The Real Von Trapps – A Favorite Musical vs. the History

The first time I saw “the Sound of Music,” I was in love.  Not just with that happy-go-lucky story (quite a boast for a movie with Nazis), but also with Salzburg.  The mountains that drew Maria to their wild peaks also had a powerful hold on me.  So much so that the opening sequence, where they just sweep over Austria’s beauty, was my favorite part.

Although, to be honest, I didn’t believe it really looked like that.  I’ve been around film and its “movie magic” for too long.  The mountains couldn’t possibly be that green.  The waters wouldn’t be that clear.  In this day and age, no village is that picturesque.  I was a cold, hard skeptic.  So, I made myself a promise.  Someday, I would go and see it with my own eyes – no “fixing it in post,” and no movie magic.

Well, in the summer of 2018, I did see Salzburg in person, and it was more delicious than a crisp apple strudel.  We saw the gazebo where Liesl and Rolf (damn him) enjoyed some flirtatious telegram talk.  We stood on the Do-Re-Mi stairs, we ran through the tunnel of vines, and we even played in that delightful fountain.

Shadowing it all were those mountains.  Those MOUNTAINS. They were just as breathtaking as they were in the movie.  The whole place was.  As I stood on a bridge over a bubbling river, and I took in the sweeping panorama of Salzburg, the REAL Salzburg, all I could think was:

“The hills are alive with the sound of music!”

So, Hollywood got one right for a change.  However, it wasn’t just a real place that the Sound of Music immortalized.  It was also real people.  There was an actual Captain Von Trapp.  He did marry a nun-in-training named Maria.  They really had a family of singing children that wowed the world at the outbreak of World War II.

I had put one mystery to rest, but the other soon consumed me.  How did Hollywood do with the people?  As much as I love Julie Andrews, I couldn’t count on a whimsical movie for the facts any longer.  So, I went straight to the source.  Maria Von Trapp herself.  I found a copy of her book, “The Story of the Von Trapp Singers,” published in 1949.  Like the movie, it was a wild ride.

With any story though, it’s best to start at the beginning – and I suppose this one starts with Captain Georg Von Trapp.  He was born in 1880, and the first world war saw him burst out of the ranks of anonymity.  His calling was submarines in the Austrian Navy, and he conducted them with incredible valor at a time when they were… well, unreliable at best.  He did so well that he was first made a knight, then a baron.  He married a young woman named Agathe Whitehead, the daughter of the torpedo’s inventor, Robert Whitehead.  They had a wonderful marriage that produced seven children.

Things unraveled after the Great War.  Austria lost control of all its seaports which forced the Captain into early retirement.  A few years later, scarlet fever made a house call and stole away his bride.  He was so devastated, as were the children, that they couldn’t bear to be in the same place where they had once been so happy.  Georg sold his estate in Pola (modern-day Croatia) and bought a secluded villa in Salzburg.

He lived a life of wealth and comfort in Austria.  When he was home, he lavished the children with gifts and gave them the best he could (not quite the stone-cold father figure he was portrayed as in the movie’s first half).  However, heartbreak still cast a heavy cloud over him.  He was gone a lot for business, and the children were left in the care of various household staff.  It is true that sailor suits were their main attire, and they were occasionally ordered around via whistle.

Well, when anyone is down and out, enter Maria and her iconic guitar.  She was born in Vienna in 1905.  Orphaned young, she was landed in the home of an abusive relative who raised her on atheist and socialist ideals.  An odd combination for a future Catholic nun!  As it turns out, her religious calling came about from an honest mistake.  She attended a Palm Sunday service thinking it was a Bach concert.  She was incredibly moved by the priest’s sermon, and she experienced a religious rebirth.  It was such an overhaul that after college, she entered the Benedictine Abbey in Salzburg as a Novice, which is sort of like a nun with training wheels.

According to her book, Maria was indeed a bit of a problem child at the Abbey.  I’m not sure about curlers in her wimple, but she definitely waltzed on the stairs, got lost in the mountains, and didn’t always keep to the strict protocols of nun life.  She also suffered severe headaches and nausea, which the other nuns attributed to altitude sickness.  They decided she needed some time at lower elevation, so they sent her to serve as governess to the sick child of Captain Von Trapp.  After a few months, she would return to the Abbey and take her permanent vows.

