The 1965 film ‘Sound of Music’ from the Rodgers and Hammerstein stable is one of the world’s favourite musicals. Many people know of the locations in and around Salzburg and visit them in their droves including the city’s squares, parks and abbey. Certainly most of the film has been examined with great scrutiny and its locations discussed in detail. The one aspect that always puzzled me (and the one location few discussed) was where the final scenes took place – the Von Trapps escaping over the mountains into Switzerland. The film starred Julie Andrews, Christopher Plummer, with Charmian Carr, Nicholas Hammond, Heather Menzies, Duane Chase, Angela Cartwright, Debbie Turner and Kym Karath.
In terms of the film’s ending its one aspect in the whole discussion of the film that hardly ever gets a look in. Referring to guides and information on the film doesn’t reveal where the location was. Its information that’s difficult to come by. This post was originally written in 2014 and with the passing of time its becoming more acknowledged that the locations are indeed at the beginning and the end of the film and more are no doubt now aware exactly where these locations were. Previously there was no Google Street coverage of the site in question.
The film’s celebrated ending where the Von Trapps are seen heading for ‘Switzerland’ (but in fact are descending to Germany!)
The final scene in the film starts with the clip shown below. It clearly denotes the southwestern most slope of the Ahorn summit above the Berggasthoff Ahornkaser (the cafe) with the Hoher Goll massif behind, the bulk of which is sited in Germany even though the mountain too straddles the border between the two countries.
To reach this location, the only way to do so is from Germany itself along what is known as the Roßfeld Panorama Straße (Rossfeld Panorama highway.) This was built by the Nazis during WWII, being one of their bold, yet unfinished projects, intended to form a link between two distinct parts of Bavaria.
The opening scenes at the end of the film sees the Von Trapps coming over the brow of the mountain.
This scene, contrary to the rest of the film, is to all purposes and intents in Germany rather than Austria. Indeed the small bit of ground the Von Trapps are walking on is just within Austria itself, whilst the film camera team, are believe it or not, in Germany!
The border between the two countries lies just below the top of the mountain where the film was made. The Rossfeld road briefly enters Austria for several hundred metres by the Ahorn’s summit.
The Von Trapps coming up the mountain. The Purtschellerhausstrasse hostel can just be seen in the distance.
Here’s a link to Google maps showing the site in question. The summit of the Ahornkaser is near where the Ahornbüchsenkopf is marked on Google’s map.
The summit of the Ahorn is clearly visible in this view from the Purtschellerhaus. Salzburg is arrowed in the valley at left. Source: Mapio
The scenes for the film’s finale were filmed on the ascent from the Ahornkaser cafe (shown above) along the ridge itself. Seats and a cross now mark site, this being the Ahorn’s summit. The filming was done with creative camera angles from both the summit itself and from a helicopter to keep evidence of the Rossfeld road (Robsfeldstraße) out of sight, and it appears telephoto lens were used to bring the different elevations closer so as to hide the surrounding evidence (roads, paths, buildings etc) although evidently the road leading to the Eagle’s Nest, the Eagle’s Nest (Kehlsteinhaus) whilst places like Berchtesgaden and even Salzburg can be seen.
This scene from the film shows the Berchtesgaden valley (centre) and the Eagle’s nest (ringed in red at left.)
The path the Von Trapps are on in this particular scene is only just inside Austria itself, everything else within a metre or so north of this path is in Germany.
The Ahorn summit at a height of 1604 metres. In this view the Von Trapps would have been coming up the ridge at the rear and along the top of this ridge before descending to the right. The Purtschellerhaus and Kehlsteinhaus (Eagle’s Nest) are marked in red. Source: Google Streets
Google now has a street view looking from the summit of the Ahornkaser. The Untersberg can be seen in the distance. It looks much further away than it is seen in the film and that is because those scenes were shot from a helicopter in such a way the background was compressed. Salzburg can be seen in the valley in the upper centre of the scene. All the countryside north of here towards Salzburg is in that part of Germany known as Bavaria.
In the film the Von Trapps are making their way into Switzerland. But in reality they are actually descending into Germany, and could well be making their way back to Salzburg which is just off the screen at extreme right! Confusing!
