The Hills are Alive
After our visit to Germany, we hopped aboard yet another bus to Salzburg. Salzburg isn’t terribly far from Munich, which is why we decided to fit visits to these two cities into one long weekend. Salzburg was at the top of many of our travel lists, it’s in Austria, a country we hadn’t had the chance to visit yet, it’s a city well known for its culture and beauty, and of course, The Sound of Music.
During our first half-day in Salzburg, we explored the city on our own. Unfortunately, this was the only period of time where we had semi-decent weather in the city; the next day was excessively cold and windy. We meandered through town and happened upon one of Mozart’s residences, various beautiful and grand cathedrals, excessive amounts of adorable horse-drawn carriages, and hills that were very much alive.
hat evening we happened upon an adorable Italian restaurant in the city that we all really enjoyed. However, we were quite shocked to find a confederate flag included with various other flags representing English speaking countries on the English menu! What? Like who came to this tiny restaurant in Salzburg and told them that the confederate flag was a viable representation of a nation in the English speaking word?! I’m relatively sure that this flag was a harmless mistake, but maybe someone should have done their research before sticking it on their menu? On the bright side, it did lead to an engaging debate throughout our fantastic meal.
The next morning we had only one goal on our mind: a Sound of Music tour. Luckily there was a hop-on hop-off bus available for this very purpose. We could stay warm on the bus driving through the city, learning about Julia Roberts and the fictional Von Trapp’s along with the real Von Trapp family who called Salzburg their home for so many years.
We had some time before our tour started, so we set off to explore the Mirabell Palace and Gardens. Not only was our walk through the gardens beautiful, but it was also a filming location from the Sound of Music’s “Do Re Mi” scene, which was pretty exciting. Of course, the gardens look quite different from summer to winter, but the fountains and intricately designed flower beds were still stunning.
A few stops later, we finally saw the Von Trapp house from the film. It is a private residence now, so we couldn’t go in, but we had a nice view of it from across the lake. This house was actually only used for scenes from the back of the house, including the famous boat scene, and a different house was used for any filming from the front. We briefly saw the iconic yellow manor that was used for those other scenes from The Sound of Music, however, the windows of the bus were too fogged up and we only just drove by. The house is now home to a music school, which I believe is quite appropriate.
The single most anticipated Sound of Music landmark was obviously the “I am Sixteen Going on Seventeen” gazebo. This was the only time throughout the tour where the weather actually mirrored the particular scene from the movie, so the rain was an appropriate touch. We had someone play the Sound of Music soundtrack on their phone as we took our pictures with the gazebo and wandered around the accompanying park.
While learning about the movie was quite entertaining, what we learned about the real Von Trapp family was far more relevant and interesting. The movie blurs reality, as most movies do. For instance, the father, Georg von Trapp, was never the ruthless authoritarian figure that he is portrayed as in the first half of The Sound of Music, and Maria didn’t actually teach the children to sing as they were already quite talented in their own right. And, in reality, the Von Trapp family did not flee from Hitler and the Nazi regime with their suitcases and instruments through the Swiss Alps, but they quietly decided to “perform” on an American tour. They traveled first to Italy where Georg could claim citizenship as he was born in what is now Zadar, Croatia (an area that had become a part of Italy in 1920) and then really did perform throughout the United States for a time. After their tour, they moved permanently to Vermont where they ran a music camp and continued to perform and eventually became American citizens. Maria and Georg also went on to have three children together, the youngest of whom was born in Vermont and still runs the family lodge. Also, initially, Maria did not marry the Baron for love, but because she loved his children. Maria was quoted as saying, “I really and truly was not in love. I liked him but didn’t love him. However, I loved the children, so in a way, I really married the children. By and by, I learned to love him more than I have ever loved before or after.”
Although these discrepancies exist, important elements of the movie were realistic representations of the Von Trapp family’s experiences. Georg really did infuriate the Nazi regime by refusing to fly their flag over his home and by declining their offer for a commission in the German Navy. He also turned down an invitation for his family to perform at one of Hitler’s birthday parties. It really was necessary for them to flee Austria, a country that they loved so dearly. Maria really did give up on her dreams of being a nun to become the matriarch of the Von Trapp family, fulfilling what she believed was God’s “higher calling” of her, and her relationship with the children was just as loving as it was portrayed as in the film.
Today, there is a modern version of the Trapp Family Singers made up of the descendants of the von Trapp family. The Von Trapps is a musical that was formed by Sofia, Melanie, Amanda and August von Trapp, the grandchildren of Werner von Trapp who was portrayed as Kurt in The Sound of Music, and the great-grandchildren of Georg von Trapp. Recently they appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show to perform at the Von Trapp reunion.
During our visit to Salzburg, we also had the chance to visit Mozart’s Geburtshaus. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born here on January 27, 1756 and it is now one of the most frequently visited museums in the world. Unfortunately, we didn’t have a chance to go into the museum. However, we were lucky enough to be in Salzburg the weekend after Mozart’s birthday, so the atmosphere throughout the city was much more festive than I’d imagine it typically is during a weekend in the off-season.
All in all, I had a wonderful time exploring Salzburg! The culture and historical relevance of the city is undeniable, and I thoroughly enjoyed our Sound of Music tour. My time there was altogether much too short, and I look forward to exploring the city again one day, perhaps in the summer this time.
Rachel is a Strasbourg alumna, dog mom, and bona fide politico. While on study abroad, she wrote for the University of Florida “Global Gators” blog and later served as an On-Campus Ambassador for the CEPA Foundation. She has since completed her Bachelor with a double major in Political Science and Economics at UF and now works in DC as a Staff Assistant in the US House of Representatives.