Well, we all know what happens next.  I mean, who wouldn’t swoon over Christopher Plummer’s iconic portrayal of Captain Von Trapp?   Well, here comes the first dagger, Sound of Music Fans.  It wasn’t love of the Captain that brought about the marriage.  “It was the children I fell in love with,” Maria wrote in her book.

Her job upon arrival was governess for just one of them, Maria.  The little girl who shared her name was bed ridden with the lingering effects of scarlet fever.  The two bonded fast, and the other children took to her as well.  She encouraged them in play and organized games and adventures in the estate’s lavish garden.  And yes, she pushed for them to have play clothes, although they didn’t come from curtains.  She also used her guitar to teach them a plethora of Austrian folk songs, and they passed many evenings cementing their bonds through music.

While Maria fell in love with the children, the Captain fell for her.  At the time, it was expected that he would marry a Princess Yvonne (the Baroness Schraeder equivalent).  However, the more he got to know his charming governess, the harder he fell.  He soon broke off his engagement to Yvonne and went after Maria.  When he asked to marry her, she was hesitant.  She wasn’t ready to give up the religious life she craved.  When she sought the advice of the nuns, she was in for a surprise.  They wanted her to accept the proposal and be the loving mother those children deserved.  “Climb every mountain,” they said.  (Just kidding, they didn’t say that).

So, it wasn’t swooning that brought about the marriage in 1927 – at least, not on Maria’s part.  Don’t despair though, because the love for him would come.  Later in life, after ten children and all their adventures together, Maria would say of her dashing Captain – “I learned to love him more than I have ever loved before or after.”

So, we know the man and the woman a little bit better, but what of the children?  Yes, there were seven, but that’s about all the movie got right.  Let’s start by correcting their names.  The eldest was not a smart-mouthed young lady who lusted after a telegram boy (although at least if there was no Liesl, we can assume there was no Rolf.  Because damn him).  Instead, it was a young man named Rupert who pursued medicine as a vocation.  There was also Agathe, Maria (whom our nun was originally hired to teach), Werner, Hedwig, Johanna, and Martina.  After the marriage, more little birdies joined the nest, and seven children eventually grew into ten.

The Von Trapp household saw other changes too.  For starters, the Captain was home a lot more.  Church and religious worship were woven in to their routines, and they especially enjoyed reading scripture together during Advent.  Maria continued in organizing musical time for the children as well as education and playtime.  They had plenty of money and overall, they had very few worries.

But then came the Nazis…. (DAMN you Rolf).

I’m sure you’re wondering about that whole thing where they make a dramatic escape from the Salzburg Music Festival, and then they climb over the mountains to make it to neutral Switzerland.  Well, some of it is fact – and some of it is purebred Tinsel-Town fiction.  Let’s sort it all out, and to do that, we have to start with the collapse of the global economy in the 1930s.

Those depression years had a deep impact on people everywhere, and the Von Trapps were no exception.  A few years before, the Captain had taken all of his money out of a bank in England and had instead given it to a local bank to try and boost the business there.  He came to regret this when the bank failed, and a family who was quite used to wealth and comfort suddenly found themselves destitute.

The Captain didn’t take it well, but Maria tried to find the silver lining (“I have confidence in sunshine!”)  In this case, it was her children.  She was immensely proud of how well they adjusted.  Without a word of complaint, they pitched in around the house, and they put their talented fingers to making and cooking things.  Even Rupert, in medical school at the time, did not despair.  He was more than happy to work his way through instead of relying on family funds.

If households could live on love alone, the Von Trapps would have remained wealthy.  However, they had to find some money too.  Maria turned to the abbey for support, and they advised her to go to the Archbishop to ask permission to put a chapel on her property.  Then, the Von Trapps could board a priest, as well as students from the nearby Catholic University.

