Today we learned that the last surviving member of the von Trapp Family Singers has passed away. Her name was Maria von Trapp – not to be confused with her step-mother with the same name (the child Maria was portrayed as Louisa in the movie “The Sound of Music”) – and she was 99 years old. She died of natural causes, a peaceful end to a life that was surrounded with danger as a child.
Just last month we had the joy of visiting Maria’s childhood hometown of Salzburg, Austria. As a fan of the 1965 Rogers & Hammerstein film, I spent a day tracking down some of my favorite film locations. It was fun to relive the movie while enjoying the magnificent Baroque city of Salzburg!
Who can forget the house where Maria confidently marches up to the door on her first day as governess to the von Trapp children. This house is located outside the city center along an unpaved tree-lined road. We walked along that road, envisioning Julie Andrews singing “I have confidence.”
This was only the location for the front of the house, seen in several scenes like when Captain von Trapp rips down the Nazi flag from the front and when the family tries to secretly leave the country. The scenes from the back of the house are from a completely different area in Salzburg and using a different house. This house, where the scenes from the lake (when Maria and the children fall into the water) can easily be pictured, is now part of a hotel for those fans that want to explore in-depth. For us, a walk around the lake was sufficient (after all, we had other locations to find!).
Remember when Maria teaches the children to sing? I’m sure many of us recall every word to “Do, Re, Mi.” While we didn’t find the beautiful hilltop field where they picnicked (it was January in the Alps afterall), it took some time to find the steps where the song continues. Nowadays, this area is called the Winkler Terrace, and to my surprise, it really isn’t steps! I had always envisioned they continued down to the town which this terrace overlooks.
We continued down to the city of Salzburg, crossing the Salz River to the other side to look for the final part of the song. Remember the children are singing in a formal garden, around an equestrian fountain, and then end the song with a flourish on gated steps? This film location is the gardens, outside of the Mirabel Palace, built in the 1600s by Prince-Archbishop Wolf Dietrich von Raitenau as a gift for his love (wow! that’s some gift!).
It was January but there were still a few flowers in the formal gardens, nothing was growing over the arches that Maria and the children run through, the water was not flowing in the fountain, and the gates were shut. But all that didn’t matter since we were here and could picture it all from the movie.
One final stop in our “Sound of Music” tour – we headed out of Salzburg to Hellbrunn Palace where the gazebo is now located. This is not the original location for the film scene, but it is the original gazebo. Tucked just behind one of the gates offering easy access for bus groups, we visited in the early morning while it was peaceful. Many people remember this as the scene when Liesl and Rolf sing “I am 16 going on 17,” but I like to think of it as the place where the Captain and Maria realized they loved each other and sang “Something Good.”
Something good, indeed. The family stood up against evil and fled Austria for the United States, where the von Trapp Family Singers were made famous, Maria wrote a book, and the family opened up a Tirolean-style inn in Vermont.