In The Sound of Music, the Von Trapps escape the Nazis and are seen fleeing over mountains. These mountains are supposedly well known to them and we're led to believe that they'll offer safe passage from the enemy.

However, the Von Trapps are living near the city of Salzburg. This is very close to the German border -- not the ideal escape route -- and it's otherwise a good 500km to Switzerland, which seems the only credible destination given its neutral status.

It seems plausible that they were familiar with the mountains around Salzburg, but not the entire route to Switzerland. Even if they did -- just for argument's sake -- it would be a perilous and long journey (they were on foot, I believe) for an experienced mountaineer; but they were a submariner (of a landlocked country), an ex-nun and seven children, the youngest of whom was only 5...which doesn't seem plausible, at all!

Were they therefore heading for somewhere other than Switzerland? If so, where and what protection did it afford them from the war?

(I realise The Sound of Music is loosely based on a true story which, presumably, makes more sense than the musical/movie.)

2 Answers 2


The implication in the movie is they are walking to Switzerland or Italy, either of which is, as you point out, geographically infeasible.

In reality, they walked to the local train station and traveled to Italy, and then to the United States via London.

But that doesn't make for as dramatic of a movie.

  • 2
    And they would come back to Austria periodically to tour! It wasn't like they were a family of Solzhenitsyns. (Other fun facts: in real life, Maria was seven months' pregnant when she married Captain Trapp; the family were all technically Italian citizens, so Germany would not have forced him into the Kriegsmarine; and they weren't von Trapps, Austria having abolished titles of nobility in 1919.) Aug 9, 2017 at 7:53
  • Maybe,in the movie, those hills were just a short-cut to the train station.
    – Steve-O
    Aug 9, 2017 at 13:13

The movie, perhaps deliberately, mixed up its geography.

As you pointed out, Switerland is on the "wrong" side of Austria relative to Salzburg. The two "neutral" countries near Salzburg were Czechslovakia and Hungary.

But those countries soon fell into German "orbit" (Czechoslovakia by force, Hungary voluntarily). So the movie may have wanted to use Switzerland as a genuinely neutral country for the whole war. In that case, the natural launching place was Tyrol. But that may have conflicted with the von Trapp's historical home.

The movie also (probably deliberately) conflated the two key events; the (1927) marriage of the Captain and Maria, and the (1938) Anschluss, by putting the first right before the second. The seven children were actually aged 5-16 in 1927, but of course, 11 years older by 1938. But the movie kept the 1927 ages of the children to make them "cuter."

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .