What brought you to your corner of Austria?
I ended up here purely by chance. Having spent many years coming to Austria on holiday, mainly hiking in Tirol, I eventually decided to buy a flat here, initially as a holiday home. After contacting an estate agent in Zell am See and visiting various properties, I fell in love with the flat and the location immediately. Having bought the flat in 2007, I moved here permanently in 2009 and became an Austrian last year.
What tradition or custom is typical for your corner of Austria?
The major church feast days are very important here. Those are the days when the entire village turns out in their various uniforms, dirndls and lederhosen – the band plays, everyone goes to church and then sits around eating and drinking for the rest of the day. Fronleichnam, Corpus Christi, is probably the biggest one when there’s a procession over the fields stopping at various altars and the “Schützen” fire their rifles up into the air.
On Palm Sunday people decorate pussy willow branches with colourful ribbons, pretzels and whatever else takes their fancy and take them to church for a procession and blessing. Some families around here take pride in dragging the biggest possible branch into the church.
What would you recommend to a visitor who was visiting to see and do?
A visit to the pilgrimage church in Maria Kirchental is a must and I am not just saying that because I am the organist there! It is situated in a high valley above St. Martin and has been a place of pilgrimage for over 300 years. The church was consecrated in 1701 and has one of the largest collections of votive images in Austria. The church is spectacular and set against the backdrop of the Loferer Steinberge it is a sight to behold. There is a toll road and various paths up if you prefer to walk – the ascent is about 250 metres and you need about 40-60 minutes on foot. In the winter the road is closed and you can sledge down if there is enough snow. There’s a Wirtshaus up there and also an Advent market on two weekends in December with various concerts in the church too.
The hiking is great here too. St. Martin is one of four villages in the Salzburger Saalachtal – Weißbach, St. Martin, Lofer and Unken. Each village has its own unique character and there are endless opportunities to hike from each one. The Naturpark Weißbach is especially beautiful and there is an Almerlebnis Bus which makes access easier.
The Litzlalm is beautiful as is the Kallbrunnalm and the Hochkranz and Seehorn peaks are spectacular for more ambitious hikers. There are three Alpenverein huts – Passauer Hütte, Schmidt Zabierow Hütte and the Neue Traunsteiner Hütte. These are great bases for hiking in the higher mountains. The first two are very popular with climbers. Talking of which, Weißbach has 4 via ferratas including a brand new one designed especially for children.
There are lots of opportunities for white water rafting, canoeing, stand-up paddling and the like. My idea of hell but each to their own! In winter the Almenwelt Lofer is ideal for beginner skiers and families and there’s a smaller ski area Heutal Unken which is also popular with ski tourers.
Where do you recommend to go to eat or to have a drink?
My favourite restaurant is “D’Henasteig’n” in St. Martin. It’s a one-man operation and very small so it gets booked up quickly but if you can get at a table it’s great.
I also like the Hochalm in Unken which does great traditional food and is on the way to the Sonntagshorn, a lovely mountain to climb. There’s also a sledge run here in winter.
How can your corner of Austria be reached (by car or public transport)?
If coming by car from Eastern Austria, from Salzburg go through the Kleines Deutsches Eck – come off the Autobahn at Piding in Germany. There is a bus line (No. 260) that runs between Salzburg and Zell am See and stops at all of the villages in the valley.
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