Salzburg | Austria

The HILLS are alive, with the sound of music…”

I am going to be completely honest with you – we came to Salzburg for one reason & one reason only - “The Sound of Music” aka the story of the von Trapp Family. To say there’s a small obsession with the film is not an exaggeration & I happily count myself amongst the millions of people who know most every word to the movie’s songs. If you don’t believe me, you can ask Ben who endured my singing for roughly 2.5 days straight. 

Salzach River, Salzburg

Salzach River, Salzburg

I have more memories than I can count of watching the film over & over at our family gatherings. I don’t know what it was about the movie, but we all loved it & used every reunion as an excuse to pull the tape (yes tape) out. You can imagine my surprise (& dismay) when Ben casually mentioned he hadn’t watched the entire film. BAH – how was I not aware of this?!?! So, first things first, we rented it & watched in our hostel on our first night in Salzburg. We heard later from another traveler that her hostel apparently shows it every night in the common rooms. It is that big of a deal, people.

Typically, we’ve tried to mix up our trips with a dose of tourism & history with more local & off the beaten path experiences. Not here. In Salzburg, we decided we were going all in & just going to enjoy it. We signed up for the “Fräulein Maria’s Bicycle Tour” & probably was one of the best tours we’ve been on so far. It didn’t hurt that we had a gorgeous & perfect day to bike around either.

After all the biking excursions we’ve done, (some of which have not been so smooth) it was time for me to extract a little revenge on Ben. We signed up for the tandem bike 😊.

Yup, Ben now was literally stuck riding with me all day (singing included). Luckily for us, Salzburg is fairly flat & biker friendly as riding these suckers are more complicated than expected. There are all sorts of online tutorials to help you out & you can, apparently, join tandem bike “communities” to practice your skills… Not sure we’ll be signing up for one of those back home.

Sound of Music Tour

The tour itself was a better mix of history & movie info than we expected. Throughout the ride you hear of the city’s history, like the fact that Salzburg’s fortress castle was never conquered (rare in Europe) & the legend of “Barbarossa”.

But the main attraction of the tour is, of course, cycling around the locations used for the movie. Not all these are factually accurate of course – the house used in the movie was never occupied by the actual family & the front was one house, while backyard scenes were filmed at a second house. The famous gazebo had to be moved several times due to increasing numbers of visitors & eventually it was locked up after one too many ladies tried to reenact the famous “16 going on 17” routine. Apparently the last was a 60 going on 61 lady who broke her hip…whoops.

However, the abbey used for several shots in the movie is legit & was where the real Maria von Trapp had been a postulant. It’s still one of the oldest women’s convents in the world.

Finally, the highlight of the tour, for me at least, was the leisurely ride back to the city while our delightful guide blared the movie soundtrack off his Ipod in a glorious sing along. Obviously, I recorded some of this & since we have no shame, feel free to enjoy; a lot of it, however, is us riding by trees, haha. I told Ben later I didn’t think I had felt so content as I did riding along, singing through the trees.

Mozart’s Birthplace

The Sound of Music isn’t Salzburg’s only major claim to fame.  It is also the birthplace of famed composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Every shop in town has some trinket for sale with his face on it; Mozart bobble heads, masks & my personal favorite the Mozart rubber duckies. In hindsight, that one may have been worth a purchase.

contemporary Mozart statue

contemporary Mozart statue

Since we were surrounded by classical fanciness, we decided to take advantage of it & attend the “Mozart Dinner Concert”. A bit touristy, but an enjoyable way to take in a classical concert & fine dining. Basically, it’s a 3-course meal & in between courses you’re treated to a variety of Mozart sets. Its situated in a beautiful old building & my only complaint is, being such an old building, there was virtually no air & more than once I thought I might sweat right out of my clothes.

Mozart Dinner

Mozart Dinner

What we hadn’t realized before was how much else there is to do around Salzburg. Much is, of course, overshadowed by the movie & Mozart tourists but you could easily spend a week exploring all the outdoor offerings. Red Bull’s headquarters aren’t far from the city, as is their famous “hangar 7”; you can hike up & around “Eagles Nest” for a day (we hadn’t realized it was so close or we probably would have tried to see it!) or take in some of the local lakes where Salzburgians flee to escape the heat.

Having expected a small town that we originally determined would be “just a quick stop over” for nothing but your basic tourist traps, we were pleasantly surprised with all Salzburg had to offer.  The city turned out to be a spot we’re absolutely convinced we must return to & enjoy the beautiful hills, alive & full of the sound of music!