Water and sound Seisenbergklamm
The eventful night walk in the Salzburger Land
A mystical torch-lit walk for the whole family: an evening excursion in the Seisenbergklamm accompanied by traditional melodies performed on brass instrum
During the most recent Ice Age, enormous glaciers formed the Salzburger Saalachtal into the trough valley it is today. Enormous ice shields covered the entire region and the slow grinding movement of the ice flow shaped the mountains and valleys. As the ice began to melt huge amounts of water were released and the Weißbach carved its way with continuous pressure through the rock. Thus, over millennia, the imposing natural monument and much-loved attraction, the Seisenbergklamm in Weißbach, came into being.
I park my car in the centre of the idyllic mountain climbers‘ village Weißbach and amble leisurely for a few minutes to the entrance of the Seisenbergklamm. I walk past the imposing rock faces of the climbing park where the last climbers of the day are drawing in their ropes. I reach the entrance to the natural monument after a short while via a picturesque footpath alongside the rock wall. The powerful force of the water carved its way through the hard limestone after the last Ice Age, around 12,000 years ago, creating the Seisenbergklamm. Since the gorge was first opened to visitors in 1831, the raging water masses have thrilled and inspired countless people. However, today a special event is on the programme for me: a torch-lit walk through the gorge in the slowly falling twilight.
Eventful night walk for families and nature lovers
A diverse group of people has already assembled at the entrance: adults, children, mountaineering enthusiasts and ramblers. The Naturpark Weißbach organizes this exciting night walk every Monday from the beginning of June to the middle of September on the theme ‘Water and Sound’. Two guides from the Naturpark Weißbach welcome us warmly and we set off without further ado. Our Naturpark guide tells us some interesting facts about the formation and use of the gorge straightaway. She describes the habitat of the gorge forest, showing us the sprouting plants and of course tells us all about the legend of the ‘Gorge Spirit’. Two musicians from the Weißbach village band provide the musical accompaniment to our walk and are already walking ahead to find a picturesque spot to perform.
Transport route of the lumberjacks
Thanks to the Naturpark guide we learn that lumberjacks used the Seisenbergklamm around 1831 to transport wood, which had been felled above the gorge, down the watercourse to the valley. All the way along the crooked and narrow watercourse they used long poles to free trapped logs and let them float away in the water. They erected wooden walkways in the gorge for this dangerous work. The foundations of this original lumber transport route are still visible from the new walkways. “Lumber transport was a particularly dangerous job, which in those days only unmarried, strong, young men were allowed to do,” we hear and a glance at the raging vortices leaves us a little in awe of these courageous workers.
We travel step by step along the solid walkways and stairs through this visitor magnet in the Salzburger Saalachtal. The path passes hissing waterfalls and heads high above the rushing water over a distance of 600 m inside the gorge. The humidity is very high due to the permanent spray and the sunlight enters the gorge sparingly between the towering rock faces.
This combination has allowed special vegetation to thrive which resembles a dark green jungle. We contemplate some of the rare plants with astonishment as our guide also points out the unique potholes, “These circular potholes in the hard rock have been flushed out over thousands of years by the unrestrained power of the water.”
Where the ‘Gorge Spirit’ rumbles
After the first part of the walk, the rock walls appear to creep even closer together; the water rages even louder and we enter the ‘Dark Gorge’. In this section I have to pull my head and shoulders in so that I can pass through the narrow rock passages. I can really see why the lumberjacks in the past attributed the wild rumbling to a spirit. The Naturpark guide enjoys telling us the legend of the Gorge Spirit that sprang up many years ago. “In those days the lumberjacks were actually fearless but there always seemed to be voices among the rumbling and raging of the water. They heard ‘Holt’s mi aussa’ – or ‘Get me out!’ coming from the roaring water and caught sight of a spooky and unusual tree root. The young men tried in vain to free this root with their poles. It was only after the next storm that the pressure of the water finally delivered this monstrosity to the village where the priest sprinkled it with holy water. A worker was supposed to divide up the root but the wood was simply too hard. The next day the root had suddenly disappeared and that meant the priest had released the Root Spirit.”
I notice that the group are preoccupied with thoughts of the Gorge Spirit and the courageous workers on the rest of the way through the ‘Dark Gorge’ as they remain silent for the next few minutes. After we emerge from between the narrow rock walls into the dusky evening light the gorge becomes softer and idyllic. At the highest point of the gorge we stop for a rest and the children’s eyes light up as the guides unpack the torches from their rucksacks, give them out and light them.
Sparkling children’s eyes in the Seisenbergklamm
Meanwhile night has fallen on the Seisenbergklamm and bathed in the warm glow of the torches we go back between the rock faces. Even though we were here only a few minutes ago the light of the torches brings a new perspective to the gorge. Slowly and carefully we step back into the ‘Dark Gorge’ where the musicians with their brass instruments have already arrived. The water appears to rage even more angrily in the darkness and we hear the noise of the rocks far beneath us. The musicians immerse the scenery in a mysterious ensemble of sound and light. The melodies rebel gently against the powerful hissing of the water. The weak firelight of our torches illuminates the surroundings perfectly. “I have goose bumps!“ says someone near me and I can only nod in agreement. Our eyes and ears cannot get enough of this. Reluctantly and slowly we set off again and follow the musicians back to our starting point.
On my way back to the car I still have this picture in my head: sparkling children’s eyes, the fascinated gazes of the adults, warm torchlight and haunting melodies which echo off the craggy rock faces. “I think I will have to visit the Gorge Spirit again next year”, I promise, smiling to myself.