Map of the locality, with Berchtesgaden at centre and the Sound of Music location ringed on the border of the two countries to the east of Berchtesgaden. Salzburg itself is due north of Berchtesgaden. The light green area is Germany and the dark green area is Austria. Map sourced from Open Street Map
Actually it is confusing when referring to the Sound of Music locations because this part of Europe is in fact the southernmost bit of Germany, its a small area of country known as Berchtesgadener Land which is surrounded by Austria on three sides. The location the Sound of Music’s final scenes were conducted sit right on the border itself thus practically all the viewpoints show Southern Germany more than Austria itself. It explains why, when referring to Salzburg for example, the city is not in the east but in fact its to the north of the Ahornkaser – looking in the direction of Germany too! When I wrote this post originally in 2014 there was a lot of work at getting my bearings right because I simply couldn’t fathom the different locations and how they were placed in relation to each other.
The Von Trapps descend into Germany in the shadow of the Untersberg mountain. The summit of the Ahornkaser as seen on Google Streets is just out of view to the right.
The Kehlsteinhaus can be seen here in how it sits on the mountain ridge opposite the location of the Ahornkaser (or Rossfeld mountain) where the Sound of Music’s final scenes took place. The entire scene seen here is in fact part of Germany whilst that behind the Ahornkaser is Austria. The clip is from this video at You Tube.
Another view of the Kehlsteinhaus with the Ahorn summit indicated in the distance. The Ahornkaser cafe can just be made out just below the Ahorn’s summit. Source: Panorama Tours
Map showing the final Sound of Music scenes took place on the actual border between the two countries. The site of the filming took place in the centre of the map. The Von Trapps in the film climbed the ridge just inside Austria. then followed it along the top to where the border turns sharply northwards, and there the actors then climbed down that bit into Germany itself. Here’s a link to Google’s map.
The map shown depicts the Ahorn cafe at top left, sited in Germany. The border is shown as a white line. The Eagle’s Nest (Kehlsteinhaus) would be well off the map’s left hand (western) side whilst the Untersberg mountain would be almost due north.
There are signs on the Rossfeld Highway that depict the locality as that featured in the Sound of Music. The Berchtesgadener-land blog shows one of these boards which is some distance from the actual spot where those scenes weer filmed. The red circles indicate the Ahorn summit ridge (Sound of Music final scene) and the Eagle’s Nest (Kehlsteinhaus.) This part of the setting is in fact in Germany too – just a small bit of Austria exists on the left side.
Both the film’s beginning/end scenes can be seen in its end and beginning scenes too!
The beginning and the end of the film too includes glimpses of the ending and beginning scenes!
As the Von Trapps descend from the mountain top there’s a glimpse of the distant hill known as Mehlweg where Maria makes her appearance with ‘The hills are alive with the Sound of Music…’ The field itself is marked red.
Perhaps more interestingly, the Ahornkaser features quite prominently in the opening scenes seen from Mehlweg!
As we can see from the opening scenes at Mehlweg (these clips are from You Tube) the Ahornkaser/Rossfeld Mountain is clearly prominent. The Untersberg is also prominent and at one point the Eagle’s Nest can be briefly seen.
Compared to the rest of the film which was filmed in Austria proper, the scenes at Mehlweg were filmed entirely in Germany. The field at Mehlweg is near Marktschellenberg, a small Bavarian village in the shadow of the Untersberg.
As can be seen the location of the film’s final scenes is very prominent in these opening scenes featuring Julie Andrews.
Views of Mehlweg on Google Streets:
View of the field at Mehlweg. The Ahorn summit looks a good distance away. In the film however the scenes were shot with lenses which compressed the scenes to make them look more interesting. Nevertheless the location is unmistakable. Source: Google Streets
Looking back from the Ahorn summit, this is where the field at Mehlweg is located. Salzburg can just be seen in the valley to the upper right of Mehlweg. Source: Google Streets.
This interesting Google aerial view of Mehlweg (taken in October 2017 with a drone) shows the shape of the fields clearly – and one can look around to see where the Untersberg and the Ahorn are. The latter is a long way off but nevertheless its unmistakeable. Its a lovely misty morning winter scene too!
The following extract is from Shoot the Rehearsal!: Behind the Scenes with Assistant Director Reggie Callow By Rudy Behlmer, page 131 (Pub Scarecrow Press 2010) and describes quite well the problems the film faced at Mehlweg:
I have not been to this part of Europe therefore my knowledge is based entirely on research. I have used other pictures (acknowledging links where possible) and also used clips from You Tube videos.
The final scene clips from the film were from here.
The film poster used as a feature image isnt the original rather its an adaptation with the leading stars names’ added beneath the title instead of being at the bottom of the picture. The title has also been moved to fit it all in. The reason for this was none of the posters available on the Internet fitted the format I generally use for the blog’s feature images.
Updated May 2019.
Updated March 2021.