“The hills are alive with the sound of music
With songs they have sung for a thousand years
The hills fill my heart with the sound of music
My heart wants to sing every song it hears”

I grew up with the Sound of Music, like almost all 70’s kids (and 80’s and 90’s). I fell in love with Austria, music, songs, Captain von Trapp, Maria and Gretl, but most of all, with the romance of the entire movie. My teenage idea of love were Maria’s implausible story. So naturally, when we suddenly slotted in Salzburg, we had to book a Sound of Music guided tour (SoM from now on) through Panorama tours.

Most outdoor scenes were shot in and around Salzburg, but the guided tour didn’t cover Salzburg old town. The Aldstadt sights we saw by ourselves. As we hadn’t seen the movie before going, there were quite a few areas that we didn’t recognize, but we saw the movie after coming back and revisited our trip with a lot of “oohs”, “aahs”, and “that’s where this was shot” squeals.


For example, we encountered this horse bath during our mad dash from the Monschberg ridge to Mirabell gardens, and just liked what we saw, but realised that Maria and the children had danced about it in “My favorite things.”


The mint colored domes as Maria runs through Salzburg


The Alte Residenz is where the Nazi flag flutters once the Anscluss (German possession of Austria) occurs


“I have confidence in confidence alone!
Besides, which you see, I have confidence in me!”

Words to form the backbone of years to come rang through my mind as I saw this fountain where Maria regains her confidence.


Maria and the kids rode a horse carriage through the pretty streets of Salzburg while learning Do-re-mi but my considerate kid was appalled by the misuse of animals. Proud of her!


Nonnberg abbey, where Maria was training to be a nun is the red domed building. It’s still an abbey and no one can enter it

Panorama’s original SoM tour took us to see the less accessible locations of shooting. My last post ended with our running to Mirabell gardens where the tour was to start (Germany Austria May 2018: Salzburg) and we just reached the Panorama tours spot in the nick of time, when we realised that the entire area was cordoned off because of the marathon. No vehicles were allowed here, no instructions were posted on the Panorama board, no one picked up at the Panorama phone center as it was a Sunday. I was heartbroken and had almost given up when the hubby saw the bright red bus far off and we rushed there.


There were 4 busl oads that sunny afternoon. Panorama makes huge money for sure! We hadn’t had lunch and armed with some (lousy) bakery stuff, we plonked ourselves in the bus, relieved to have air-conditioning and some rest for our tired calves.

The lonely goatherd and Lisa (our pretty guide) drove us out of Salzburg towards the living hills. Considering that half the roads were blocked, the driver did an amazing job of maneuvering the huge bus through the narrow claustrophobic lanes. I felt relieved once he was out of the town. We drove straight to the Leopoldskrunn palace, where the captain sees his children in the boat and they all fall into the lake. It was so perfect a sight, the large man-made lake with tall trees around, the fortress far behind and the perfectly white palace reflected in the lake. I could have happily sat on a picnic bench here for hours doing nothing but taking in the view.

A mother goose with her little goslings swam by and I almost fell into the lake trying to get the perfect shot. DSC_3944_01

All the scenes on the terrace between captain, Maria and the kids were shot on the outdoor veranda of this beautiful house, which is now a hotel. Even the grand ballroom has been inspired by an actual room in the palace.


Note the two lions at the edge of the water, near the fence. That’s where all those scenes were shot, especially when the boat capsizes. The amazing thing about the scene that follows is that it’s a continuous conversation between Maria and the captain. The scenes of the captain were shot in this palace and the scenes worth Maria were shot in a yellow building 10 km away and then they were put together. Ah the magic of film making.


The von Trapp house was a canary yellow villa 10 kilometres away. It is now a music school and we only drove past it, we couldn’t even run down the long driveway and pretend to be the “urchins” hanging out of the trees.


The budding romance between Liesl and Rolf was very charming, but for me, the love story between the Captain and Maria was infinitely better. So I was thrilled to see the gazebo where both couples professed their love, singing, “16 going on 17” and “Something good”.

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“So somewhere in my youth or childhood, I must have done something good”

It would be so gorgeous in the moonlight, especially if it were still in the lawns of the white lakeside palace where it was during the actual shooting. It has been moved to Hellbrunn palace, the summer residence of the Archbishop of Salzburg. . On this bright sunny Sunday it seemed as though the whole of Salzburg had accumulated here. Kids were running about, parents were pushing their strollers, dogs were panting in the heat and flowers bloomed everywhere.

It also housed the trick fountains, a naughty entertainment for the archbishop. He’d invite prominent people for lunch and had water outlets below their chairs that would be intermittently turned on during the meal. Not to let his highness down, the palace now had a huge trick fountains section to spray unsuspecting visitors.

From here, we drove out to the Salzkammergut, with rolling hills, meadows as far as the eye can see, lakes surrounded by quaint towns and the alps rising majestically are all around. It’s actually a place where one can stay for a week, cycle about and chill. To help enjoy the ride and loosen up for the “merry singing” bit of the tour, the driver had beer, chilled water and a yodelling drink for the self-conscious.


We were lucky enough to have driven through a small part of it on a rainy day from Hallstatt to Salzburg. I could totally understand how the composer thought of the song, “The hills are alive with the sound of music.”


The lakes of the Salzkammergut are the biggest draw. We drove past Lake Fuschl, the lake of the rich and famous, where the Austrian celebrities and who’s who owned properties.

This bright sunny day of the SoM tour, we drove past this lake, which looked so different in the sunshine.


