A Feeling of Freedom
His alm is at its most beautiful just before the sun rises over the Götzkaser high above Unken, says Nikolaus “Klaus“ Vitzthum. The “Götzbauer“ from Unkenberg comes up here regularly to check on his cows – but also to enjoy the panoramic view, the pure, unadulterated beauty of nature. And the feeling of freedom.
We meet the “Götzbauer“ on his farm on the Unkenberg, the Götzbauernhof. Even as a young boy, Klaus explains, he was very interested in agriculture, nature, food and animals. He finally took over the family farm from his parents in 1995, who still live on the farm, which Klaus manages together with his wife Monika. He got to know Monika, a native Bavarian, many years ago through dancing, explains Klaus. Rock 'n' roll dancing. “We were both ballroom dancers“, says Klaus and laughs. “We don't do that anymore these days but we still dance - a boogie now and again.“ The pair have three children together – two girls and a boy. We would love it if the farm continues, says Klaus. “Farming is a generational project“. The couple are very thankful that their children have had the opportunity to grow up on a farm. “Monika and I were always at home so our children could really grow up with us“, explains Klaus. “Despite all of the work a farm involves, I see it as a privilege that I don't have a workplace here on the farm, but a living-place.“
“Lots of guests are interested in farming“
Being a farmer also brings him a lot of joy, explains Klaus, as we stroll slowly with his border collie Lina from the Götzbauernhof in the direction of the Unkenberger Mähder. “Basically, we farmers are responsible for providing people with the most important thing they need in life: food“, says Klaus. “In some ways this makes me proud – it's really great that we can contribute to people having a good life.“ The Götzbauernhof is a dairy farm which rears its own cattle, an alm and a forestry business. For many years, agriculture was the only source of income for the Götzbauer – until tourism came along. “Nowadays guests come from all over the world to the Unkenberg and it especially pleases me that many of our guests are interested in farming“, stresses Klaus, while we take a short break on a bench with a view of the Unkenberger Mähder. He and his wife Monika see themselves as “ambassadors of the farming world“. They reveal what real life on a farm looks like or demonstrate how our food is produced. “Our guests often watch us milking, have questions about the cows, milk production or nature“, says Klaus, who was also the state chairman of “Holidays on the Farm“ for many years.
Work in nature and with the animals
As a farmer, he also sees himself as committed to nature. “It is very important that the land, the nature, is preserved - just like the Unkenberger Mähder which are something very special.“ The Götzbauer lets his gaze roam over the mountain meadows which are still cleanly mowed once a year by the Unken farmers – a rarity these days. That's why the Unkenberger Mähder, from which you can see the Salzburger Gaisberg, are part of “Natura 2000“, a Europe-wide programme for the preservation of the habitat of endangered plants and animals. Talking about animals: Klaus' eyes light up when he hears this keyword. “I really love the work with animals“, says the farmer and forester. “You get so much back“, smiles Klaus, while he strokes his three-year-old dog.
“Unken has remained down-to-earth and genuine“
We walk leisurely uphill, Unken already lies a long way below us. Klaus says he loves to live here. He enjoys the central position of the village in the Salzburger Saalachtal and the fact that everything has remained down-to-earth. “Our region also has a lot to offer visually“, emphasizes Klaus. “I like the mix of round, gentle grassy mountains and the raw stony mountains. As well as that I don't find the mountains here oppressive like in some valleys. They are simply beautiful.“ Finally we are at the top, at around 1,400 metres. The Götzkaser is situated here and it is Klaus' favourite place. Here on the alm, surrounded by blooming meadows and majestic mountains, the 55-year-old feels well. “Here, I always have a certain feeling of freedom“, says Klaus, as we settle down on the bench in front of the hut. “Over there“, says Klaus and points towards the horizon, “you can see the Hohe Tauern when the visibility is good. I really love this enormous view into the distance that you have here. This is often really spectacular in the morning, just before sunrise.“ The cows graze in front of us, the dog Lina scampers around the hut. “Lina is a trained herding dog“, explains Klaus and looks proudly at her. We see how much he cares about animals and especially his dog.
When nature awakens
Klaus interrupts himself to call Lina who immediately jumps up on to the bench to him. “The most beautiful time is when nature awakens – you can really see that up here“, Klaus continues. “At first everything is completely calm and just before the sun rises, everything begins. You hear the birds chirping – quietly at first and then a bit louder. Up here there are hardly any background noises. You can listen and look and see how nature comes alive. And then the sun is there and suddenly everything is awake and full of life.“ Klaus puts his arm around Lina who makes use of the opportunity to give her master a sloppy kiss on his cheek. “Yes, I love you too“, laughs Klaus. “So now let's all go down, hey Lina?“ She jumps up and waits, wagging her tail, until Klaus climbs down from the wooden veranda onto the path which leads back to the valley. But the pair are sure to come back up to the Götzalm soon to see how a new day begins.