Nestled like a jewel, framed by hills and mountains lies the crystal clear lake Attersee. The multifarious colors are just unbelievable and lake Attersee, which is situated in the upper Austrian region of Salzkammergut, is the biggest lake in Austria which is entirely in Austria. Distinctive mountains like the Schafberg (1783 m), southwest of the lake, or Höllengebirge (1862 m), southeast of the lake, are enclosing the lake. Furthermore, lake Attersee, with its size of 47 km² is part of the European Network 2000.
After being traveling for several months this spring I decided to spend the summer at one of Austria’s beautiful lakes. Surprised by the overpriced possibilities I almost gave up my search but then I found a mobile home at a campground in Nußdorf, which was in the papers for sale. I contacted the owner and he agreed on renting it out to me for the whole summer, great! The idea behind it was to settle down a bit by having my own little space for a while. As a blogger, traveler and libertine (who is always searching for the ‘right’ lifestyle) I do not have many belongings. The few things I call my temporary possessions are all in a rented storage garage! This kind of lifestyle makes it possible to be flexible in terms of locality and requires less fixed costs.
Besides all of that, I could not think of any better or more beautiful location to work all the travel material into blog posts. Right now it is mid-July and I am already here for more than ten weeks; here in Nußdorf – Attersee. And till today this exceptional place is capturing me every day again with its beauty and diversity. Without a doubt, it is the best summer I have ever had in Austria! The camper feels like my castle, the lake like a huge ocean and the surrounding mountains a terrain ready to discover.
Writing about Attersee and its regions, the experiences, the research and (photographed) material I collected until now, would fill a book. Therefore it is really difficult to decide where to focus on while writing about these regions. I had to choose… and so the focal point will lie on the lake itself and with that, I would like to share with you my fascination for it. Besides, I invite you to become part of my sporting activities which will mirror fragments of the multifarious natural beauty of this region. But Attersee and its tourism, as well as the overwhelming amount of secondary residences, have (and still create) a downside, an unmissable drawback…for those who look beneath the shiny surface of this jewel! The lake itself did not forfeit any of its beauty, but undoubtedly the region with its lack of innovations did. I still could not find out if the given possibilities for the existing potential are blocked by governmental authorities, consciousness or unconsciousness!
The left picture with a view to Attersee am Attersee and the right picture facing towards Unterach am Attersee show you fragments of the natural beauty of the region. Both pictures are taken with my drone, about 300 meters above the ground. The bigger picture below shows the (wedding) hotel & location ‘Das Grafengut’ as well as the campgrounds GRUBER and GRAUS, taken right at the pier and from 500 meters above.
Throughout its long history Das Grafengut is quite remarkable and because of its k. u. k. (imperial and royal) atmosphere an important mirror of Austrian culture. The hotel lies among a 13.000 m² huge park, directly on the west shore of Attersee. More than 100 years ago the house served the world-famous ambassador and explorer Eugen Freiherr von Ransonnet-Villez as a residence and he used this park for planting exotic plants which meanwhile reached an impressive height. In the year of 2002, the Ransonnet-Villa was undergoing a massive restoration, a new wing was added which fits appropriate to the older style of the villa.
I was able to enjoy the park as well as the whole ambiance of ‘Das Grafengut’ several times and whenever I visited it, it felt a little bit like a journey through time. But let’s move on now to the historical site of Attersee which can be found at Atterwiki, Tourismusverband Attersee. In 1892 they established the so-called union: „Verband zur Hebung der Sommerfrischen am Attersee“ (association for vitalization of summer retreats at Attersee). You can find newspaper articles about that, dated back till 1892 where you can see who joined this association. For instance: The glorification unit of Attersee, Nußdorf, Seewalchen, Schörfling, Unterach, Attersee am Attersee, Schörfling, Unterach, Weißenbach and the Attersee -Steamboating – Association at Kammer.
Appropriate to the history you can also find lots of traditional evidence around the lake. And one of the best ways to explore it, is by combining it with sporting activities such as hiking, mountaineering, by bicycle or MTB or like me, through trail running. The rented camper at Nußdorf, of course, provides the best base camp (I could not have asked for any better). I am able to reach most of the starting points for (my) exploration by MTB and for some activities, I can even start right away from the campground. What a privilege!
This summer I have made thousands of altitude meters and hundreds of kilometers through biking in different districts around Attersee but my most favorite region and tours are located around Eisenhauer Alm / Eisenau (1015 m) and its highest peak: Schafberg (1783 m). There are many ways to get (close) to the summit of Schafberg, but the most famous one is definitely by Schafberg Cog Railway – St. Wolfgang. For reaching the Eisenau plateau you can choose between many hiking or biking possibilities and all of them are signposted really well. The routes and roads are maintained very well and after your sporting activity, I can assure you to find great culinary pleasure by enjoying traditional and local food at any of the mountain huts at the Eisenau plateau. First the sporting activities and then the pleasure… enclosed some details, information and insight views of my trail running activities of the Attersee region:
The season is not over yet, but you can have a peek behind the curtain of my sporting activities. The picture shows the number of hours and kilometers from June. 75 % comes from my trail running and the rest is me pedaling on the MTB.
