Celebrate this much-loved musical with a boat tour down the Danube – with singing included! Jeannine Williamson reports
Standing at the top of the stone steps overlooking the fountain in Salzburg’s Baroque Mirabell Gardens, I am about to be transported to my childhood.
Below us Elisabeth von Trapp strums the familiar opening notes and on the count of three we burst into an enthusiastic rendition of Do-Re-Mi.
Although we didn’t all hit the high notes, particularly in my case, it was undoubtedly one of the highlights of a week spent in the homeland of The Sound Of Music, which celebrated its 50th anniversary last year and still enthrals generations of fans.
A real von Trapp
River line Uniworld offers a variety of themed sailings, such as the Sound Of Music cruise, to add to its regular itineraries.
During our week on the Enchanting Danube itinerary we were joined by the equally charming granddaughter of Maria and Georg von Trapp.
On our first evening aboard the River Beatrice, Elisabeth gave the first of several informal chats and recitals.
It set the scene for a journey from Passau to Budapest that offered a mix of entertainment, culture, spectacular sights and sumptuous food.
Life afloat, and ashore, was relaxed, which owed a lot to the all-inclusive fare covering excursions, tips and all drinks, starting with Champagne at breakfast.
Our first tour was a full day in the Austrian city of Salzburg, birthplace of Mozart and location for many of The Sound Of Music’s outdoor scenes. On the way, we caught a glimpse of the church used as the backdrop for Maria’s marriage to Georg.
Before enjoying our moment in the spotlight at the 17th-century gardens we sat in the Mirabell Palace’s private chapel listening to more songs from Elisabeth.
After a walk around the fountain and down the hedge tunnel featured in the film, we strolled through the heart of the city to see Mozart’s house and buy pretzels in the open-air market.
Our guide shared interesting snippets with us on the way back to the ship, separating
fact from fiction. For example, in real life, the Von Trapp children never sang any of the songs featured in the soundtrack and Austrians would never pair schnitzel with noodles – writers Rodgers and Hammerstein needed to find a word that rhymed with crisp apple strudels.
There was another sing-a-long as we were handed song sheets with Julie Andrews’ ‘senior’ version of one of her famous songs.
‘Hot tea and crumpets and corn pads for bunions, no spicy hot food or food cooked with onions,’ we sang cheerfully as the lush, green scenery passed by. ‘Bathrobes and heat pads and hot meals they bring, these are a few of my favourite things.’
Meals were a delight, with a vast choice from local dishes, such as Viennese-style farmhouse beef and cheese dumplings, to a multi-course gourmet gala dinner.
Staff remembered our names, what we liked to drink and generally made us feel totally pampered.
The ship’s public areas and cabins are special too, decorated with original artwork, antiques and soft furnishings. The suites even come with butler service.
We sailed on to Vienna, with a demonstration of the waltz performed by local dancers.
The next day, we did a walking tour taking in the imposing cathedral and grand architecture of buildings such as the famous Spanish Riding School.
Afterwards, we went in search of a traditional coffee house, where we were soon tucking into mouth-watering apple strudel.
All too soon we were in the Hungarian capital of Budapest – where one side of the Danube is overlooked by Buda Castle and the parliament building on the opposite bank is modelled on London’s Palace of Westminster – and it was time to bid a reluctant so long and farewell to a captivating cruise.
Great for food lovers
Close to Budapest’s Liberty Bridge, the ground floor of the three-storey Great Market Hall is filled with colourful stalls piled high with local produce, including decorative jars of Hungarian paprika which is great to take home as a gift or souvenir.
Great for tranquil travellers
Winding between the Austrian towns of Krems and Melk, the UNESCO-listed Wachau Valley is one of the most scenic stretches of the River Danube, lined with steep vine-clad slopes, picturesque villages, castles and Melk’s vast Benedictine abbey perched on a rocky outcrop.
Great for culture vultures
St Stephen’s Cathedral in the pretty German town of Passau is home to a 17,774 pipe organ, the largest in Europe. Listen to a stirring half-hour concert performed at 12 noon daily between
May and October.
The seven-night Enchanting Danube cruise with Titan Travel costs from £1,749, including meals and drinks throughout the day, six shore excursions, tips, flights and Titan’s VIP Home Departure
Service with door-to-door home to airport transfers. Sound Of Music cruises and performances by Elisabeth von Trapp will be featured on sailings on 24 July and 31 July 2016. For further details, regular departure dates and prices, call 0800 988 5823 or visit titantravel.co.uk.
Woman’s Weekly travel offer
Woman’s Weekly Travel offers a variety of river cruises, including along the Danube. Prices start from £1,199pp for eight days full board.
Selected departures from May to October 2016. Includes return Eurostar, guided tours including wine tasting, and the services of a tour manager. For more info or for a free brochure, call
01283 742 396 or visit womansweekly.com/rivercruises