Villa von Trapp

July 2008


Suzan Eren & André Rieu
The Sound of Music

Villa Von Trapp
Home of the Original Sound of Music

By Karin Strohecker

SALZBURG, Austria (Reuters) - "The Sound of Music", one of Hollywood's greatest money-spinners, will scale new heights when the original von Trapp family villa near Salzburg opens as a hotel in July.

The 1965 film based on the true story of how aspiring nun Maria sang her way into the hearts of Baron von Trapp and his seven children has provided fans with a host of must-have items.

The Villa Trapp hotel will give visitors a chance to sleep in the family's former bedrooms or get married in their chapel.

And the gazebo where Liesl, eldest of the von Trapp daughters in the film, and her boyfriend Rolf meet secretly and perform "Sixteen going on 17" will also be available as a self-assembly construction set.

"The hotel really is a milestone for the commercialization of The Sound Of Music for Salzburg," said Leo Bauernberger from the Salzburg provincial tourism board. "The Sound of Music is well and truly a stroke of luck for this city."

The film, which starred Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer and was based on a Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, has inspired sing-along shows worldwide, a drinking game, a self-healing CD and a Maria Barbie doll.

U.S. ticket tracking site ranks "The Sound of Music" as the third most successful movie of all time on the domestic market, taking inflation into account, topped only by "Gone With the Wind" and "Star Wars".

"It is hard to imagine that anyone hasn't seen it and it is still passed down the generations," Graham Hales, brand specialist at Interbrand, told Reuters. "It is a property."



The von Trapp family lived in the villa outside Salzburg from 1923 to 1938 before fleeing the Nazi takeover of Austria. Nazi security chief Heinrich Himmler used the villa as a home close to the Austrian Alps until 1945.

A missionary order bought the residence after World War Two and has agreed to relinquish it for use as a hotel. Entrepreneurs plan to make no alterations to the building other than essentials such as painting and rewiring.

In Salzburg, visitors from North America, Asia and Britain, where the film has been very popular, generate some 700,000 overnight stays every year, according to tourism officials.

For 40 percent of them, the film is the sole reason for their visit. Seeing the film's original locations is for many, like Lana Wright from New Zealand, a dream came true.

"It was almost a feeling like 'you've come home'," said Wright, 53, with watery eyes, stepping off a tour bus.

"Finally I have arrived, arrived somewhere where I was supposed to be, somewhere that I was supposed to see."

Hales said The Sound of Music, by featuring goodies and baddies, heroes who stand up to do the right thing and a heartening depiction of strong family bonds, will be appealing to generations to come.

"The whole story is simply so beautiful -- here in Salzburg, with the scenery, the people, the whole story line -- it's just a classic," said Laura Ude from the United States.

(Additional reporting by Jane Lee in London)

(Editing by Mark Heinrich and Robert Woodward)


Maria von Trapp
returns to "Sound of Music" home

Maria von Trapp, daughter of Austrian Baron Georg von Trapp,
gestures during an interview with Reuters in her former home,
Villa Trapp, in Salzburg July 24, 2008.
REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger

By Karin Strohecker

SALZBURG, Austria (Reuters) - Maria von Trapp has taken a trip down memory lane to see her old family home just before it opens as a new hotel.

Staying in the house for the first time since the von Trapps fled the Nazi regime in the late 1930s has been a deeply moving experience for the second-eldest daughter of Baron von Trapp, whose story was made famous by the "Sound of Music" film.

"Our whole life is in here, in this house," the 94-year-old told Reuters in an interview. "Especially here in the stairwell, where we always used to slide down the railings."

Von Trapp smiles as she recalls the memory of her and her six siblings clambering and playing in the villa in the leafy suburbs of Salzburg in Austria and spending nights in hammocks in the park surrounding the family home.

"My youngest sister built herself a tree house. Of course, then we all had to have one as well, we loved to climb the trees," she said.

Following the death of Baron von Trapp's first wife, aspiring nun Maria Kutschera joined the family to teach the children, fell in love with the baron and married him in 1927.

The family always sang and played instruments together, and having lost all their fortune in 1935 in the throes of the world economic crisis, their musical talent proved a saviour.

An opera singer heard the children sing in the park and entered them for a competition. Soon the von Trapps started to tour Europe and the United States as a family choir

"We sang a lot and we sang all the time. We didn't even want to go for a walk alone, because we wanted to sing all the time together," recalls von Trapp.

"My father played the violin and the accordion, and I adored him - I wanted to learn all the instruments that he played," said von Trapp, who still plays the accordion.



