Being counted among the UNESCO World Heritage Sites is a crowning achievement for any town, city or region.
Upper Austria’s Hallstatt-Dachstein – Salzkammergut Cultural Landscape and its prehistoric pile dwellings on Lake Atter and Mondsee lake have brought the region into this illustrious group of heritage sites.
The region’s many dances, customs and craft traditions are considered Intangible Cultural Heritage by UNESCO.
The heart of the Salzkammergut region – the ‘Inner Salzkammergut’, as it has always been called – extends all around Hallstatt and the Dachstein. Pristine karst landscape and a vast network of caves set the natural conditions of the Dachstein apart. The ‘white gold’ found in Hallstatt’s Salzberg mountain attracted people to this Alpine landscape thousands of years ago. After all, Hallstatt serves as a kind of patron saint of an entire epoch of human history: the Hallstatt period. The natural landscape and culture of the Salzkammergut region together led UNESCO to include it in the list of World Heritage Sites.
The roots of Upper Austria’s second World Heritage sites are also prehistoric: Lake Atter and Mondsee lake are rich examples of pile dwelling culture. The remains of these pile dwellings on Lake Atter and Mondsee lake form part of the ‘Prehistoric Pile Dwellings around the Alps’ cultural heritage site, which was first recognised in 2011 and is spread across six countries.
A civilisations riches also include their crafts and customs. ‘Intangible Cultural Heritage’ protects these abstract traditions. Most recently, the ‘Steyr Kripperl’, one of Europe’s last remaining rod puppet theatres, and the Linz Cathedral Works were added to this illustrious group. Dances like the Innviertler Landler, the Rudentanz, which is performed in Sierning on Shrove Tuesday, and the Aberseer Schleunige at Lake Wolfgang are characteristic of Upper Austria’s intangible cultural heritage.
This region has a rich variety of Carnival customs, including the annual performance of the Traunkirchner Mordsgschicht in which elegantly dressed men in tails and top hats sing verses about the mishaps of local residents, and the Rag Parade in Ebensee. Ebensee makes the list a second time with its Glöcklerlauf lantern parade. And customs like Liachtbratlmontag in Bad Ischl, celebrating the traditional first day of autumn that craft workers were permitted to use artificial light as the nights drew in, the erection of the large nativity scenes in the Salzkammergut region and the ‘Kripperlroas’ horse-drawn carriage nativity scene tours that go along with them, Liebstattsonntag (the fourth Sunday of Lent) in Gmunden and the unique Niglo Parade in Windischgarsten have also been honoured with their addition to the UNESCO list. The Wirling Böllerschützen (a tradition of firing off small canons) from the Lake Wolfgang Region and the falconers of the Salzkammergut region also made the list.
Old craft traditions like the manufacture of golden bonnets in Linz, hand blue-printing in the Mühlviertel region, reverse glass painting in Sandl, the production of jaw’s harps in Molln, burning tar oil in the eastern Mühlviertel region and Trattenbach pocket knives in the Enns Valley are also part of Austria’s intangible cultural heritage.
Not to mention that ‘Silent Night’, probably the world’s most well-known Christmas carol, is on the list of Austria’s intangible cultural heritage. Its melody was composed by an Upper Austrian, Franz Xaver Gruber.