The little bench above the lofer valley

Breaktime chat

There is barely a single peak in the Salzburger Saalachtal which Georg Schmuck hasn’t conquered.  At 84 years old, “Knappen-Schorsch“ from Lofer still radiates a boundless zest for life – and a bit of roguishness.   We settle down next to him on his favourite little bench with a view of the Lofer valley basin and chat about his life and his homeland.

Georg Schmuck makes himself comfortable on his bench in Scheffsnoth, in the golden autumn light which gives the Lofer valley a fairy-tale glow.  The majestic Loferer Steinberge form a breathtaking panorama in front of him. Georg smiles contentedly and strokes the weather-beaten wood.  “This here is my favourite little bench“, says the 84-year-old. “Firstly, because I put it here myself and secondly because I’ve been out and about in this area since I was tiny. There used to be a stone wall across here“, he says and points out a place not far from the bench, “and over there, I shot my first stag. That was in 1967.“ George laughs, “That’s a little while ago now.“

A bench full of memories

Georg grew up on the Knappen farm, not far from his favourite bench. “Even as a boy I had to help on the farm – in those days every hand was needed for the work“, remembers George.  “I had a lot of lovely times on the farm, but the work was also hard. We always used to take a break here on this little bench. We looked down into the valley and were just glad to be able to enjoy the peace and quiet and not have to do anything. Lots of memories are bound up in this bench.  That’s why it’s my favourite bench of all the benches I know.“  Knappen-Schorsch’s life is inextricably linked with the Salzburger Saalachtal. He was there when the first lifts were built in the area and knows the mountains, hills and forests just as well as the people who live here. “If I’m out and about in Weißbach or Unken, I always meet someone I know and whom I like to talk to“, says George.  “That’s what makes life worth living in the Salzburger Saalachtal, alongside the magnificent nature“.

Endless hikes and hearty jokes

As a hiking guide, Georg brought guests from far and wide closer to the beauty of his homeland.  There is barely a single peak in the region that he hasn’t climbed.  “From here, you can walk forever“, says Georg and  makes a wide gesture. “Here you come to the Scheffsnother Alm, further on to the Großes Hundhorn or the Jochingalm. If you keep going, you come over to the Mooswacht at Hirschbichl then you can go on to the Kallbrunnalm and up to the Ingolstädter Haus.“ George smiles while he looks around him.

“It is simply a wonderful area.“ One of the greatest challenges on his mountain tours was that the fitness of the guests varied widely, explains Georg. “Some of them would have walked day and night with me and others were very quickly out of breath“, says Georg and shrugs his shoulders. But he was also prepared for these eventualities.  “If I saw that one of the group was finding it difficult, then I just stopped and showed them something or told a joke.“ Georg stops for thought and adds with a wink: “Sometimes a bad joke. So no one noticed that I did it out of consideration for the weaker ones. And luckily nothing ever happened.“ 

Memories, captures on canvas

Once, Georg narrates, he had to carry a 14-year-old boy down from the Schmidt-Zabierow-Hütte. The hut is situated at 1,966 metres above sea-level at the edge of the Große Wehrgrube in the Loferer Steinberge. “The boy couldn’t go on any longer. In those days there were no mobile phones and the boy was completely exhausted.   So I carried him down from almost the top, right down to the valley.“ Georg doesn’t have drama like that anymore but he still loves to be out and about in the mountains. The amateur artist loves to immortalize the precious moments in the mountains just as much: a stag in the dark green forest; a deer in a clearing – captured in watercolour or acrylics.  Each painting tells of Georg’s love for the region, his Salzburger Saalachtal. Smiling, Georg leans back and looks down to the Lofer valley. His thoughts are perhaps with his next painting, in which he will depict the beauty of his home in glowing colours.

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