A look back...
In our previous “Look Back”, we looked at a number of interesting facts, such as important annual figures, geographic coordinates and the unique climate of the Glemmtal valley. Today, we’re going back to basics to investigate the region’s first settlements and the difficult lives of the people that inhabited them. What were the first services and businesses on offer in the valley and how did the village community come to be in the first place? You will also learn about the upheaval and excitement that the first pair of skis caused in the Home of Lässig.
12th century — Settling in Glemb
The first settlers who called the Glemmtal valley — or Glemb, as it used to be called — their home were completely self-sufficient. Only industrious and skilled settlers, who were both farmers and craftsmen in one, could survive in the settlement-unfriendly valley in the 12th century. The closest markets were in Zell am See and Saalfelden and were very difficult to reach. In case of an emergency, the farmers were completely dependent on the protection of their wealthy landlord, as well as support from their neighbours. The petition to the landlord was thus often signed with the note “Neighbourhood of Glemb”, in accordance with the principle of “One for all, and all for one”. Following the increase of agricultural cultivation in the valley, little hamlets started to form adjacent to favourably-situated strips of land, such as on the alluvial fan of the Salpach stream (called Spielbergbach today), Lengau, Wiesern, Eibing and Jausern. In the Middle Ages, an administrative body had to be introduced as a result of the increasing population in the area, which would be run on behalf of the landlord in Meierhöfen.
A village emerges
The first economic hub in the region was the Meierhof court of Salpach at the alluvial fan of the Salpach stream. From here, the archiepiscopal administration head already managed the accounts of the Glemmtal valley in 1350. It was only towards the end of the 15th century that the “Hof Salpach” court, known as “Gasthof Oberwirt” today, was divided into two halves: In “Niedersalpach” and “Obersalpach” — known as the “Turmhaus” (“Tower House”) today. The local administrative body and the three courts thus came to be a major force of attraction for many settlers and, over time, a proper village community started to emerge. The school, built in 1563, brought additional life to the village. The local archives read: “Although a church is mentioned officially only in 1410, it can be assumed that a church already existed prior to this date.” Thus, you can still — in part due to the still remaining old buildings — see the region’s origins in the town centre of Saalbach.
Due to the expanding deforestation, even the most self-sufficient farmers were starting to struggle with supporting themselves and their families. This led to many of them becoming specialists and offering their goods and services in order to support basic needs. One of the oldest commercial activities was that of the miller, which, in the middle of the 14th century, already appeared at the Salalp Mill, the Mill in Jausen, the “Mautmüll und Saag undter Rauchenbach”, the Mill on the Türrensalpach and at the Mill in Gurnell. The first licensed inn was a tavern opened by the Habichler brothers in 1431 on the half-court of Nidersalpach. The commercial license — quite unusual for a desolate farmer’s village — was issued in 1489 and allowed for the sale of agricultural produce and cattle. Over time, Salpach slowly developed into the centre of the Glemmtal valley. In 1680, Blasius Gruber erected the first commercial shop. Despite all these developments, the valley’s desolate location resulted in Salzburg’s economic upsurge passing right by the valley. “The residents of Saalbach had to wait for very long for their own economic miracle and — despite their hard work dedication and iron will — they remained outsiders from a poor village of mountain farmers that would have to wait for very long before they could claim fortune for themselves”, the local archives read.
A village learns to ski
In 1898, Josef Wallner, a Saalbach-native, returned from Mürzzuschlag back to his hometown together with his family and brought along the first pair of skis. Together with the sports enthusiast and head teacher Peter Höll, who quickly learned how to ski, they passed their skills onto the local pupils. Soon enough, the entire valley was infected with the skiing virus, which led to the creation of the first primitive skis made from cheese barrel staves with nailed-on shoes. Sharpened hazelnut canes were used to get up and down the slopes. At the time, skiing pioneer Peter Höll had no idea that his enthusiasm for skiing would soon become very important for his hometown. A few years later, around 1903, the valley was noticed by the outside world for the first time and the first ski enthusiasts came to the various grass mountains. And thus begins the story of the Home of Lässig…
In the next part, you will read about the lives of the farmers, the origins of many family names and about past periods of impoverishment and protest in the valley.