As Kylie Minogue once sang, it was loooooove, at first sight.
Except… More like fourth sight.
Since I was a little girl, the Sound of Music has been my favourite movie. My mom used to sing songs from the soundtrack to help me fall asleep. I always dreamed that when I was 16 I would fall in love with a nazi mailman (just kidding…) and mostly, I wanted to live in the Von Trapp house. How could I not? It was massively beautiful, with a ball room, backing onto a beautiful lake… We’ll get back to that in a minute. So mom and I took the train from Munich first thing in the morning. The whole way there we watched the scenery through the windows change from city to meadow, and eventually sprawling hills with little cottages in the crevices. It was beautiful. When the train pulled into the Salzburg station, we stepped out and were honestly expecting to be directly in the heart of The Sound of Music. Only that didn’t happen. Instead, we were in a super modern train station, asking directions to the City Center. We walked out of the train station, through the bus depot, and squeezed through the crowds of people on the dusty sidewalks outside of Subway and H&M. Seriously? Where was the garden? Where was the castle on top of the hill? Where was that beautiful lake?! Instead, we were in a city that reminded us a lot of home, sort of like gas town but busier, more construction.
After walking just far enough to see the church and confirm that beyond the overpass we were standing in, and that there WAS evidence of the Salzburg we were expecting, we rushed back to the train station to find out how to get to the Von Trapp house, the first stop of the day. We showed the information woman (who at this point was rather annoyed with my questions) the address we wanted to arrive at, and she confidently told me to buy a ticket to Salzburg-Aigen.
Side note: the train/ metro system in Germany and Salzburg is SUPER confusing. Neither one even acknowledges English speaking tourists. Sure, they both have convenient machines where you just type in your destination and BOOM, out comes your ticket. But there are platforms, and then there are train numbers, and they’re east bound and westbound, and suddenly you find yourself on a train, a ticket written only in German in your hand, wondering if you’re on the right train. Because, by the way, the stop you’re looking for PROBABLY isn’t listed on the map above the train door. It’s sort of like… Catching a train at Scott Road Station. You know you’re on the waterfront bound train. But it doesn’t tell you about 22nd street or Granville street. OH NO. So Salzburg-Aigen was the equivalent of 22ns street from the Salzburg HBF and we just lucked out that we were paying close enough attention. Anyway, I DIGRESS.
Mom and I got off the train in Aigen, crossed under the platform to the other side of the track, and came right up face to face with a completely suburban block, a great big white wall to our right and a Montessori Children’s School to our left. Hang on… Where was the lake?
Just kidding. I knew that the house used in the film wasn’t the REAL Von Trapp house. But surely the property, which was occupied by Himmler during world war 2 after the Von Trapps left (not over mountaintop, but actually through Italy using the same train station we arrived to Aigen in!), then sold to a Monk Monastery, and finally sectioned off and partially used to create a bed and breakfast opened in 2008, wasn’t in the middle of suburbia?
It was. Just beyond the white wall and thanks to a friendly neighbour man, we were pointed directly to the entrance of the Von Trapp house… And the chills began. Because of COURSE it would be in this beautiful suburban neighbourhood. It was so green, and quiet, and pretty… It’s the kind of area anyone would love to raise a family in.
We spent the next hour touring the grounds and seeing the real rooms of the real Von Trapp family, which was so surreal. I would highly recommend the tour to anyone interested in the film, the family, or even just WW2. then we hopped back on the train, then headed straight back to the city Center, where we hopped on the Original Sound of Music tour. It took us directly to the lake where the canoe scene was REALLY filmed, which was beautiful.
We got to see the I Have Confidence wall, the home front actually used, the back of the home used for filming (against the lake), and then the gazebo that was recreated to replicate the Sixteen Going on Seventeen scene. God, it was cool.
Love at third sight? We’re definitely going steady at this point.
After this tour, we took a drive through the mountain and Lake District. We saw the Red Bull headquarters (evidently not part of the tour, but a nice bonus) and a hotel that Bill Gates apparently stays in when he visits Salzburg. A very affordable 4500 Euros per night! Then, we stopped for a photo op above one of the lakes, and I think the view says it all.
We drove another 10 minutes to the little lakeside town of Mondsee, where the church used in the film is situated. mom and I were so upset, we got photos of the outside, but I misunderstood, didn’t think it was the same interior, and we didn’t go inside!! My bad… But we did have some award winning apple strudel.
The town was beautiful, but no match for the scenery. As we drove back down the mountain, we listened to Edelweiss on the bus, and I swear, I teared up. Here u was in the most beautiful region I’ve ever visited, finally seeing where my favourite movie was filmed, listening to my favourite song on the soundtrack, and what’s more, doing it all with my mom!
Love at fourth sight? Yup. Taking over my heart like a freight train.
The bus dropped us off at Mirabell Gardens, where Do-Re-Mi was filmed. We took photos on the stairs, and on the fountain, and under the arch where Maria ran through and sang… It was the perfect day. I couldn’t have asked for anything better.
The more I got to know Salzburg, the more I fell in love. And it wasn’t just about the film. There were so many places we saw that had nothing to do with the film but everything to do with beauty, and we were both so sad to leave at the end of the day. It was an unforgettable trip and I can’t wait to return.
Have you ever felt an overwhelming love for a new city? I’d love to hear about it!