It was an arrangement that would bring in so much more than money.  The priest they boarded, Father Wasman, also happened to be a masterful musician.  He was an expert on the organ and piano, and he knew a thing or two about choral vocals.  He was happy to coach the Von Trapps during their nightly singing escapades, a skill that would eventually earn him the position of their music manager (not the dashing Max in the movie – but close enough).

The family also came into contact with a parade of literary masters and other musicians.  Musicians that recognized the unique ability of their hosts.  It is in fact rare for an entire family to be blessed with such musical gifts, and one boarder took immediate notice.

Her name was Lotte Lehmann, and she was a very famous German soprano.  She came by to inquire about renting a room when she stumbled on a Von Trapp family singing session.  She was beyond moved by what she heard.  “Oh, children, children, you must not keep that for yourselves…  You must give concerts… You simply have gold in your throats.”

It was an idea that had never appealed to the family before.  They saw their music as a private family ritual.  The idea of stepping on a public stage horrified all of them, the Captain most of all.

However, Lehmann wouldn’t take no for an answer, and she arranged for the family to perform at an Austrian summer festival for musicians – a singing contest, to be exact (sound familiar?)  Against the high-flying protests of the Captain, the rest of the family agreed.  The very next day, they stepped on their very first stage (minus the Captain – he stayed in the audience).

They were, in a word, a sensation.  They also won first prize in the contest by a landslide.  The Von Trapp Family Singers were born.

And when there’s a new act in town, word spreads fast.  The Von Trapps were soon asked to appear on the Salzburg radio station.  They agreed, and it just so happened that the Chancellor of the Austrian Republic was listening to their broadcast.  He, like Lotte Lehmann before him, was enraptured by what he heard.  He had to have the incredible singing family for his state reception of dignitaries, diplomats, and military personnel.  Right after that high-profile event, the Von Trapps were booked to perform at the world-famous Salzburg Summer Music Festivals.

Practically overnight, the Von Trap Family Singers were professional musicians, whose star was fast on the rise, but we can’t forget about the Nazis… (DAMN YOU, ROLF!)  The Third Reich marched into Vienna in 1938, and Anschluss was quick to follow.  The Von Trapps, like every other family in Austria, were now exiles in their own country.  It was an especially bad blow to Captain Von Trapp, who just like in the movie, was an ardent Austrian patriot.  “Austria,” he lamented when he heard the news.  “You are not dead…This is only a sleep.  We promise you to do all we can to help you wake up again.”

The changes were fast and wide-spread.  Friends and Neighbors were turned into spies.  Even the family’s own long-time butler announced his allegiance to the Nazi Party.  Nazi flags were ordered to be hung from every house in Salzburg.  Just like in the movie, this was a big problem for the Captain, and the Nazis did try to force him to hang a flag.  One went so far as to come by the house.  Georg explained that he had no money to buy a flag.  The Nazi answered by producing a huge, spanking new swastika flag, just for him.

George refused to hang it – right to his face.  “You know, I don’t like the color.  It’s too loud.  But if you want me to decorate my house, I have beautiful oriental rugs.  I can hang one from every window.”

I don’t know if you are familiar with flag insults, but comparing a flag to a rug is um… well, not in accordance with flag decorum.  It was a dangerous insult at a dangerous time, but it was only the first in a long line of them to come from the family Von Trapp.  The next was from their young daughter Lorli, who repeated some of her father’s complaints about the Nazis at school.  Another came from the Captain, when he refused a prominent position with the German submarines in the Navy.  Still another slap in the face came from Rupert, who, fresh out of medical school, turned down a position serving with Nazi doctors in Vienna.

The final nail in the coffin came with a phone call from Munich.  The Von Trapp Family Singers had been chosen to perform at Adolf Hitler’s upcoming birthday party.

Since the Nazis were unlikely to swallow another Von Trapp insult, the family had a choice to make.  Captain Von Trapp worded it most elegantly.  “Children… do we want to keep… our home with the ancient furniture, our friends, and all the things we are fond of?  Then we shall have to give up the spiritual goods…  We can’t have both anymore.”  He was implying simply that if they refused the concert, they would have to leave Austria.

