I am at Peace in the Naturpark Weißbach
Astrid Schwaiger and her family have made their home in Weißbach. When Astrid needs a break from everyday life she wanders through the Naturpark Weißbach, collects wild herbs or enjoys the view of the majestic mountains. We accompanied her to her favourite place.
When we arrive at the little hut it is early afternoon. The sun is still high in the sky and sends out its rays over the imposing mountain peaks. We walk around the little hut. Melt water drips down from its roof. The tree nearby is full of catkins swaying gently in the wind. It's not possible to miss it: spring is here. The meadows, however, are still covered with a glistening layer of snow. "Up here it is beautiful in every season but especially in the spring", says Astrid and smiles. The resident of Weißbach has made herself comfortable on the bench behind the hut with a cup of tea. From the little wooden veranda there is a fantastic view of the Birnhorn – which, at 2,634 metres, is the highest mountain in the Loferer/LEOGANGER ??Steinberge. "Whenever I need a break and want to do something for myself, I come here in the Naturpark", says Astrid. "I walk up the path to Pürzlbach to a big meadow. There is a waterfall – it's beautiful. This is my place of power – here I am at peace."
"The children can be children here“
The hut where we meet Astrid is just a stone's throw from this place. Astrid has rented it from a farmer in the village and comes here as often as possible with her family. "I can be here in ten minutes from the village – sometimes I drive up here just for an hour", explains Astrid. To get to Pürzlbach coming from Saalfelden, you turn right before the entrance to the village of Weißbach and follow the road to Hintertal. "In winter I hike to the hut on snowshoes. Most of the time I have my two children with me – the kids love the mountains and especially the paths and meadows around Pürzlbach", says Astrid. "They can really let off steam here, they can be children. In winter they go tobogganing and in summer they play on the meadow. Most of the time the children from the farmers join in too, then there's a really big bunch of them", laughs Astrid and adds, "In Weißbach it's completely normal that young and old play together. That's just lovely. And that was one of the reasons why we fell in love with Weißbach."
"We wanted to live like that as well“
Astrid and her husband and their two children have been livng in the tranquil centre of Weißbach for five years. The native Uttendorfer lived in Saalfelden for many years but then they fancied a change. "We came here to Weißbach, made a few rounds of the village and collected some information", explains Astrid. "The decision was made quickly because we were really enthusiastic straightaway. Weißbach is small and fine. With just over 400 villagers, it is the smallest municipality in Salzburg and at the same time, the most energy efficient. The people here work together and help each other. We liked that and we wanted to live like that as well."
In love with the mountain climbers' and Naturpark village
The fact that Weißbach is a mountain climbers' village and a Naturpark community attracted Astrid and her family. "The primary school in Weißbach has been a 'Naturpark School" since 2012", explains Astrid. "This means that the Naturpark philosophy is lived out in this school – the children learn a lot about our nature and how we can protect it. They complete many projects outside in the open-air and get to know our nature through play under the leadership of David Schuhwek, the Naturpark manager." The Naturpark community Weißbach also places a lot of importance on the preservation of traditions, says Astrid. "For celebrations, the kindergarten and school are closed. These traditions are still alive here. Everyone helps and contributes so that everything runs well. When we came here as "immigrants", we were warmly welcomed. It's really worth living in Weißbach for me and my family."
Biodiversity, as in the past
Astrid has planted a small herbal garden in front of her terrace. Some of the herbs that she needs for her tea concoctions, salves and herbal salts grow here. "You can't find the wild herbs that grow here down in the valley. You only need to look at the ground for arnica, St. John's wort or quendel", says Astrid and smiles. "In the Naturpark there are still very biodiverse alm pastures with lots of insects. This is something special about Salzburgerland." Astrid sells part of her treasures in the little Naturpark herbal shop in the village. Talking about treasures: the Naturpark Weißbach is well-known far beyond the country's borders for the diversity of its animals and plants. That's why the symbol of the Naturpark is the rare Apollo butterfly which has very special location and nutrition requirements, which it finds here.
"Many farmers sow particular mixtures of wild herbs here so that a biodiverse meadow can grow, not just a high-fertility meadow", explains Astrid. "These are all just small pieces of mosaic which are very important to preserve the paradise we have here. And it's lovely that everything runs so well and everyone contributes." The reason is probably that the people here have grown up with this beauty and with the desire to protect it, says Astrid. "And they pass it on to the children and they pass it on to their children. That's how it should be." Slowly it is becoming colder, the wind has picked up. Before we know it, the last rays of sunshine disappear behind the mountain peaks. Astrid has pulled on a jacket. For us it's time to be setting off home. Astrid is going to stay for a while and enjoy the day at her place of power for as long as possible.