- Welcome to Villa Trapp in Aigen, Austria – the real-life former home of the Trapp Family singers.
- A few weeks ago The Sound of Music movie came on TV and my three-year-old daughter Tova convinced me not to change the channel. I had actually never seen the 1965 film. I had seen snippets of it over the years but never sat down and watched the entire film. (I thought it was the mountain version of Mary Poppins.)
- I had no idea that it was based on a true story of a family of singers who escaped Nazi-occupied Austria before the Second World War.
- The only thing I knew for sure was that Julie Andrews was in the movie. I knew this because my great uncle – who was a Jesuit Priest – told me so. He had the biggest crush on Julie Andrews after he saw the movie in 1965. He wrote Julie Andrews a letter confessing his love and she wrote him back a sweet letter which he cherished for the rest of his life. He confided all this to me when I got to know him in the late 1990’s – a few years before he died.
- Julie Andrews played the lead role of Maria von Trapp, the headstrong, imaginative young woman who comes into the motherless Trapp home as a governess and eventually ends up marrying the patriarch (Baron Georg von Trapp) and taking on his seven children as her own.
- The musical The Sound of Music was based on a 1949 autobiography The Story of the Trapp Family Singers by Maria Augusta Trapp.
- I immediately got my hands on a copy of the book and began reading about the real-life story of the von Trapp family in Austria and their subsequent escape and refuge in America.
Maria’s writing is very touching and heartfelt and she describes vividly the real Villa Trapp in Aigen, Austria.
The Trapp family resided at the historic villa between 1923 to 1938. The structure was built in the year 1863 by the Friulian Architect Valentin Ceconi.
In the film, there were exterior shots of an Austrian villa in Salzburg, but these shots were not of the actual Trapp family home. The movie was largely filmed on location in Salzburg, Upper Austria, over a period of three months during the summer of 1964. Many of the interior scenes in the Trapp family mansion were filmed on a Hollywood sound-stage, but the exterior images of their home were actually a combination of shots of Leopoldskron Palace, Frohnburg Palace, and Hellbrunn Palace in Salzburg.
In the movie, the director used two different mansions for the front and back views of the Trapp family home. The majority of the lake scenes were filmed at Leopoldskron Palace, a lavish estate outside Salzburg that was once owned by famed theatre director, Max Reinhardt.
Like the Trapps, Reinhardt fled Austria for the United States when the Nazis invaded. The real von Trapp home was much smaller and less ornate that the Leopoldskron Palace depicted in the film.
Villa Trapp, however, could not be used during the filming of The Sound of Music because at the time of production, it was privately owned by a group of Missionaries.
The actual Villa Trapp is not really a lakefront home. Rather, it is located in a park-like setting in the district of Aigen, just south of Salzburg.
The real Villa Trapp
- The Villa was enlarged just a few years after it was first built, and Georg von Trapp acquired the home in or around 1923. The mansard roofed building has 22 rooms over three stories, plus a basement.
- Maria and the Baron von Trapp were married in 1927 and had 2 more children in Austria (one later in the United States). But in 1935, the Trapps were on the brink of financial ruin when they lost their fortune after an Austrian bank failed. To survive, they laid-off most of their servants and rented out the bottom floors of their mansion while they lived on the top floor. It was at this time when they began singing together as a family for money.
Historic photo of Villa Trapp
In 1938, after the Nazis invaded Austria and took control of Salzburg, the entire Trapp family fled their homeland by boarding a train bound for Italy. They did not have to climb the Alps on foot as the movie so dramatically portrayed. Rather, the train station was directly across from the Villa Trapp, so they simply took their instruments, some suitcases and caught a train from the Aigen train station. They fled to Italy, then England, and eventually made their way to the United States.
The day after the von Trapp family left Austria, Adolf Hitler ordered the borders of Austria to be closed, so the family really did escape in the nick of time. Since they were not sympathetic to the Nazi party and would not swear allegiance to the Führer, who knows what would have became of the Trapps had they not made it out of Europe when they did.
After the Trapp family left their house in Aigen, a religious order known as the Missionaries of the Precious Blood rented the villa for a couple of years.
Once Hitler occupied and annexed Austria, it is widely documented that the Nazis vacated the missionaries from the Villa Trapp during the Second World War and occupied the site themselves. Heinrich Himmler, head of the notorious SS, moved into the home and used it as his summer residence.
The place was surrounded with armed guards and barbed wire. Barracks for the SS were placed into the garden. One can even be seen today, serving to deliver radio messages to Berlin.
– from: http://www.villa-trapp.cc/
It is said that Adolf Hitler himself visited Himmler there on several occasions, and even had his own room at the mansion.
After the defeat of the Nazis, the Missionaries returned in 1947 and purchased the property from the Trapp family. The Trapps gladly sold the home to be used as a Seminary in the hopes that the new owners could cleanse and purify the home because it had become “such bloodstained ground”.
The religious Order remained at the villa until 1992 when they moved into another building. The Missionaries lived a very cloistered existence at the mansion and that was the main reason why the production crew for The Sound of Music were not permitted to film at the Villa Trapp for scenes in the movie.
The mansion was renovated in the 1990’s, and since 2008, has been open to the public as a hotel.
Have a look inside…
The iconic staircase that Maria wrote about in her book; also portrayed rather grandly in the film and musical sets for The Sound of Music…
It is truly amazing to think of the history and the storied people (good and evil) who once lived in this house.
The room below is known as “Maria’s room” at Villa Trapp:
Today, guests can rent out the Maria suite and browse through the Villa Trapp, as well as stroll the scenic grounds, retracing the steps of the famous singing Trapp Family.
What a stunning home.
Maria described her reaction to it in her book when she first came upon the villa as a young novice hired to tutor one of the Trapp children:
Suddenly the iron bars opened into a wide driveway, and beyond a large, green oblong patch of lawn, through the yellow leaves of old horse-chestnut trees I could catch a glimpse of a building. I stopped for a moment, pushed back the nuisance of a hat impatiently, and looked. Here now was the place!
p. 16 – The Story of the Trapp Family Singers (1949)
After emigrating to America, the Trapp family eventually settled in the area of Stowe, Vermont because the mountainous region reminded them of their homeland. They bought a large tract of farmland and rolling hills on which they built a European-style chalet. The property in Vermont is still owned by members of the Trapp Family.
Stay tuned for my next post which will feature the Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe, Vermont!