Salzburg reminds me of my favorite things
PEOPLE - Joanne Rae M. Ramirez (The Philippine Star) - April 15, 2014 - 12:00am

Read Part 2 here

When I’m feeling sad, or bad, I really do remember my favorite things, and they include the ultimate feel-good musical, The Sound of Music. And then I don’t feel so bad…

One of my most cherished childhood memories (and perhaps yours, too) is watching The Sound of Music. My grandfather Tatay Igmedio C. Reyes took me to watch the Hollywood blockbuster at least four different times in a decade in downtown Manila, and I never tired of it, of singing “Do, a deer, a female deer...” and “Raindrops and roses...”

When my husband Ed and son Chino visited Salzburg recently on a Globus tour of Central Europe, The Sound of Music’s theme resonated in the motor coach’s sound system as we ascended into the city, bringing back a flood of feel-good memories of my childhood, of 16 going on 17, of raindrops and roses, and following rainbows and dreams.

Salzburg was at the end of one such rainbow; to travel was a cherished childhood dream. And here I was, where the hills are alive with the sound of dreams come true.

Salzburg was one of the stops of an unforgettable tour of Central Europe and its imperial splendors that my family took with Globus just as the first blooms of spring unfurled in all their glory. Bright yellow forsythias, pink Magnolias and pearly-white Cherry Blossoms lined roads that wound through rolling hills and green meadows.

Salzburg, as much of Austria is, is a storybook land of castles, churches, convents, and snow-capped hills. It is actually named after salt; it means “Salt fortress.” Oh, but how sweet an experience visiting Salzburg was!

Fifty years after The Sound of Music was filmed on its cobblestoned streets, picturesque Salzburg has retained its Old World splendor, its quaint countryside charm. There are expectedly more buildings and more cars today, but it is still possible to walk through the Old Town of Salzburg, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and imagine one were Maria von Trapp or any of the von Trapp children.

The Sound of Music is the second most successful musical of all time (only overtaken by Grease), and though not all Austrians were and are happy about the movie, it certainly put Salzburg and edelweiss on the map. Edelweiss is a small white flower that mostly grows in the Alpine mountains, and according to our guide Barbara, is still given by 90 percent of Austrian males to their partners as a symbol of their love. (Contrary to popular perception, including mine, Edelweiss is not the title of the Austrian national anthem, as most of the world thought after The Sound of Music was released.)

The Sound of Music was based on the 1949 book of Maria von Trapp (portrayed by Julie Andrews), who married Captain Georg von Trapp (Christopher Plummer), a widower with seven children. Together they gave birth to a chorale of singers with their brood (which was to later include three of their own children). Our guide says the von Trapps didn’t escape Austria by foot through Switzerland, as Salzburg doesn’t share a border with Switzerland. Instead, the von Trapps escaped from Nazi rule during a performance in the US.

Maria (a namesake of her stepmother), the last surviving of the seven children Captain Georg von Trapp had with his first wife (none of the real von Trapp children were named Liesl, Frederik, Louisa, Kurt, Brigitta, Marta and Gretel), died last February at age 99. In 2008, she returned to their old home, an aristocratic yellow manor with a lake behind it. That home is now a hotel. The façade used in the movie belonged to a different manor, and the iconic gazebo didn’t really exist in the von Trapp home. But that gazebo has so bored into the hearts of many (aside from the Sixteen Going on Seventeen song, Something Good was also sung there by Maria and Captain von Trapp in the movie) that it was  donated by the producers of the movie to the city of Salzburg. It now stands in Hellbrunn Palace Park, which we visited, and where we felt “sixteen going on seventeen” again. It also rained during our visit.

Small as it is, the gazebo is a monument to the power of faith, love, family — and Hollywood. The Sound of Music will forever reverberate from the gazebo’s glass walls, as it does from the hills yonder.

We also went to St. Michael’s Church in Mondsee, where the crew of 20th Century Fox led by director Robert Wise filmed the wedding of Captain von Trapp and the former aspiring nun, Maria. According to our guide Barbara, the nuns in the convent where the real Maria once stayed refused to have a film crew in their cloister. So St. Michael’s Church was chosen and Julie Andrews is reported to have said that the actor who was to “marry” her and the Captain (Plummer) was not on the set. So Andrews (who walked down the aisle in a pristine long-sleeved gown with a 14-ft. train) said the real Archbishop of Salzburg presided over her “wedding” to Captain von Trapp! (To be continued)

(For more information on the Globus’ Imperial Splendors tour, please call Baron Travel at 817-4926 or e-mail and (You may e-mail me at

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