Austria’s forgotten corner full of secrets
Travel editors are often asked the secret places in their areas of expertise. We have a stock of them, usually snapshots and moments that lead to other stories. In Austria, I think I will learn the hidden cultural heritage of Salzburg thanks to the Unesco chair of the subject Kurt Luger or be introduced to what is now my favorite drink, More, a dry apple wine, by former ski champion Rupert Pichler on the slopes of Sport Gastein where they host the Imperial Snow Polo Cup.
However, there is one region of Austria that is not so much secret as it is full of secrets.
The Salzkammergut, the “salt domain”, is a beautiful area of lakes and mountains stretching east of Salzburg. It was in this region that the prince-bishops of the city went to fight with their rivals the Habsburgs for the ancient mines of a substance, which today can be found on every kitchen table, but at the time was the only food preservative in existence, and worth its weight in… well, salt. Preceding gold in value, he even gave the English language the word “wages.”
This region of darkened peaks and mysterious valleys, deep caves and dark woods, was also the center of some of Europe’s most important witch trials. I have already written about the “wild women” of the Untersberg massif, but they correspond to the stories of the northern limestone Alps, more correctly called the Gebirge bags, the ‘Dead Mountains’.
Of course, while the names and history seem as ominous as a hike in Mordor, on a hot September day there are few places in the world more calming to stroll: a rural idyll of sloping forest. and waters reflecting the sky, its manicured paths ending in beautiful inns – more Rivendell than Mount Doom.