The hills are alive

The hills are alive
Salzburg is surrounded by many picturesque lakes such as Wolfgangsee.

The romantic Austrian city of Salzburg is perfect for musically inclined travellers.

I was interested in the classical music of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, who is Salzburg's favourite son, born there in 1756.

My family was more fascinated by The Sound Of Music, the film made here in 1965. A compromise was reached: I would hear a concert featuring Mozart's music and we would all go on the popular Sound Of Music tour.

Salzburg, Austria's fourth largest city and the capital of the Salzburgerland state, has one of the world's bestpreserved city centres. Wander through what is known as the Altstadt (Old Town) to discover history around every corner.

Tourists flock to Salzburg in winter to admire its snow-dusted landscape and to ski in the surrounding mountains.

I found that joining a Sound Of Music tour was also one of the best ways to explore Salzburg's mountains and lakes as we visited several key sights including picturesque Mondsee.

Box office tour

After settling onto the coach to the strains of music from the film, our affable guide Peter soon grabbed our attention with a barrage of information about the famous film and love story. Firstly, I was surprised to learn that the Austrians have no interest in The Sound Of Music apart from grossing excellent profits by showing visitors locations where the film was made.

The film about the flight of the musically inclined Von Trapp Family from Nazi-annexed Austria is something most Austrians would prefer to forget.

Interestingly enough, the half-day tour is the most popular tour with foreign visitors. Several city and surrounding locations were used as film backdrops.

While we drove past some, others include extended stops and inspections. While the film's director took some cinematic licence, many places visited are authentic and based on Maria Von Trapp's autobiography, The Story Of The Trapp Family Singers.

We passed the Hohensalzburg Fortress, standing guard high over Salzburg, and were reminded by our guide to visit here for its panoramic vistas. Our first stop was Schloss Hellbrunn, once the summer palace of the Salzburg Archbishops and which features majestic fountains and gardens.

The gazebo, where the song 16 Going On 17 from the film was performed in the gardens, was not the original gazebo, nor was this its original film location.

But this was of little concern to most who simply wanted to be photographed in front of it.

The highlight for me was the small lakeside town of Mondsee where the stars of the film were married. The village's twin-spired church is as delicate in design as a wedding cake and its town centre is lined with restaurants and cafés that do a roaring trade from the influx of film devotees. As most ooh-ed and ah-ed at the church's intricate interior, I walked for 45 minutes to photograph the old town and the lake's foreshore.

Our tour started and ended at Schloss Mirabell, near the Salzach River. Upon alighting from the coach, we explored its beautiful gardens, marble staircases and a magnificent wedding hall where we recalled the song Do-Re-Mi from the film.

While the family went looking for film souvenirs, I enjoyed Mozart over dinner at the St Peter Stiftskeller.

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