Monday, March 21, 2016

Oberndorf: Salzburg’s off the beaten track

We’ve been to Salzburg once many years ago when we were still toddler-level travelers. We arrived on Christmas evening and when we ambled into Old Town early the next morning, everything was closed. We pranced around Altstadt’s empty street, peering into gorgeously decorated shop windows. We visited Mozart’s birthplace at no. 9 Getreidegasse and of course, bought lots of Mozart’s chocolates when the shops opened. Those were our hazy memories of Salzburg. For our recent Balkans travel, we had to fly off from Zurich, so we took the opportunity to revisit Salzburg by staying in a couchsurf home. We were unable to find any host in Salzburg itself and thus, we ended up in Oberndorf bei Salzburg which was really a godsend blessing. We would never ever have discovered this obscure town if not for our generous hosts who decided to accept our couchsurf request.

Oberndorf bei Salzburg is 17km from Salzburg city and is famous worldwide as the birthplace of the carol ‘Silent Night’. The carol was first performed at the former St. Nikola parish church by schoolmaster Franz Xaver Gruber and young priest Joseph Mohr on Christmas Eve 1818. Each Christmas Eve, a memorial service in honor of the creators of the ‘Silent Night’ carol would be held in front of the chapel. People from around the world attend the ceremony and sing "Silent Night" in many languages at the conclusion of the ceremony. Going by our hosts’ sheepish confession, this is the only attraction in town and thus, the town only sees busloads of visitors on Christmas Eve. Kudos to our hosts, Oliver and Barbara, for doing their bit to host visitors. If not, this town would really be off the radar for most travellers. Come with us, as we show you what Oberndorf has to offer.
Oberndorf can be reached from Salzburg by S-Bahn rapid transit railway

Long flight of stairs that leads to the bridge which connects to Laufen, Germany just across the river. Like Singapore and Johor Bahru, Malaysia but this is so much shorter in distance.
Pedestrian traffic only. There is another bridge for vehicle.
Salzach River is tranquil and beautiful now. Don’t be fooled though. The high river bank bears testament to dangerous floods that threatens the town every year. Our host’s parents abandoned their house by this river and moved elsewhere after the last flood.
Demarcation of Austrian and German border on the bridge.
We arrived in Laufen, looking back at Oberndorf!
Colourful cheerful buildings in Laufen but this area seemed to be on decline. Lots of empty shop lots. However, Oberndorf's residents come over to German side often to do their shopping as things are cheaper.
Bridge for vehicle. The original link between the 2 countries with immigration checkpoint.Checkpoint now converted to ice-cream parlour
Bridge with the demarcation of the border. Our hosts were sharing with us about the Syrian refugees situation in Austria. If only the refugees knew about this border, they could easily cross over with no hassle. When the exodus first started, border guards were sent here to prevent unauthorized entry. When no refugees appeared, it's now free for all. C'mon! How could the refugees know about this small town's connection to Germany?
 Back in Oberndorf and walking along the river. Look at this scenic path! Autumn is beautiful!
Leopold Kohr grew up in this small town. He was an economist, jurist and political scientist but was best known for his small is beautiful movement.
Turning to the right, away from the river, we walked down a short flight of stairs. Where’s the chapel?

This is the one! Looks like a pavilion from far.
The original church was damaged by flood, and thus demolished and replaced with this chapel. Our hosts already warned us in advance not to expect much. We were still taken aback by this miniscule chapel that is visited by thousands yearly on Christmas Eve. Who gets to sit inside?
 Schoolmaster Franz Xaver Gruber and priest Joseph Mohr being remembered on 2 walls 
Oberndorf is really a gem for off the beaten track travelers. We appreciate our hosts who showered us with their warm Austrian hospitality. Without them, we would have missed this gem.

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