Untersberg – Climbing The Mountain In The Sound of Music

In one of the most iconic scenes in the history of cinema, a young nun joyously sings and runs through lush meadows of green grass against a dramatic backdrop of mountain peaks stretching into the distance. As she crests a summit, she twirls about and proclaims, “The hills are alive, with the sound of music.” Recently, we headed to Untersberg, the very mountain Maria sang on to find out if she was right.

For the best value ride, we recommend getting a Salzburg Card.

The rather unattractively named Untersberg lies less than 16km from Salzburg and is the very mountain that appears at the beginning and end of The Sound of Music. It is in fact a massif of six peaks, the highest of which is Berchtesgaden Hochthron at 1973m. While there are walking routes to the summits, most visitors ascend by the Untersbergbahn cable car which lifts passengers from the lower terminus at the village of St. Leonhard to the Geiereck spur at an altitude of 1,776 m.

Salzburg Card

For the best value ride, we recommend getting yourself a Salzburg Card. Many tourist-friendly cities around the world have visitor cards which, for a fixed fee either covers the cost of entry to a handful of attractions or offers discounts. Salzburg’s offering is by far the best we’ve ever found, providing inclusive access to all of Salzburg’s major attractions, unlimited use of public transport and discounts on concerts and excursions.

Matt & Jade on Untersberg Untersberg Viewpoint

View from UntersbergJade and I used our Salzburg Cards to get ourselves all the way from the city centre to the lower terminus of the Untersbergbahn by bus and then up the mountain. Individually, this would have cost around €24, the same cost as an off-season 24 hour Salzburg card giving you access to every other major attraction in Salzburg. So even if you only intended on visiting Untersberg and one other attraction, you’d save money buying a Salzburg Card.

Ascending Untersberg

The ascent in the cable car only took around 8 minutes, but those 8 minutes were full of drama. The initial leg to the first pylon lifted us gently over the village of St. Leonard. Passengers shuffled around the cabin to take photos and murmured their appreciation to one another. As we approached the pylon, the mountain felt like it was within touching distance. Suddenly, it felt like we were moving much quicker than before, though it was just an illusion of proximity. We crested what we thought was the summit, but discovered we were actually only half way there. Passengers audibly gasped as the mountain dropped away from us again and a huge cavern-like drop was revealed.

Cafe on Untersberg Untersberg Signposts

Upon arrival at the Geiereck spur, two things hit us. Firstly, it was much colder than it was just 8 minutes before. We were glad we had anticipated this and put on some extra layers. Secondly, the views were breathtakingly spectacular. We had visited on a clear morning. Cloud was building, climbing mysteriously up the sides of the mountain face towards us, but still the views were wonderful. We could see Salzburg sprawling out into the countryside like a spider to the north. To the north-west, we could see the farm lands of Bavaria stretching out to the horizon.

It was an easy and rewarding walk, made all the more exciting by swirling clouds of mist obscuring the pathways.

Having soaked in the views, we decided to hike towards another slightly higher peak in the distance. The route was well marked and wooden steps had been installed at the steepest sections. It was an easy and rewarding walk, made all the more exciting by swirling clouds of mist obscuring the pathways. Once we’d reached the summit, we found a bench and a large cross and not much else. We stood wordlessly and motionless and surveyed our accomplishment with pride.

Matt Climbing Untersberg Untersberg Pathways

Recreating that opening scene

The stoicism didn’t last. In our case, it rarely does. We were on the mountain made famous by The Sound of Music for goodness sake! We couldn’t come all this way and not recreate that famous opening scene. Cue Jade twirling about on top of a mountain, me slipping down a hole while I’m filming and an unceremonious exit from scene.

Viewers in Germany unfortunately cannot watch this video due to copyright restrictions.

Have we inspired you to climb every mountain, literally and figuratively? Have you got a mountain-related story to tell? Let us know in the comments section below.

The Best Way of Seeing Salzburg is by Segway

There’s no avoiding it – cruising around the UNESCO protected medieval streets of Salzburg on a Segway will make you look like an invading robot army platoon. This juxtaposition of old meets new is probably why you’ll get a few angry and disgusted looks from locals as you sail past them. Don’t worry though, as neither of these things actually matter. You’ll be having far too much fun to care, safe in the knowledge that seeing Salzburg by Segway is easily the best way of introducing yourself to this incredibly pretty city.

Salzburg Panorama

At the time of writing, Segway Salzburg is the only company brave enough to offer Segway tours of Salzburg. Brave, because on the face of things, hoping aboard a Segway anywhere in the world is an extremely foreign concept to most people. Also though, offering such an option in a city that prides itself in its heritage is a ballsy move. Staff could only offer resigned sighs and apologetic smiles whenever they mentioned just how much Salzburg residents hate Segways.

Segway Salzburg offer a range of tours, from a short hour long tour of the city centre, to a huge 2 hour scoot through the centre, out to the suburbs and around. We decided upon the longer tour. We had only arrived in the city the day before and we wanted to get a feel for the place before we dived in deeper. Our guide was Jonathan, a Swede who had set himself up in Salzburg a few years before. During the winter months, he would swap his Segway for a snowboard and head into the nearby mountains to coach tourists. For now though, he was our tour guide aboard a Segway.

