October 24, 2021

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Latitudes: Experience a bit of Austria in Vermont | Outdoorsnw

I could almost hear the cowbells and picture Maria traipsing down the mountains, singing, “The Hills are Alive,” as I gazed upon the pastoral scene. Though it was Vermont, and not Austria, the movie’s images were omnipresent at the Trapp Family Lodge.

Perched atop a mountain in Stowe, Vermont, the lodge is famed for its von Trapp family heritage. The property looked as I had imagined it, with its rustic, Austrian chalet design and Old-World European décor. Family photos, playbills and movie posters bedeck the walls.

The best way to learn about the family is to take a guided history tour around the property. Born in 1905, Maria Kutschera was orphaned at two and raised by an elderly cousin. A chance encounter with a priest led her to dedicate her life to the convent. However, she always sought reasons to escape to her beloved mountains. This errant behavior spurred the Abbess to send her to the home of Baron Georg von Trapp.

There she served as a governess to one of the captain’s daughters, who was ill. The rest is history. Maria married Georg and became step-mother to his seven children. The couple subsequently added two more daughters and one son to their clan.

A priest, who happened to hear the children sing convinced Maria to start the Trapp Family Singers. This was the start of the family’s singing career.

After the Nazis annexed Austria, the von Trapps fled the country in 1938. They did not, as the movie depicted, exit a concert hall, hide at a convent and hike over the Alps. Rather, they left via train to do a concert in Italy and never returned. The family eventually emigrated to the U.S. and later purchased a farm in Stowe, VT, as the scenery was reminiscent of Austria.

They began hosting skiers and the family home became a lodge. Sadly, Georg passed away in 1947, leaving Maria with ten children to support. The story of the von Trapps first came to light via a book Maria wrote in 1949. The story of the Trapp Family Singers became a best seller and spurred films in Germany, as well as a Broadway play.

Then Hollywood got in on the action and produced “The Sound of Music.” Maria passed away in 1987 and today, only three of her children remain. Members are buried in a small cemetery on the property.

Though the movie connection is often the initial draw of this iconic property, most visitors soon discover there is much more to the lodge than its history. It’s an all-ages playground of recreational activities.

When hunger strikes, the dining room, which specializes in European-style cuisine, is the perfect spot for a hearty dinner. Feast on Wiener Schnitzel, Maple Glazed Chicken, Stuffed Rainbow Trout and more.

Another option is the Trapp Brewing Bierhall Restaurant. It’s a lively place with a menu of brats, schnitzel, sauerkraut mashed potatoes, and of course there’s beer – craft lagers like those in Austria – brewed right on site.

As for accommodations, take your pick from cozy studio suites and spacious two-bedroom family suites, to expansive villas and guest houses available for rent. Though you never need to leave this full-service resort, I recommend getting out to explore the charming town of Stowe and its surroundings.

You’ll find quaint shops, covered bridges, waterfalls and one of my favorite destinations – Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream, in nearby Waterbury. Make sure to check out the Flavor Graveyard!