Sound of Music was the first movie I fell in love with. Let’s be clear: I’m older, I know the movie wasn’t particularly accurate; Salzburg doesn’t care about the movie, and thinks there’s a lot more to the city. And I agree. I also think running behind each of the movie locations would be a bit futile as they're far flung and doctored into being together in the movie. But, you know the little swoop of happiness in your stomach at certain points in the movie, which is so easily recreated every time you think of them? It may be from the first shot of the hills, or the dance scene in the gazebo; it may be from watching the children row in the river, or from watching Maria dance with the Captain. The point is, that happy feeling, the unshakable sense that the world is beautiful, magical almost - that's what you feel in every part of Salzburg, whether you're trying to find shots from the movie or not. 

It's the kind of place where you're convinced everyone must get dressed with the help of bluebirds, like in some Disney movie. There are ducks wandering around on the roads. You can see the church bells ring from the city. You can't turn around without finding a meadow full of yellow flowers. How could you not want to sing about the hills being alive? Austrian itself does sound like a song. I tried being secular and saying guten morgen and so on for a while, but I soon found myself switching to gruss gott (God be with you) instead. In Salzburg, it feels like an expression of faith in life rather than in religion, as, indeed, it should be.

Obviously I'm over-simplifying and romanticizing and I do know Hitler's from Austria and the WW2 history wasn't pretty, but it's hard to be objective and rational about a place that's such a throwback to my childhood. I was delighted with Gertreidegasse, the main shopping street, where signage has medieval roots. People in the Middle Ages were largely illiterate, so the signs illustrated icons of their craft rather than just the store name. I love the signs where modern day brands get into the spirit of things. And I personally decided which brands to start boycotting because they just didn't seem to get it.

Coming back to my Salzburg-gush, the people are so so so friendly. I went to a restaurant one night and asked if they knew where I could get a traditional dish called liptauer, which I'd thought they had on their menu. The waitress not only told me exactly which other restaurants I may find it at, but also, the cook offered to make it specially if I came back the next day. You bet I did. Incidentally, I ate with other people on both days, because I bumped into them, made some small talk, and they seemed so nice that eating with them was a natural progression. I think that's partly because Salzburg is full of nice people, and partly because that restaurant clearly (deservedly) attracts the nicest clientele.

I think the only exception to the nice-people rule was near Kapitelplatz where all the shopkeepers insisted they wouldn't sell stamps unless you bought postcards from them. Ridiculous policy, especially given stamps almost always cost more than the postcard itself (2 eu vs. 50 cents), but there you go. 

But the absolute highlight, the moment when my heart stopped with delight, was when I was hanging around outside Schloss Leopoldskron, the house with the lakeside that was made famous by the movie. It used to be in the Austrian family, holding Rembrandt paintings and more; before being owned by various people including the Mad King of Bavaria (responsible for the castle which inspired the Disney logo). It was seized by the German government and made a guest house for Reich artists, alternately purposed as a reception to Hitler’s house further away. It’s now a conference center and you can’t go in. Except... I was hanging around outside, as I said, and a woman smiled at me and said to come on in with her. The unspeakable beauty of this place which Hollywood didn't need to alter or doctor in any way - I have no words. Inside, there were geese and ducks, swans and chicks, and even people in trees singing and playing the flute (I sound like I hallucinated this, but it's all literal). And there was this view. Can I live here please?

My self-guided walking tour covering Sound of Music sights as well as some other notable musical/historic sights is here. Pictures are here (and they include pictures of the I Have Confidence road, where there were zeeeero tourists, I'm guessing because it's a 7km walk out there & back with no transport options available. I'm happy, it let me sing out loud without bothering to look around self consciously). 

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