If you’ve been traveling with us for a good long while you know I am madly in love with Julia Child and I’m mildly obsessed with Marie Antoinette. Now, it’s time to come clean and tell you I also have a slight obsession with the true story of those who actually lived The Sound of Music. Not the Hollywood version, although I can sing along with pretty much the entire movie, but the people who lived the story. The von Trapp family. Fraulein Maria.
The Sound of Music
When mapping our European journey with Eurail, Austria was high on the list. Neither of us had been to Austria so we chose Vienna and Salzburg as our Austrian stops. As the mapping continued and we focused on booking accommodations and destination highlights, I knew there was a “must do” while in Salzburg and that was to feed my obsession with Fraulein Maria and the von Trapp Family. And, there it was, the answer staring up at me from my laptop screen, Fraulein Maria’s Bicycle Tours. Could it get any better? I think not.
Spoiler alert: The Sound of Music was Hollywood storytelling at its best. You know that, right? I hate to burst that bubble, but there it is. The Sound of Music is based on the life of Fraulein Maria and Captain Georg von Trapp and their children, but aside from the fact that they lived in Salzburg and were musically inclined/talented, the rest as they say, is pure Hollywood. But, oh, it’s such a classic movie, isn’t it?
Fast forward from the mapping process to actually stepping off the train in Salzburg 80 days later. We found ourselves bicycling through the old town of Salzburg and out into the country. It was picture perfect and it was just too much fun. I don’t think I stopped smiling for 3 1/2 hours. Okay, once, I stopped smiling because I tried to peddle up a small incline but didn’t change gears soon enough and was forced to get off the bike and do my best the old lady has to push her bicycle up the tiny little incline while everyone else rode on. Oh, the humiliation.
The Fairy Tale
Everyone knows the basic premise of the fairy tale. Young sweet free-spirited girl thinking about becoming a nun instead becomes a governess and marries the wealthy yet quite stern Naval Captain thus becoming step mother to seven adorable yet rascally children. They all become one happy family, singing together morning, noon and night before alluding the Nazis by hiking over the Alps to freedom. That about sums it up, right? Except that’s not how it happened, not at all.
Fraulein Maria was actually strong-willed, opinionated and had a temper while Georg was a gentle and kind man. They married not for love, but for practical reasons. He was, after all, a widower with seven children and he was twenty-five years older than Maria. But, as Maria wrote in her memoir, she learned to love her husband and together they had three children. It is true that the Nazis wanted the Captain to join the party, but that whole climbing over the Alps to freedom thing? So not true. They simply walked to the train station, which happened to be near their home, and they got on a train and left. Oh, and they had been married for ten years before they left Austria. Pop! Another bubble burst.
Fraulein Maria Bike Tours
But, back to the tour. Did I mention how much fun it was? Although much of the movie was filmed in Hollywood sound studios, they definitely filmed in and around Salzburg and those places are tour highlights. We pedaled our way from stop to stop as we learned some of the “behind the scenes of the story” if you will. Oh, and there was singing. Of course there was. We even do re mi’d ourselves up the steps in Mirabell Gardens much to the delight of those who watched.
Crank up the volume and listen to the musical inspiration we enjoyed as we pedaled along the country lane and tell me how much you want to take this tour! Props to Abi for managing to film this segment while pedaling his bike and keeping up with the music. I have to tell you it felt a little like being in the movie because those we passed stopped to stare as we pedaled by singing along with silly grins on our faces.
Although the tour highlights the filming sites from The Sound of Music, there are moments when we were able to walk in the path of Maria and Georg. At the top of a steep cobble stoned hill, sits the Nonnberg Abbey where Maria was a postulant at the time she was sent to tutor one of the captain’s children. The chapel at the Abbey is where they married. Standing there, in the chapel, trying to picture the scene in my mind’s eye was a special moment. I can read books and see movies, but to stand where they stood, well… that’s one of the reasons why we travel.
Walking in the Path
Two days after bicycling with Fraulein Maria’s Bicycle Tours, we took a day trip to Mondsee and we visited the Basilica of St. Michael where the wedding scene between Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer was filmed. So, I was lucky enough to walk in the path of the Maria and Georg, and Julie and Christopher. Color me happy!
In 2016 we found ourselves in Stowe, Vermont taking in the splendor of fall and I once again had an opportunity to
feed my obsession learn a bit more by making our way to the Trapp Family Lodge. Not being guests of the lodge, we just browsed through the lobby and the gift shop where we viewed family photos. We also took a walk through the garden and visited the family cemetery where Georg and Maria rest. I think maybe theirs really was a love story.
Our bicycle tour was sponsored by: