A recent conversation between my husband and me:
Maureen: “Wouldn’t it be fun to take a Sound of Music bicycle tour when we are in Salzburg?”
Maureen: “You love bicycles. This tour would be a great way to see Salzburg, even if you don’t like the movie.”
Maureen: “The tour takes you out into the countryside. You would enjoy that. I don’t even think you’d be required to participate in the singing.”
I knew it was hopeless to convince my musical-hating husband to join me on this adventure. In all honesty, I was a bit hesitant myself. I have adored the Sound of Music since I was seven years old. It is my all-time favorite movie. For those who live under a rock, this is the 1965 musical starring Julie Andrews, and it was filmed largely in Salzburg. The city of Salzburg is one of the stars of the film.
I had NOT joined a Sound of Music tour on my first visit to Salzburg a few years ago. I despise most tours, and the thought of being herded onto a crowded, noisy bus with strangers to visit Sound of Music sites actually hurt my nostalgic heart. No. I would rather not step foot in Salzburg than let a big bus tour ruin my movie.
Ah, but a bicycle tour. This could be a different animal altogether. Fräulein Maria (Julie Andrew’s character) rode a bicycle in the movie. We could pedal nobly from one gorgeous filming site to another under our own power, and be one with the movie. I also suspected there would be singing–just like in the movie. I signed up solo for the tour and ditched my husband.
I showed up for the 9:30 AM tour near Mirabell Gardens. We were instructed to pick any of the bikes available, test the brakes and gears, and then we were on our way. Our group consisted of approximately 14 people, both men and women, and included groups of friends and families. I was the only solo traveler, which was no problem.
The tour is approximately 3.5 hours and covers eight miles. In observing our group, I would argue that the participants were reasonably fit and were able to keep up a good pace. Only one big hill reduced us all to pathetic whiners. Happily, there was no shame in walking our bikes up the challenging bit.
As I tried to tell my husband, the tour would have been an excellent way to see Salzburg even without a Sound of Music theme. We first visited filming sites in the historic center of Salzburg, and our tour guide provided excellent facts and trivia at each stop. I admired the efficiency of the tour, which took us on paths that avoided crowds and kept the group together.
We then made our way out into the beautiful countryside, where portions of the movie were filmed. Cue the music. As soon as we passed out of the historic center, the tour guide began playing the movie soundtrack. Loudly. I was afraid this would bother the residents of the greater Salzburg area, but the people we encountered simply smiled indulgently and waved at us. They may have been hiding their hostility. If so, they did it well.
I live in California, and I am familiar with the ways of filmmaking. Normally, movie sites are transformed with the magic of Hollywood, so the pictures you see on the big screen bear little resemblance to the real-life locations. Joyously, the Sound of Music filming sites are satisfyingly familiar. My seven-year-old self emerged ecstatic on the day of my tour and did a happy dance.
I was not alone in this joy. The tour participants reenacted scenes from the movies at our various stops and posed for gleeful pictures. We were not the only Sound of Music pilgrims out and about. There was, for example, an entire group of people dressed in costumes from the movie. (Remember how Fräulein Maria made curtains into play clothes for the children? Now picture a large herd of adult tourists wearing those same curtains/play clothes. Brilliant.)
The Sound of Music has been handed down as a tradition from generation to generation, and it is unashamedly beloved by many people around the world. If you are a fan; if the movie has contributed to your happiness; and even if you have to go by yourself, then take the bicycle tour!
- Practical Information:
Tour: Fräulein Maria’s Bicycle Tour
Bring: A camera, a bottle of water, and cash for a pretzel stop along the way. I did not have cash for the pretzel. Tragic.
Watch: The movie again before you go.
Note: I have no affiliation with Fräulein Maria’s Bicycle Tour. I paid for the tour, and I enjoyed it.