Kansas Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - May 1, 2015


"The hills are alive"

Our Flint Hills are greening up after recent prairie burns and subsequent rains. The birds seem to be going into overtime singing. These annual events always bring the words "The hills are alive with the sound of music ... " to mind.

But this year there is another reason as well. "The Sound of Music" - one of my all-time favorite movies - is celebrating its 50th anniversary. It's being re-released in some theaters this month paired with special-edition DVDs, BluRays and books.

I was 11 in March 1965 when the movie was first released. I was captivated by the beautiful Alpine scenery and the love story between Maria, played by Julie Andrews, and Capt. Georg von Trapp, played by Christopher Plummer.

On our first trip to Austria in 1989, I was smitten by the snow-covered mountains and the fast-moving streams that race beside winding valley roads. One night in a village of less than a hundred homes, we stayed in an old mill where the river ran under our bedroom floor. There were countless meadows sprinkled with yellow, pink, blue and white wild flowers. Here and there, we'd come upon a small country church that looked like those seen in travel brochures. Every home had window boxes full of flowers. We returned in 1990 and 1991 with Art's Mom and she was as taken with the scenery as I was. She remarked how rare it was to see something that looks as magnificent as it appears in the movies.

When we first took daughters Mariya and Katie to Europe in spring 2001, our first stop was at a lovely home in Obsteig, Austria, with the same family Art and I had stayed with on our previous trips. The girls were impressed with the mountains, too, but they couldn't quite understand why I had to sing a few lines from "The Sound of Music" every time we saw yet another mountain peak.

That changed in 2001. After 9/11, the constant coverage of the attacks made me feel heartbroken and I just had to get away. I put "The Sound of Music" tape into the player. It quickly became one of the girls' favorite movies. Katie recalled:

We watched the movie the day after Sept. 11, because mom was so tired of watching news coverage on the horrible event. I really liked it right away - and who doesn't like Julie Andrews? I love the music and the story and the fact that it's based on a true story. One of my favorite scenes is when the nuns take out some of the car parts of the Nazis [vehicles] so they can't drive and find the von Trapps. I also just love that Maria is able to melt the heart of the Captain, who is quite the brooding cutie patootie.

Mariya loves Andrews and the story, too.

I love "The Sound of Music" first and foremost because I love Julie Andrews and her fabulous singing. It's silly and lighthearted, but also makes a strong statement about sticking with family, love, and principles even when faced with adversity and societal evils.

The Alps were pretty consistently picturesque, like a postcard come to life. The valleys are beautiful, green, warm, and filled with spring flowers. The tops are snowy and bright. We were even whisked away to an other-worldly landscape one day while stuck in a cloud on the tallest peak.

Although we have traveled to Austria several times and have seen advertisements promoting "Sound of Music" tours, none of us went on one until last summer. Katie decided to try one while traveling through Europe with her second cousin. She described the experience:

It was about a three- or four-hour tour. We started in Salzburg, then drove out of the city on a tour bus. While we were driving, the tour guide told us the history of Austria and the history of Salzburg. Our first stop was outside the house and lake that are featured in the movie. We were able to take pictures and look around. Next, we traveled to a castle and looked at the gazebo that was in the film and got to run down the lane where Maria sings "I Have Confidence in Me" before she meets the children and the Captain.

Then we were driven up through the mountains a bit, but we weren't able to visit all the tour sites because it was rainy and they were worried about safety. We were able to see part of the mountains ... at the beginning [of the movie] before Maria sings "The Sound of Music." We also visited the church that Maria and the Captain got married in, which is in a small town near Salzburg. It was absolutely beautiful!

In that small town, we were able to wander around and then have lunch. Around 1, we returned to the bus and drove back to Salzburg. Whenever we were traveling on the bus, songs from "The Sound of Music" would be playing and we could sing along. It was a really cool experience!

Of the four of us, I am the one least likely to sing or listen to music. Yet now when I suddenly begin a few bars from the "Sound of Music," the girls no longer grin and kid me. Now they join in.


Upper-left: Mirabell Gardens in the heart of Salzburg where a portion of the song "Do-Re-Mi" was sung by Andrews and the children. Hohensalzburg Castle where the archbishops of the city ruled can be seen at the top; lower-left: flowers spread across the valley at the foot of the Alps; bottom-center: Katie in front of the gazebo where "Sixteen Going on Seventeen" was filmed; right: abbey cloister church in Mondsee 15 miles east of Salzburg where the marriage scene was set.


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