Saturday, February 27, 2010

Closet Fan

I have a confession to make. Family connections aside, I am a diehard fan of the Sound of Music. I mean really, what’s not to like? Catchy score, classic boy-meets-girl story line, villains you love to hate, and sarcastic nuns to provide comic relief. Now I only own it in VHS, and I can’t say I watch it EVERY time it comes on TV, but every once in a while, it’s a guilty pleasure I indulge. So naturally, when given the opportunity to tour the Salzburg area and see the various locations where it was filmed, I was in.

Rewind a bit to June of 1987. I was backpacking through Europe with three college friends post-graduation; Hope, Ellen and Heather. We came to Salzburg by way of train from Vienna, where we had spent an afternoon as guests of my father’s friends, the Eggers. Mr. Egger was editor of Austria Today magazine. Mrs. Egger was a tour guide. The day after we visited, she was touring with some travel documentary film maker, and she had tried to arrange for us to meet, but it didn’t work out. (The significance of this non-meeting becomes apparent later in the story).

Anyhow, upon arriving in Salzburg (my first visit EVER – and a very significant part of this trip for me), we found accommodations at the International Youth Hotel, and set out for some sightseeing. With the understanding among my friends and me that I was going incognito, we signed up to go on the Sound of Music Tour the next afternoon. So far I’d been successful at flying under the radar. As I said, this tour visited all the locations where the Sound of Music had been filmed, in addition to some locations where the family had really lived. Needless to say, I was interested to hear the tour guide’s explanation of fact vs. fiction.

I was not disappointed; this guy had clearly done his homework. He had read my grandmother’s book, and did a great job explaining why certain locations had been used as opposed to the actual sites. He also picked up where the movie leaves off, and brought the group up to date on what had become of the von Trapp family. Someone asked if any members of the family still lived in Austria, to which he replied that he didn’t think so, but that a member of the family had arrived in Salzburg for vacation the day before. I was pretty sure I was the person he was referring to.

I whispered to my companions, “How did he know? Did you guys say something?” They claimed innocence. No one had betrayed my cover. I was stumped. I mentally ran through conversations I had had since arriving in Salzburg. I was sure I hadn’t divulged my identity. I couldn’t stand it. I had to know.

So at the next site stop, I waited until everyone had gone off to look at things and approached the tour guide. “How did you know a member of the family arrived yesterday?” I asked. “Why do you want to know?” he countered. “Because that’s ME!” I said. He laughed in surprise, and then told me that someone on his tour the previous afternoon told him that he had been on the train from Vienna with a family member.

Remember the documentary filmmaker I never met up with in Vienna? (or on the train for that matter) It had to be him. He knew we were traveling to Salzburg that day. Adding to the coincidence is that the tour guide told me he hadn’t even thought to mention it on the morning tour. If the girls and I had gone on that one, this little incident would have never happened.

Two years later, I returned to Salzburg with my friend Katie. She was a fellow employee at the Trapp Family Lodge. So of course, we went on the same tour. The same guy happened to be leading the tour again. He remembered me. This time, I sat up front and helped answer questions. It was great.
Here are some photos from the tour. 1. Castle on the lake in Anif. This appears in the aerial shot during the opening scene of the movie. 2. The actual family home in Aigen. 3. Mirabel Gardens - Maria and the children dance through here in Do-Re-Mi sequence. 4 and 5, The infamous 16 going on 17 gazebo.

One last note about this experience; it so happened that each day in the Youth Hotel there was a showing of – you guessed it – the Sound of Music. Watching it with that crowd who had just come off the tour was probably one of the best viewing experiences ever. We all pointed out locations we had seen – loudly. There was camaraderie in being “in-the-know.”

Run by Salzburg Panorama Tours, the Sound of Music Tour still exists. My daughters and I will be visiting this summer. I can’t wait to take them on it! - F.v.T.


  1. Francoise, I love reading this stuff. My girls and I are great fans of Sound of Music and can recite almost the whole thing from memory. Will offer my copyediting services free of charge when you turn this into a book. Just put me in the credits ;-)


  2. You make me want to go!

  3. Carol - You should! I'd even go with you and be your personal tour guide. What a blast we'd have.

  4. I trust your memory any day over mine. Boy we were young, huh? Such good times.

  5. These stories are great, Francoise. Thanks for sharing.