For Baron von Trapp, a staunch Austrian patriot and opponent of Adolf Hitler, his singing family also provided the escape ticket from the Nazi regime. The family did not return from a concert tour in the United States in the late 1930s.

"Without the singing, we would have never made it to the United States," said von Trapp.

While The Sound of Music, one of the most successful films ever made, produced a series of well-loved musical hits like "Edelweiss" or "Sixteen going on 17", the family took exception to the way they were portrayed.

Julie Andrews starred as the aspiring nun Maria in the 1965 film, while Christopher Plummer played Baron von Trapp, who was depicted as a strict patriarch, obsessed with discipline.  "We were all pretty shocked at how they portrayed our father, he was so completely different. He always looked after us a lot, especially after our mother died," von Trapp said. "You have to separate yourself from all that, and you have to get used to it. It is something you simply cannot avoid."

Her stepmother Maria had another three children with Baron von Trapp, and the family settled on a farm in Vermont in 1942.

The villa in Salzburg was taken over by Nazi security chief Heinrich Himmler, who used it as a home close to the Austrian Alps until 1945. After the war, a missionary order took over the home, agreeing to relinquish it for use as a hotel eventually.

For Maria von Trapp, who flew in from the United States to join the opening celebrations of the hotel on Friday, Salzburg will also mean satisfying a long-awaited culinary treat.

"Today I will eat sausages -- this is what I did as a child. Sausages in Salzburg are simply fantastic."





by Gardiner

Deep in the Adriatic, a small U-5 boat maneuvered through the dark, cold sea. It was one of earliest submarines, still in the experimental stages, unwieldy and unsafe. Exhaust gasses swept through the boat causing the crew to get sick. The periscope could not be raised or lowered, so the boat had to move up and down in order to use it.

In command of this submarine was Linienschiffsleutnant (Lieutenant Commander) George Ritter von Trapp with his international crew of Slovaks, Poles, Magyars, Austrians, Croats, Czechs, and Italians. He patrolled the Mediterranean waters. Then, someone spotted the menacing French cruiser Leon Gambetta. Von Trapp gave the order to load the torpedo bays as the crew scrambled in the tiny boat. All was silent.

"Fire one," bellowed von Trapp.

A direct hit. The majestic ship was crippled. The 12,500 ton vessel foundered, then sank under the blue-black waves with its entire crew of 680 men. This was a victory for the Austro-Hungarian empire.

Lieutenant Commander von Trapp used his courage and quick wit to command the submarine and gained great honor defending his country.

Captain von Trapp had been born and brought up on the seashore, hearing stories of his father's days in the Navy, and it was one of his passions to be near the ocean. Later on, he earned his first decoration fighting in China during the Boxer Rebellion. He always showed much courage and cunning when he fought.

Captain von Trapp was always interested in submarine warfare because of his love of the sea. Later on, he successfully applied to be transferred to Fiume where most of the newly invented torpedoes were being manufactured, a move that would affect the course of his life.

While he was in Fiume, he was offered command of one of the first submarines that the Austrian Navy put into service. The submarine was christened before it was officially put into service and the woman who christened it was Agathe Whitehead, granddaughter of Robert Whitehead, inventor of the torpedo and owner of the torpedo factory. When the submarine was christened, Captain von Trapp's heart was captured by Agathe. Before long, they were married.

When The Great War broke out, Captain von Trapp went into action. He patrolled the Adriatic Sea and crippled many enemy ships. After sinking the Leon Gambetta, he sank the Italian troop transport ship Principe Umberto, drowning 2,000 soldiers. Later on, he switched to a U-14 submarine that was captured from the French in 1915. With this submarine he sank the largest enemy merchant ship, Milazzo, a 11,480 ton Italian transporter ship.

Many times, Captain von Trapp took initiative at the risk of his own life, sometimes even against orders. He soon earned the rarest decoration Austria can give, the cross of Empress Maria Theresia. It is the highest award an Austrian officer can receive in a time of war. He was also granted the title of Baron.

Deep in the Adriatic, a small U-5 boat maneuvered through the dark, cold sea. It was one of earliest submarines, still in the experimental stages, unwieldy and unsafe. Exhaust gasses swept through the boat causing the crew to get sick. The periscope could not be raised or lowered, so the boat had to move up and down in order to use it.

In command of this submarine was Linienschiffsleutnant (Lieutenant Commander) George Ritter von Trapp with his international crew of Slovaks, Poles, Magyars, Austrians, Croats, Czechs, and Italians. He patrolled the Mediterranean waters. Then, someone spotted the menacing French cruiser Leon Gambetta. Von Trapp gave the order to load the torpedo bays as the crew scrambled in the tiny boat. All was silent.

