Far away from the lonely goatherd, in a corner of Vermont USA, there is a village which a family of famous musical Austrians has come to call home.

As you enter Stowe, Vermont, you may have to double check where you are.

Passing a chalet flying a proud Austrian flag and imperial eagle, it seems worlds away from the quiet New England villages and upstate America you've just been driving through.

The high pasture farmland leading up to the Green Mountains are distinctly alpine.

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Signs for a Bierhalle and a Kaffeehaus are bewildering. Not because they are in any way inaccurate, but because a German beer hall and Austrian cafe are exactly what they lead you to.

Here in the middle of America is a wooden bakery full of Tyrolean goodies, freshly baked by Bavarian baker Maurizio Odermatt.

"There are few places like it for Bavarian or Franconian food," he says joining us on the Kaffeehaus terrace. Originally from Garmisch, Odermatt left Germany to study cooking in Boston and Rhode Island. However it was in the mountains of Vermont, that he found his new Heimatland.

In winter, it is even more confusing. The skiing on offer is tour skiing and Stowe is dissected by long tracts of Nordic cross-country skiing, introduced by the community of European expatriates.

The hills are alive: The Green Mountains surrounding Stowe have a strong alpine connection. Photo / Thomas Bywater
The hills are alive: The Green Mountains surrounding Stowe have a strong alpine connection. Photo / Thomas Bywater

Skiers arrive at the lodge looking as if they've freshly come off the slopes of Kitzbuhel or Saalbach.

Perhaps the most famous Austrian transplants in Stowe are the Family von Trapp. Yes, those von Trapps.

As in: "Julie Andrews, Broadway musicals and seven singing children trained to whistles".

The musical family von Trapp (in reality there were 9 children) escaped from Austria at the beginning of World War II. Their story was made famous in the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical The Sound of Music.

The Trapp Family Lodge: Where the family ran summer music camps is now a 96-room hotel. Photo / Thomas Bywater
The Trapp Family Lodge: Where the family ran summer music camps is now a 96-room hotel. Photo / Thomas Bywater

But this story is far, far (a long, long way to run) away from the truth and the family ended up even further away than at the end of the movie.

Now, on the steps of the von Trapp Family Lodge under the flags of Austria, the United States and Vermont, I meet Sam von Trapp.

"My grandfather had been very vocal in his opposition to the Nazis and my grandmother, Maria, convinced him they had to leave," he says, clearly used to briefing curious tourists on the fact v fiction of his famous family.

Sam Von Trapp in front of Saltzburg Castle, the youngest grandson of Maria and the Baron. Photo / Thomas Bywater
Sam Von Trapp in front of Saltzburg Castle, the youngest grandson of Maria and the Baron. Photo / Thomas Bywater

"A concert promoter in the US who wanted them to give concerts over here sent over the 12 trans-Atlantic tickets to bring them over here."

The youngest grandchild of Maria and the baron, Sam now helps run the von Trapp Family Lodge.

The family moved to Vermont in the 1940s when they could not return home. They built the lodge as a base for their touring children and ran music camps here in the mountains.

Eventually there were so many children, both von Trapps and singing guests, that current 96-room hotel wasn't too much of a stretch. It's now one of the leading hotels in the area, surrounded by guest houses and woodland cross-country tracks.

The Lodge: The Austrian-inspired hotel is full of family heirlooms. Photo / Thomas Bywater
The Lodge: The Austrian-inspired hotel is full of family heirlooms. Photo / Thomas Bywater

In 1939 Johannes, Sam's father and the youngest of the Trapps was born in Philadelphia, the first Von Trapp to be born in America. From the prolific clan of ten, there are now 27 cousins spread around the States. Most are still in Vermont.

"Do we still sing?" he asks back mischievously, "I think the singing gene skips a generation but there's hope yet for my son, Wolfgang."

Though I have a feeling during one of the large family reunions, the Trapps are likely to try anyway.

In Stowe the hills are regularly alive and well with the sound of music. In summer open air concerts are held in the mountains.

From Mozart by starlight to legendary performances by the local rock band Phish, the sound of music is regularly played out over the Stowe valley and over the Green Mountains.