Revisiting 'The Sound of Music's' Real Von Trapps, Who Run a Vermont Lodge, Brewery

Revisiting the famous family on whom "The Sound of Music" was based.

The family began farming the fields when they weren’t traveling the country by bus. “My father died in 1948,” von Trapp said. “My mother realized that we weren’t going to support a family of 10 children by farming. So we began taking guests.”

“We’re recreating the kind of beer that you get in a small town in Austria or in Germany when you’re driving through and you have lunch at the local inn and you have a beer with your lunch and it tastes great,” Johannes said. “You don’t have a headache afterward, you don’t fall asleep. It’s something that’s basically not available in this country.”

Johannes, who was born in Philadelphia, was the first von Trapp child of Maria and Georg’s brood to be born in the United States. When the von Trapps came to the U.S. in 1938, Johannes said his mother, Maria, didn’t speak English, but his father did, and the whole family was excited to have a fresh start here.

“In my family we didn’t really spend much time talking about the past,” Johannes said. “We tended to talk about the future and what are we going to do here and there, but there was relatively little talk about the old days.”

Even after they bought a farm and settled in Vermont, the von Trapps continued touring the world for years, giving concerts everywhere from palaces to village monasteries.

Looking back on “The Sound of Music,” Johannes said he doesn’t see the film as a history of his family, but acknowledges that the von Trapp story exudes universal themes about “Love of country, love of a man and a woman, love of music, faith in adversity, faith for what’s going to happen in the future.”

“I’m often asked why the ‘Sound of Music ‘ was so successful, and I think if I view it as a history of my family, there’s room for some criticism there,” he said. “[But] it wasn’t meant to be a history of my family and the film has had such a positive effect on so many people. … To be critical of something that’s been such a strong, positive factor would really be childish.”

In the film, Maria is shown as a head-strong woman, full of adventure, as she finds her way. The real Maria, Johannes said, was just 22 when she married Georg and was a force to be reckoned with.

“She could be very demanding, but she was also very generous,” he said of his mother. “Actually everything she did was sort of larger than life. All her qualities were exaggerated. She ate very quickly. She walked very quickly. She read quickly and widely. It was sometimes kind of tough to keep up with her.”