The Real von Trapp from Sound Of Music About Dalmatia’s Singing Fishermen

Total Croatia News

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The real von Trapp family which inspired the writers of the Broadway musical which in 1965 became the Hollywood classic “The Sound of Music”, starring Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer, lived in Dalmatian Zadar and Istrian Pula until the fall of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1918. The head of the family, Georg von Trapp, was an Austrian Navy officer, one of the most highly decorated Austrian officers of the Great War. The von Trapp villa, built by Georg, still stands in Pula and his parents are buried at the Austrian Navy cemetery in Pula. After the war he wrote his memoires and published them in a book entitled “To the Last Salute Memories of an Austrian U-Boat Commander” (University of Nebraska Press). The book has been translated into the English language by his granddaughter Elisabeth von Trapp, the photo below shows her with her husband at the Petit book store in Pula in July 2015.

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Below are George von Trapp’s beautiful words about Croatia’s singing fishermen from his memoirs, the text does not specify about which Croatian Islands he is talking about, but since I’ve heard Istrian fishermen sing, I assume they are from Dalmatia.

“Out of the many inlets merge innumerable fishermen’s boats. Some are under sail, hauling big nets; others, sculled about almost silently by heavy steering rudders, search the water with strong lanterns. Right at the bow a man stands carrying a many-pronged harpoon in his hand; he watches for squid, prawns, and whatever fish come along. As they put out to sea, the people always sing their ancient folk songs: ballads with countless verses, wild war cries, soft, wistful love songs. Unfamiliar melodies with drawn-out, echoing tones tell us northerners of the secret love, sorrow, and longing of a proud nation enslaved for centuries. And although I do not understand the words, I understand the sad yearning of these men for their past. Their singing touches my heart strangely the first time I hear it. The concert of many hundreds of cicadas is like an accompaniment, and the light evening wind brings the land’s fragrance—intoxicating, heavy, and sweet. Every night spent between the islands becomes a rich, unforgettable experience for everyone.

The war broke into this peaceful world…”


If you want to learn more about the von Trapp’s in Croatia, we recommend the excellent article “The Sound of Music, von Trapp and Croatia”. The inspiration for this article came from a Facebook post this morning, April 29, 2016, by Pula’s and a comment to the post by historian, writer and editor Andrej Bader from Pula who commented on the above excerpt from the book: “… if there was a sapient cultural strategy, such citations would be treated as diamonds.”


Georg von Trapp (1880 – 1947)


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