Soon, the Great War was over, and Austria had been defeated. It was stripped of its entire sea coast and the Imperial Navy was no more. Captain von Trapp was without his beloved ship.

The only other thing he loved as much as his ship was his wife Agathe, but a sudden epidemic of scarlet fever in 1922 killed her. This was a very sad time for Captain von Trapp, of whom his second wife, Maria, later wrote that "half his life had died with the Navy. Of the other half, most seemed to be buried with Agathe"(von Trapp, 1957). Yet, he continued to be a good father to his children.

When in 1918, he returned from the war, his children were overjoyed to see him. One of the memories is of Captain von Trapp playing Indians with the children in the garden. "I remember he tied my oldest brother to a tree...He was really a father. And he was always with us. He took us on trips to the woods and showed us how to make fire without matches. He made us beads for our dolls. We were in his study all day long playing house, turning the whole thing upside down." Captain von Trapp took on the difficult task of raising a family alone, and did so with courage and patience. He raised his children to be musically inclined. When one of his daughters fell ill, he hired a nun from a local convent to nurse her. Maria Kutscher continued the children's musical education and taught the children to sing as a chorus. She and Georg von Trapp fell in love and married in 1927.

When the banks in Europe crashed, in 1932, the von Trapps lost most of their money. The children needed to take on jobs in order to contribute to the family income. They did not mind having to work, but it put the family in a bad position when, in 1938, Hitler's storm troopers marched across the Austrian border and claimed the land as Nazi territory. For many of the upper-class militaristic Austrians, Hitler's coming was welcomed, but for Captain von Trapp it was a nightmare. One family member writes: "We were very much aware of Hitler and what he was doing in Germany. And my father was horrified. Hitler was full of promises, but in Germany he already had killed Jews and Christians and anybody who challenged his word. He played God" (von Trapp, 1999).

Three times, Captain von Trapp refused to adhere to the orders and invitations of the Nazis. The Gestapo ordered Captain von Trapp to hang a swastika flag from their window for Hitler's visit to Salzburg. The Captain responded by saying, "I can do a better job with one of my Persian carpets"(von Trapp, 1999). And when Captain von Trapp refused an invitation to join the Nazis and establish a submarine base on the Adriatic, the anti-Nazi sentiments of the Trapp family became clear. Refusing the command of the submarine base and possibly Captain von Trapp's own submarine again was truly a heroic act. Submarine life and the ocean were what Captain von Trapp grew up on; they were his passion, but he put aside his love of commandeering ships in order to resist the evil of Hitler; a truly heroic act.

The trouble in Austria escalated, and the family was unable to leave because of the lack of money. They found that they could earn money by performing songs and eagerly accepted an invitation from the Chancellor in Vienna. This performance brought them fame, and soon they were receiving invitations to sing all over Europe. Even Adolph Hitler asked the family to sing at his birthday party, but Captain von Trapp turned down the offer. Soon, an offer to give a series of concerts in America arrived, and von Trapp saw this as an opportunity to escape the troubles in Austria.

George von Trapp gathered his family together and told them that they would have to decide whether to stay in Austria, or go to America for good. They chose to go to America. The only thing left was to devise a plan for sneaking past the Nazi border guards.

Dressed as if for a one-day hiking trip, with only small backpacks, Captain von Trapp, his new wife, Maria, and the children went to the local train station and boarded the train to Salzburg. In the Salzburg station, they passed through a forest of red, white and black Nazi swastika banners. Then they boarded a train to Italy (they had joint citizenship of Austria and Italy thanks to alliances of the former Austro-Hungarian empire). As soon as they arrived in Italy, Captain von Trapp wired the Charles L. Wagner concert agency in New York for ship passage.

I believe Captain von Trapp to be a true hero. He displayed courage and cunning as a submarine captain in the Great War. He showed courage as a father and as a pioneer leading them into a new land, leaving everything he ever worked for and knew behind. He showed compassion to his children by being a father who loved and nurtured them. He showed extreme courage again when he refused the power of the Nazis. Captain von Trapp proved to be virtuous in seeing the evil in Hitler. He wasn't tempted to seek power and glory with whatever political regime was in power at the time: he searched for the glory of a nobler and more permanent kind.


Meet the Von Trapp Children

Justin, Amanda, Melanie and Sofia Von Trapp,
known as JAMS.
They are the great grandchildren of Captain and Maria Von Trapp
from the Sound of Music.
JAMS has performed all over the world


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Related Pages:
Sound of Music

Live in Vienna
Rene and The Wien Concert
Terezie Paleckova & André Rieu in Vienna
Andre Rieu in Vienna by Ruth Morgan


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