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A Little Bit of Austria in Vermont

By: Michael Yaeger
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Welcome sign at the Trapp Family LodgeThe view of the valley is perfect from the alpine meadow, as we sit warm in the sun, listening to The Magic Flute at the annual Mozart Festival. This could easily be Salzburg or Kitsbuhl, but actually is the mountain village of Stowe in the Northeastern U.S. state of Vermont. Stowe lies in the heart of the Green Mountains, where the cold winters make for fantastic snow sports, and the fall brings leaf peepers to see the foliage. I’m most fond of the summers though, when the forest seems to be in full bloom, and the weather is pleasant.

It’s not accidental that this small town feels like the Alps, and there is no more visible symbol of this than the Trapp Family Lodge. The Austrian inspired lodge and resort is operated by actual members of the Von Trapp family, whose story was told in the Sound of Music. The main lodge is right out of the Tyrol, with dark woods and balconies lined with bright red and white flower boxes. This theme is carried on by a number of other lodges (Northern Lights Lodge, Innsbruck Inn), and private residences around town.

While you will rarely encounter hikers in Lederhosen, there are outdoor activities of all Innsbruck Innkinds including miles of trails at the Trapp Lodge and Stowe Mountain Resort Touring Centers, Wiessner Woods and the Long Trail, all of which are free off season (and off-leash dog friendly). There is also a scenic greenway and paved bike path that winds lazily for five and a half miles from the village center, crisscrossing the road and river leading to Mount Mansfield past shops, restaurants and a pub or two. Make sure to stop at the Shed Brewery for a local brew on the patio overlooking the path…if you’re lucky they may have their Weizen beer on tap.

Alongside the pubs, Stowe is dotted with excellent chef-owned restaurants specializing in regional and seasonal fare, often using local ingredients. A few offer Austrian and German dishes, and the most authentic of these is an unassuming (and unadvertised) place called the Alpenhaus, where chatty owner André Noel will greet you, inquire as to whether you have a reservation, and regardless of your answer, lead you to an almost always empty dining room.

Despite the lack of crowds, the dinner menu is authentic and extensive, with everything made extremely well from the highest quality regional products. The dishes include a whole page of Schnitzels, potatoes in pancake, dumpling and soup forms, and quite a few vegetarian options, including one of my all time favorites, Kaesespaetzle, a decadent macaroni and cheese made with top notch New York Emmenthaler. Attached is the Vienna Tea Room serving lunch and decadent pastries that are seriously worthy of Stephensplatz.

The Trapp Lodge also offers an Austrian Tea Room with a variety of Wursts, baked goods and desserts, while their Dining Room provides a more formal setting with a few German inspired dishes including an excellent mushroom strudel in a fresh herb cream sauce with cranberries. In the center of the village, comprised of a couple blocks of storefronts and restaurants is a Swiss restaurant called the Swisspot offering all kinds of wonderful fondue and European dishes.

In all, Stowe offers beautiful alpine scenery, a plethora of outdoor activities no matter what time of year, and for those of us who are in love with Germania, an authentic experience like none other I have seen in the United States.

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