Tuesday

Review // Panorama Original Sound of Music Tour

The whole reason I wanted to visit Salzburg was to visit the locations of The Sound of Music. Two years ago, I bookmarked this post of Erica's all about the Panorama Original Sound of Music Tour because it sounded so amazing. Once our trip to Austria was booked, I pulled up the link and bought two tour tickets with high hopes. As our trip got nearer, my excitement built up but the reality was even better than I could have imagined. Sound of Music Tour Salzburg
We booked the 2pm tour on the reasoning that we could have a chilled breakfast, head into the city and have a little explore beforehand. It was easy enough to find Mirabell Palace, where the tour bus set off from, but I started worrying that I wouldn't know exactly where to meet it. I needn't have worried- the bus stop was right outside the palace on the main road with two huge red buses with Sound of Music illustrations on the side. Phew!
Mirabell Palace Salzburg
As we only arrived about 10 minutes before the bus was due to set off, it was almost full but there were two empty seats in the second row from the front, next to a man who looked so much like Jeremy Corbyn that I wasn't entirely sure it wasn't him, until he started talking and revealed an American accent. Our guide, who didn't tell us his name, was really friendly. His delivery was over the top, theatrical, scripted and tacky... but in the best possible way! Throughout the 4 hour tour, he entertained us with terrible jokes and fun facts (some of which I'm not entirely sure are true!). 
Hotel Schloss Leopoldskron Salzburg Sound of Music lake
Once everybody was on board, we set off to our first stop- Leopoldskron. Yep, that's our hotel. I felt very smug when the guide informed everybody that we weren't allowed in the grounds as it's private property, while holding my hotel-branded umbrella and looking at our hotel room windows! I already knew that the building itself wasn't used for the film but didn't realise that every scene in the garden had to be filmed twice so that the two locations matched up. You can see in this (terrible quality) clip that when Captain Von Trapp is talking, the Leopoldskron lake is behind him but when we see Maria, she's standing in front of the yellow building used for the Von Trapp house.
Schloss Frohnburg Sound of Music Gazebo Sixteen Going On Seventeen Gazebo Sixteen Going on Seventeen Location
Next, we drove down to Hellbrunn Palace, passing by that yellow building, which is Schloss Frohnberg- a music college. The path outside, which Maria skips down when she first arrives, is pedestrian only so we weren't allowed to visit, but we did drive past it on the main road. Once we reached Hellbrunn Palace, we were taken to see the white gazebo used for Sixteen Going On Seventeen and Something Good . Originally it was in the Leopoldskron grounds but it had to be moved when fans of the musical kept trespassing to get a glimpse of it. Unfortunately you're not allowed inside because of the old health and safety but I made up for that by skipping around the outside instead. You see the benches inside? These aren't actually the benches used in the film. Instead, they've been taken from those that are seen outside the gazebo and lining the path to the lake from the house.
Almdudler Can
When we headed back to the coach, our driver Otto was serving drinks from the onboard mini fridge. Our guide had recommended an Austrian drink called Almdudler so I gave it a go. Oh God, it was amazing! Mostly it tastes like lemonade but with a hint of ginger and apple. After my first sip, I drank nothing else the whole time we were in Austria!
St Gilgen Austria
At this point, we all settled into our seats because we had around an hour's journey ahead of us. To keep us entertained during the drive, the Sound of Music soundtrack was played and we were all encouraged to sing along. I've never experienced such a wonderful drive before. We headed up into the mountains surrounding Salzburg, giving us a gorgeous view over the entire city, and drove upwards through the Austrian countryside, past the most beautiful lakeside villages against that mountainous backdrop. Although it had been a cloudy, drizzly day, the higher we headed, the clearer the skies became.
St Gilgen Mountain Wolfgangsee Lake
About 45 minutes into the drive, we pulled up in a layby next to a little village called St Gilgen on the lake of Wolfgangsee where the panoramic opening scenes were filmed. What a stunning view! If you look really closely, you can see little orange dots heading up the mountain to the right. These are cable cars that travel all the way to the peak. I can't even imagine what the view is like from up there but I'll definitely find out one day!
St Michael's Church Mondsee
As soon as everybody had taken enough photos, we climbed back onto the bus and continued our journey to Mondsee, the town where the wedding scene was filmed. Interestingly, it's prohibited to drive buses into the town, so we had to park outside and walk the 5-minute route into the centre. Here, our guide pointed out St Michael's church, the setting for the wedding, and recommended the apple strudel in Cafe Braun opposite. I'm sure they must have some sort of deal with the cafe as every review I've read mentions this, but it was certainly delicious! The pastry was just right- not too soft, not too crunchy- and the apples were lightly spiced, topped off with two scoops of lovely vanilla ice cream. So good!
Mondsee Austria
The service inside Cafe Braun was incredibly quick and the locals inside were lovely. I witnessed one elderly Austrian lady have a German conversation with some fellow English tourists (whose German was much better than mine!) and she was so happy and friendly! Once we'd paid, we crossed the road to look inside the church. 
St Michael's Church Mondsee Altar
I've visited a lot of churches and cathedrals but this is something else! The altar has the most intricate detail, and the angel at the top is surrounded by a halo which glows with sunlight pouring through from behind. It felt so surreal to be standing in front of this location that I know so well from my own TV screen. Turning around to look at the towering organ on the back wall, I was hit by a sudden memory.
Sound of Music Wedding Church
Remember when I went to Notre Dame and my aim was to stand at the bottom of the stained glass window where my grandparents had been? As much as I racked my brains, I could not remember my grandparents mentioning that they had been to Salzburg. I knew they probably had, but couldn't specifically remember them telling me. When I saw the organ, however, I suddenly heard my grandad's voice in my mind saying "I've seen that". (I didn't literally hear his voice, you understand. I'm not claiming my grandad's ghost followed me all the way to Austria, boarded a Sound of Music tour bus and waited until I was in the church to inform me that he had actually been there after all. It's just that seeing the organ in real life jolted the memory) Just as in Paris, it felt so special to experience something that my grandparents had done so decades earlier.
St Michael's Church Mondsee Wedding
As we left, I noticed that somebody had actually got married there recently. Can you think of a more perfect venue to get married? I also spotted the stand where you could give a small donation of your choice and take home a bottle of holy water (a Jagermeister bottle of holy water, no less). How coud I pass up that opportunity? You never know when you might need some holy water. I'm now fully equipped for the vampire uprising.
Austrian countryside
By this point, it was time to return to the bus so we could head back to Salzburg. This was a shorter, more direct route so it took about 20 minutes, during which time the guide played a DVD about the making of the film. As interesting as it was, I tried not to get distracted by it and instead take in the glorious countryside that we drove through.
Mirabell Gardens pegasus fountain Pegasus Fountain Sound of Music Do-Re-Mi Steps Mirabell Gardens
Once back in Salzburg, we stopped outside the Mirabell Palace where our tour had begun. The guide offered to take us into the gardens to show us the famous Do-Re-Mi steps and point out other locations used in this setting. It was almost entirely filmed here (the footbridge over the river was pointed out to us as we drove past it earlier in the tour) so it was fun for me to spot the familiar points and demand encourage Rich to take photos of me in just the right spot. I'd studied the choreography in detail before we went so I could nail the running-up-and-down-the-steps routine. Let me tell you, it's a lot harder than you think! Those kids make it look easy! Just wait until you see my vlog...
Dwarf statue Sound of Music Dwarf statue Sound of Music
The little statue that the kids whack on the head is actually a dwarf and it's located inside the Dwarf Garden. Really. A little footbridge runs from the gardens over to a circular plot of grass which is lined by around six of these little dwarf statues. I have no idea why either. Maybe they're the seven dwarves, on reflection. Although I'm still not sure what that's got to do with anything.
Leaf arch Sound of Music
After running through the leafy arches (or skipping, because I'd forgotten what they did here. I've let myself down!), we headed back into the old town as I wrote about here. The whole tour was such a wonderful experience. It was so fun visiting all the locations and recreating scenes from the film completely inhibition-free, even though nobody else wanted to join in. Pah, spoilsports! Even if you're not a fan of the film, you get to visit some really picturesque places and it gives you a great overview of Salzburg and the surrounding area, complete with facts that are unrelated to the film (We drove past the old executioner's house. That's pretty cool, huh?) Rich, who isn't a Sound of Music fan at all, really enjoyed the afternoon so it's definitely a great all-rounder. This does mean it's really popular and it sells out weeks in advance, so you need to plan ahead if you want to experience it for yourself.
Mirabell Gardens Sound of Music Statues Hohensalzburg Fortress
If The Sound of Music really isn't your thing, Panorama also have a whole bunch of other tours. I'm planning to book the Advent Tour when we go next December and the Lakes & Mountains Tour when I'm next over during the warmer months. Yes, I do plan to return to Salzburg as often as humanly possible! Are you picking up my love for the city yet?

