On our first day we drive to Oberndorf, on the Salzach, which is where the local schoolmaster and church organist wrote Heilige Nacht (Silent Night). A tiny chapel stands where the church once stood. At least two churches have collapsed on the spot, right beside the river and subject to flooding, including the one in which the organ broke down, causing the carol to be written and played on a guitar. There are a number of points of interest here. First – there is a facsimile of the original music and it is in 6/8, tempo Moderato, so originally it went with more of a swing than the modern rendition which is usually a more solemn and boring 3/4 Andante.
Second, the church was built for the bargees who brought salt down the Salzach from Salzburg to the Danube. There is a sharp bend in the river there making a promontory. With rapids and a rock on the bend, they would come ashore on the upstream side, carry the salt across the promontory to larger barges on the downstream side. From there they went on to the Danube, and then further east.
Third, there is a water tower there. They used the power of the stream to drive a mill wheel that pumped the water up into the tower. From there it was piped across the river to provide water for the town on the other side.
Fourth, the area was captured by the French in the Napoleonic wars, just after they’d got rid of the Prince-Archbishops in 1803. After Napoleon was defeated, in the treaty of 1816 the area around Salzburg was swapped for the Palatinate, and the Salzach became the new border between Austria and Germany, splitting the town of Laufen-Oberndorf between the countries, and making life generally difficult for the inhabitants at the time.
From Oberndorf we cross the Salzach into Germany and drive to Königsee, the first of many lakes we visit. It's a hot sunny day and we enjoy a row on the lake.
Our second excursion from Salzburg takes in more lakes: Mondsee, Attersee and Hallstättersee. Our end goal is Hallstatt, on the last of these lakes. Unfortunately it is a UNESCO world heritage site, so as we approach we see signs saying all the car parks are full, and all the unofficial roadside spaces are also taken. We drive through the town twice before Renate spots a park on the other side of the road, does a courageous 3-point turn and slots the little Captur in. We walk into and through the town, mostly pedestrianised (only residents and commercial vehicles), looking at the houses clinging to the steep sides of the mountain rising up from the lake.
We spend the afternoon in the salt mine. This involves going up the mountain on a cable car, then walking up a pathway to the mine entrance, donning an unflattering overall and then spending 90 minutes inside the mine on a really interesting tour. At two points you descend to a lower level the way the miners used to do it, down a wooden slide, which is great fun. It is also cool to cold in the mine, a welcome change from the 33 degree heat outside. The tour ends with a fast trip through low tunnels on a tiny train with carriages that you sit astride, one behind the other.
David and Renate drive back to Seeboden, and we travel there from Salzburg by train, because it is a particularly scenic trip along the bank of the Salzach river. Seeboden is on Millstättersee, a lake we view from above at Glanz, from the water on a cruise that goes from one end to the other and back, and in Helen's case, in the water when she goes for a welcome swim on a hot evening.
We have four nights in Seeboden, staying at Haus Golker, an old-fashioned guest house near the lake, about 10 minutes from Renate's flat. On our first night we have a room without en suite, but exclusive use of bathroom and loo across the hall. We are amused as there is much evidence of religious belief about, crucifixes in the hall, stained glass angels hanging in the staircase window, the chalk marks from the blessing of the house on Epiphany. But in the loo is a framed pinup from a Pirelli calendar, appropriate as Miss June is certainly pneumatic.
Haus Golker is comfortable, but after we move to a room with a en suite we are next door to people who chain smoke on their balcony. This makes our balcony unusable, and forces us to close our french windows. We put up with the room being hot and airless as long as we can, then open the windows until we can’t stand the secondary smoke any more. Once he’s had his last late night fag-before-bed we can open up until his smoker’s cough heralds the early morning first fag.
During the day, Renate and David take us on excursions to see the local sights. Gmund is an old town that now has a focus on art and culture, with a theatre in an old monastery. Peter liked a sculpture there of a horse, all made from horseshoes:
|Peter pats a horse|
We visit old and very interesting Roman ruins which include an early Christian church with an interesting mosaic floor, and visit a more modern chapel known as the divided church. An argument between the faithful and the farmers over the location of the church relative to a track the farmers used resulted in a compromise: the church is built in two halves. The congregation sit on one side of the road, the altar is on the other side, both high above the road (to stop the farmers' animals wandering in to mass?)
|The congregation's view of the altar|