Salzburg: 50 years since The Sound of Music
50 years since 'The Sound of Music', Salzburg is alive with the spark of celebration says Muriel Bolger.
Set the mood
When your most famous resident has two museums and several varieties of chocolate named after him, you know he's taken seriously.
Though Mozart hogged the limelight in Salzburg for over two centuries, he was ousted by an unlikely successor - Captain Georg von Trapp. The Sound of Music was never released in Austria, yet for millions of viewers across the globe the locations are unforgettably familiar and top of many a bucket list. For them, My Favourite Things trumps Mozart, and the city never disappoints.
On the 50th anniversary of the movie, I went back to a favourite weekend destination full of atmosphere and attractions as the annual Christmas markets strike up.
As a big fan, I just had to do The Sound of Music tour. Based on fact (via the filter of Hollywood, of course), it tells the story of widower von Trapp and the governess he fell in love with. An ex-nun, she took him and his seven children on at the tender age of 22!
We saw her convent (the Nonnberg Abbey), the cemetery where the family were hidden by the nuns as they fled the Nazis, the lake the children fell into at Leopolsdkron Palace, the Mirabell gardens and the chapel at Mondsee, the location used for the wedding.
Standing on the slopes of Werfen, where the movie opens with The Hills are Alive, we even had a bit of a sing-song amidst Bavaria's unrivalled scenery!
There's more to Salzburg than The Sound of Music, of course. Buy a Salzburg card (salzburg.info; €32-€36 for 48 hours), and enjoy exploring. It entitles you to free entry to all attractions and museums in the city, as well as to public transport. Take the cable car for the 1,853-metre ride up to Untersberg, the cable railway to the Hohensalzburg Fortress, or enjoy the sights from a Salzach river cruiser. The card gives you other discounts too.
"You don't grow old in Salzburg," one local told me. "You grow out."
Cafés offer temptations on every corner, and I couldn't get over the prices. Four decadent hot chocolates along with four equally decadent wedges of gateaux left me with change from €25! That was at Fürst, home to the original Mozartkugel - a mix of almonds, pistachio and dark chocolate, and a mandatory take-home purchase.
Don't miss the Hellbrunn Palace and its Trick Fountains (hellbrunn.at). I'd love to know what their creator, Prince Archbishop Markus Sittikus, was thinking when he built these grottos and follies for the gardens in the 1600s - they'll make you smile.
I'd forgotten what it was like to have my food and drink polluted by the puffing smokers at adjoining tables. There's no smoking ban in Salzburg (yet), and that's a real pity.
Get me there
Muriel flew to Munich with Ryanair (ryanair.com), taking the S-Bahn to Munich Hauptbahnhof and connecting for Salzburg. The train journey takes 1.5 to two hours, and tickets can be bought in advance at thetrainline-europe.com for €19 to €31.
The Sound of Music tour (panoramatours.com) costs €40. Muriel stayed at the four-star Hotel am Mirabellplatz (hotelammirabellplatz-salzburg.com), which she found good, central and affordable. See also salzburg.info.