Salzkammergut is an Austrian region of lakes and Alpine ranges near Salzburg. It is where I got married and a place that’s deep in my heart, one I’ve been to many times. The feeling of freedom when I visit this place where the mountains reach the meadows is almost palatable, this most beautiful place on earth. It was love at first sight.
Live life with no excuses, travel with no regret.Oscar Wilde
Hallstatt is one of those towns made for postcards. Long considered one of the most beautiful towns in Austria, it’s a favorite destination to bring friends even though we’ve been there numerous times. The last time we were there we visited the ossuary at St Michael.
According to Church practice, Catholics needed to be buried in sanctified ground, so the solution, employed by similar churchyards across Europe, was simply to reuse the graves. After about 15 years, the burial sites were reopened, cleaned out and given to new residents. The skulls and bones from the originally buried bodies were moved to the lowest level of St. Michael’s Chapel, where they could be stored more efficiently. At first the bones were just kept stacked in storage. But as the collections began to grow, many churches began to put the bones on display, creating viewing windows or walkable rooms to emphasize religious teachings.
While it may seem a little morbid to visit the charnel house amongst such beauty but such is the compression of sights whence traveling in Europe, where a visit to an old concentration camp is mixed with a visit to a park or museum. We had a simple meal at a food stand on this trip on a table that teeter-tottered under our beer glasses.
The holiday resort of Maria Alm in Salzburg is a family idyll, place of pilgrimage, and sports paradise on the Hochkönig. In the winter there is 120 km of slopes, 30 km of cross-country trails, and floodlit toboggan runs or so say the brochures since we’ve only ever visited it during the summer or fall months.
Trachtengruppe is German for performers in traditional costumes and the music they play is called Dorfabendmusi. We first saw this group on a Tuesday evening in Maria Alm where we have one of our timeshares. We were immediately captivated by their spontaneity and the pleasure they seemed to gather from their music as well as dance. There was none of the worn attitude of going through the motions. The dances they did were genuinely low-brow but I've always had a soft spot for them. These were young musicians having a good time and it was hard not to get caught up in the spirit.
Later when I was making arrangements for our wedding we remembered this group and hired them to play at our wedding. A sub-set of the group would play on the boat that would take us between the civil and religious ceremonies and from there to our dinner. Though the wedding coordinator who I was working with was dubious at the beginning when I first approached her with the idea, they performed brilliantly in cramped quarters and were a hit with all of our guests. I was even able to try my hand at playing the Alpenhorn and we were also given lessons on playing the musical saw. To this day my son still wants to learn how to play the saw! I can never repay them for the memories that they gave us on that most important day in our lives. It was truly magical and we met them later at a local restaurant where they continued to play music well into the night.