Which is exactly what they did.  A dramatic choice, but in real life, it wasn’t as dramatic as climbing over the mountains and sneaking into Switzerland.  Rather, they just traveled to the border of Austria and Italy (by train) under the guise of mountain climbing, and it was just in time.  Because the day after they left, the Austrian borders closed.  Meanwhile, Georg wrote a letter to an American contact who had once wanted the family to perform concerts there.  They waited for weeks in a tiny town on the border for the money and tickets to travel.  After it all came through, they took another train to England, and from there, they went to America.

I’m here to tell you that the drama didn’t end there.  As it turns out, “the Sound of Music” is just one freeze frame in the crazy Von Trapp feature film.  In America, then in Europe again, then back in America, their lives were an Austrian Mountain Range of ups and downs.  They were struggling musicians, with very little money, in a foreign country, during wartime, with only visitor visas.  Two of their sons would serve in the war while the family struggled to put down new roots.  They continued their demanding concert schedule which took them all over the country.  They also started a Von Trapp music camp in the mountains of Vermont.

After the war, the family got both their sons back, but they learned that their Salzburg home had been commandeered by Heinrich Himmler.  He had used it as a summer home, and SS barracks were put on the property.  Even Hitler had visited on occasion.  The Von Trapps could not return to a home with such bloody handprints on it, so they sold it.  It became a monastery for a long while, but in 1992, it was purchased by another company who converted it into a hotel.  As of 2008, visitors are now allowed on the property, known as “Villa Trapp.”

As for the family, they settled in the mountains of Vermont, where Captain Von Trapp died in 1947.  The rest of the family became US citizens, and they continued in music until 1957.  After the children went on with their own lives, Maria returned to the Vermont mountains and ran a lodge out of there until she died in 1987.

So, it turns out that the real-life story is somewhat different than happy sing-alongs.  It always is, isn’t it?  However, it did one thing absolutely right.  It forever cemented the legacy of the Von Trapp Family singers.  They dumped everything they knew for a life lived on a fragile thread, because they refused to compromise their morals.  That is a story that deserves to be told.

So, the next time I watch that movie that’s always been a favorite, I will just smile even bigger.  Because now I know the real Maria, her real family, and their very real faith that saw them through an awful lot.  To me, that is just as magical as hills that are alive with the sound of music.


“The Story of the Trapp Family Singers” – M.A. Trapp

“Maria” – M.V. Trapp

The National Archives Website

Villa Trapp Official Website


Salzburg Visit

For more photos from our trip through Austria and Europe – click here

137 Comments on “The Real Von Trapps – A Favorite Musical vs. the History

    • One of mine too! Phantom of the Opera might edge it out just a teeny tiny bit but it’s close! 🙂 So glad you enjoyed it

      • Wonderfully written! The Sound of Music has always been one of my absolute favorite movies and the true history be the film was just fascinating. Thank you so much for sharing thier story!

      • You are most welcome! I’m so happy you came by for a read and that you enjoyed it 🙂 It’s been a long favorite of mine as well!

  1. MB, your post is absolutely fascinating. VERY well-researched and VERY well-told. A major example of how real life is often more interesting than a semi-fictionalized version of it.

    • Thanks Dave! I’m so glad you enjoyed it. I can never help digging into the real story of something like that 🙂

  2. I once stood on the grounds of Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest which overlooked the mountains of Austria. It was beautiful – but chilling to me. Then we went on to Salzburg – but didn’t make time for the Sound of Music tour – a regrettable error. Thanks so much for your post, as always.

    • I’m so glad you enjoyed it. We didn’t make it to the Eagle’s Nest when we were in Europe. I wasn’t sure how I would feel standing there! Maybe next time we will make time for it.

    • I didn’t even realize he had one! Now it’s on my list too 🙂

  3. It’s good to know the real story. I’ve never understood why Hollywood can’t just tell the truth, which in this case is exciting enough that no changes need be made.

    • Sometimes I get having to squeeze things into a tighter timeline for movie length sake, but I agree, in so many cases, the real story is so much more powerful. I’m so glad you enjoyed reading about it!

