Destinations

Salzburg: still alive with Sound of Music

Keeley Bolger (PAA)

“Here’s the bench that an 82-year-old lady slipped on while dancing to Sixteen Going On Seventeen and then fell through a pane of glass,” says Peter the tour guide, shaking his head at a newly restored and immaculate gazebo in Hellbrun Palace on the outskirts of Salzburg.

“She was such a big Sound Of Music fan she couldn’t resist dancing in the gazebo.”

“She’s fine now though, just a few scratches,” he adds, as our horrified reflections beam back out at us from the restored window pane.

I’d rather not slip on the white bench that dashed the octogenarian’s waltz, but the urge to start prancing is admittedly strong.

Because, like that lady, I too am a huge fan of The Sound Of Music and the sight of the gazebo where eldest Von Trapp child Liesl and her telegram delivery boyfriend Rolfe frolicked, flirted and snogged, fills my limbs with an urge to sing.

Unlike Julie Andrews, who plays nun-turned-governess-turned-captain’s wife in the epic film based on a true story, I have not been blessed with a strudel-sweet singing voice, so I decide to keep my Von Trapp shut.

You can’t move for Sound Of Music reminders in Salzburg. Sure, there are references to Mozart (that other tourist pull), everywhere, but with the film’s 50th anniversary looming, Wolfgang will have to wait.

Judging by the city’s tourists, I’m not the only one here geeking out on the film’s legacy.

Shift to the city centre, and you’ll see backpack-wearing groups jumping up and down the steps of the Mirabell Palace And Gardens, where Maria led her young charges Do Re Mi-ing as they made their way to the fountain.

Head to Residenzplatz and trill I Have Confidence, the lively pep talk Maria sings to herself as she moves from the nunnery to her new post as governess to Von Trapp’s seven children.

Wind yourself down pretty streets, past the nunnery at the Stift Nonnberg, and you can convince yourself that the nuns filing out of the gates are about to break into How Do Your Solve A Problem Like Maria?

Indeed, 50 years on from the film’s release, it is still the first thing many of us picture when thinking of Salzburg.

Serving as a love letter to the city, the movie flaunts Salzburg’s picture-postcard alpine views, pretty churches and market stalls with rosy-cheeked vendors.

Nowadays, that view has little changed. Coinciding my trip with a bank holiday means that the city’s residents are decked out in the traditional lederhosen and dirndl Maria and Co wear in the film. The difference being that, from the looks of it, no one has fashioned theirs out of a curtain.

For me, an embarrassingly big fan of the film, seeing a seemingly unchanged city and all this traditional get-up is a delight to behold.

I was such an aficionado that I had a scrapbook complete with glued down photocopies of the lyrics and stapled in interviews with Julie Andrews. As routes to popularity go, it wasn’t a conventional one.

Though I’ve long-since stashed that scrapbook away at my parents’ house and spare myself from divorce by not enlisting my husband to sing Christopher Plummer’s bits in Edelweiss, the musical still has a hold on me and the way I view this city.

A cursory glimpse of the rest of the tour group confirms that I’m not the only one who has fallen under the musical – and indeed the city’s – spell.

Admittedly, some of the group aren’t bores like me. “You ARE a big fan aren’t you?” withers one sceptic who has come here to see what all the fuss is about. But even he can’t fail to fling his arms out when we head to Salzkammergut, the pretty lakeside area that is used during the opening sequence.

Neither can the fresh stream of Sound Of Music tourists who pull up in their bus, mural of the movie splashed on the side, and trickle out taking selfies, wailing The Sound Of Music missing the high, medium and low notes as they go.

“Not everyone can sing like Julie Andrews, huh?” nudges a fan to the left of me who is keeping his distance from a hen group, kitted out in matching Sound Of Music hoodies.

Luckily, tuneful singing can still be found in the shape of The Sound Of Salzburg Dinner Show. Held regularly, a crew of note-perfect singers recite tunes from the show as well as folk songs and Mozart pieces.

Nice as folk songs and Mozart pieces are, it’s The Sound Of Music the audience are here for and the opening trickles of How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria? confirm this with an audible wave of humming and nodding rippling throughout the room.

Here, guests can gorge on schnitzel with noodles and apple strudels and even take a turn around the small stage with the cast, who perform a simple Viennese waltz.

It may not be the grand party that Captain Von Trapp throws in the musical, but it’s a jolly nod to the film.

But with the strains of So Long, Farewell ringing out, I too pay my goodbyes to this wonderful city, safe in the knowledge that here, the hills are still very much alive with the sound of music.

Original Sound of Music tours (www.panoramatours.com) are available from 40 euros per adult.

Image: http://www.post-movie.net

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