“You know the water in the lake is drinking quality?” I was told by my new friend Wolfgang, as he pressed me to drink another glass of sparkling Sekt, the Austrian version of Champagne. By this time I was starting to feel a bit tiddly, but it certainly tasted better than a glass of lake water, however pure that might be.
We’d arrived at the pretty lakeside town of St Wolfgang, an hour from Salzburg in the heart of the Salzkammergut region, to find the May Day festival in full swing.The cobbled streets with pretty painted houses were filled with wooden kiosks, where the locals were gathering to while away the afternoon awash with beer, wine and the odd Weiner Schnitzel. By the time we’d settled into our lakeside hotel, the White Horse Inn it was well into the afternoon and the crowds were starting to thin. We got chatting to local hotelier Wolfgang and his dirndl clad wife, Carolin who were running a beer stand to promote their hotel just around the lake shore. Before we knew it, we too were awash with the May Day spirit and swaying along to the yodelling trio playing nearby.
I hope you enjoy the video below about our stay at the White Horse Inn and Lake Wolfgang
If you thought that Wolfgang (as in Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart) was an unusual name, you’d be wrong hereabouts. As my new friend told me, he’d been named for St Wolfgang who founded a church here in the 1st century that became the hot destination for pilgrims from all over Europe in the Middle Ages – he was, as Wolfgang joked, the Patron Saint of Tourism in this part of Austria.The story goes that St Wolfgang threw an axe from where he stood and where it landed he built the church, even tricking the Devil himself to help with the building work.
Fuelled with May Day spirit, we returned to our room at Hotel Weisses Rössl or The White Horse Inn, a family run Austrian Inn that has over the years swallowed up the neighbouring buildings and transformed itself into a luxury spa hotel. We threw open the doors onto the balcony overlooking the lake, where I could have sat all day and watched the ferries criss-crossing the sparkling water.
Lake Wolfgang is ringed by mountains with a number of pretty lakeside towns such as St Wolfgang, Strobl and St Gilgen on the shore – and there’s plenty to do at all times of year from swimming and hiking in the summer to ski-ing and Christmas markets in the winter. From the lake shore you can take one of those ferries across the lake or chug up to the top of the mountain on the Schafburgbahn, a miniature steam train that was built in 1893 to take those early tourists up to the top for some breathtaking views and clear Alpine air.
The White Horse Inn is also well known as the setting for a famous comic opera of the same name that was first performed in Berlin the 1930s and later made into several film versions – think Gilbert and Sullivan but in German. It’s a charming comedy of errors in which the Head Waiter of the White Horse Inn is in love with the owner, but her heart is set on one of her regular guests. When the object of her attention arrives, he promptly falls in love with someone else, but it all ends happily with everyone marrying the right person.
The setting of The White Horse Inn right beside the lake is just perfect and there’s a spa with saunas, treatments and indoor pool as well as a wooden sun deck with an outdoor pool set in the lake. In May the sun was warm but the water a little cool for me, so I watched my husband and son playing a lovely game in which they swam a few lengths in the outdoor pool (pleasantly fresh) then jumped into the lake itself (freeeezing) to swim a few strokes before hopping out and into the outdoor jacuzzi (blissfully warm).
We also had fun borrowing the hotel’s pedalos to explore the lake shore near the hotel, peering up from the lake at St Wolfgang’s church tower and dodging the ducks. On our final morning we took the Shafburgbahn train up the mountain for a coffee with a stunning view – if we’d had more time, I’d have loved to do some hiking in the mountains around the lake. I’m normally happy to enjoy a place and move on but if you asked me to go back to Wolfgangsee and the White Horse Inn, I’d be there like a shot!
More stories from Salzburg and Wolfgangsee
If you’re thinking of visiting (trust me, it’s wonderful at any time of year)
Website for Wolfgangsee or Lake Wolfgang
Hotel Weisses Rössl or The White Horse Inn – Website – find them on Facebook
My new friend Wolfgang Linsmayer’s hotel at Gasthof Bürglstein
For more information about Holidays in Austria visit the Austrian Tourism Website and follow them on Twitter @Austria_UK
Check out this great video about Salzburg, Innsbruck and Graz as well as the other videos about Holidays in Austria
My thanks to the Austria National Tourism Office UK for hosting our trip to Salzburg and Wolfgangsee
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