During our family trip earlier this month, it was not hard to pick our favorite activity – the Sound of Music Bike Tour won, hands down. For as long as I can remember, my Mom sang along to Julie Andrews whether we were watching the Sound of Music movie, listening to the cassette in the car (#oldschool), or the official movie soundtrack CD on the stereo. The songs were so contagious that, even though it has been more than a decade since I have lived at home, the songs came rushing back to me and I couldn’t help but shout at the top of my lungs, “Doe, a deer, a female deer – Ray, a drop of golden sun -Me, a name I call myself!”. Thus, it was a no brainer in planning our trip to Salzburg that we oriented the trip around the Fräulein Maria’s Bicycle Tour.
No matter where you look, the ratings for Fräulein Maria’s Bicycle Tour are off the charts – 4.9 / 5 on Google Reviews or 5/5 on Trip Advisor and I would agree with all of these, a clear 10/10 in my book. For our bike tour, one of the last of the season, we had a guide named Annabel who was could not have been nicer and knowledgeable to boot and since she has led more than 140 bike tours in 2019 alone, you better believe she knew her stuff. Here are some of the places we visited, in order of the tour:
Mirabell Gardens Located in the heart of Salzburg the Mirabell Palace and its gardens date back to 1606 when it was built by a prince-archbishop for his 15 kids. He was later kicked out of the palace by his own nephew but that is a story for a different day. Hundreds of years later, the real Maria likely visited this now UNESCO World Heritage Site during her time in Salzburg but it is still probably most famous for being the do-rae-me garden from the film.
Pferdeschwemme (Horse Pond) This gorgeous fountain is named the horse fountain, and it literally was for horses. As we did the tour the first week of November the fountain was not running and the main statues had its “winter hat” on but through the clear covering you could still see the majesty and the murals were as vibrant as ever.
Felsenreitschule – This Salzburg performance venue, also called the Rock Riding School, is where all nine of the Von Trapp’s sang “So long farewell auf Wiedersehen Good bye” as part of the 1938 Salzburg Summer Festival and then escaped the Nazis. We were not able to go in but apparently it is still the same as in the move, more than 80 years later, just with a retractable roof because of how often it rains.
Residenzplatz – This large square is one of the most famous and most visited in Salzburg – it is just next to the Salzburg Cathedral and made it in quite a few scenes including Maria’s song about confidence en route to the captain. Fun fact, the real Maria and her daughter were extras in the film here.
We also learned during the Sound of Music bike tour that the Nazis invasion scene was filmed here but it was not quite historically accurate – unlike the depiction in the film, Austria actually conducted a referendum to determine whether or not to let the Nazis in and thus the rule of the Nazis in Salzburg was actually the will of the people at the time but Hollywood decided a full fledged occupation would sell the story better. We also learned that 20th Century Fox did not tell the locals when they were filming that scene and locals thought the Nazis were coming back for round two, less than 20 years after the end of WWII.
St Peter’s Cemetery – This was one of the only spots we visited that was not actually in the movie, but only because 20th Century Fox was not allowed to film here. Therefore, the cemetery at the end of the Sound of Music is a replica of this one and the original is located behind the oldest church in the city and dates back to 215 AD. Oh, and there a delicious bakery right by the entrance, Stiftsbäckerei St Peter, make sure to pop by there too!
Untersberg – From more than a dozen of vistas in Salzburg you can see the Untersberg mountain and it is understanble as it’s highest peak is nearly 2,000 meters (nearly 6,500 feet) and in early November is already snowcapped. The mountain, part of the Alps, is so large that part of it sits in Germany and the other part in Austria. The mountain is not only famous for the opening scene where Julie Andrews is twirling on the mountain at the opening of the film or when the whole family climbing over at the end to escape but also the backdrop of the 2019 family Christmas card. Oh, and two fun facts, the movie had the Von Trapp family escaping to Switzerland but Germany is in the way and from the view point outside the Abbey you can the Kehlsteinhaus, Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest, on a clear day.
The Covent, the Nonnberg Abbey – Often in Europe I find when someone tells me a date I have to double check I heard correctly – perhaps because nothing in the US is older than a few hundred years but yes, this Abbey was founded in 713 AD and has been in use since then. Though our guide had a very witty pun – the abbey has space for over 300 nuns, but now there are only 24 and, “soon there might be nun”. We went through the gates of the Abbey, World UNESCO site, – where I actually had injured my finger just like little Gretel – and while it was closed for cleaning we were still able to explore the gardens and the architecture was gorgeous.
I had watched the movie the night before we went on the bike tour (on the train from Vienna to Salzburg) but if your memory was not as fresh as mine, or even if you had never seen the movie, there were very helpful laminated cards on all of the bikes with stills of the movie so you could orient yourself at each of the locations.
Schloss Leopoldskron – While officially a palace, this stately building is often called the Villa Trapp and the name would make you think this is the stately home from the film, that is only half true – it is more accurate to just call in the back of the Von Trapp house, as they used another for the front. this is home to many famous scenes from the movie including the pink lemonade scene and the baroness kiss with the kids, but my favorite is when they all fall in the water in their curtain clothes. And I loved learning new facts on the Sound of Music Bike Tour like the lake was man made and only a meter deep.
Schloss Frohnburg or the Frohnburg Palace As the Villa Von Trapp was comprised of two homes, this gorgeous facade was used to film the front of home and was in quite a few scenes – when Maria arrives, gates pushing these car, before the ball (not their real house). Nowadays this 17th century country house is home to the Mozarteum Music Academy and when we were outside, we could hear a student practicing the trumpet (and the practice was much needed if you catch my drift).
The Gazebo –The Sound of Music Gazebo was actually built for the film and after the shooting wrapped, was given to the city of Salzburg. It was originally located on the grounds of Leopoldskron, the back of the Von Trapp house, but it was moved to the Hellbrunn gardens in 1991 where we saw it.
And believe it or not, we saw even more on this tour – like the Mozart Bridge – with the whole tour spanning nearly four hours. Although the tour was this lengthy on a cold day, it felt like it flew by and we could have seen even more!. But seriously, I could not recommend theFräulein Maria’s Bicycle Tour more for a truly authentic Sound of Music Bike Tour experience. The company is run by a local Austrian named Rupert who we were able to meet at the end of the tour and he really exudes passion for all things Sound of Music! They open back up in the Spring (tours are April to October) and I highly encourage you to get in touch with the Fräulein Maria’s Bicycle Tour team and book your spot, especially as Salzburg was just rated the top tourist destination for 2020 by The Lonely Planet (https://www.lonelyplanet.com/best-in-travel/cities).
Would you go on the Sound of Music bike tour?