An article sent in by one of our members of her recent holiday in Austria.
….visiting Austria…Good news, there are campsites.
My mum was Austrian, so I’ve visited Upper Austria and the area around Linz on the Danube many times as a child and adult.
In May this year I visited my cousin and her husband, (Annie and Wolfgang) who now live in Gmunden, Upper Austria. This small town is in the Austrian Lake District, Salzgammergut, close to Salzburg.
I travelled to Salzburg by plane, although this would also have been possible by rail. I took a train from Salzburg to Attnang-Puchheim (on the main Salzburg to Vienna line). There is a train connection from Attnang-Puchheim to Gmunden.
Gmunden is a tourist and Spa town on the lake Traunsee, one of more than ten lakes in Salzkammergut, It is stunning and it feels as if you are in a picture book framed by mountains The Gmunden area has two campsites, both on the west hand side of Traunsee, at ‘Camping Traunsee’, in Altmünster and ‘Strand Camping’ at Traunkirchen. The other site further north is for ‘Wohnwagen’ Caravans.
I stayed on the East side of the lake where there is a narrow road which runs for 3 miles following the lake and ends in a car park with a lakeside footpath leading into the forest. There is a pub (Gasthaus) near the car park.
Gmunden is popular with skiers, walkers, cyclists and water sports enthusiasts. Traunsee (25 square km). has several sailing clubs around the lake, and there are other small towns and villages along the shores of the lake.
I stayed in Gmunden for four days, during my stay of eight days altogether. I visited Vienna and Linz, with a morning and an evening in Salzburg.
This was the first time I’d stayed in Annie and Wolfgang’s Gmunden house, as it has been extended by adding an extra floor. This has taken several years of planning and building work. When I last visited five years ago, the floors were being made with under floor heating, a must as the winters are so cold for so long. Some of the work has been done by family and friends.
Sampling life in Gmunden
My alarm was set for 7.00 am or earlier during my holiday as there was so much to fit in. As you can imagine, it was the kind of holiday where you need another holiday afterwards. Luckily for me, I’d planned a camping trip soon afterwards, so was prepared. In Austria, the working hours normally start at 8.00 am or earlier so that people can get home sooner, by 3.30 to enjoy the sun or more likely work at their gardens. Sara works part time, 3 days a week, but her days can start at 7.45 am, in Linz which is over an hour’s drive away. On one of her workdays, I went along with her to and met up with some friends who live close to Linz.
As there was a national holiday during my stay, along with friends, we had a special holiday breakfast outside the Restaurant Brandl next to the shores of Traunsee. In Austria, these days are celebrated with a glasses of champagne, wine or beer along with your breakfast of several courses.
In the Gmunden district, there was a special cider making fortnight in the local farms. The cider is completely different from the British drink. The farmhouse cider is called ‘Most’ and I’ve tried it before, made by the farmers themselves. Each farm has its individual type. Some farmhouses open up a restaurant in a marquee and serve their own ‘Most’ plus other local produce. We went along to one of these evenings, a real treat.
I was sad to note that my favourite cake shop in Gmunden has closed down. In Austria, instead of cream cakes, many sweet dishes are made with ‘ Topfen’ (Quark). This is a low fat cheese made with a healthy culture. It’s starting to be possible to find Quark in British supermarkets. A favourite Austrian dish is ‘Topfen Strudel’ which Annie knows I love, so she made one whilst I was staying,
I had days out walking by lakes and took a ski lift up to a mountain path with fantastic views. The most challenging walk though was round the back of the house up the steep slopes to feed the cows, which belong to the family. The views from the top were wonderful, but how would I get down?
The house rests on the slopes of the mountain and there are fabulous view of Traunsee and the mountains.
During my visit, one of the latest projects took shape. Instead of hiring a specialist and expensive mowing machine to cut the grass on the very steep part of their ground, there was a return to the traditional ways of ‘sheep acting as nature’s grass mowers’.
On a few evenings, the electric fence was put up around part of the meadow. On the next evening we all went (with a trailer) to fetch the four sheep from a nearby farm. Getting the animals from the trailer to the field was interesting. Once the boldest sheep saw the juicy grass put out in the field for them, he (or her) ventured out, followed by the others.
The big question was ‘which of the sheep should be named Shaun?’ Shaun the Sheep is popular in Austria too. Our favourite pastime over the next few days was using the binoculars to do some sheep watching from the kitchen window. Margarita was making sure they were drinking their water and licking their salt stone. The sheep have been getting treats of bread.
It was a busy week as the Sailing Club needed volunteers for an event they were planning and there was an evening meeting. A few weeks after my visit the boat was taken by trailer to be moored at Traunsee marina.
The next project was ‘painting the hen coop’. That job has now been finished and the hens have a new home in the garden.
The three cows we visited up the slope are also a part of the ‘smallholding’, and these belong to the other part of the family living in the lower, original part of the house. This means that all the family can take turns in feeding the animals.
In similar way to other more rural countries, the family house is often made larger so that the different generations can share and live together. In Gmunden, as the land is steep, it’s not possible to extend outwards. Instead, the roof was removed and extra space was added to make a three storey house. Each part occupied by a different part of the family. The council planning permission took over a year to be approved.
Annie explained that the sailing club is going to mount a petition to the council because a new tourist attraction has been built at the top of the new Gmunden ski lift. However, the car park is still the same size. There will be a big problem for parking for the sailing club which relies on boat owners being able to park their cars. Yes, we’ve heard it all before……Gmunden, although appearing like a fairytale place, can be just as frustrating as Colchester at times!
I’ve seen the photos over the years and the trip in May this year meant I could see the reality of the big changes to daily life in the Gmunden house and family.