  4. Maria von Trapp’s memoirs sound intriguing. I’m going to see if our library has a copy. Thanks!

    Have you seen the German version of The Sound of Music, Die Trapp-Familie (1956)? It sounds much closer to the book, and I think there were two or three sequels made that followed the von Trapp family in America. If you get a chance to see Die Trapp-Familie, I think it’s well worth it.

    P.S. Great photos!

    • I have heard of the German version! It was mentioned at the end of the book as well as some of the other sources that I consulted for this article. I haven’t seen it and would love to get my hands on a copy. I hope you find the memoirs and if you do, I hope you enjoy them!

  5. This was my favorite movie as a child. Living in the west Texas desert, Salzburg seemed a world away. But I loved the music. Thanks for sharing this!

    • I totally get it. I grew up in the flat lands of Iowa, so Salzburg and those towering mountains seemed like a fairy world to me too! 🙂 So glad you enjoyed the post.

  6. What an excellent, well-written story! “Let’s start at the very beginning…” well put. I’ve always loved the movie (and Christopher Plummer, who hates it, apparently). My mom had the Von Trapp biography, but I never did get around to reading it. Thanks for sharing so many details. We had an opportunity to visit Salzburg, but did a tour of Ludwig’s Bavarian castles instead. It was a rainy/snowy day, so just as well. Maybe another time!

    I recall being in Monte Verde, Costa Rica, and was told that a lodge there is owned by the Von Trapp family, but I haven’t verified it.

    • I have also heard that Plummer did not like the movie at all. It always kind of made me sad haha! 🙂 We did the opposite in Salzburg, we opted for the Sound of Music tour instead of the Ludwig castle. We wished we would have had time for both, it definitely sounds like the better choice on a chilly day! 🙂 I haven’t heard of this Costa Rica lodge, I’d be interested to look into that as well. So glad you came by and enjoyed the post and shared your thoughts!

    • Also – glad you got the “start at the beginning” pun 🙂 It was one of the more subtle ones I put in there haha!

    • Yay! Not a bad voice to have stuck in one’s head 🙂 So glad you enjoyed the post

  7. Wonderful post M.B, 50 yrs ago my Mum played Maria in the stage version, and rehearsed all the songs a lot at home, fond memories for me thanks 😊

    • That is so cool about your mom! Fantastic! I bet that was fun to hear those songs around the house. So glad to bring up some fond memories, thanks for sharing your thoughts!

    • So glad you enjoyed it. We had a wonderful time in Austria, we would love to go back and see Vienna and spend more time in the mountains as well. Lovely country!

      • oh Vienna….the whole country is just a great place to visit…..I hope you do get back to one….I was there some 20 plus years ago….but its a place you never forget…..

  8. An excellent post, very well researched and beautifully, entertainingly, written. (My great aunt Mabel Knight was Julie Andrews’s governess)

    • So glad you enjoyed it! I love how many fellow Sound of Music fans I have discovered through this post 🙂

  9. Beautifully told, MB – I’d heard that Maria was a bit of a dragon – and I did actually try to read a book, ‘The Von Trapp Family on Wheels’ (or something) once! I went to Salzburg when I was a child and have been trying to get back ever since (might make it this year, if I can drag myself away from ABAB). Unfortunately, my mother decided she had to buy an Austrian national dress, which was acutely embarrassing every time we went to the supermarket… Wonderful post!

    • I did hear that Maria had a temper! Some of the information I dug through in the National Archives brought it up once or twice. Apparently there were times that “her favorite things” didn’t work out so well, huh? 🙂 There is even a couple scenes in the book where she admits having temper tantrums at people. Picturing you walking around with your Austrian-dress clad mother gave me a giggle 🙂 I hope you make it back to Austria soon, we would love to return as well.

  10. Thank you for your informative blog post on an incredible family with integrity. I see God’s hand in this. What a testimony and so good to dig up the real story.

    • I’m so glad you enjoyed it! She mentions her faith a lot and writes a lot of beautiful things about it in the book. It was very inspiring!

