Archive for the ‘Austrian Traditions & Customs’ Category
Although touring Hallstatt when in Austria is a must…
The surrounding region known as the Salzkammergut is Austria’s hidden treasure in the Austrian Alps.
Normally when places in the Austria Alps are mentioned, you hear of Tirol, Salzburg, Innsbruck, Kitzbuhel, St. Anton and such but, not Salzkammergut, which by the way translates to something like “Salt Chamber Place”.
The “salt” comes from the fact that salt mining has been a major staple of the area going back 5,000 years when it was discovered, and has been mined for over 3,000 years. Some 230 million years ago the area used to be an ocean floor. Nature sure does wonders over the eons.
Salzkammergut is not a specific town, village or state, rather it is an area situated mostly south and east of Salzburg that takes in parts of three Austrian states – Salzburg, Styria and Upper Austria. It’s a beautiful Alpine region with numerous large mountain lakes, meadows, hot mineral springs, little quaint villages and just great outdoors. There’s the Wolfgangsee, Fusslsee, Hallstattsee, Wolfgangsee and Grundlsee (lakes) among others.
One of the quaint villages in the Salzkammergut region is Fussl, which also happens to be the home of Red Bull. And unless you know what to look for, you’d never guess that a set of totally discreet single level glass enclosed structures that sit on a pond and blend beautifully into the surroundings, were Red Bull’s world headquarters. The village itself, which sits on the shore of the Fusslsee (lake), is a place that invites one to spend some time in and soak in the setting.
Nearby is the village of Hallstatt, which is bound by a cliff on one side and Hallstattsee on the other. The colorful boathouses at the edge of the lake make one of the most photographed settings of Alpine Austria. Speaking from experience, I can tell you that photographs don’t capture the full essence of the setting. It’s a village where you’d definitely would want to spend some time at. Numerous guest house (Gasthof) accommodations are available.
The Salzkammergut area is also known for its spas and hot mineral springs, with villages such as Bad Goisern, Bad Ischl and Bad Aussee, the latter used to be a health retreat for the Vienna aristocracy of the past. Today, these facilities still serve as retreats for guests from all over the world.
Besides the recreation available at the lakes, the hiking, and just plain relaxing, here you’ll also find Salt mine tours, such as in Hallstatt, ice cave tours and a two leg gondola ride to the top of Krippenstein, where the view of the surrounding area, the Hallstattsee down below, the Dachstein glacier and the southern Alps is truly magnificent. While on Krippenstein, step out on one of “Five Fingers” platform and look a thousand feet straight down.
There’s much to see and do in the Salzkammergut region and it’s definitely worth spending a few days, or more, exploring and just taking in the surroundings. A good base for such a visit is the village of Gosau, with its Gosausee and glacial backdrop. The setting is idealic, with the green meadows, roaming sheep, cows and plain unspoiled country side.
BTW, the wearing of tracht (local traditional wear), which varies from village to village and personal preference, is fairly common in the Salzkammergut region. It’s almost worn as a badge representing people’s individuality as well as association with a particular area or village. There’s definitely a lot of pride shown in one’s heritage and village.
And then there are the local residents that greet you with a “Gruss Gott” and some with a MOOOOO!
Austrian Customs and Traditions vary according to the region you’re in. Not everyone in Austria walks around in Lederhosen or a dirndl (close fitting bodice combined with an apron in a different color), although various traditions and celebrations are an integral part of Austria. Yet, go outside of the main cities such as Vienna, Graz and Salzburg, and the country becomes fairly rural, with small communities, which traditionally were and are resistant to cultural change.
Traditions Steeped in The Past
As a result, many old traditions and customs survive. Some of these date back to Celtic and Roman times, others were introduced by Bavarian and Slavic people.
A major influencing factor was the rule over the area by Charlemagne and the introduction of Christianity to the region. This subsequently evolved into the inclusion by the Church of old pagan customs into its own mythology, which ensured the preservation of older customs and tradition and has led to Austrians retained a strong sense of celebration, rituals and symbolism, resulting in many colorful and varied festivities.
Traditions Still Carried On In Daily Lives
An area rich with these traditions is eastern Tyrol and the Salzkammergut, a very picturesque region shared by Salzburg, a good portion of Upper Austria and Styria. Here one of the most colorful customs is the “Glöcklerlauf Procession” put on every year on the 5th of January. Groups of men dressed in white meet at nightfall, wearing broad leather belts with heavy bells and colorful elaborate lanterns on their heads, which are works of art in themselves, tour the streets of the villages. The procession is to shed light during the dark winter months and to bring luck for the new year.
These older rituals carried over from pagan times are intertwined with others that originated with the Catholic church and celebrate the goodness of Christ and giving.
Another tradition you’ll find displayed, especially in these rural communities, is the local tracht (costume), which may be worn on occasions such as weddings, fests and celebrations. In earlier times, the ‘tracht’ identified a person as belonging to a particular group in terms of social and legal status (married, single), origin or trade. Today, you will still see ‘tracht’ being worn with pride in many places, especially the Salzkammergut and other rural communities, although perhaps without some of the meaning of the past.
The regional varieties are pronounced and vary in color combinations, accessories and may include unique hats for men as well as women. For men the typical dress includes the Lederhosen (leather pants), wool socks and rustic shoes, and for women it is the dirndl, which is a tight fitting bodice with a different color apron.
Another popular celebration is Fasching (carnival time), which is the period between Epiphany and the beginning of Lent. Then there is the Christmas season, which is celebrated with much pageantry, glitter and light, especially in the larger cities.
Combine the majestic scenery with Austria’s musical heritage and you have a whole world to discover and enjoy in Austria. Check out the Summer Music Festivals in Austria, a tradition which you’ll find throughout Austria come summer.
A region full of those costumes and traditions is the Salzkammergut. Check it out.
If you have your own memorable experiences with Austrian traditions or celebrations that you think others may enjoy learning about, let us know and we’ll post it.