For me the old Lodge was a magical place. It’s funny what your child mind remembers….things like the daily trek to the payphone by the front desk to jiggle the coin return looking for dimes that could then be spent in the soda machine downstairs in the rec room; making long domino trains in St. George’s Hall on rainy afternoons, or turning the long coffee tables into a slide by having an older kid hold up one end. (Get caught doing that by Uncle Johannes, and your life was over.) We ran around the place like we owned it, without adult supervision. There was no end to the fun.
The lodge itself was much smaller and more rustic than what is there today. My parents stayed in the apartment which had a separate entrance and a sitting room. And we got to stay on the other side of the lodge in the twin-bedded guest rooms.
I ate Wienerschnitzel and spätzle for dinner ever single night we were there, every year. (I’ve since come to find out though, that in Germany and Austria, spätzle is NEVER served with Wienerschnitzel, because there’s no sauce, and the whole point of spätzle is mopping up sauce. It’s normally served with French fries (frites), or potato salad (kartoffelsalat) (I completely embarrassed Holger by insisting on having spätzle with my Wienerschnitzel when I was visiting him in Germany. He apologized to the waiter as he asked for it. The waiter complied, and brought a side of sauce just because he couldn’t serve spätzle with out it… but I digress). There was an accordion player who entertained the dinner guests with Austrian folk tunes. Mutter would visit each table every evening, chatting with her guests. She lived in private quarters on the second floor. Going to see her there was like entering the inner sanctum. I was very intimidated by her. She used to say if we didn’t behave, we’d have to sleep in the dog house, and I believed her.
All this came to a sad end for me when I was eleven. That fall, my parents separated and divorced. I lived with my mother, and the relations were strained so the summer visits didn’t happen anymore. In 1980, when I was 15, my brother George joined the management team of the Trapp Family Lodge, and we visited once again. That was the last time I saw the old lodge. It was consumed by a tragic fire on a frigid December night.
But if you visit today and look closely, you’ll still see some leftovers from the old days. What is now The Austrian Tea room was called Coffee House and Gift Shop. We were allowed to select a gift from Mutter from that shop. (I liked to pick the Sound of Music dolls. I had Liesl and Marta. ) Long after the trail riding was discontinued; the old stable was converted, first to guest rooms, then offices, then the children’s center. (Those who remembered its days as a stable were reluctant to sleep there, so they say). The spring fed pool hidden in the woods is still there (I think – it’s been a while since I visited), although it’s not so hidden anymore. And a short hike into the woods behind the lodge will take you to the stone chapel built by my uncle Werner, upon his safe return from WWII.
*Mutter actually means “mother” in German. Grandmother is “Großmutter”, but the more familiar term is “Oma”. I’m not really sure why she insisted we call her Mutter, but we did. Maybe because that’s what my father called her?