  11. Fabulous post! And I echo what others have said here, the true story is better than the fiction and you tell it so well. I especially appreciated the historical footnote of Agathe Whitehead, being the daughter of the torpedo’s inventor, Robert Whitehead.

    • I couldn’t not mention the torpedo connection 🙂 The military history buff in me just wouldn’t allow that to go unnoticed. So glad you enjoyed the post! Love it when you come by and share your thoughts.

  12. I’ve just decided that I’m going to invite my friends over and read your post out loud to them, and every time you write “DAMN ROLF” we’re going to down a shot of schnapps. 🙂 Seriously, though … what a lovely, fascinating post you’ve treated us to. It was full of surprises (Heinrich Himmler? Border closed the next days?!) that I could not stop reading. But in spite of the plot differences you unearthed with your meticulous research, I’m grateful you concluded that the movie did the Von Trapp’s story justice by ensuring it will never be forgotten. Wonderful.

    PS: You must be the most adorable, charming historian alive. Just look at that smile! Made me smile too. 😉

    • A drinking game!! It would make me so happy to see my hatred of Rolf turned into something productive 🙂 Yes, Baroness Schraeder, I know he’s “just a boy,” but STILL… grrrrr. Take an extra shot for me! I’m so glad you enjoyed the article, and yes I was loving life while running around all the Sound of Music sites haha. It was one of the few times I twirled around and danced and sang in public and wasn’t a bit embarrassed, because everyone else was doing it too hahaha.

  13. I still sing “Climb every mountain” from mountaintops, so I enjoyed your story MB. I had read much of it before and was pleased to be reminded. We still watch the “Sound of Music” every year or so. We’re fans. Thanks for your thorough research and well-written tale. I also found your photos fun. “Do, I see a female deer, Ray, a drop of golden sun!” 🙂 –Curt

    • Yay Climb Every Mountain! It’s one of my favorite songs from that show. And you have climbed plenty of beautiful mountains lately! 🙂 My husband and I try to go to the big sing-along that they have in Hollywood. People show up in costume and everything. We haven’t been for awhile, we’re overdue!

  14. That is insane. Makes you wonder if they had a guardian angel, looking out for them when the beat the Austrian border closing by one day. I can see how Maria could eventually fall in love with her husband, but boy, that’s a big chance to take, not being guaranteed you’d ever feel that way about him. You are such a great writer!

    • Right? I’m totally on board with the guardian angel. Not just then either, the whole rest of their lives were pretty crazy! Someone had to have been helping them out. So glad you liked it, and thanks for your very nice compliment.

    • Yes they are! 🙂 Especially on the first day of spring! So glad you enjoyed it

  15. Do you know (I’m almost afraid to admit this), but even thought it’s been on nearly every Christmas since I was born, I’ve never seen the ‘Sound of Music… (Grabs coat and run for the hills…). But then I’ve never seen the Great Escape (also on every xmas) either so I hope that levels it out.
    That being said, I found this post really interesting and a great read. It’s interesting to see that Hollywood didn’t completely get it wrong even if they did fluff it up a bit. As it happens the Von Trapps seemed to have an even more interesting and colourful life – fascinating.
    Thanks for sharing MB – and I love the photos! You looked like you really enjoyed your visit!

    • Never seen the Sound of Music! Well no need to run for the hills haha. We can still be friends! 🙂 (I’ve never seen the Great Escape either. Shhhhh, don’t tell) But I do think you might enjoy it, the songs are very catchy if nothing else. I’m glad you enjoyed the article as well! It was fun digging into the real story

  16. This is a fascinating story! I didn’t know the Von Trapps lived in America. I loved the photos of you in all of the familiar sites from the movie! So..tell us how you really feel about Rolff! Awesome story!

    • Yep – Apparently you can still stay at their lodge in Vermont – as some other commenters pointed out here. That would be fun to visit.

