The Sound of Music
Tales of the Tyrolean Alps
There's no grand pergola where Rolf promised to protect Joanna, or where Baron von Trapp declared his love for Maria. The modest main staircase is a dark, creaky, Austrian walnut without a hint of grand spiral. The main sitting room would never accommodate more than a dozen of Hollywood's most glamorous extras.
A train runs along the back of the property to Aiglen Station, from which the von Trapps left on a well-publicized Italian-American tour—but with no nun’s subterfuge and no nighttime flight over the Alps. And the wall around the house comes courtesy of Nazi Reichsfuhrer Heinrich Himmler, who turned the villa into a private SS resort after the family declined to return.
And yet… The minute you enter, you hear The Sound of Music, even if it echoes from inside your head. The family wasn't particularly fond of the movie or its light-hearted, American twist on personalities and events. But the soundtrack reverberates silently through every atom of the property.
The last of the von Trapps passed away in 2016. We stayed in the room of the younger Maria, the second daughter who inevitably grew up and died too young in childbirth. In the breakfast room, an ancient machine played a recording of the children singing a madrigal. It was all rather nice and sad.
The most recent owners of the Villa von Trapp made a go of running it as something between a hotel and a German-style Gasthof, but never quite succeeded. Attempts to maintain the musty authenticity clashed with notions of how a modern hotel should operate, and in the end, COVID put it under for good. You can still find your way there with Google Maps, but what you’ll discover is just a quaint, old Austrian villa in a residential neighborhood.
The von Trapp Family Lodge, Maria’s creation outside Stowe, Vermont, in the USA, is still very much a going, 96-room concern. Maria passed away in 1987, so she’s no longer there to welcome her guests, but her fingerprints are all over the lovely resort.
We must admit to being partial to the original stage version of The Sound of Music, with Mary Martin and Theodore Bickel originating the roles—if only because all three are on their way to being lost to history.