The chart reflects the distances and hours I spent running quite well. Proceeding from the base camp in Nußdorf I was able to exercise my activities like swimming, trail running, MTB, rock climbing or (Apnea) diving within 30 km of reach! My days started (usually) early and most of them by jumping into the refreshing lake, followed by a liquid food breakfast from Jakefood. You will find details about JAKE in my first ITCHY-FEET product blog post which will be published in August. The cooler hours before noon, I used mostly for my training (with an average of two hours daily).
The picture and chart below show you one of the more advanced tours I did in this region. Circumstances for training in this area are just phenomenally good because you have lots of needed shade while exercising and that to a level of 1400 altitude meters. The reward afterward, like the food at the huts or the refreshing lake is an indescribable pleasure and gift!
Enough sports for now, so let’s move on to some information about culinary highlights around Lake Attersee which can be a seductive and surprising challenge. I did spend the whole summer at Attersee but for this blog post, I will focus (besides a few recommendations around the lake) on Nußdorf itself. In general, but with a few exceptions, the gastronomy and food service industry in Nußdorf is catastrophic! Since I was self-employed in this business for more than 20 years and had an apprenticeship in both occupations, was teaching, leading and running five-star hotels and restaurants (with up to 84 employees) national like international-wise, I know EXACTLY what I am writing about here!
I could write a book about my gastronomic experiences at lake Attersee; the incredibility, the variety in terms of quality and standards and the huge gap between them (this definitely would break the mold of this blog). The good news is, there are some ‘tasteful’ exceptions where a disappointed savourer feels rescued by quality, kindness and common sense. And here you can find them: Gasthof Schönberger, Fischerwirt, 1er Beisl – Haubenlokal im Lexenhof, Hotel Aichinger, and Hotel Ragginger. The following link helps as well: Gaumenfreuden am Attersee and to compare: Tripadvisor – Restaurants – Attersee.
Outside of Nußdorf you should visit without a doubt the trendy Röhre in Unterach am Attersee. The menu is incredibly big and I was surprised many times how they run it, as they were hardly running out of something. Dishes, architecture, and design are a matter of taste… I liked them all and the choices of wine… equally! Going through the great breakfast menu could take some time but do not worry and just order one of their tasteful coffees meanwhile.
Totally different (and that’s the way I like it) is the Feldbauernhof in Steinbach where family Fürthauer puts the best meat as well as local and homemade gastronomic specialties on the grill! Starting in June, by fair weather conditions you can enjoy both, the sight and the incredible atmosphere that surrounds you. They are open on Mo, Tu, Fr, and Su, starting at 5 pm but give them a call since grilling depends on the weather conditions. The Feldbauernhof…
I guess it does not surprise you if you finally get a recommendation (from a trail runner) for an alpine hut which offers fantastic scenery besides quality food in the same manner. My favorite hut, the Buchberghütte (Bergfex Link, Eisenau – Schafberg), which I took to my heart is exceptional. Before we get into details about the Buchberghütte, I will depict how to get there, starting in Mühlleiten – Unterach. After approximately one hour of hiking, you have this amazing view, Mondsee on your left and Attersee on the right.
Buchberghütte: My utmost respect for the quality, kindness and the laid-back atmosphere (even when it’s brimming with tourists and hikers). Thanks, merci and Danke to Heli, Claudia, Tine (who finally got her driving license for the tractor) and the rest of the team. Besides the pleasure of visiting the hut so often (about 30 times through my trail runs in the month of May and June) I am very thankful for my health condition which made all of that possible. Eisenau plateau is a really great playground from where you can continue towards ‘Schafberg’ 1783 m or many other directions, depending if you got up there with your bike or by foot.
Before we soon return to the lake, I’d like to share some great impressions from Brennerriesensteig – Höllengebirge. This impressive mountain range is really harsh, has steep walls and provides an enormous amount of hiking possibilities. Looking down and enjoying the scenery is breathtaking and mesmerising at the same time. The impressions I got here felt very pristine, untreated and pure.
