Salzkammergut, Austria

After filling up on all the hearty food and, of course, a good beer, I made my way back to the Panorama bus station for my second tour of the day. I met my driver, Ben, and the rest of the group in the tour. Again we were in one of the small buses and there was around about 6 of us which made it nice and personal.

The weather had unfortunately taken an absolute turn for the worse and we were, erm, treated to rain showers and thunderstorms – oh my.

Today we would be visiting the Salkammergut – the Lake District of Austria which houses 76 lakes in total. In the summer its a real holiday destination for the rich and famous – I couln’t wait to see why!

We drove up the incredible mountain range which I had actually been up a couple of days previously, heading driving past Fuchsl, and stopping of at the viewpoint over Sankt Gilgen and the beautiful Lake Wolfgang. As I said, the weather was awful, so I was lucky I had seen it a couple of days previously in the sunshine!

From here, we drove down the mountain, through the towns of Gschwendt and Strobl before arriving in the centre of Sankt Wolfgang. It must be said, I think I fell in love with this village a little bit…

We stopped off first at the St Wolfgang Church which was – absolutely beautiful. Ben studied history at university so he showed me round all the murals explaining that they illustrated bible stories to those who could not read. It was fascinating.

Ben also explained that in 876ad, the Archbishop Wolfgang said that wherever he threw his axe he would build a church. You can still see, even now, the mark in the land where the axe apparently struck. Ben explained to us that this church became somewhat of a pilgrimage place, because of the holy connections to Archbishop Wolfgang, and was once even as popular as Rome….!

After visiting the inside of the church we headed out the main exit onto a beautiful archway which offered some of the best views I have ever seen. Ever. ‘You can see why this church is so popular for weddings’ – said Ben!

Having taken in the incredible scenery, Ben walked us through the little cobbled town, pointing out houses, and local food places as we went. It literally was stunning.

We then had a bit of free time so I continued walking around the town before perching myself on a boat jetty with a beer. I honestly don’t think I have ever seen such a spectacular place.

After about an hour we all met up again and drove across to the town’s Alms house for a little break. This place could not be cuter if it tried. Ben explained that this was your typical traditional mountain alms house with its wooden beams and painted facades – it was stunning. We all had delicious coffee and a slice of cake.

It was nice to have a natter with everyone else on our bus. One couple, from Deli, were over on their honeymoon; I was super interested to hear about the bangles the bride wear after marrying, signifying a long a prosperous life with their new husband.

Ben soon came to pick us up from the Alms House and said that he wanted to show us a place that wasn’t normally on the tours itinerary. He drove us a little further up the mountain to a view point across Lake Wolfgang. Oh wow. It was incredible.

From here we got back in the car and drove into the centre of St Gilgin, the little village you could see from the Mozart viewpoint. This area has become a namesake of Mozart on account of his mother being born in St Gilgin. Ben pulled up outside the Mozarthaus Sankt Gilgen where his mother had been brought up. The grandfather of Mozart, Wolfgang Nikolaus Pertl, was a judicial officer in St. Gilgen. He built the Pfleggericht St. Gilgen (St. Gilgen custody court) between the years of 1718 and 1720. On December 25, 1720, Mozart’s mother, Anna Maria Pertl, was born in this building. Mozart’s sister, Maria Anna, known as Nannerl, married the caretaker of St. Gilgen at the age of 33 and in 1784 moved into the house where her mother was born. She lived in this building, where her children and step-children grew up, for 17 years until the death of her husband. The building itself has served as a custody or district court from the time it was built until almost the present day. 2002 saw the closure of the St. Gilgen district court. In 2005, the building was purchased the by Mozartdorf cultural association and converted into a cultural and events building, the current Mozarthaus St. Gilgen. Super interesting!

From one famous house to another, Ben drove us further round the lake and pointed out a really beautiful property on the waters edge. This house was owned by the former Austrian Prime Minister, who had died a couple of months earlier.

Further on down the road, Ben pointed out the yellow Hüttenstein Castle, the original 18th century kitchen of which can apparently be found at the bottom of the lake!

As we continued driving we came across another lake; the Krotensee Lake. Apparently this mystical lake is often referred to as the Loch Ness Monster Lake. The lake is 45m deep and always too cold to swim in; even in summer.

We soon arrived at the beautiful Lake Mondsee. The name of this lake translates as ‘moon lake’ and it was given this name on account of the story of the lost monk. The monk prayed to god to help him find his way back to his village. The moon shone bright on the lake and he followed it back towards the monastery.

Towering at the back of lake Mondsee is the huge Drachenwand – ‘Dragon Wall Mountain’ – you can see how the mountain got its name with the peaks of the mountain resembling a dragon’s back. Ben explained the legen behind the mountain, which was super interesting. Apparently a young gentleman from was in love with a young Princess called Maria, from Mondsee, however, she was in love with someone else. The young gentleman persuaded Maria to climb the dragon mountain with him, however, she was too heavy from all the strudel she ate. She tumbled down the mountain and fell down a hole. Apparently in Austria it’s a common saying for parents to tell their children that they ‘will end up like the Princess if they eat too much sweet stuff’!

We drove from Mondsee back towards the city of Salzburg – what a fun day!

That evening, Ben asked me if I wanted to grab a drink so at about 8pm he picked me up from my hotel. We went to this really cool cocktail bar called Hangar-7 right near the airport. The hanger is full of amazing planes and often is the setting for TV show filming. Luck was on our side and were able to watch a programme called Sports Talk being filmed which was pretty cool.

After Hangar-7 Ben took me to a rooftop bar called Cool Mama which had the most amazing views out over the city, and of course, the most delicious cocktails…

Ben dropped me back at my hotel, after stopping off to admire the view from Monchsberg Mountain which was a lovely way to end my trip to Austria.

What a place!

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