For nearly two centuries the Salzkammergut Lake District has been a wellspring of inspiration to great artists and composers. Richard Strauss, Gustav Klimt, and Franz Léhar are just a few of the great names who ventured here to holiday and, as souvenirs of their trips, left behind immortal symphonies and paintings.
It was in the 19th century that the region was discovered. French philosopher Jean Jacques Rousseau's "back to nature" theories and the Romantic movement of the 19th century made tourism fashionable. And the Salzkammergut was opened for the first time to visitors (previously, the "salt-mine" region was a private preserve of the Habsburgs).
Following the example of Emperor Franz Josef and other royals, painters and poets soon began flocking to this region to enjoy the "simple life." The region's spas also attracted aristos by the boatload. Archduke Rudolf—brother of the emperor and pupil of Beethoven (for whom the composer wrote his Missa solemnis)—was the first Habsburg to enjoy the cure in Bad Ischl. The sensitive souls of the composers of the Romantic era were highly attracted by the beauty of the landscape. Little wonder that listeners can hear its reflection in the music written here: listen to the Scherzo movement of Gustav Mahler's Third Symphony and you'll know where its cuckoo-theme and wistful post horn come from. Then when the Salzburg Music Festival hit its stride in the 1930s, many of the great artists involved—Hugo von Hofmannsthal and Richard Strauss among them—liked to escape to summer houses in the hills after performing in town. Just as Johannes Brahms used to walk over a meadow on a sunny day or through a silent forest, or climb a mountain to renew mind and spirit, they followed his example and footsteps. So should you.
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