A Tale of Two Towns on the Salzach River
Continuing with our Silent Night Tour in Oberndorf, our tour guide led us to a peaceful spot by the Salzach River. We had an hour more to spend before we head back to Salzburg, and we could use the time to either visit another museum or drink more Gluhwein in the Christmas market. We chose to just hang out by the river and let our kids walk around the riverbank. It was my favourite part of the tour, and I think my husband would agree with that, too.
It was an interesting spot as you could see in the pictures. It is where the river loops. But more than that, the river divides two historic towns and serves as a border between two countries, Germany and Austria. We were standing in the Austrian town of Oberndorf, and across the river was the Bavarian (German) town of Laufen.
It was quiet by the riverbank with only a few people passing by – either jogging or taking their dog for a walk. We watched the sun’s reflection glistening on the water and eventually fading behind the snow-capped Alps in the distance. A few times, the stillness of the evening was broken by the squeals of our kids who were chasing each other. I hope the river didn’t mind… 🙂
Here’s a short video of our evening by the Salzach River. Enjoy watching!
A Tale of Two Towns and a River
Once upon a time, Laufen of Bavaria (Germany) and Oberndorf of Salzburg (Austria) were parts of a single municipality. During the early 1800s, Laufen, as the municipality was called, was part of the Kingdom of Bavaria. Between the towns, they shared the Salzach River which had become an important trade route for salt. You see, hundreds of years ago, salt was a prime commodity in Salzburg, a white gold. Now we know salt mainly as a condiment, but before, it was more than that, it was used to preserve meat and fish (because there was still no refrigerator), make cheese and butter, etc.
The Salzach River loops in Laufen, the barges had to slow down, which made it a perfect port to collect taxes, etc. This made Laufen wealthy but the wealth got more concentrated in the Bavarian side of Laufen because the mariner lords lived on that side of the town. In 1816, following the Napoleonic Wars, Laufen was affected by territorial changes. The Kingdom of Bavaria kept the Bavarian side of Laufen and gave up the Salzburg side (Oberndorf bei Salzburg) to the Austrian Empire in exchange for another town (Palatinate region of Germany). After the split, Oberndorf was left with no facilities, not a school nor a cemetery and quickly succumbed to poverty. The people of Oberndorf were in despair; yearning for better jobs, peace and protection.
It was during these circumstances that the beloved carol ‘Silent Night’ came about.
By the way, Germany and Austria are Schengen counties and so one needs no visa anymore to cross the river. We were so fixed on our spot the entire time that it did not occur to us that we could actually walk across a small bridge to the side of Laufen.
We head back to Salzburg and had a delicious meal at Imlauer Sky Bar and Restaurant. If you come by Salzburg, do try out this restaurant. The steak was tender and the risotto was tasty!
Some facts and tips from that day:
- For our Silent Night 200, I received so much inspiration from the blog of Henry. https://fotoeins.com/2018/08/20/silentnight-oberndorf-salzburg/
- If you are taking public transportation, Henry left instructions on the same post. Do check it out.
- We did the Silent Night and Christmas Market Tour of Bob’s Special Tours. It was a 4-hour tour from Salzburg to Arnsdorf and Oberndorf, then back to Salzburg. Our tour was on the 20th of December 2018. We chose this tour because it was small and intimate.
- I think whether or not you’re fascinated by the story of ‘Silent Night’, a trip to Oberndorf is worth your time.
- I wish we had walked by the Salzachbrucke to cross to Laufen.
Here are the other blogs on our Bavaria and Austria Holiday:
- Munich: Start of our family’s tales from last winter
- Munich: Viktualienmarkt Biergarten
- Munich: BMW Museum and BMW Welt
- Munich: Theatine Church and Odeonplatz
- Munich: Christmas Markets
- Munich: Hofbrauhaus Beer Hall
- Munich: City Aparthotel München
- Salzburg: Birthplace of Mozart and Silent Night
- Salzburg: Hohensalzburg Fortress
- Salzburg: Residenzplatz Christmas Market
- Salzburg: Salzburg Cathedral
- Salzburg: Silent Night 200 at Salzburg Museum
- Salzburg: Silent Night Tour by Bob’s Special Tour