Every old castle would like to have its own ghost. You are boring without a ghost or dramatic history. The castle of Mauterndorf in Austria was not lucky. It never resisted a cruel siege and never had an imprisoned princess or mysterious lady. There was no murder or suicide inside its walls, and its owners were not famous people, except for one—Hermann Göring, Reichsmarschall of Nazi Germany. “OK. Why not?” the castle thought. “Let him be my ghost. By the way, I am almost 800 years old, and in such a ripe old age, it’s a shame not to have a ghost. What will tourists think about me?”
As usual, we decided to visit Mauterndorf Castle in the low season, in winter, to explore it without witnesses, and were right to do that. We enjoyed its Medieval atmosphere in solitude. Mauterndorf is a museum. It is inhabited by wax figures of Medieval traders, musicians, bishops, and knights. They come alive at night and share their daily impressions of the visitors to their castle.
“Did you see how that blonde looked at me? Apparently, she fell in love with me.”
“Hell, no! She took a photo with me. That means I was more attractive. You got only a little funny Chinese girl which took a good hundred of photos with you.”
“China? Where is that?”
“Very far to the east.”
“Hmm…. How do you know?”
“I read it in Wikipedia.”
All night, they chat excitedly and freeze with the first rays of the sun to gather new impressions about tourists during the upcoming day. However, at least one or two figures on the photographs in this blog post are not wax. They are Irina and me. Where did we get our Medieval dresses? Near the entrance to the big hall, you will find a small set of Medieval dresses and head wear. You put them on and take as many photographs with the Medieval inhabitants of Mauterndorf as you want or can. In winter, the probability that you will be alone in the castle is very high. The quiet Medieval music almost has you believing that youve moved to the 15th century. It will be your own carnival, not in Venice, but in the mountains of Austria, in Mauterndorf Castle.
In other rooms of the castle you might try on Medieval armor and weapons, and take some photographs. With its well-thought-out lighting, the exposure in the castle is very favorable to photographers.
In his childhood, Hermann Göring often lived here. Mauterndorf Castle belonged to his godfather, Hermann von Epenstein, and after the death of Epenstein’s widow, it went to Göring. Here, at the end of WWII, he spent his last days before being arrested by Americans in May 1945. Did we meet his ghost there? No. And I am not sure that we would be very glad of such a meeting. However, I must confess that the fact that Hermann Göring was one of the owners of Mauterndorf Castle influenced our choice to visit this particular castle among those located near Zell am See, Austria, where we lived. But the main reason was the fact that this castle was the only one in the area that was open in winter.
After our mini carnival and photo session, we went to the castle’s restaurant. It was very stylish and cozy, yet big enough to feed a couple of busloads of tourists. Apparently, in high season, it has many guests, but on that day, we were alone. Our waiter…. Wait a minute, I couldn’t call him simply a “waiter.” He was a solid and portly elderly man (no, it was not the ghost of Hermann Göring), very authentic and domestic. In Medieval times, he could be a majordomo of the castle. It is quite possible that his wife prepared the food for us in the kitchen. We could not confirm it because we did not speak German (Austria’s official language), and he did not speak the three languages that we could speak. As you might know, Austrian cuisine is not the healthiest in the world; however, our fastidious stomachs told us that the food was of very high quality.
Say “Austrian village.” What do you imagine? Small houses under the snow, wood-carved windows, and tiny balconies as if painted on canvas: pure and accurately. Austrian mountain villages remind me not so much of residential houses as of the backdrops for the Nutcracker opera.
The village of Mauterndorf is not big, just 1,700 villagers, and you may even call it a tiny town that preserved its Medieval look. Trade routes passed through this area in Roman times, therefore the village never was poor. It feels that way even today. After parking our rented Opel Mokka, we took photographs of the castle. A very old house, God knows from what times, stands right on the way to it. It is impossible not to pass by it. The house has turned black with age, its windows are almost at ground level, and it is decorated with very old hunting trophies, heads of animals. It is like from a fairy tale. Three hundred years ago, a majordomo might have lived in it. We took photographs of the castle from different angles and distances. A white curtain on one window of the house twitched slightly, just enough to give us to understand that we were being watched. Nobody is able to enter the castle unnoticed.
The castle of Mauterndorf was a retreat for bishops for so long that its real mission has almost been forgotten. Meanwhile, it all started from a toll station (“maut” in German). The owners visited the castle only in summer, but apparently it was well cared for and very well preserved. Mauterndorf Castle sits on the hill before the entrance to the picturesque valley of Taurahtal not far from the peaks of High Tauern. In the Dark Ages, it guarded one of the biggest trade routes of Europe—from Venice, Italy, to the North and back—from envious neighbors. Step by step, the village has grown around the castle.
This area is not crowded. Locals joke that their region is Austrian taiga. It is hard to get here without an automobile. Obertauern is a good ski resort not far from Mauterndorf, but few people know it exists. There is always a plenty of snow and sunshine in nearby Lungau.
Since 1968, Mauterndorf Castle belongs to the State of Salzburg. I don’t know who rules the museum of the castle, but I’d like to say a big THANK YOU to those people. Few castles/museums in the world were able to provide us such an authentic Medieval atmosphere. Add here the possibility to try Medieval clothes and take photographs in them in the castle’s interiors, and you will get a real miracle in the snowy mountains of Austria. There are no superintendents in the museum, at least, we have not seen them, only video cameras. Nobody disturbs you. You are free to do what you want. Is something like this possible in Neuschwanstein or Burg Eltz? No! You are always in a convoy there.
GPS: 47.137264, 13.678237
Web site of the castle.