Experience Walden in naturpark Weissbach
On the trail of Henry David Thoreau in the Salzburger Saalachtal
There is hardly anywhere where one can feel a closer connection to the legacy and philosophy of Henry David Thoreau and his work „Walden“ than in the Naturpark Weißbach in the Salzburger Saalachtal. Life in unity with nature; the harmony between humans, animals and plant life as well as a clear commitment to nature conservation are all a living reality here. No surprise then that this natural paradise was the location for the short film „Grenzgänger“, or „Border Crossers“, which describes the philosopy of Walden in various storylines and brings Thoreau’s ideas into the 21st Century. Not only in film, but also on the forest adventure path „Walden“ in Weißbach, you can learn more about Walden and gain an insight into the wonderful Naturpark.
The life of Henry D. Thoreau
Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862) was an American author and philosopher with French-Scottish roots. Despite his wealthy background and an education at the elite Harvard University, throughout his whole life he struggled to find his place in society; he scandalized people and clashed with the law. He even landed in prison once because he refused to pay off his tax liabilities. The author, who is revered today as a „prophet of civil disobedience“, experienced true happiness only in the expansive forests of his Massachusetts homeland to which he returned again and again. He is primarily renowned for his work from the year 1854 „Walden, or, Life in the Woods“ in which he describes his isolated two year stay in a hut in the woods.
In order to fulfil his desire to leave the industrial world and a life dictated by others behind him and to dedicate himself to the true meaning of life, he built himself a log cabin at Walden Pond. From entries in his diary he wrote „Walden“ which can be seen as a „symbolic cycle of a year“ rather than a novel. In 18 chapters Thoreau dwells on the different aspects of life; reflects on themes such as isolation, economy or the value of life and dedicates himself entirely to the observation of the animals, the forest and the nature around him. Even today, 150 years after the death of the writer, the book “Walden” retains its solid position among the most influential books in the history of American literature.
The Naturpark Weißbach
The reason why so many people today pick up the book again and again, browse through it and think about the approaches of Thoreau, lies in the work’s alternative approach to life. Many people yearn for peace, a slower pace of life, true values and a life in harmony with nature: values with which the Naturpark Weißbach has been associated since its creation. The careful and conscious interaction with nature is deeply engrained here and is based on four essential pillars: nature conservation, relaxation, education and regional development. The traditionally cultivated and very extensive alpine pastures and the mountain hay meadows form the basis for a habitat in which humans, animals and plants can feel equally at home. For the visitor a wonderful natural jewel opens up in the mountains, where they can relax and gain an insight into the life in the Alpine region. The Seisenbergklamm; the Kneipp facility with a play area cove; the „Schaustadl“ with traditional tools; the many wonderful alms and dairy cabins as well as guided walks ensure that everyone, no matter their age, will find everything they long for and experience an unforgettable time here.
The Forest Adventure Path „Walden“ has been created as a tribute to the spiritual legacy of Henry David Thoreau and to arouse people’s curiosity. On the trail of wild animals, forest workers and of course philosophy, one strolls over hill and dale, alpine meadows and mossy areas, experiences the forest with all senses and comes ever closer to the great author. Along the way there are various display boards on which inspiring quotes from „Walden“ and questions for the following section of the trail are printed.
The Saalfelden filmmaker Roland Chytra, together with his team of locals has created a tribute to the book „Walden“ and the Naturpark Weißbach in his film ‚Grenzgänger’, (“Border Crossers” in English), thereby bringing Thoreau’s philosophical ideas up to date. Lasting around 15 minutes, the film portrays a story which runs through all four seasons and is divided into two storylines. In one of these he tells the story of the author himself who ranges through the Naturpark on long-forgotten paths and resides in a cabin in complete isolation. The second strand involves a boy who finds the diary of Thoreau in a mountain hut. Inspired by his ideas, he sets off on a walk in the great outdoors and begins to understand the context of the book. The Naturpark serves as the backdrop and is spectacularly presented in stunning pictures.
If you have now been inspired to walk in the footsteps of the great philospher in this magnificent natural world, to understand more about the „simple life“ or just want to experience the beauty of the Naturpark Weißbach– the Salzburger Saalachtal is always worth a visit in every season of the year.