„Once upon a time there was a deep, green lake, surrounded by colorful meadows and high, dark forests. It lay at the foot of a mighty, rock-crowned mountain, which people called the Schafberg, because the sheep grazed on its flowery alpine pastures. On the bank of the lake stood a proud castle with strong towers and battlements on a hill. Long, long ago there was a king in it, who owned the whole country around the lake. He ruled his people wisely and justly, and all his subjects worshiped him. With special love, however, they clung to his only daughter, who was so happy and full of charm that everyone who saw it made their hearts beat faster with joy ... "
That's how the fairy tale about Mondsee begins. It tells of a powerful, fearsome giant who wanted the young princess to be his wife. In order to keep mischief away from his daughter, the king asked for the help of the moon.
"When the giant pressed the young girl, who had locked herself in the most distant chamber of the castle, the moon came to her aid. Its rays became stairs that led down to the bottom of the lake. So the princess went down into the green depths. When the raging giant noticed this and wanted to reach for her, a solid ice sheet grew over the surface of the lake, which protected the king's daughter. But there she was trapped, on a delicate throne made of crystal ...“ The reader already suspects it. A noble youth will use a trick to free the girl from the ice and defeat the monster.
The lake Mondsee with the Schafberg
In fact, the Mondsee and the landscape that surrounds it, the Salzkammergut, are one of the most beautiful areas in the Alps, with lovely, lovely areas, friendly towns and castles, great mountain ranges with dark green lakes, roaring streams and towering mountain giants.
The Mondsee in a stormy mood
The town of Mondsee is located in the Hausruckviertel (Upper Austria) on the border with the „Bundesland“ (federated state) of Salzburg at 493 m. The lake of the same name has a surface area of 4.2 km² (5.5 sq miles)
and is one of the larger lakes in the „Salzkammergut“. With a water temperature of up to 27 degrees, the Mondsee (together with the neighboring Irrsee) is the warmest lake in the Salzkammergut. While the typical silhouette of the 1782-meter-high Schafberg (Sheep-Mountain) can be seen on the east bank, the striking Drachenwand (Dragon Wall / 1176 m) rises impressively on the south-west bank.
Winter at the Mondsee
When traveling on board one of the motor ships along the Mondsee, the guide makes always the passengers aware of a peculiarity of the Drachenwand: at the top of the mountain, directly below the ridge, there is a large hole, the so-called Drachenloch (dragon hole). If you weren't specifically made aware of it, you would hardly notice it from a distance. It can only be reached via a via ferrata, which is not without danger.
There is a legend surrounding this dragon hole. According to this, a dragon lived a long, long time ago at the dragon wall. He fell madly in love with the cook of the pastor of Mondsee, a love that was not returned by the woman. Angry and desperate as he was, one day the dragon decided to rob the pastor's cook. He flew to the Mondsee market place, grabbed the young woman with his catch and flew back to the dragon wall. Unfortunately, the woman turned out to be heavier than the dragon had assumed. So the two hit the dragon wall with full force and punched a hole in it.
The Region ot the Mondsee was first settled by the Bavarians in around 600. The year 748 is considered to be the year in which the town of Mondsee was founded when the Bavarian Duke Odilo, of the Agilolfinger family, founded the Mondsee monastery, which was the oldest monastery in Upper Austria.
According to legend, Duke Odilo was in the area with his wife and large entourage, got lost and was surprised by the night. He was at risk of falling high on a rock. But when the moon came out between the clouds, it made the water surface of the lake shine deep, which made the Duke aware of the danger. In gratitude for his salvation, Duke Odilo vowed to have a monastery built on the shores of the lake and gave the lake the name „Mondsee“.
The Drachenwand, seen from the lake
The 20 monks who entered the monastery under the first Abbot Opportunus came directly from the mother monastery of Monte Cassino (Italy), founded by St. Benedict.
