The summer retreat is experiencing a renaissance in the Salzkammergut. With individuals like Peter Schernhuber from the Diagonale, the Festival for Austrian Film, the youthful, creative scene is (re)discovering the region.
Gustav Klimt. Friedrich Gulda. Gustav Mahler. These are a few of the most well-known summertime guests of the Salzkammergut. Cultural giants of the time, they spent weeks and even months enjoying the region. Indulging their creative spirit. Renewing their energy. Escaping the city and its heat. They were (and are) not alone. Both in the past as well as today, creative people are drawn to spend summers in the Salzkammergut. Artists, journalists, musicians and filmmakers flock to the lakes and mountains. They are the framers of their own time. They search for peace and inspiration. They are urban and up-to-date. For them, the Salzkammergut is still a source of unforgettable fascination.
Peter Schernhuber is one of these individuals. Together with Sebastian Höglinger, he has directed the Diagonale, the Festival for Austrian Films, since 2016. The duo has brought new life to the festival, which attracts thousands of film enthusiasts to Graz each spring (from 24 to 29 May 2020). “My relationship to the Salzkammergut is, on the one hand, mundane and, on the other hand, quite unconventional,” Peter Schernhuber explains. Growing up in Wels, he experienced the region as a year-round excursion and holiday destination throughout his childhood. Hiking tours and pork roast at Lake Laudach on the Grünberg Mountain. Fronleichnam in Hallstatt. Ice cream and electric boat rides in Traunkirchen. “This striking background of the cliffs at Lake Traun is a profound childhood memory.” During his teenage years, he came to the region with the scouts. “The scout camp near St. Georgen in the Attergau was always incredibly amazing” he remembers. In 2003 at age 15, Schernhuber first visited an international scout camp sponsored by the Upper Austrian Scouts – alongside teens from all over the world. Amazing hikes through the Burggraben Gorge and warm swimming days on Lake Schwarzensee were part of the programme. “We were a boys-only troop and of course, there were also girls-only troops. You can well imagine how the whole experience was characterised by youthful recklessness and pubescent adventures,” Schernhuber laughingly admits.
After completing school, Peter Schernhuber left Wels to study and work in Vienna and throughout the world. At that time, the Salzkammergut was also left behind. “A few years ago, I rediscovered it,” he states. The Bruno Festival on Lake Attersee caught his attention. The Attwengers were playing, Vea Kaiser was reading, the audience was excited. Gina Brandlmayr and Eva Baumgardinger are responsible for the festival. Both are part of the art and culture scene and have festival experience through their work at the Viennale, Vienna’s famous film festival. Gina Brandlmayr provides the location on Lake Attersee. She has taken over the former Pension Höllerl in Steinbach and positioned it as Pension Hanslmann. She has delicately transformed the building into a cosy, modern retreat. With wireless network and fruit orchard. With vintage furniture and children’s playground. “I value the relationship between architecture and design here. It’s authentic, selective, organically evolved and not the concept of a London interior designer,” Schernhuber explains.
For the last two years, Peter Schernhuber has been a regular at Hanslmann on Lake Attersee – along with his wife and two children. “It’s not a summer retreat in the classical sense with a several-month stay in one location,” he says. It is a week of summer holiday – with planned family visits from Wels, chance get-togethers with friends from Vienna, relaxing days at Hanslmann. Peter Schernhuber appreciates the diverse range of guests at the pension, the collective grill evening every Monday, the options of exciting engagement and quiet withdrawal depending on one’s mood. Furthermore, he enjoys the environment. He visits the Krippenstein Mountain with his children or cycles through the Weißenbach Valley. He likes the local infrastructure, the walkable distance to the lake, the culinary development of the region. “I find the Strandcafé on Lake Altaussee amazing and Lukas Nagl in the Bootshaus on Lake Traun is always trying something new. It’s very enticing.” However, for Schernhuber, the charm of the region doesn’t necessarily lie in innovation. “Popular locations, restaurants and other areas shouldn’t be over-played. They can be left as is without new interpretation. I don’t need food trucks at the lake, just the occasional simple and unmistakable gem like Konditorei Grellinger in Gmunden. I consider that appealing.” And if it rains, that’s also not a problem. “We take the weather as it comes. The longing for sunshine stems from Italian holidays. But when you’re properly outfitted, anything is possible in the Salzkammergut,” Schernhuber says. It’s not without reason, the saying: “Nowhere does it rain as beautifully as in the Salzkammergut.
Peter Schernhuber also plans future holidays here, in addition to numerous festival visits such as those in Venice or Düsseldorf or less frequent trips to Iran, the home of his wife. “I find the Salzkammergut to be a very exciting region. Everything is connected to longing and nostalgia. Much of it is a myth, which will perhaps never be fulfilled. At any rate, it’s a great place to follow the footsteps of history. Even if it’s sometimes a bit silly.” Friedrich Gulda. Gustav Mahler. Schernhuber follows their local steps. The grave of the piano virtuoso Gulda and the composing cottage of Mahler can be found in Steinbach am Attersee. Even the young scene, which gradually claims its place in the cultural fabric, has impacted Schernhuber. The Perspektiven Festival brings examples of art, fashion, photography, music and design to Lake Attersee for a month during the summer. Artists use empty shops as studios and in the Attersee Hall, there is a large exhibition. “Here criticism is provided toward the narrow focus of the region on the time of Mahler, Klimt and the classical modernity. I find that extremely interesting,” Schernhuber explains. For him, the Salzkammergut must find a future balance between historical legacy and the potential of youth, between private investment projects and public spaces, between ‘over-tourism’ and tourism concept. “The Salzkammergut must create something that can be considered as legacy by my children in 40 years,” Schernhuber firmly states. They are the summer guests of the next generation.