Salzburg, Austria: Secrets of Salzburg and The Sound of Music still a tourist drawcard

Salzburg is Mozart's birthplace. It's steeped in classical music and its baroque Old Town is world heritage-listed, but its connection to something rather less high-brow is central to its popularity as a tourist destination: the 1965 film The Sound of Music. Tourists caper around its Residenzplatz singing I Have Confidence and burst through the gates of the Benedictine Nonnberg Abbey warbling How Do You Solve a problem Like Maria?. They twirl and selfie and skip along to their inner Sound of Music. Pity the poor Salzburger.

Our excellent cynic of a guide, who is showing us around Salzburg as part of a 15-day APT Magnificent Europe river cruise from Budapest to Amsterdam, is caustic about the carry-on and shares with us some of the porkies in the film as well as her recipe for pork roast (schweinebraten). Cynicism and food – these are a few of my favourite things!

One of the most egregious errors in The Sound of Music had the von Trapps escape the Nazis by trekking over the Bavarian Alps to Switzerland. The real von Trapps departed for Italy in a rather more mundane fashion, via Salzburg's Aigen redbrick railway station, unhindered by anyone. Had they climbed the filmic mountain, they would have beaten a path directly to Germany and Hitler's Eagle's Nest retreat.

And all was not necessarily edelweiss meadows and snow-capped peaks, among the cast, either. Apparently actor Christopher Plummer, as Baron von Trapp, was not happy about having to carry "that bloody fat child up the mountain". Poor Gretel.

The filmic von Trapp home is another illusion. Their actual villa is in Aigen, where the family lived from 1923 to 1938, about 10 minutes from Salzburg's Old Town. It is now a hotel, cashing in merrily – and why not. Everyone else is. The exterior shots of the villa in the film were of the rococo Schloss Leopoldskron. The interiors were recreated in Hollywood. Frohnberg Palace's facade, courtyard and front gate were also used in the film.

You need to keep your wits about you when visiting Salzburg's baroque Mirabell Palace Gardens. Sound of Music tours often start here and tourists are at their silliest.

Forget about snapping an unimpeded photo of the large, fist-pumping Greek statues at the garden entrance, which leap forward triumphantly. Any number of large, fist-pumping Sound of Music aficionados will leap triumphantly into your shot. If you're really unlucky, they'll be singing that infuriating earworm, Do Re Mi, at the top of their lungs.

Do Re Mi also rings out as you try to circumnavigate the garden's Pegasus statue. Tourists will be boogying around the fountain lip, hopping up and down the stairs. And don't even think about a quiet amble along the vine tunnel. It's a jostle of movie fans clutching guidebooks and chanting, you guessed it, Do Re Mi.

The gazebo where Liesl and Rolf smooched and Maria and the Captain sang Something Good was originally at the rococo Schloss Leopoldskron but later moved to Schloss Hellbrunn. Tourists were once able to cavort at the gazebo until "something bad" happened. An octogenarian singing I Am Sixteen Going on Seventeen crashed through a pane of glass. Now, forlorn fans must gaze at it from outside, humming their little tunes.


Liesl's flirtation with Rolf also fails to reflect reality, according to Johannes von Trapp, the youngest of the 10 real-life von Trapp children.

"In the real family, my oldest sister was Agatha and she was a very introverted person," he told the BBC's World Service in 2015. "And the thought of her doing that song and dance routine with the telegraph boy had us all rolling in the aisles in stitches."

Hollywood's lip-gloss has also been applied to the real Maria von Trapp. According to her stepdaughter (also called Maria), Maria senior was loving and caring, but also had a "terrible temper". She also had an uncinematic "rolling gait" from her love of hiking.

There's more, but that will do. Time to slip away to Gasthof Goldgasse in a historic laneway to enjoy another, more palatable, Austrian cliche – Wiener schnitzel with buttered new potatoes, muslin-wrapped lemon, cucumber salad and cranberry sauce.

Just in the interests of disclosure, the writer has been known to reluctantly dress up with an array of lonely goatherds and female deer at a Sydney State Theatre annual Sound of Music singalong.

Alison Stewart Travelled as a guest of APT.

Trip Notes



Singapore Airlines flies daily to Budapest and Amsterdam from Sydney and Melbourne. See


APT's Magnificent Europe 15-day River Cruise Amsterdam-Budapest and reverse costs $6995 per person with a Fly Free deal or Fly Business Class deal for $2995. Tours operate from March to December. See or call 1300 196 420.