A short time after its foundation, Mondsee was one of the most important monasteries in Bavaria. It became famous for its writing school and book painting. The so-called Tassilopsalter (Psalterium of Tassilo) was created here before 788 and is the oldest fully preserved book that was written in the area of today's Austria. Around 800 the oldest German translation of the Bible, the so-called Mondseer Matthäus, was created here. From 831 to 1106, Mondsee belonged to the Bishops of Regensburg. Until 1506, the Region belonged to the Duchy of Bavaria. Then it became the property of the Habsburgs.
The 30th Abbot of Mondsee, Conrad II (around 1080 or 1090 to 1145), whose relic is kept in the basilica, carried out a spiritual and economic reform of the monastery. This enabled him to consolidate the monastery and to secure the squandered church property of Mondsee again. His wise and moderate approach made him very popular among the monks and was able to restore compliance with the strict rules of religious discipline. Abbot Konrad II was the victim of a murder attack as a martyr in the service of the Church. After his death, worship began as a blessed one. His bones were preciously set and placed in a shrine in front of the altar of Wolfgang. On the 600th anniversary of the abbot's death in 1745, the skeleton covered with expensive regalia was placed over the tabernacle of the high altar. The parish of Mondsee celebrates its memory every year on January 15, the day of his death
In 1791 the monastery was closed under Emperor Leopold II. In 1810 the Bavarian Field Marshal Carl Philipp von Wrede received the abandoned Mondsee Monastery as a castle under his own rule, and Wrede remained the owner even after the area was returned to Austria.
The town of Mondsee in an old photo by Eduard Zillich (1948)
After the wedding scene of the classic film „Sound of Music“ with Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer was filmed in the former collegiate and today's parish church of St. Michael, the basilica has become a magnet for visitors.
The Basilica of St. Michael
Flocks of Japanese, American and other tourists from all over the world are brought to Mondsee by bus so that they can visit the world-famous film „Location“.
This is one of the reasons why it is one of the most photographed churches in the world. In 2005 it was elevated to a basilica by Pope John Paul II.
Trailer von "The sound of music"
One can only hope that the visitors will not miss seeing the splendid late Gothic church as what it always was even without Hollywood: a church with an exceptionally beautiful and splendid Baroque interior, created between the end of the 17th and the beginning the 18th century by the sculptor Meinrad Guggernbichler.
In 1867 tourism began in Mondsee, the first steamship started in 1872. In 1891 it was connected to the Salzkammergut local railway. The last train journeys took place in the summer of 1958 as part of the track demolition. Now you seem to be seriously thinking of reviving part of this route for nostalgia reasons.
It is not surprising that such a wonderful area as the Salzkammergut has a high leisure value for its visitors. Hiking, riding, climbing, swimming, surfing, sailing, golfing and much more are offered by the Mondsee region. A downer: The weather is safer in the Mediterranean! But on the gray rainy days, which are not uncommon in summer, the visitor has a wonderful option: visiting the city of Salzburg, which is less than 30 km away.
After sunset on the lake
The market square of Mondsee with its dignified town houses only got its current appearance after the great fire of 1774. Today the the citizens are careful to maintain the character of this place. After it was converted into a pedestrian zone, it also became more intimate, partly because of its proximity to the basilica, as a meeting point, a place to stroll and a place to stay.
Summer evening concert by the Mondsee citizen music band
Cultural life is also not neglected in Mondsee. Five music bands, traditional costumes associations, ensembles of singers, theater communities and a music school form a close cultural-social network for the inhabitants of the place and the region.
Sound of Music 50th Anniversary Edition
Upper Austria Salzkammergut Map
Salzkammergut a Jewel: Highlight of the Alps
A highlight of the cultural season are the performances of the mystery game „Mondseer Jedermann“ written by Franz Löser in dialect. „Jedermann“ (Everyman) is a play by the Austrian playwright Hugo von Hofmannsthal. The dialect version, approved by von Hofmannsthal, has been performed annually in Mondsee since 1922 (just two years later than the birth of the Salzburg Festival).
Willi Meingast as Everyone and Andreas Walzi as Death
The emphasis on the tradition of rural and bourgeois culture is characteristic of the Mondsee version. It is impressive and interesting, among other things, that the allegorical figures (death, mammon, the devil, ...) largely speak High German, but the natural figures speak in the Mondsee dialect.