Lake Traunsee, Upper Austria:
The ĄTraumsee" of the Salzkammergut
The Traunsee is a lake in the Upper Austrian part of the Salzkammergut and situated in the Eastern part of the region. Misspelling the name as "Traumsee" means "dream lake" and indeed, the Traunsee is a rather pretty piece of Austria. The surrounding landscape is very diverse, ranging from Alpine mountains to the smooth hills of the Alpenvorland, the stretch of land once shaped by glaciers during the last ice age.
In the East of the Traunsee, the shore comprises of steep cliffs. This part is thinly populated, if at all. The most important landmark in this area is the Traunsteinmassiv mountain range, with the Traunstein at its core, a 1,691 metre high mountain. The hills along the western shore, such as Gmundnerberg, Grasberg and Richtberg, are forested. The Höllengebirge is another mountain range, found to the Traunsee′s Southwest, just like the mountains of the Totes Gebirge.
The Traunsee is 12 kilometres long and 3 kilometres wide at its widest part; altogether, the lake has a total surface of approximately 25 square kilometres. The lake is named after the river Traun, which enters the lake at Ebensee and branches off on the other side at Gmunden. The current name "Trunseo" in 909 A.D. The water quality of the Traunsee is very high. The lake is considered oligotrophic, meaning "very low in nutrients", which results in low growth of algae and in turn very clear water.
Water Quality of the Traunsee & History of the Region
Even in a depth of 60 metres, there is still enough light penetrating the water that certain water plants (such as Rhodomonas lacustris, in case you wondered) can be found that rely on photosynthesis. Speaking of depth: Lake Traunsee is 191 meters deep, the record for Austria.
At the bottom of the lake, the deepest layer of water is salty. This is due to the centuries of salt mining that took place in the region, especially at Ebensee, and is thus a remain of early pollution. The brine is heavier than the freshwater, due to this circumstance and due to the depth of the lake, there is no complete circulation of the water. A similar situation is known from Lake Hallstätter See.
The Romans referred to the Traunsee "Lagus Felix" (Happy Lake). In fact, even today it still seems to make ten thousands of tourists rather happy - all the people that gather around the lake during the summer months ensures the region of a steady income, a reliable economic addition to the strong industries in the north of the lake and in Ebensee. The tourism lives off the good connections to Linz and Vienna. The centres are Gmunden, Altmünster and Traunkirchen.
Boat Cruises on the Traunsee
Boating and cruises are popular among tourists (the first leisure ship started to navigate on the Traunsee in 1836; visitors arriving at Gmunden by train can directly embark on a ship, as station and port are linked) and so are water sports: Swimming, sailing, wind- and kitesurfing (on windy days), water ski and diving. An unusual sport event that receives nation-wide attention is the Traunseemarathon, a marathon that leads all around the lake: 70 kilometres and 4,300 metres in altitude differences.
A little detail for overseas visitors: The last airplane that the US air force lost in WWII in Europe was a P-47 Thunderbolt, which fell into the Traunsee on the 8th of May 1945. For 60 years, the plane was missing until it was finally localised and retrieved in 2005. It was found in a depth of 70 metres. The plane is called "Dottie Mae" and was returned to the US, where it underwent a renovation so that it would be able to fly again.