  17. Thank you for comparing the real-life to the Hollywood version, M.B. And thank you for all the earworms that are competing for equal time. I might just be humming Sound Of Music tunes all evening, and in my dreams. 😊

  18. My father-in-law is Karole Venczel (& my two sons still carry the surname).
    His entire family (Croatians) had to flee the Nazi-backed Serbs soon after the end of WW2. Wives and mothers and daughter were sent out early by train, but the men delayed. In the end there was only one single option left to them: they had to cross those same mountains on foot.

    To quote him: “y’know in movie Sound of Music? They walk across da mountains, okay? They made it look like a picnic; ya? Like a fuckin’ walk in the park. Well it wasn’t; I tell ya straight; we fuckin’ nearly died!”

    & now I know that the Von Trapps *didn’t even do that*. Heh.

    One final thing: Karole told me about his journey. As they ascended the final meadow and up into the scree-slopes and snow, he paused, looked back at his homeland not knowing if he would ever be back, bent and picked a single edelweiss flower to remember it by.
    I’m in his house as he is telling me this. “Come here, come here a minute…” He stops and points to a printer’s tray they have on their wall – and there is the very same flower. Dried. Fragile. But still perfect. “That’s the only thing I’ve got left of my home.”

    I stood in awe. That tiny flower; I’d walked past it 50 times; never knew it was there.
    So. Much. Meaning.

    He has since been back.

    • Wow! Where is the movie about him?! I would totally watch it. The part about the Edelweiss, it made me tear up a bit I’m not kidding. That is so amazing. Thank you so so much for sharing that story here!

      • Everyone has a story. We pass them in the streets – just some human; plodding with her groceries or standing waiting at the post office. I like to get them talking. I met a man who drove the Australian Prime Minister 300 miles all night (speeding!) to make a morning meeting because the airforce plane had broken down. I met an old lady whose uncle was a famous pilot. I met another old lady (she lived right across my street) who had been “in” an episode of Thomas the Tank Engine …
        Always make a connection. Everyone has a story.

      • It is a powerful truth! It’s amazing the things we can learn if we just take a few minutes to listen <3

  19. Looking online – there appears to be two Von Trapp houses. I presume one was a stand-in used in the movie; the other being the real deal.
    Do you know more?

    • You are right – they did not use the real house in the movie, as it was a Monastery at the time of filming. Multiple houses were also used for the villa as portrayed in the movie – exteriors were filmed at a lakeside house outside of town, and another historic villa was used in combination with Hollywood sets for interiors. So many places all for one film location! That’s “movie magic” for ya!

  20. I remember my parents taking us kids to the release of the movie in the 60s. Thanks for the post-very interesting.

  21. Seeing a smiling and thrilled YOU in the photos was almost as fun as the stories. I think you spoke for a lot of us who fell in love with the Von Trapp family. My son recently enjoyed a stay at their lovely Vermont property for a conference. There’s quite a story there, too.

    • Yes I must admit that I’m a somewhat somber person normally… Or at least more serious than most. It was very fun to just be a little fangirl for a day! 🙂 I would love to visit their Vermont place someday, what a neat experience I bet that was for your son! It was discussed in detail in Maria’s book, sounds like a lot of history there

  22. So so happy you got to see this in person and connect the music to the place even more now. What great pictures and memories that will last a lifetime. ❤️

  23. Thank you for sharing the real story with us. I knew parts of it but not the full amazing tale. My Irish Nana’s parents died young so she stayed at home to look after her 5 siblings. At 30 she became a novice nun. She was a devout Catholic but perhaps thought it was too late for marriage. Then she met my very handsome blonde blue eyed grandfather and left the convent to marry him. Five children quickly followed.

    • So glad you enjoyed it! Wow that’s very interesting about your Nana’s parents! It sounds like one of those twist of fate things where it’s crazy to imagine what might not have been!

  24. I remember that movie – though i didn’t recognize the name as i watched it in portuguese a very long time ago. But as i read, i could remember elements of the movie – the uniform, the singing, the sick kid. And wow, 10 kids? I can barely manage 3 (it’s more they manage me). And you have to admire spine when you see – or read – about it. I can’t imagine yanking up roots and leaving everything behind to move to a new country.
    and i loved this post!

