A Drop of Golden Sun and the 'Sound of Music' in Salzburg

A day trip through the locations behind the famous American film.
IMAGE Yvette Fernandez

The Sound of Music has always been special to my family.

It was the first movie Dad and Mom watched together after they first met.

As little girls, my sister Jackie and I played the soundtrack on our record player over and over again, knowing all the lyrics to the songs by heart. Later, we watched a film transfer on our Betamax player as often as we could.

I can’t even count how many stage versions I’ve seen of the musical, from school productions to Repertory Philippines to Broadway.

For me, my idea of Salzburg is the Sound of Music.

My Austrian friends really don’t get it. They find it fascinating that I know all the words to all the songs of an American film they have never watched.

Inside the Nonnberg Abbey, the oldest convent north of the Alps

But a few years back, when I went to visit them in the Austrian alps, my friends indulged me. They hired a guide, Fritz Minhard, to drive me down to Salzburg to take me on my own private Sound of Music tour. It was a blast.  We went to see the Nonnberg Abbey, the oldest convent north of the Alps, founded in 714 A.D. where the nuns dealt with the problem that was Maria. We drove to the lakeside where we had a view of Schloss Leopoldskron, where King Louis the First of Bavaria celebrated the engagement of Elisabeth of Bavaria, also known as Sissi, to Emperor Franz Josef of Austria.


Schloss Leopoldskron

More importantly, as far as I was concerned, it was the film location for the façade of the Von Trapp family villa.

Many Austrian families were relaxing on the grounds of the Hellbrunn Palace known for its beautiful gardens and trick fountains. They looked with curiosity at the giddy Asian woman having her photo taken in front of an empty pavilion. This is where Liesl and Rolf sang “Sixteen Going on Seventeen,” I wanted to explain to them. But they wouldn’t know what I was talking about anyway.

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The pavilion on the grounds of the Hellbrunn Palace

On the way back to the mountains, Fritz admitted he had watched the movie for the first time after he became a tour guide. But he popped a CD into his stereo system and we sang the whole film soundtrack together all the way back to the mountains of Kitzbuhel.

For my recent trip to Salzburg a week ago, I made it a point this time to see some of the sights of Salzburg the Austrians themselves are proud of, topmost of which is Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and the sound of HIS music.

And so I went to visit Mozart’s home and followed the timeline of the life of the child prodigy. Saw the clavichord he once played on and the silk wallet he once carried around. I also ate a few handmade chocolate Mozartkugels filled with marzipan in his honor.

But really, in the back of my mind, all I could think about was Maria and Captain Von Trapp. A drop of golden sun. Blossom of snow. Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens.

Mirabell Gardens

In Salzburg, as our tour guide walked us through Mirabell Gardens outside the Mirabell Palace, a world heritage site known for its Baroque design, and where Mozart and his sister Nannerl once played music, I fixated on the stone figures at the entrance where Maria and the children danced through while singing “Do-Re-Mi.”

As we sipped mulled wine and strolled through the Christkindl market at Residenz Square to look for pretty Christmas ornaments, I peeked at the Residenz Fountain partly covered for the winter. Aha! It was the fountain a nervous Maria splashed through while singing “I Have Confidence” after leaving the nunnery on her way to the Von Trapp villa.

Residenz Fountain

After a lovely lunch at St. Peter Stiftskeller, the oldest restaurant in Central Europe, located within the walls of St. Peter’s Abbey and first mentioned by a scholar of Charlemagne in a document written in 803 A.D., we went out to St. Peter’s Cemetery, where famous members of Salzburg society, including Mozart’s sister Nannerl, are buried.


Of course the only thing I could think of was one of the last scenes in the Sound of Music, when the Von Trapps fled the Felsenreitschule concert hall after singing “Edelweiss,” and Rolf found Captain Von Trapp and Liesl hiding behind some tombs and betrayed his young love by literally blowing the whistle on them.

St. Peter's Cemetery

On the way out of Salzburg, we drove past St. Michael’s cathedral in the picturesque town of Mondsee, where the film Maria married her Captain. (The real Von Trapps married at Nonnberg Abbey in 1927.) And we saw the glorious snow-covered Alps in the distance, where in the movie, the family climbed every mountain to get to Switzerland. Our guide explained to us that in real life, the Von Trapps escaped via train to Italy. And they eventually moved to America.

But that’s a whole different story altogether.


Life is good.


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Yvette Fernandez
Yvette Fernandez was previously the editorial director of Esquire Philippines.
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