Since we were not the ones driving, I actually enjoyed this drive more. The tiny villages and pretty houses looked so alluring and I felt so bad about the fleeting visit.


While I spent my time looking around me, enjoying the environs of the beautiful land, the hubby spent his drive-free time enjoying the environs of the bus.


While the hubby slept blissfully, Lisa (bored of the trivia maybe) played track after track of the movie, urging us to sing along while she didn’t. Apparently, SoM is not a huge sensation in Austria, just good money for the tour. So we should pardon Lisa for not sharing our enthusiasm.


Shortly, we drove up to Lake Wolfgangsee, a huge lake nestled amidst the mountains. People were out in hordes at the lake front, yachts were sailing on the lake and paragliders were enjoying the respite from the rain.


This looked like such a wonderful place to stay, the houses sloping upwards from the lake up to the road itself, all looking onto the lake. There are 2 towns on this lake, St Wolfgang itself and St Gilgen, both of which looked like wonderful places to stay at and I had strongly considered staying here and day tripping to Salzburg, instead of the other way round.


As we drove on, Lisa pointed out the super glamorous Red Bull headquarters to us. While we all sighed in unison, the kid piped up, “Mummy this is where I’m going to work.” Kids today are too smart. We chose our profession first and then everything just happened. Today’s generation chooses the destination first and then works towards it. 

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As we drove on singing along softly to the songs, I really wished we had a more enthusiastic bunch of people on the bus. They were all prim and proper and no one was hollering along. Even when the lonely goatherd played, no one yodelled. I think they all needed more of the yodelling ale.


A pretty villa owned by a man who bought the entire area, and then the adjoining little lake as well


We passed by fields of green with yellow wildflowers.


And admired the brilliantly blue lakes with boats bobbing on them.


And then, finally, we reached Lake Mondsee, the longest halt, to see the cathedral where Maria and the Captain were married.


In the movie, Maria gets married in the abbey, but the actual wedding scene was inside this cathedral. The exterior was never seen.


Remember Maria walking down in the floaty white dress and long veil. It was shot right here, without the pews.

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I could picture Maria gliding up the steps and kneeling before the priest with the Captain. This was my favorite scene after the Ländler dance where Maria dances with the Captain.


The old town pedestrian-only part of Mondsee was charming as could be with a lane of multi coloured buildings and gorgeous shop windows.


We were so terribly hungry that we had to eat something here, pizza for the kid, the famed apple strudel for me.


It was truly the best apple strudel I’ve had so far, made even better by the fact that I had to share it with no one! While the kid finished her pizza, I strolled about the pretty town.



We’d seen a huge line of people outside an icecream store, both on our way to and back from the town and we wondered if he was doling it out for free.


Of all the towns I’d seen in Austria, Hallstatt and Mondsee stole my heart the most. I will certainly return to the Salzkammergut someday.



As we walked back to the bus, we came across an Indian couple posing in a grass meadow like Rose and Dawson in the Titanic. I wanted to take pictures but the “nice” kid stopped me. We got into the bus and set back for Salzburg, with a last look at lake Mondsee.


The drive back to Salzburg was not through the hills but on the autobahn, a terrible disappointment for me. Lisa played a short movie about the filming of SoM in Salzburg narrated by Liesl. Swiftly, we reached Mirabell gardens, a palace with large lawns built by the Archbishop for his wife.



We stood at the entrance to the gardens on the Do-Re-Mi steps where Maria and the kids sing and dance, but it was so crowded that we could only take one picture of the beautifully designed garden lawns with the green domes of the old town and the fortress in the background.


Apparently, the gardeners change the floral patterns and the flowers that they plant all the time so none of the pictures look identical.


Picture courtesy: Ravi Thapar, shot just 15 days after my visit

Since we were completing the SoM tour, we had to walk on the parapet of the Pegasus fountain (where Maria and the kids dance).


And run and jump through the vine-covered tunnels.


Jump about a fountain surrounded by statues.


Pat a dwarf or two.


Or simply admire the pretty flowers.



Just a fortnight later, my brother-in-law was greeted by a garden of brilliantly red roses.


Despite the obvious beauty of these places, I didn’t love the SoM tour. Maybe the guide and group weren’t engaging enough, maybe the hot day and lack of food put me off. Most of all, I think it was the cast that made the film so wonderful, and that’s what was missing; the handsome Captain, the bubbly Maria and the adorable kids. That’s what I missed the most, the magic of Hollywood.

“So long, farewell, auf Wiedersehen, goodbye”

7 thoughts on “Germany Austria May 2018: Revisiting the Sound of Music in Salzburg

  1. Omg I thought of the movie all along while reading this. Couldn’t recognize quite a bit though. I can’t get over how blue the blue is and how green the green is. Stunning pictures as usual.


  2. Thank you so much for sharing your experience and pictures. My family is spending 3 days in Salzburg a few days before Christmas and I’m also thinking of doing some tours as well. I saw Panorama Tours when I browsing and some people weren’t as satisfied as well. Is it because the bus just kept driving and driving and did not make enough stops? Now I’m wondering which other tour companies to look at 🙂 – amor


    • Yes, the bus shows you the stops from afar, so you feel a little let down. It’s okay if you are short pressed for time or don’t have a car. Otherwise if you do it on your own, you’d probably see more and like it better. You could try Bob’s minibus tour instead, might have a more personal feel. Having said that, my 13 year old loved the tour. Hope you enjoy Salzburg.

      Liked by 1 person

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