    • You’re right, I can’t even imagine doing all that with 10 kids! A couple of which were still quite little at the time. The book was really an amazing read -a great inside look at the real story. So glad you enjoyed the article! 🙂 Hope you and your three are doing wonderful!

  25. Amazing story, writing, travel, photos and most of all the glow that you provide from the computer screen. Thank you M.B. for such a wonderful post. FYI : 2 kids were more than plenty for me. LOL

    • Thank you very much for your kind words! 🙂 I am so glad you enjoyed it. I salute anyone who has even one kid, let alone more than one! Hats off to you, friend 🙂

  26. Thanks so much for sharing this story! My husband and I watch the Sound of Music every New Year’s Eve… so that we have great music dancing through our heads when a new year begins. I have always wondered what parts of the movie are true and what parts are made up for good cinema. Thank you for summarizing what you learned through research and an in-person visit. Bravo:)

    • What a fun New Year’s tradition! And I imagine it must be a lovely way to start each year 🙂 I’m so glad you enjoyed the post, thanks so much for giving it a read and your nice compliments!

    • Thank you very much! 🙂 From one fan of the movie to another, I’m very glad you enjoyed it

  27. I so thoroughly enjoyed the history and explanation of the von Trapps, MB. In the 1970s the stables for this mansion were a school, and I went to this school as a foreign exchange student, so the gazebo was right outside our classrooms. We, too, had great fun with that little glass building. Salzburg is such a beautiful place in the world, and your photos capture it well. Fascinating history you wrote here, too. I knew the basic facts about the von Trapps, but really enjoyed this extensive explanation, including the fun commentary (tinsel-town and the nuns telling her to “climb every mountain”, to name a few). Excellent post, thank you.

    • Yay! I’m so glad you enjoyed it! We loved our visit to that mansion – it was a beautiful place, that whole open green area right outside was so relaxing and lovely 🙂 I could imagine many afternoons reading if I were to stay there for an extended time. How neat to speak with someone who attended school there! Thanks so much for stopping by and for your kind compliments 🙂

    • So glad you enjoyed it 🙂 That is very high praise and I am very flattered 🙂

    • You are very welcome! Thanks for giving it a read and for your compliments 🙂

  28. Well done, MB! I read one of Maria Von Trapp’s books almost 50 years ago, not all that long after the movie had come out. (Believe it or not, I found it in a tiny library near the Solway Firth in Scotland.) One of the details I remember most clearly was that the first night after they had left Austria, Maria realized that they had left behind the littlest daughter’s favorite doll, and Maria was trying to comfort her. If I recall correctly, (which I might not be), she likened their journey to Mary and Joseph leaving home to travel to Bethlehem, and leaving everything behind. That seemed to bring some comfort to their youngest daughter. Thank you for telling the real life story of a remarkable family.

    • I’m so glad you enjoyed it! It was really fun to get to know the real story, being such a big fan of the movie. I don’t remember reading that part in the book I read which was “the Von Trapp Family Singers,” but you may still be remembering correctly, because I know she wrote a personal memoir in addition to the family book, and it might have been in there 🙂 I haven’t read that one yet, although I found a lot of excerpts from it for this piece.

      • I think it was the personal memoir bc she wrote a lot about her feelings and reactions to things, but I can’t be sure. I read it a looong time ago. 😉

      • Definitely sounds like it might be her personal one! I’d love to give that one a read someday. So many books, so little time 🙂

      • Totally…I always hated his hair too 😂

      • Hahahaha! It is weird! And then he calls her a baby. “You’re such a baby.” You’re one year older, Rolf! Get over yourself.

      • Omg, hysterical. How do you remember all the lines?!!!!

      • You might be underestimating how many times I’ve watched that movie lol! 🙂 I’ve even been to the sing along here in LA. Multiple times. Once in costume. Also I have a freak talent for line memorization in movies.

      • I used to be able to recite all the lines in the Rocky Horror Picture show – does that count for anything?! Hahahahah I can see you at the sing along in costume!!!!

      • definitely one of the highlights of my life – hahah

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