 1922 of scarlet fever. Maria’s role within the family rapidly evolved after her arrival as the children took a great liking to her. After tending to the sick child, she became a governess for the children before they encouraged their father to propose to her.
It’s a fascinating story which you can read more of in the ‘The Story of the Trapp Family Singers.’ This book tells the story of the family in Maria’s own words and reveals what an incredible lady she was for the time. Born in 1905, she lost her parents at a young age and entered into foster care before graduating from the State Teachers College for Progressive Education. Later she would decide to enter the convent from where she was sent to work for the Captain.
The other key difference between the film and reality relates to that nerve wracking escape. Whilst they did indeed win the talent contest at the riding school in 1935 this was long before their enforced exile. In the film, the final scenes show a dramatic escape with the family fleeing into the mountains to escape the Nazis. The bravery of the family in disobeying Nazi demands is hard to imagine but thankfully they managed to take a train to Austria and from there they made it to the United States. They eventually settled in Stowe and opened a ski lodge, staying their until their deaths.
Stay with the Von Trapps
You can stay at the hotel yourself. Rooms are available on Hotels.com
Book your Original Sound Of Music tour
To book your own tour, head to Panorama Tours. Please do reserve in advance as it was extremely busy when we visited. For the morning tour alone, three full coaches of guests followed the Sound of Music tour.
Tours leave at 9.15 and 2pm but in winter it is best to take the morning tour as it gets dark around 4.30 and you will miss out on some of the scenic views.
Sing a long to the sound of Mysic
If you want to familiarise yourself with the song lyrics beforehand, Panorama Tours have conveniently added them to their site. You can download the song lyrics here in preparation for your tour.
Retrace our footsteps
If you would like to linger at any of the sights after the tour, you can retrace your steps on this walking tour. Whatever you do though, don’t skip the Original Sound of Music tour as you will miss out on the fascinating stories and the entertainment factor of the guides and drivers. They really were superb!
Have your say
Maybe you have already been on the Original Sound of Music tour in which case I’d love to hear from you. How did you find it and what was the highlight of your visit? Why don’t you let us know in the comments below.
Note we travelled as guests of Panorama Tours however our views are unedited and represent our experience truthfully. We felt the tour was a nice balance between historical facts and anecdotes from filming. The real star of the show however was Birgit whose playful sense of humour made us laugh constantly throughout the tour.