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10 comments :

  1. I would so love to do this tour, I LOVE the Sound of Music! x

    NINEGRANDSTUDENT: A Student Lifestyle Blog

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  2. YOU'RE GIVING ME SO MANY FLASHBACKS RIGHT NOW!!! Seriously, I did this 3 years ago and the picture of me skipping through the leafy arches is my profile picture for my blog. I love that picture. NOT JOKING. Can't believe I'm seeing this tour on someone else's blog, it's so strange to remember it all so clearly

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    1. Haha did you see Erica's post too? She's the reason I discovered it!

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    2. No! I'll check it out. One of my best friends is Austrian and when I went there she decided it would be a perfect end to the trip. She was right

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  3. ARAagagagghGHhHHHHhagGHGAHAGHhh I am SO GLAD YOU WENT TO THHIS!!! I have so many comments. Mondsee! The Jager water! YOUR HOTEL! ThE TACKY JOKES! OMG Becky I am so pleased you went and had such a great time. XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

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  4. This is one thing I would blimmin' love to do. The Sound of Music (and Mary Poppins) are two of my favourite films.

    Meg | A Little Twist Of…

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  5. Oh my gosssssssssh! This is AMAZING <3 I need to go, NEEEEEEED! And I need to take my grandma, oh gosh. I need to watch it now too.
    So much need.
    The photos are beautiful <3 Not even slightly jealous right now...

    Tamsyn Elizabeth | Peaches and Bear

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  6. How fun! We were in Salzburg for under 24 hours so we weren't able to do this tour or see a lot of things we would've liked to, but loved the things we did have time for!

    smalltownsandcitylights.com

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  7. Oh wow, I went to see the Pavilion and the Mirabel palace almost 20 years ago- you've made me want to go back!

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