We are back at the lake and welcome on board of ‘Attersee – Schifffahrt’. In the years of 1869/70 Graf Khevenhüller-Frankenburg established the first concessionary Attersee – Steamboat Company. The ambitious company ‘Stern & Haferl’ started as early as 1913 to operate the Attersee Schifffahrt by using an electric drive to power their ships! My most favorite spot to board a ship is in the beautiful tiny village of Unterach. This village still spreads out some of the old charm and atmosphere and has, as the only village around the lake, a bypass. The village of Unterach, which was called little Venice in the last century, lies on the southern end of Attersee and until today beguiles its guests through the old villas which were built during the glory days at the turn of the century. Let me invite you now to Unterach am Attersee…
Some summers can be quiet cold and rainy here…, but not this year! So far (and we have mid-July right now) we had, except for a few rainy days, a beautiful and perfect summer with great weather conditions. I had to use the few rainy days and nights to keep up with writing my blog posts because during the days the weather was too tempting to resist the sporting activities. But not just the mountains were so attracting, the lake itself with its purity (as well as its drinking quality water) had such a strong appeal which made it hard not to spend lots of hours at its shore. No matter if you go there for swimming, sailing, reading a book, diving or to waterski… it always was a blessing and refreshing pleasure at various levels. The joy and awareness of being able to ‘use’ the lake at any time enthuses me daily. Some evenings were so quiet, calm and appealing that I went for a swim, even at midnight! Lean back now and enjoy some Attersee impressions:
In this next section of this blog post we (I) literally are diving into the lake. Meanwhile it should be obvious that my preferences are not just to be found high up in the mountains, no…! They are also lying within the depths of lakes and oceans. The diving schools around Attersee offer a great service and the quality level as well as safety and individuality is very high. Their training methods are state of the art and so are the lessons, which are taught on an international level. If you are interested to dive at Attersee just follow the link for some more detailed information: Diving schools at Attersee.
I myself am diving over 20 years now and I did take my first Apnea (free-diving) course about 15 years ago in Thailand: Apnea – Freediving. So it was about time for me to update my skills, especially in terms of safety and technique and so I signed up for a course at Attersee in July, which was held by the multiple world record holders Christian Redl. Enclosed you will find some pictures, a video from the underwater playground and a link with further descriptions about Apnea / free-diving. Apnea is the technique of diving with your own tidal air. Apnea divers are inhaling before they dive and with the amount of ‘air supply’ (from one last deep breath), they have to manage the dive. The period between inhaling and exhaling is called ‘Apnoe’ (temporary suspension of breathing).
As mentioned at the beginning of this blog post, this summer was by far the best I ever experienced in Austria. The rented camper in Nußdorf as my basecamp played a major role in it. Besides all the positive aspects and fascinating experiences I had this summer at Attersee there is a drawback side to the story ‘Attersee’ and it should be told as well. After observing, asking around, interviewing, personal experiences and lots of research (over a period of three months) I was able to put the puzzle together. The following lines should provide you with a glimpse of information on what usually remains unseen – unless you start digging and looking beneath the surface of this shiny jewel Attersee.
The region has vast possibilities but most of the enthusiastic ideas are nipped in the bud and the main reasons are: regulatory requirements! There is another unmissable thing: hosts with fantastic views of the lake are taking it easy (or in other words: they are resting on their laurels). Most of them do not depend on this kind of business and by no later than mid-October everything is closed around the lake. There is also a lot of privatization going on which causes, besides of the loss of beds, many other problems and meanwhile, you can find in Nußdorf 682 secondary residences, compare to 509 primary residences! In Attersee am Attersee it looks similar, 1603 to 1611 – Sources: Nachrichten.at & Nachrichten.at
If you take a closer look you will also discover the huge amount of uncultivated building land and plots which often belong to non-native investors. This creates a paradoxical situation: too much-uncultivated land is available but not in reach for locals or the community. Either it is too expensive or it is held back because of speculation reasons! You can find same or similar stories also in terms of tourism and gastronomic requirements, which meanwhile resemble a cabaret! The indicators and effects of such ludicrous requirements have direct consequences which can be seen and experienced here at Attersee as well. After being self-employed in this business for over 20 years my enthusiasm got successive mortified by bureaucrats, my inventiveness paralyzed by impossibilities and the word ‘solution-oriented’ was taken out of the municipal vocabulary.
Some more details: Another interesting thing is that there would be still enough rooms for rent available but who would like to deal with the new law by handling a cash register?!? So many people just use the spaces for themselves instead of renting them out or renovating the old rooms from the 70s. King of the lake is a great cycling event around Lake Attersee, many people are coming but just very few are staying overnight! Horse- riding could be a really good business here too, most of the infrastructure is in place and requests are also more than enough but the municipal does not open the bike lanes for horse-riding! Obviously, the only clientele who is leaving any money in the region right now are the divers.
At the end of this blog post, I do not want to stop myself from pointing out the phenomenon (or term) of Retro Wave which reflects the status quo around Attersee. I know… I know… Writing about a status quo should be very objective and without distortion or evaluation… But in this case, I just cannot do it! But the region should shake off this old dusty Retro Charm or just pause for another 10 years till retro is fashionable again and can be used as a marketing tool without vast investments. The community of Attersee am Attersee did advertise in 2015 with a slogan: Attersee am Attersee – Mehr als nur Tourismus (Attersee am Attersee – More than just tourism) to attract more guests. I really hope and wish that this slogan was a promise, a commitment and a self-addressed reflection to bring back the quality to the region which made it once famous!
A few pictures and fragments from the birds-eye perspective mirror the beauty of the landscape and the jewel ATTERSEE probably in the best way.
July 2017, Nußdorf am Attersee