A very Sound of Musical experience in Austria

Booking a Sound of Music tour on Boxing Day may not seem a wise choice.

First, let me set the scene for you.

Unlike us, the Austrians actually don't mind having to trek home for Christmas - in fact, they're practically gagging to tuck into some schnitzel and listen to their most unlikeable uncle of all tell the same boring story for the 15th year in a row.

The importance they place on family at this time of year is sweet.

(Not going to lie, though. I was pretty stoked on that Furby in 1997.)

But if you're a tourist at this time of year, venturing out kind of feels like you've survived the end of days.

As Mark and I wandered through the streets of Salzburg, I half expected to see tumbleweeds blowing along the cobbles of the aldstat (old town).

(Sadly, it didn't turn out to be a White Christmas - so the tumbleweeds could have tumbled unhindered.)

Given the apocalyptic atmosphere, when you stumble onto a decent crowd of people huddled around glowing braziers, clutching steaming cups of warm booze and watching some kids ice- skating, you're inclined to make yourself comfortable.

We found ourselves at an outdoor bar selling "punsch" in a variety of flavours.

It was too hard to choose between kirsch (cherry), heidelbeere (blueberry) and mandarin (mandarin . . . come on guys, keep up), among others.

So I just didn't.

It all seemed like a good idea at the time.

(Though, praise be, ice-skating did not. I have always had an irrational fear of the sport despite the fabulously appealing costumes, in which visions of falling and having my fingers sliced off as somebody whizzes past me, play on loop. Ice-skating while buzzed would not end successfully, I suspect.)

When my alarm started screeching at some unholy hour the next morning - well, not so much.

Don't get me wrong.

I was abnormally hyper to do some Eidelweiss-related cheesy sightseeing.

Our flatmates Hannah and Matt had told us all about the tour, a highlight of their time in Austria - solely because of a bizarrely, and possibly unintentionally, hilarious guide named Peter.

The film is also as much a part of what I consider a good Christmas, as trifle and a hearty whinge that it's meant to be summer so why is it raining.

My cousins often reminisce about their re-enactment of the film, one December in Tuatapere long ago.

(From which I was excluded, as I was "too little" and "everybody knows there are only seven Von Trapp children". Harrumph. What do you mean I still sound bitter? I'm over it, it's fine. I'm just saying, I could have taken direction. The lyrics of Do-Re-Mi aren't that hard to remember. I would have been adorable in a curtain costume. Whatever, it's in the past man, it's in the past.)

But I knew there would be loud tourists wearing Ugg boots outdoors. I knew there would be flashing cameras.

I knew there would be YODELLING.

Suddenly that last bratapfel (baked apple) punsch seemed especially ill-advised.

I was slumped against the window of the bus, wondering if my love of the musical would be forever tainted by memories of a throbbing headache and the involuntary rolling of my stomach.

Was it too late to get off? Did this window open?

At what speed do the injuries sustained from jumping out of a bus outweigh a hangover?

But then, as if the skies had parted and a giant hand had descended, somebody upstairs provided.


Peter would be my tour guide; no longer would he be relegated to the confines of Chiswick flat folklore.

Peter, in all of his flamboyant, harmonious, corny Sound of Musical-related jokes glory.

(Do some creative Googling, along the lines of "Sound of Music Dracula joke". But only when bored. It will be two minutes of your life you will never get back.)

Listening to his enthused commentary was as soothing as a lullaby.

Peterrrrrrr gave me the strength to go onnnnnnn.

I felt embraced in his voice: "And then, little Gretel fell into the lake, but she couldn't swim . . . and when she was plucked from the waaaaaaaaarrrrterrrrrrr, she spewed all over poor Louisaaaaaaaa!!! If you look closely, you can even see it in the mooooooovieeeeeee!!!"

(Especially when he timed flicking the overhead lights to the lyrics of My Favourite Things. And made very off-colour jokes about Rolfe.)

I couldn't believe I'd ever doubted myself in the first place.

I knew that bratapfel was a good idea.

Images: Right: Blogger Alana Dixon at the Mirabell Gardens, used for several scenes in the movie - most notably for the scene where Maria and the von Trapp children sing Do-Re-Mi. For more images of her Sound of Musical trip click here