Riding A Segway

Jade & Jonathan in Salzburg

Jade and I had been on a Segway taster session a few months before, so we were already well aware of just how easy riding a Segway is. To the initiated, a Segway with its two parallel wheels looks difficult to control and as if it could topple at any moment. But failing to topple is a Segway’s primary feature. After a couple of minutes of tuition, most find that they can trust the Segway to keep them upright, and providing they don’t also trust it to steer them away from walls, curbs or people, you’ll find riding one is not only very intuitive, but tremendously good fun.

The Big Tour of Salzburg

Once we’d had a quick practice, we set off to explore. Within seconds, we were riding through the historic centre, surrounded by beautifully restored buildings housing shops and restaurants. Tourists and locals gazed curiously at us as we rode across Staatsbrücke, the city centre bridge spanning the fast-flowing blue-grey waters of the Salzach. Our first calling point would be Mozartplatz, named after the famous Salzburg-born composer. A statue of the man himself stood proudly in the centre of the square surrounded by tourists taking selfies. The most important landmarks were pointed out to us by Jonathan, including Dom zu Salzburg, an impressive seventeenth century cathedral and Residenz Fountain, a large ornate fountain around which Maria sang “I have confidence in me” in The Sound of Music. As we progressed around the city centre, Jonathan was keen to point out as many Sound of Music filming locations as possible as the area is absolutely overflowing with them.

Mozartplatz, Salzburg

River Salzach, Salzburg

Dom du Salzburg

Our next stop put our Segways to the test as we climbed Festungsberg, a 542 metre high mountain, one of five in the city and on top of which Hohensalzburg Castle sits, one of the largest medieval castles in Europe. Despite the steep ascent, our nimble Segways ascended the mountain with ease. We enjoyed the truly breathtaking panoramic views of the city below, but could have probably done without being stared at by a clearly furious local, angry at our sheer presence. Within moments, we were well away from his vicinity, so it’s really difficult to understand why he and so many other residents of Salzburg are so annoyed by Segways in Salzburg. We smiled back at him, half to appease his disgust, half because we were just too happy aboard our Segways to care.

Next, we headed out to the suburbs and into the countryside. From here, we caught a first glimpse of Untersberg, a mountain we would later climb (a post on this coming soon). For now though, we simply admired it’s craggy dominance over the neighbouring farmland. Our tour continued around lake Leopoldskroner Weiher and the grounds of Schloss Leopoldskron, a rococo palace that provided the exterior shots of the Von Trapp mansion.

Schloss Leopoldskron, Salzburg

Matt & Jade in Salzburg

Untersberg View From Salzburg

Finally, Jade, Jonathan and I wound our way through narrow cobbled alleyways up to the top of Mönchsberg, another of the city’s mountains. On top, we found more spectacular views of both the city and surrounding green fields and mountains.

From the start of our tour to the finish, we were convinced this was easily the best way of seeing Salzburg. Our battery-powered scooters effortlessly and silently scaled mountains, navigated busy cobbled streets and shot across wide open squares. Without them, seeing so much of Salzburg in the same length of time would have been completely impossible.

The Future of Tourism?

Segways were first seen in 2001, yet it’s only now that entrepreneurial types are seeing the massive potential they possess for the tourism industry. Clean, quiet and reasonably discrete transportation that doesn’t require the riders to have prior experience, nor a license. For medium sized cities like Salzburg, it’s almost as if Segways were made to been ridden by tourists. Now is definitely the time to drop any preconceptions you have about Segways and put them at the back of your mind the next time you’re planning a trip. Does your destination have a Segway tour company? If so, get yourself booked in.

If Salzburg is your destination, we can only hope our glowing review of Salzburg by Segway will encourage you to book yourself onto one of their tours. Despite them being nearly 15 years old, Segways are an important part of the future of the tourism industry, whether the residents of Salzburg like it or not.

Segway Salzburg Office

More Information on Segway Salzburg

Tours by Segway Salzburg run daily from 13 March to 31 October. During winter months, tours can be run on request providing the weather is good and there are a minimum of five participants. We were taken on the ‘Big Segway Tour’, but you can choose from a selection of smaller tours should you wish to. For the most up-to-date information, head to the Segway Salzburg website.

 

Disclaimer: Segway Salzburg generously offered us a complimentary tour of Salzburg. This has in no way affected what has been written in this article. All opinions are those of the author.

Need somewhere to stay in Salzburg?

Salzburg offers a variety of places to stay to suit every budget. Here’s one hotel we’ve personally stayed in that we recommend.

Bergland Hotel, Salzburg

 

Bergland Hotel, Salzburg

Our Rating:

This family-run, centrally-located hotel offers individually designed rooms, a continental breakfast and plenty of artwork and artifacts to peruse. Prices are good and wifi is free.

The Good

Each room is decorated in a unique style with plenty of personal touches. We really like the old, wooden explorer’s writing desk and the antlers on the wall in our room.

The Not-So-Good

The centre is close, but still a 10-15 minute walk away. Really not a deal breaker.

 

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Have you been on a Segway? If not, are you now tempted to have a go on your next trip? Let us know in the comments section below.