“Doe, a deer, a female deer…”
“I am sixteen, going on seventeen…”
“The hills are alive…”
“Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens…”
If you haven’t caught on by now to which movie I am referring to, you clearly did not have a proper childhood.
I have specific memories of watching The Sound of Music (multiple times) with my grandma while growing up. I would twirl around the room, pretending to be Liesl in the gazebo as I was brainwashed into thinking that a seventeen-year old boy was mature enough to “take care of you.”
When I first told my mom I was moving to Europe, I meant to tell her that I would be living only a few hours from where “The hills are alive” in Salzburg, Austria. Instead, what came out of my mouth was “I’ll be living where the hills have eyes.” Oops. Wrong movie…
For those who are unfamiliar, The Sound of Music is a musical loosely based on the events surrounding Maria von Trapp and her family. Maria lived in an Abbey in Salzburg, Austria. Upon request, she became a nanny and teacher for the Trapp family. Eventually, she married Captain von Trapp and the family gained popularity for their professional singing. In the movie, Maria must earn the trust of 7 naughty children, acknowledge her love for Captain von Trapp, and escape Nazi-controlled Salzburg in the dead of night- all the while singing catchy songs that are bound to get stuck in your head for several days.
In reality, events did not quite play out this way, but hey- that’s why I use the words “loosely based.”
However, much of the movie was actually filmed in Salzburg. Thus, Salzburg has become a tourist destination for those wanting to recreate movie scenes. Funny enough, most people in Austria have never seen The Sound of Music and the people of Salzburg only know it because they are forced to put up with foreigners skipping around singing “Do, Re, Mi.”
Instead, they are more inclined to brag that their city is the birthplace of Wolfgang Mozart:
They even sell ‘Mozartkugel’ throughout the whole city- chocolate bonbons with a pistachio at the center- in dedication to this guy.
Either way you look at it, Salzburg is a very musical city.
To get from Prague to Salzburg, Liv (a fellow CIEE participant) and I took a 5-hour bus ride. The Airbnb we stayed at was then about a 45-minute walk from the city center.
On our walk to the center, it started to downpour like crazy and we had to retreat underneath the pavilion of a gas station. Suddenly, the “hills were alive with the sound” of reverberated thunder, which was probably the loudest I had heard since living in Thailand.
After a good 30 minutes- during which time I dangerously considered making a gas station sandwich my first food from Salzburg- the storm finally passed and we made our way to the center to meet up with other CIEE participants (by coincidence, 8 of us were all staying in Salzburg on the same night).
Since Salzburg is another city/town with a small center, we were easily able to knock out several sights before dinner. We saw…
The Salzburg Cathedral:
Residenzplatz Square’s fountain:
St. Peter’s Cemetery:
The shopping lane, Getreidegasse:
Streets throughout the City Center:
And Felsenreitschule, a concert hall where the Trapp family performed at (both in the movie and in real life). Unfortunately, you cannot enter without a scheduled tour, so I didn’t get any pictures of this one.
After, my friends and I ate at a very fancy restaurant serving traditional Austrian food. Thanks to the rainstorm, I wasn’t really interested in eating anything but hot soup. My corn soup was very literal and consisted of corn kettles and actual popcorn… Regardless, it was a nice goodbye dinner as this was the last night I was going to see some of my friends.
Not going to lie though, on the way home that night, my friends and I went to a diner that was American themed. Not very cultural, but I did get a milkshake!
The next day, Liv and I went on a Free Walking Tour, which gave us more information on the things we had walked past the previous night.
We then climbed up Salzburg’s steep hill to get a view of the surroundings.
While up there, we stumbled upon Gasthaus Stadtalm Café, which was situated just on the edge of the hill, so you have a view of the entire valley and town:
Liv and I split one of Austria’s famous apple strudels topped with vanilla ice cream. I recommend going.
We then headed back down the hill and over to the Mirabell Gardens.
These gardens are very popular in Salzburg. 1) They’re free to enter 2) They’re gorgeous with all the flowers, fountains, and vine tunnels 3) This is the location that the Do Re Mi Song was filmed.
Admittedly, I did break my do-not-act-like-a-tourist rule for this place. I blame it on childhood dreams and nostalgia.
But I swear, I reined it in after jumping/skipping through the vine tunnels.
Now, while I thoroughly enjoyed all the main attractions in Salzburg, I’ll share with you “a few of my favorite things” that I did in Salzburg that a lot of people don’t get around to doing.
1) Biking along and beyond the Salzach River
I give Liv full credit for this idea. I hadn’t biked since last August and totally had forgotten how much I loved and missed it. We rented bikes for 2 hours and biked along the Salzach River until the trail finally ended. We then turned away from the path and headed through a park and honestly… I don’t know where. It was just so nice to feel a breeze and explore with no people around.
Eventually, we hit some open fields where we really saw those Austrian mountains.
Once we went an hour out, we decided to turn back so we could return the bikes in time. However, we got a little lost along the way. After using our navigational skills (aka- google maps and lucky guessing), we found out where the river was and started peddling towards it.
Suddenly I slammed on my brakes and made Liv do the same. There in front of us was the gazebo from the “Sixteen Going on Seventeen” song! I knew that the location of the gazebo had moved since filming and that you could go see it if you took The Sound of Music guided tour (which was out of my budget), so I figured that it was just a sight I would miss. I didn’t realize that we had biked out that far!
2) Visiting the Hohensalzburg Fortress AFTER 7pm
Yes, a visit to the Hohensalzburg Fortress is a well-known must when visiting Salzburg. You literally can’t miss it; it looms over the whole town. However, not many people know that a visit after 7pm means free entry to the fortress.
Since many people day-trip to Salzburg from Vienna, most bus back by late afternoon. This works perfectly for people staying the night in Salzburg as you get a free sunset view from the fortress without many people around.
If you have the option, make sure you go after 7pm. We waited right in the foyer until 7pm when the mechanical gate opened for us. One family showed up to go in at 6:56pm and had to pay full price (the person at the ticket booth won’t tell you that you can go in for free if you show up a few minutes early).
3) Sitting inside Café Bazar for coffee and cake
Coffee and some form of cake are a must in Austria. Most travel blogs and advisory websites I looked at recommended Café Tomaselli to get your sweet fix. From what I saw though, this place looked far too packed for my liking. Instead, I went to Café Bazar. This place in one of the oldest cafés in the city and a great number of artists, philosophers, and writers would go here to meet for coffee back in the day. A lot of locals still go to this café to meet with friends or read the newspaper.
The outside patio offers a nice view of the river. However, it was crowded when I went. Instead I went inside and was surprised to find that the inside was gorgeous and almost completely empty!
And that concludes the list of my favorite things in Salzburg. So long, farewell, auf Wiedersehen, adieu 😉