Starstruck in Salzburg

The hills were alive with the sound of hang gliders. They whooped as they soared off emerald slopes into clear alpine skies.

A tanned young man caught my eye. Decked out in a crash helmet and long red socks, he unraveled the cords attached to his sail. Leaning back and surrendering to the wind, he grinned like a small boy. His friends cheered as he lifted off the ground and drifted away.


Salzburg’s famous as Mozart’s birthplace. The moment I stepped out of the car on that mountainside and drew a breath of pristine air, however, I was overwhelmed by an unexpectedly powerful condition – Sound of Music mania. I longed to see the exact spot where Julie Andrews whirled about singing about larks learning to pray.

Back in the mid 1960’s, that opening scene lifted me out of small town New Zealand to a glorious landscape of romance and song. I fell painfully in love with one of the boys in the film. Was it Kurt?


Years later, the movie had the same impact on my young daughters. One of them fell for Kurt. Or was it Rolf? Now my little grand daughters have started singing Doh Ray Me.

My eye drifted across lush slopes to the town below, then up to the alps across the valley. Julie could’ve been anywhere. Never mind. I bent over a creamy blossom in the grass.


“What’s this small white flower?” I asked lovely Rosi, who’s lived there for years (“So clean and bright” I wanted to add, except it was rather scruffy). She didn’t seem to hear.

 Visitors weren’t allowed inside, but many outdoor scenes were filmed there.


After a short stop for postcards, we rattled down a road. My breath caught when Rosi pointed out a driveway. It’s where Julie sang about having confidence in herself before meeting the Von Trapps for the first time.

As if this wasn’t enough, we headed on to Hellbrunn Castle for a tour of the grounds culminating with, wait for it, the gazebo!

It’s so tiny you couldn’t fit a bicycle in there, let alone sing and dance about being 16 going on 17.The director must’ve set up a separate studio for all that. Still, it is thegazebo.


A pair of Americans stepped aside so I could take a snap. I thanked them, saying I could now die happy.

It wasn’t entirely a joke.



“I climbed out of bed and sprayed oven cleaner under my arms.”
Helen Brown’s first collection of newspaper columns DON’T LET ME PUT YOU OFF is available for pre-order on Kindle Amazon. #suburbanlife #humor #motherhood #1980s


Starstruck. The fabulously witty and dapper Pulitzer-winning author of LESS, Andrew Sean Greer, at Auckland Writers Festival. #authorsofinstagram #aucklandwritersfestival2019


Mt Ruapehu from a plane today.


New Plymouth, New Zealand

Back home in New Plymouth for my sister’s birthday.


Canberra, Australian Capital Territory

An honoured guest in Susan and David’s garden, Canberra.


Yay! BONO is coming out in Italian next year.


Who said I was a cat, anyway? #catsofinstagram #siamese


Phillip Island, Victoria, Australia

Someone likes my new coat #lazyoaf #daschundsofinstagram #overfamiliardog #phillipislandwinery


My disciples should be bringing dinner any minute.#catsofinstagram #siamesecat


So you thought you were going to read this magazine? #catsofinstagram

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