Retrace the Footsteps of the Von Trapp Family in Austria

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Sep 30, 2016

by STEVE MCKENNA, Writer

Retrace the footsteps of the von Trapp family, who inspired one of the most beloved musicals of the 20th century. 

I’ve heard terrible versions of Waltzing Matilda before but never one as torturous as the effort floating from the speakers of our tour bus right now. Judging by the giggles of my fellow passengers, I’m not the only one amused. 

But we’re all silenced when we’re told who’s singing. The voices – in English, with heavy German twangs – belong to the von Trapps, the children who inspired The Sound of Music. The recording was made in the United States shortly after their escape from Nazi-occupied Austria in 1938. They had, says our guide, been trying to learn English.

Tunes of varying hummability infuse The Original Sound of Music Tour, which showcases the Austrian film locations from the multi-Oscar-winning movie starring Julie Andrews. You could cover them yourself with a hire car, GPS and the movie soundtrack for company but I find the tour a cheerfully cheesy and informative experience. 

It starts in Salzburg, a pretty city with a rich musical pedigree (Mozart was born there) and Baroque architecture, including Mirabell Palace, where, in the film, Maria (Andrews) and the children sing Do-Re-Mi around a statue of Pegasus.

Leaving Salzburg with this ditty playing, we travel through alp-peppered countryside, stopping at points of interest – many related to the screen romance of Maria and Captain Georg von Trapp (Christopher Plummer). Remember the pavilion where they kiss and sing Something Good? We find it in the garden of the Hellbrunn Palace (hellbrunn.at). It was moved from nearby Leopoldskron Palace, which was the inspiration behind the von Trapp residence in the film but had struggled to cope with the volume of visitors. It’s now an exclusive hotel.

The tour highlight for many is Mondsee, a quaint village in the Salzkammergut (Lake District). Couples love to walk down the aisle of the village’s twin-towered church, which hosted Maria and Georg’s wedding. Mondsee’s shops sell The Sound of Music memorabilia and its cafés and bakeries do a roaring trade in crisp apple strudels – a snack that Maria mentions in My Favourite Things. It’s this song, along with the movie’s title track, that helps send me into a blissful doze on our ride back to Salzburg. 

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