Yes, The Hills are (still) Alive! : Stories of Salzburg

Those of you who follow me on various other social media platforms will probably know half the story of which I am about to tell. Yet I feel it entirely deserving and owed it’s own special blog post. Therefore ladies and gentlemen, the hills are truly and most definitely still alive, I give you, the splendour that is Salzburg.

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Salzach River and Hohenfestung, Salzburg

Nearing the last few weeks of my year abroad I wasn’t entirely sure how I could really top it all off, after all my trips around and abouts. Little did I know that Salzburg would be the gem, the icing on the cake, ‘die Sahnehäubchen’ and ‘der Schatz’ that would be the last perfectly-fitting piece to the puzzle of my year abroad experience.

Anyone who knows me well, will know that the film ‘The Sound of Music’, has been arguably one of the most influential movies of my life. Much alike many fellow Brits, or basically anyone out of Austria it seems, I (most of the time) manage to resist temptation to run and dance on the hilltops, yet cannot help but burst into song upon hearing the first few notes of the opening scenes. ‘The Sound of Music’ always seemed like one of the staple films, that alongside ‘The Wizard of Oz’, ‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’ and numerous others, were the classics that just about everyone had seen! The types of films that are repeated over and over on the TV, perfect for lazy Sunday afternoons with the family or for just about any day of the week when you need a little pick me up!

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Which is exactly why after finishing second year university exams the first thing I did was stick ‘The Sound of Music’ on; and of course I felt it necessary to share my freedom with the world via Instagram. To be more precise I posted a picture and stated – ”Cannot think of a better way to spend my first day of freedom… I do hope to visit Salzburg and reenact some scenes.” Little did I know that exactly a year later I would be meandering through the mountains and arriving in the centre of Salzburg on the cusp of fulfilling my foretold wish.

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52 weeks exactly. Coincidence, oder?

After hopping on the train in the morning and enjoying the sun cast over the glorious alpine land, I arrived in Salzburg and made my way successfully to the hotel, situated to the east of the city. We stayed at the ‘Urban Stay Hotel Villa Cicubo’, which I would definitely recommend to anyone looking for a decent priced overnight stay within walking distance of the city centre. The hotel was clean, spacious and also gave you complimentary mini breakfast bags in the morning, despite the fact that it stated ”breakfast is not included”, perfect!

Whilst waiting for my friend Helen, a fellow Lancastrian, to arrive, I decided to take some time to explore. Tourist map in hand, I headed to the centre to do a bit of a whistle-stop tour. Which rather meant that I was dashing around getting over excited and taking pictures of anything and everything!

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River and Old Town

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Salzburg itself, comprised of the old town, new town and the Salzach river running through the middle, is a small, yet beautifully traditional Austrian town; set at the foot of the alps, a bustling baroque town overlooked by imposing medieval fortress, Hohenfestung Salzburg. I passed through most of the new town and headed for the old town, where unsurprisingly all the tourists were! First things first I headed to the cathedral and surrounding area, also went past the house where Mozart was born, then headed along the river towards Mirabell Gardens, which is one of the most well known filming locations for the movie, more specifically for the ‘Do Re Mi’ song, with the famous step sequence and the dancing round the fountain. Naturally this area was a hotspot for fellow fans like me, with people dressed up reenacting dances and singing, I loved it! In fact (emotional fangirling moment), it made me feel quite overwhelmed to know that I was there for real and no longer was it just an illusive scene featured in a movie.

Do Re Mi!
Do Re Mi!
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Fountain & Hohenfestung Salzburg
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Remember the bike scene!?

In the evening I wandered back to the station to meet Helen, before we headed back to our hotel and also met up with a friend of Helen’s, who was also working in the area as a language assistant this year. Dinner time then meant outdoor dining and some hearty traditional Austrian food, I had spinach and parmesan cheese dumplings, which were delicious, so I definitely need to find a recipe!

After walking back to our hotel we grabbed a hot chocolate (well Helen got two seen as the first one was lost down the drain after failing to realise the cup wasn’t going to drop down before dispensing liquid), and then settled for an early night, seen as the day after we would be up and out for our ‘Sound of Music Experience’.

As soon as I got word of this so called ‘Sound of Music Experience’, I was sold. A day full of everything all things ‘Von Trapp’, how could I possibly have denied!? The event was run by the Austro-American Society of Upper Austria and Salzburg in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the film, and was a day packed of all things ‘Sound of Music’, as well as providing us with a unique insight into the real Von Trapp story.

