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The Raff family have been guests in the Salzburger Saalachtal for 50 years.

Otto and Herta Raff from the Lüneburger Heide in Germany have been guests at the Haitzmann farm in St. Martin for half a century. What began with a thunderstorm developed into a life-long friendship which has gone far beyond generational and national borders. For their 50th jubilee in 2020, the couple came here for the 71st time with their two daughters and travelled on a journey through time covering five decades.

It is indeed a very special story which we tell today. It contains happy and sad moments, summit victories and memories which will never be forgotten. It proves that hosts can become friends and guests become companions.

Thunder and lightning – how it all began

Who would have thought that a summer thunderstorm in 1971 would take on such dimensions that its effects still haven’t worn off 50 years later. As passionate campers, the Raffs had come to Austria for the first time and wanted to spend a few carefree days in the middle of the Salzburg mountains. They pitched their tent at Grubhof, spread out their sleeping bags in the cosy interior and seemingly nothing more could stand in the way of their holiday – if it hadn’t been for the thunder and lightning and heavy rain which soaked the family’s equipment and clothing so much that another night in the tent was unthinkable. More permanent accommodation was needed. “Our first impression was very good and we liked the people at the Haitzmann farm immediately,” the Raffs still fondly remember the day they saw the sign “Rooms Free” next to the road and got to know Hannelore and Toni Haitzmann. “The old guest room, the tiled stove, the rustic rack for drying clothes – we wanted to stay there and book for the next year straight away.”

From then on, the family came to the Salzburger Saalachtal at least once a year and spent the best days of the year in the area. They played a lot; they helped with the hay-making; achieved the golden hiking pin (at that time the highest award); bathed in the nearby Vorderkaserklamm and sometimes had a barbecue in the evenings. “It was simply wonderful,” enthuses Ina Raff about her childhood memories of her time in St. Martin. “Even though we also went on holiday to other places, the days in Austria every year were compulsory. And when we had to leave again, we girls cried an awful lot.”

Summits and stumbling blocks

Otto Raff in particular was gripped by hiking fever and there is barely a peak in the Salzburger Saalachtal which he has not bagged in the last 50 years. “Even though still half asleep, we always noticed when our father got out of bed before dawn and set off for a hike. This must have left a lasting impression on him as even today he talks a lot about his hikes to the Ochsenhorn, the Rot-, Birn- and Kitzsteinhorn as well as the Seehorn of course,” Ina recalls from her memories of her childhood.

The Seehorn in particular must have made an impression on him as he was up there a total of 13 times. “At 10 o’clock at the latest he would be back again and we were only just finished breakfast.”That there are also dangers lurking in the Alps, Otto Raff experienced for himself in 2004. Just before the Schmidt-Zabierow-Hütte he hit his head on a rock during a fall and was so seriously injured that he had to be rescued by helicopter. However, this did not dampen his enthusiasm for mountain climbing and the year after he stood on top of one of his beloved summits once again.

Deep friendship for a lifetime

Even though it was nature which left a deep impression on the Raffs at first, it was the people of the Salzburger Saalachtal and their hospitality which encouraged the Raffs to keep coming back. “You have to imagine that we have now known the Haitzmann family for over 50 years. A deep friendship has developed which goes far beyond generational and national borders,” says the family. They visited each other again and again; took an interest in each other’s lives; celebrated weddings and unfortunately had to bid farewell to important people over the years. “Austria and the Haitzmanns deeply influenced our parents and us girls,” explains Ina Raff. “It even goes so far that I feel homesick as soon as I see the mountains in a picture or on television.” “The open borders to Austria always amaze us today when we think back to the border controls in Unken in the past. Even though we were never really checked, it was always a bit exciting to hold our passports out of the window and catch a glance of the familiar striking mountain ranges at the same time. That’s how every holiday began. A wonderful memory.” In summer 2020, the day finally arrived – the big jubilee to which Herta and Otta Raff travelled, together with their two daughters, and celebrated with the third generation of the Haitzmann family. “The journey alone for these 71 holidays is the equivalent of travelling three times around the entire world,” Otto Raff recalls and laughs heartily. “127,800 kilometres and every single one of them worth it.”

We warmly congratulate the Raff family on their 50th anniversary and look forward to welcoming them for hopefully many more visits to us in the Salzburger Saalachtal.

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