National Geographic : 1937 Apr
THE SALZKAMMERGUT, A PLAYGROUND OF AUSTRIA BY FLORENCE POLK HOLDING « ' RUSS Gott," said a little girl in gingham dress and diminutive white apron as I stepped off the express train at Salzburg on my way to Mondsee. "What does that mean?" I asked my companion. "It means," he said, " 'God bless you' or 'God be with you,' and you will hear that salutation every day and many times a day. But you will never tire of hearing it." And he was right. I had come direct from Paris on the Oriental Express, and this was transition with a vengeance: lakes and mountains, pure air, friendly people, gingham dresses and bright aprons, leather breeches, Tyro lean hats with green bands and eagle feath ers and a sprig of edelweiss. Through Germany I had watched with eager interest the rolling country, the rich, dark forests, the curious stacks of grain which dotted the fields and which looked like a procession of hooded monks (page 475). I had noted the countless mounds of turf piled high for fuel beside the well kept farm buildings. In their neatness and compactness the German towns seemed to have stepped out of a Maxfield Parrish canvas. When I looked at the modern factories and rows upon rows of homes for workers, I could easily believe that I was back in the New World. Just as I was becoming accustomed to all this industrialization, the train had ap proached the Austrian border, and in the blink of an eye I had been projected back into another age. AN OLD-WORLD FORTRESS FROWNS Suddenly I caught a glimpse of that once impregnable fortress, the Hohensalzburg, which rests so securely on its granite heights and looks so defiantly down upon the city of churches at its feet (page 450). You never forget that first glimpse of Salzburg. It is like a mirage. The whole thing bursts upon you so surprisingly that even the mountains seem not quite real. And repeated visits only intensify that first impression of unreality and evoke again that unrestrained astonishment. I was to come to Salzburg many times, but never with a greater feeling of reverent joy than on this first bright morning. "Griiss Gott," I called back to the little girl in the gingham dress-rather timidly, for I had had some experience with Con tinental children before! -and all at once it seemed that I really had been blessed. In a few moments my bags had been transferred from the main depot to the little station across the street and I was on my way to Mondsee, in the heart of the Salzkammergut (map, page 446). HERE EVERYBODY SPEAKS TO YOU As soon as the traveler leaves the sub urbs of Salzburg, he notices two things: first, that everybody speaks to him; sec ond, that everybody is wearing the distinc tive costume of the district. A veritable rain of "Griiss Gotts" descends upon him and he is suddenly very self-conscious about his own attire. I had another surprise when, after hav ing ridden some distance on the Bad Ischl train, we got off and were instantly precipitated into the open country. I knew that the former German Crown Prince spends a month almost every sum mer in Mondsee. There Napoleon once paid a visit of several weeks, and there the former Austro-American Conservatory of Music had its headquarters. But as I looked around I was sure we had failed to make ourselves clear to the train conductor and that the whole thing was, after all, a mistake. My companion, who had been there be fore, reassured me. A gasoline train of one car turned the corner from nowhere, and before I realized it we were making our way into what has often been called the "Switzerland of Austria" (page 451). This is not a true comparison because the sharp contrasts of the Swiss Alps are lacking. Nature here seems more inviting. All the peaks of the Salzkammergut, in cluding the majestic Dachstein glaciers, visible from almost every corner, are softer in outline and free from the awesomeness which sometimes overpowers a person in the presence of the higher ranges. Even the shaggy crags of the Schaf Berg, the mountain which stands in the midst of some 27 shimmering lakes of blue-green water, are benign and friendly.