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A bit of Austria lodges in the Green Mountains

You don't need to travel to Europe for an Austrian-style vacation. The Trapp Family Lodge provides the scenery, atmosphere, and cuisine for an equally enjoyable experience -- without high costs.

As we arrived in Stowe for our vacation, the sky was clear, the air fresh and cool. The winding wooded road leading up to our destination allowed us time to anticipate what lay ahead. Soon the trees gave way to an alpine lodge, nestled among a thousand acres of rolling Green Mountain land.

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It was just before dinner, and there was enough time to take a quick look around. Before going inside we stood and surveyed the blue-green mountains in the distance and inhaled the exhilarating mountain air.

A fire danced in the fireplace of the comfortable library- sitting room and the scent of the smoldering logs was welcoming, and helped us feel very much at home. Lush plants seemed to be in every room and hallway.

Outside again, just a short walk away, we discovered a mountain-spring-fed pool and nearby, a game of croquet. Bright wildflowers and cultivated plants dotted the landscape, and grosbeaks, robins, bobolinks, goldfinches, and Baltimore orioles circled overhead or roosted in nearby trees. We found it difficult to pull ourselves away, but dinner time was fast approaching, and after a long journey we were ready for a good meal.

The dining room was candlelit and the meal leisurely, with live flute and guitar music in the background. The menu of Austrian cuisine offers such gourmet dishes as cold cherry soup, Wienerschnitzel served with lingonberries, baked stuffed breast of chicken with rice and fruit dressing, and Zwiebel Rostbraten (tender sirloin steak braised in its own juices with onions).

After dinner we relaxed by the fireside, browsed through a few of the many books lining the bookshelves, and turned in for a good night's sleep so we could get an early start in the morning.

At dawn, bird songs awoke us, and we headed outside for a walk in the cool, misty air scented with the fragrance of freshly cut grass. A robin plucked it's breakfast from the ground, and an adventurous sandpiper-like bird chased after us -- apparently as interested in us as we were in him -- its long legs moving with amazing speed.

We returned for a hearty breakfast of buttermilk pancakes, Vermont maple syrup, and milk from a local farm, and headed out on one of the trails just behind the lodge. Bluets and ferns grew along the path, which eventually brought us to a tiny chapel in the woods.

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More than 60 miles of trails surrounding the lodge are frequented in the summer and fall by hikers and horseback riders and in the winter by cross-country skiers and sleighs. A cross-country touring center was opened by the lodge's host, Johannes von Trapp, on his family's land during the mid-1960s when the sport wasn't as popular as it is today. He is the youngest member of the former Trapp Family Singers of "The Sound of Music" fame, who fled Nazi rule in Austria in 1938 to come to America. They chose Stowe to resettle in because the surrounding mountains reminded the family of their homeland.

Johannes, his wife, and two children live in a mile down the hill from the lodge. His mother, Maria von Trapp, on whose life "The Sound of Music" is based and who makes her home at the lodge, often greets guests at breakfast and dinner. We caught a glimpse of her in the Trapp sandwich shop just down the road, and several times saw her cruising along the mountain roads of Stowe in her sporty convertible, top down, dressed in the grab of an Austrian countrywoman.

On the hillside just below the sprawling lodge is a lively frog pond, and just beyond, a shop featuring eye-catching imports, personally selected by Maria von Trapp on her many trips abroad, and a selection of Trapp family albums. The adjoining sandwich shop offers a spectacular view of the mountains while one savors a Vermont cheddar cheese sandwich and sacher torte (chocolate cake filled with apricot preserves, and frosted with a bittersweet glaze), or an apple strudel, or other Viennese pastries.

After scouting the Trapp property, we decided to branch out to the surrounding Stowe area, settled in 1793.

One could hardly be bored in this countryside of alpine slides, gondolas (in which visitors can ride to the top of Mt. Mansfield, Vermont's highest peak), golf, tennis, trout fishing, disco dances, and mountain streams, all found well within a short drive, or rigorous bicycle ride, of the lodge.

The beauty and comfortably slow pace of the area attract picnickers, writers, painters, and quiet contemplators. Green-velvet grass, farms with grazing Jersey and Hereford cows, and country stores filled with Vermont cheese and maple syrup products are in abundance. And don't be surprised if you see a deer -- the peacefulness of the area beckons them.

Have you ever been horseback riding along a river bank or up a hillside overlooking a valley miles below? This and canoeing are favorite pastimes in this town whose population hovers around the 2,500 mark.

Not too far north is Smugglers' Notch where, from 1808-14, Canadian goods were smuggled into New England against the instructions of then-President Thomas Jefferson, who had embargoed foreign goods.

Just south of Stowe, in Waterbury Center, is the Cold Hollow Cider Mill, a friendly little shop where visitors can watch cider being made year-round and enjoy free samples of the tasty juice. Apple butter, honey, cider jelly, fresh-baked bread, and homemade applesauce cake and gingerbread are on sale at the mill, which captures the old-fashioned flavor often associated with Vermont.

Seasonal activities are scheduled throughout the year, and include an annual antique and classic car rally, barn dances, tennis tournaments, church suppers, auctions, and a festival week sponsored by the Stowe Performing Arts featuring chamber and jazz music and a Viennese waltz.

Gliding and airplane rides are given at the Stowe- Morrisville airport, and if an adventurer could possibly exhaust all of Stowe's possibilities, Montreal is only 139 miles away.

After a day of exploring, the homey rather than hotelish atmosphere of the Trapp Family Lodge is welcoming. It prov vides Vermont hospitality at its finest. The comfortable, spotlessly clean, well-aired rooms and suites are either modern or rusticly charming. There is not a telephone or TV in sight in any of them, which complements the naturalness of the surroundings.

Whether simply enjoying the fresh mountain air, taking a vigorous nature hike , exploring back country roads, or enjoying a good book by the fireside with a breathtaking view of the mountains just a glance away, there's plenty to do and see in Stowe. There seems to be a little of something for everyone.

Additional information may be obtained from the TRapp Family Lodge, Stowe, Vt. 05672. Information about seasonal activities in the Stowe area can be obtained by writing the Stowe Area Association, Box 1230, Stowe, Vt. 05672, or by calling (802) 253-7321.

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