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.”