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The Great Mahler Composing Hut Tour

September 8, 2011

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The Attersee, from Schoerfling.

Wedmesday, September 7

Today we got up early, hustled over to the Hertz office and picked up our brand-new black Ford Fusion. Then we hit the Autobahn, headed for Steinbach Am Attersee, the site of Mahler’s first composing hut. Although Mahler’s day gig in Vienna was conductor of the Vienna Court Opera, his real passion was composing, and he reserved his summers for seclusion in a site that gave him enough distance from the daily routine of his conductorial chores, and the inspiration of natural surroundings, to work on his compositions. He had small houses, or huts, constructed near where he and his family stayed during the summer, to which he could repair for the earlier part of the day to work on his compositions free from interruption.

This also turns out to be the ideal prescription for a sightseer’s tour of some of the natural wonders of Austria. Each of the huts is located in a region that, even today, boasts outstanding natural beauty.

Steinbach Am Attersee is located in the Salzkammergut region of Austria, with mountain lakes bordered by steep mountain pinnacles, reminiscent of Half-Dome in Yosemite.

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The hut in Steinbach has been kept in very good condition. It now finds itself located at the edge of a trailer park, and so the visitor may be hard put to imagine just what Mahler may have felt, but the view onto the Attersee remains much like what it was in Mahler’s time.

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The hut has a piano of the type Mahler used to compose, and the walls are populated with reproductions of photos, scores, and documents from his sojourns there.

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The mountain face south of the Attersee.

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Two views of the Attersee.

From there we headed south, down to the Italian border town of Dobbiaco, known as Toblach when it was part of Austria, for a visit to Mahler’s last hut.

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On the way we passed through a great deal of mountainous country, with houses and entire villages perched on the slopes of landscapes far above the valley below.

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At last we crossed the border into Italy, and into the town of Dobbiaco, where almost every sign is in both Italian and German. The youth hostel there, which is apparently part of a larger restoration of an older resort, is parked at the base of the Dolomites and has got to be one of the most elegant hostels in the world. The bathroom and shower are still down the hall, but the impression is more of a four-star hotel than a youth hostel, with its marble floors, glassed reception area, and spectacular views.

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Following instructions from the receptionist at the hostel, we drove to the hut site. It is now on land owned by a person who wanted to have a wild animal park, and so is surrounded by pens of various animals, few of them wild. Visitors to the hut have to buy tickets to the park for access to the hut. The animal park is rather sad, and poorly kept up, and the composing hut itself is in bad shape, rotting away. There may be some debate about how much restoration can be done and still retain the look and feel of the time in question, but this example seems to be simply a question of neglect.

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The view across the valley to the north, though, is still much as Mahler must have seen, with neatly-kept houses surrounded by bright green meadows and dark green stands of forest.

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In the Hall of the Mountain King. Later we drove through Dobbiaco, and this is the view looking south from the main street into the Dolomites.

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We ate supper at Il Fienile, a restaurant on the edge of Lago di Dobbiaco, a lake north of town. Good food, and a fitting end to a big day.

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The approach to the hostel at night.

Thursday, September 8

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The view from our room.

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The room.

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In the morning we packed up and drove east, heading for the hut at Maiernigg, overlooking the Worthersee.

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This hut, the last chronologically (Steinbach was the first), was in very good shape, perhaps even better that Mahler himself experienced.

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We spent a very pleasant time there, examining documents on the walls and talking with the attendant, himself a big Mahler fan, and other visitors to the site.

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The Worthersee, looking north.

From here we drove to Klagenfurt, at the east end of the Worthersee, to our hostel. Tomorrow, Italy.

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8 Comments
  1. Dear ” The Grand Tour”:

    First of all, Thank you for this great blog. I find it very interesting.
    Now, I would like to ask you more about Mahler’s huts, specifically about Dobbiaco’s hut.
    If you have more information about it,(photos, videos, leaflets, …etc) please Could you send me?
    I’m very interested on it.

    Thank you very much
    Regards

  2. Great blog.
    I went to the Worthersee hut last year but I believe it is actually Mahler’s second hut, (the last one being the Dobaccio hut).
    I am thinking of visiting all of the huts this year, in the same order you did them. I will also go to Mahler’s birthplace in Kaliste and then visit Jihlava also. I might use trains, as I am not accustomed to driving on the righthand side of the road!

  3. capezio permalink

    Great Mahler-hut tour. We get a feeling of ‘been there’ with him. I´d like to make this same trip. Did you make it on summer-spring? Capezio: capezio@terra.com.br

    • Thanks for the comment. This was really at the end of summer (see the dates on the blog entries) and we followed the sun into Italy, flying out of Rome at the end of October.

  4. Michael permalink

    Wonderful! Thank you so much for sharing this info and your experience!

  5. elmer kreisel permalink

    Thanks so much. I hope I can make this same tour.
    Elmer kreisel

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