Von Trapp Family House

Sewell, her daughter and her friend, celebrate visiting the Von Trapp family house.

As early as I can remember, I adored musicals. Those larger than life films where they would break into some big, random song and dance number whether it made sense or not. They allowed you to suspend your disbelief, so that a family with seven children, who never knew they could sing, turns out to have perfect pitch and just happens to sing and frolic their way though the town of Salzburg. Seems normal.

But regardless of that suspension of disbelief, “The Sound of Music” is one of my favorite musicals. I’m certain I’ve watched it at least 20 times and I must know every line of dialogue by heart. As a little girl, I imagined myself twirling on that same hill outside the Abbey, just like Maria did in the beginning of the film. It’s probably no big surprise that my daughter was singing “doe a deer” before her ABCs.

One day, as we were watching the film for probably her 10th time, I said, “we should go to all the places where they filmed Sound of Music.” My daughter replied, “a movie studio?” and I said, “no, Austria!”  Lo and behold, I did the search and discovered that the ever-so-charming town of Salzburg, where Captain Von Trapp and his seven children resided, has become a haven for cult movie fans like me because many of the scenes were filmed on location versus a back lot or a green screen in Hollywood.

So, I convinced one of my best friends with a 12-year-old daughter that when our girls are “16 going on 17,” they might reject this type of trip. Let’s seize the moment and go now!

First of all, Salzburg is a picture postcard town as quaint as it is beautiful, with cobblestone Streets, colorful architecture and set against a backdrop of the most majestic mountains I have ever seen. Let’s just say, it far exceeded my expectations.  

The day after we arrived, we hopped aboard our big, red, Panorama Sound of Music tour bus and settled in for what turned out to be 4 to 5 hours of memory making. We laughed so hard we were brought to tears, sang loudly with no fear of being tone deaf and got all the “insider” behind the scenes scoop on the film that felt like fodder for the tabloids.

Our fearless tour guide was a man named Peter, with a movie star accent and whose knowledge, dry sense of humor and corny jokes made the tour ever so much more fun and amusing. We visited all the most famous movie sites like the Von Trapp house, the lake where the boat tipped over, the gazebo where Liesel and Rolph danced in the rain and the church where Maria and the Captain got married. Peter told us anecdotal stories about movie mishaps, as well as the story of the real Von Trapp family.

The following day, we opted for yet another tour, but this time instead of four wheels, we choose two and went on the Fraulein Maria bicycle tour. Although we saw a few of the same sites as the bus tour, this one was much more up close and personal. The bike can get you to places that the bus cannot and so we “climbed every mountain” to the gates of the Abbey, stood on the famous town steps where the Von Trapp children belted out their notes and then we clicked our heels like Julie Andrews on the path outside the Von Trapp house.

People asked me if the tours were corny and I answered with a resounding, yes, but that’s what made it so much fun. The “hills were most definitely alive with the sound of music” and I couldn’t ask for a more perfect mother/daughter experience.  

— Robin Sewell is the host and executive producer of the Emmy Award winning Arizona Highways Television.