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"Oh, the Hills are Alive..."
Few Salzburgers would publicly admit it, but The Sound of Music, Hollywood's interpretation of the trials and joys of the local Trapp family, has become their city's most eminent emissary when it comes to international promotion. The year after the movie's release, international tourism to Salzburg jumped 20%, and soon The Sound of Music was a Salzburg attraction.
Perhaps the most important Sound spin-offs are the tours offered by several companies, including Salzburg Panorama Tours (Schrannengasse 2/2, Salzburg. 0662/883-2110. www.panoramatours.com.)
and Salzburg Sightseeing Tours (Am Mirabellplatz 2, Salzburg. 0662/881-616. www.welcome-salzburg.at.)
. Besides showing you some of the film's locations (usually very briefly), these four-hour rides have the advantage of giving a very concise tour of the city. The buses generally leave from Mirabellplatz; lumber by the "Do-Re-Mi" staircase at the edge of the beautifully manicured Mirabell Gardens; pass by the hardly visible Aigen train station, where in reality the Trapps caught the escape train; and then head south to Schloss Anif. This 16th-century water castle, which had a cameo appearance in the opening scenes of the film, is now in private hands and not open to the public.
First official stop for a leg-stretcher is at the gazebo in the manicured park of Schloss Hellbrunn at the southern end of the city. Originally built in the gardens of Leopoldskron Palace, it was brought out here to give the chance for taking pictures. This is where Liesl von Trapp sings "I Am Sixteen Going on Seventeen" and where Maria and the Baron woo and coo "Something Good." The simple little structure is the most coveted prize of photographers. The bus then drives by other private palaces with limited visiting rights, Schloss Frohnburg and Schloss Leopoldskron, with its magical water-gate terrace, adorned with rearing horse sculptures and site of so many memorable scenes in the movie. The bus continues on to Nonnberg Convent at the foot of the daunting Hohensalzburg fortress, then leaves the city limits for the luscious landscape of the Salzkammergut. You get a chance for a meditative walk along the shore of the Wolfgangsee in St. Gilgen before the bus heads for the pretty town of Mondsee, where, in the movie, Maria and Georg von Trapp were married at the twin-turreted Michaelerkirche.
Tour guides are well trained and often have a sense of humor, with which they gently debunk myths about the movie. Did you know, for example, that Switzerland was "moved" 160 km (100 mi) eastward so the family could hike over the mountains to freedom (while singing "Climb Every Mountain")? It all goes to show that in Hollywood, as in Salzburg and its magical environs, almost anything is possible.
Sternbräu Dinner Theater. For something different, try the Sternbräu Dinner Theater with the Sound of Austria. Its dinner show features those unforgettable songs from the Sound of Music, as well as traditional folksongs from Salzburg and a medley of Austrian operettas, daily from May to October. The cost of the dinner show is €48; without dinner it's €34. Griesgasse 23, Salzburg. 0662/826617.
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