St. Wolfgang am Wolfgangsee:
Quintessential Salzkammergut Delights
The town of St Wolfgang by Lake Wolfgangsee im Salzkammergut is ancient. It was named after a bishop of Regenburg, who came to the area in 976 in an attempt to do mission work. A small church might have been in place for quite a while by then, but the first proper one can be traced back to 1183.
St Wolfgang grew steadily into the prosperous little place that it essentially still is - getting the privilege of having an own market in 1567, becoming a centre of pilgrimage and eventually turning into a touristy place over the course of the 19th century.
Day-trips to St. Wolfgang
Today, it is popular with elderly Austrian visitors for the comic operetta "Im Weißen Rössl" ("In the White Horse", a local inn or hotel). With "The Sound of Music" being virtually unknown in Austria, there seems to be a gap for kitchy musicals - filled with this very comedy, which is not overly popular anywhere else than in Austria.
The inn, however, actually exits and can be seen in a prominent location by the lakeside. The hermitage of Wolfgang is part of the parish church - being a church of pilgrimage for a very long time (until Emperor Joseph II fought such customs in the late 18th century), the church could afford the erection of an elaborate altar.
Known as the "Michael Pacher Altar" (named after the famous Tyrolian craftsman), it is considered to be among the most significant pieces of Gothic art in all of Austria. It is 12 metres high and was completed around 1480. Not the only attractions among the church′s interiors, another altar can be found further up the nave: The Schwanthaler Altar is Baroque from 1676 and was meant to replace the "outdated" one by Michael Pacher.
The Story of St. Wolfgang′s Altars
According to legend, Schwanthaler (himself a famous craftsman) made the altar too big to fit into the niche - on purpose, in order to prevent the Gothic altar from being destroyed. The pulpit was made by yet another master of his craft: Meinrad Guggenbichler. Just outside of the church you can see a small Renaissance fountain built for the pilgrims.
Towards the lake you can also find one of the last professional fishermen of the Lake Wolfgangsee, selling fish that was home-smoked. Most of the fish that is caught in the Salzkammergut is not sold directly in the area, but either to restaurants or on markets in Salzburg, so this might be a good opportunity to try some. Nearby attractions are the town of St. Gilgen, the village of Strobl and the Schafbergbahn.