The day begun with a private screening of the film at the Mozart Kino, because a few people there were actually seeing the film for the first time! It was actually lovely to see if on the big screen for once, and to be in a cinema full of fellow enthusiasts was such a buzz!

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Private Screening in Mozart Kino, Salzburg

After the film screening (the whole three hours) we headed for lunch at the Stieglkeller, which was a little walk up the hill, in the direction of the castle. Tables had all been reserved for the group and it gave us a chance to talk to other people who came on the trip. Lunch and even pudding was all included in what we paid for the whole trip, and my beef goulash was delicious!

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Lunch Time, Stiegl Keller

It was then time to head further round the hill to Nonnberg Abbey. The outside of the abbey was used in the film, but (spoiler alert) the inside courtyard where the nuns sing in the film is all just film set done in Hollywood. Inside the abbey, one of the sisters told us about the abbey and the great influence of the real Von Trapp family, and also a speech was given by Dr Franz Wasner, who spoke about his uncle, who was the priest that put together and directed the real Von Trapp family singers. He was represented by Max Detweiler in the film.

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We then all split off into groups for our walking tour round the town seeing all the main spots from the film, and our tour guide was simply great! The tour was not only full of interesting facts and stories, but at various points in the tour he would remind us of the songs that were sung at that specific place. The thing is he didn’t sing the songs at all, he just read the lyrics from cue cards as if it were a monologue with intermittent caesura for dramatic effect, which resulted in cry-laughing because it was pure genius. We loved Johann!

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Salzburg Cathedral
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Petersfriedhof – Inspiration for the film set cemetery

The next part of the tour then continued after a short taxi ride down to the southern outskirts of the city to the Trapp Villa, i.e the house that the real Von Trapp family lived in, sang in and eventually fled. The has been turned into a hotel now, but still values and exhibits its history, through photos, drawings and family keepsakes, which were quite touching. Take a look at the website http://www.villa-trapp.com/1/home/ for more information.

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The real Von Trapp Family (left), Maria Von Trapp drawing (right), Captain Von Trapp with his first wife Agathe (bottom right)

The final part of the day was then a reception at Schloss Leopoldskron, the palace which was used for the outside shots of the Von Trapp’s family villa in the film. Leopoldskron is not open to the public and even the hotel Leopoldskron is a building adjacent to the palace itself, which was why it was such a privilege to be there. They even opened up rooms upstairs in the palace such as the library, the dining halls, the terrace and various other elaborate rooms which inspired the Hollywood sets.

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Schloss Leopoldskron

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After pink lemonade (what else!?) on the terrace and wandering around the gardens, it was time to get a few pictures by the famous gates to the lake featured in the film. All dressed up in dirndls we felt like true Austrians it has to be said, and it seemed that many others were rather intrigued too, as we got asked questions such as ‘please may I have a picture with you?’ or ‘do you mind if I take a picture of you?’ – a strange, yet lovely situation, whereby we now know that people will look back at their photos and question who on earth those girls were they had a photo with. Though we were mistaken for members of the choir at some stage too. Rather humerous.

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schöne Mädels!
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Dirndl Models 😉

A panel discussion was also held, which discussed the success of the movie, the historical value and its impact on Salzburg today. Speakers included the a representative from the tourist board in Salzburg, Georg Steinitz, who worked as an assistant director for the filming in Salzburg, as well as Elisabeth Von Trapp, granddaughter of the real Captain Von Trapp. As well as speaking about her family Elisabeth also sang a few songs for us, both from the movie and those that she has wrote herself, since she also pursued a career in music. She has many videos on youtube of her songs and even of her speaking about her family, if you are interested to find out more about her. The evening was finished up with a buffet, of which schnitzel and apple strudel were a compulsory element, naturally.

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Panel discussion
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When we met Elisabeth Von Trapp!

Overall the evening and the whole day in fact was just a dream and it really opened my eyes to the real story and the struggle that the family endured. The film, yes might not depict all the details or tell the story exactly how it was, but that doesn’t really matter at all, because it has brought the attention from all over the world to the stage that is Salzburg.

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We love you, Julie!

Not even ashamed to admit that I listened to the soundtrack on my way back to Graz on the train! It was a surreal couple of days in a place that I wasn’t entirely sure if I would have time to get to see, and I’m eternally grateful that I did.


– erasmusexplorer.com –

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2 thoughts on “Yes, The Hills are (still) Alive! : Stories of Salzburg

  1. Pingback: So Long, Farewell, Auf Wiedersehen, Goodbye. | Erasmus Explorer:

  2. Pingback: Post Year Abroad Syndrome | Erasmus Explorer:

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