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The Sound of Music: on the trail of a phenomenon

5 Oscars, a fan base that stretches around the world, beautiful shooting locations in Salzburg – and yet, the movie “The Sound of Music” is practically unknown in its Austrian hometown. We joined up with the Original Tour and discovered: that definitely needs to change.

“And now, all together: Edelweiss, Edelweiss. Every morning you greet me…” That particular prompt from our tour guide Antonio really wasn’t necessary – all around us, it seems that virtually everyone is already merrily humming along or singing the song out loud. Sitting next to us is an elderly couple from India, in the row just in front of us an Australian family of four and, behind us, a young couple from Denmark. All of our fellow passengers on the Original “Sound of Music” Tour know what is probably the most famous song from one of the world’s most beloved movie musicals: “The Sound of Music”. Only for we Austrians is this film, which was shot in Salzburg back in 1964, still very much a mystery. It’s rare to bump into a single local who has seen it – even though it was nominated for 10 Oscars and ultimately took home 5 of those highly coveted golden statuettes. Just one more reason to hook up with this tour to the original locations. And develop a better sense for why “The Sound of Music” is such an extraordinary phenomenon.

A 4-hour journey to the original shooting locations

In 4 hours, Panorama Tours leads its guests to the movie’s most important shooting locations. It is offered only in English, also suitable for people with impaired mobility, and sets out twice a day – at 9:15 AM and 2:15 PM – from Mirabellplatz. The bus gradually fills up with people from every corner of the globe – from America to India, from England to New Zealand. All are united by the wish to see the original locations from this world-famous film at least once in their lives. And they are far from being the only ones: More than 300,000 visitors come to Salzburg every year because of “The Sound of Music”. To this day, this film is one of the most successful Hollywood productions of all time.

Anecdotes and Secrets from The Movie

Antonio, our guide, is fantastic. A native Majorcan with a wit and charm all his own, he shares countless details about the film and the shooting locations. He also manages to draw a clear distinction between the movie plot and the real story of the Trapp family, happily sharing his intriguing and scurrilous anecdotes. He even reveals the occasional movie secret – which we are not going to spoil for you here. And so, snuggled comfortably in the bus, we first trundle through Salzburg out towards Leopoldskron, where we make a brief stop. The weather is marvelous, the temperatures mild. The ducks on the pond paddle across the water quacking merrily as they go, the birds twitter and tweet to their hearts’ content. Enthroned high above all of this is Hohensalzburg Fortress, while snow glistens from atop the Untersberg in the background. We turn our faces towards the sun and imagine to ourselves the bustling activity that must have been going on when the film crew set up camp here back in 1964.

“The Sound of Music is something truly special”

Our guide tells us everything in such detail, in our mind’s eye we can practically see the boat with Julie Andrews on board as Maria von Trapp sailing across the pond. And over there, isn’t that Christopher Plummer as Baron von Trapp standing on the shore? Tour guide Antonio moved from Majorca to Salzburg nine years ago, originally only intending to stay for two years. “But”, he says and laughs, “that’s just the way life is, right?” Now, he is one of Salzburg’s most successful tour guides. “The Sound of Music is something very special for me”, he shares. “When I see the enthusiasm of the people on our tour, it’s just very, very beautiful.” He has had a number of guests over the years who were actually spending their vacation in Vienna, but came to Salzburg just because of the Sound of Music Tour. And others who once studied in Salzburg, returning years later with families of their own in order to share some of the shooting locations with their loved-ones.

A Complete Success

After spilling out of the bus to take a few snapshots next to the famous gazebo, now located on the grounds of Hellbrunn palace, our journey continues to the Salzkammergut region. Our bus driver Ivo, who has been chauffeuring tour coaches for a profession for the last 23 years, navigates us down the main road in the direction of Wolfgangsee. And while the sunlit meadows glide past our windows, our fellow passengers join in the chorus of the famous songs from the movie. Not to be outdone, we join in. Though falling into an almost reverent hush during the quieter passages. Other songs, of course, such as the ever-popular “Do-Re-Mi”, demand a heartier rendition – not infrequently accompanied by laughter. In general, the atmosphere on the Sound of Music Tour is lighthearted – and guaranteed to be a big hit with everyone.

“Edelweiss, Edelweiss”

High above Wolfgangsee, we pull over to enjoy the view of the lake. Then we continue to Mondsee, taking a look inside the beautiful church in the center of town. It was here that the famous wedding scene was filmed in which Maria and Baron von Trapp “tied the knot”. We still have some time before we have to leave, so we stop in at a nearby café on the market square for a cup of full-flavored coffee and a plate of delicious apple strudel. Then, after about an hour and with our tummies utterly content, we make our way back to the bus with the rest of the group, ready to head back to Salzburg. Shortly before pulling in at Mirabellplatz, “Edelweiss” is piped through the loudspeakers of the bus. Eyes shine. And not rarely tear up. This phenomenon we know as “The Sound of Music” can’t really be understood in terms of cold facts and figures. It’s something you have to experience in person.

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