During our many walks in the countryside we passed by many different Religious Shrines. These shrines always looked well cared for most had fresh flowers placed on or very near to them, some contained candles too. The ones we saw were all dedicated to Jesus and the Virgin Mary, this came as no surprise to me - Austria is a predominantly Roman Catholic country. Most of the shrines we saw were in quiet isolated places, some were near Churches and some also placed in household gardens. They were placed in such locaions to encourage the faithful to prayer during their working day. In earlier times farmers and travellers would stop for a few moments of quiet contemplation. I always stopped to admire the shrines and feel some of the faith which they so simply conveyed to me.
Passing the Parish Church, the parishioners were just emerging from Mass, we were delighted to see most were dressed in traditional costumes. We asked a family if we could take a picture and they were delighted to oblige calling the children over so they too could be photographed. The style of dress is called a Tracht, the men wear ledenhosen made from a blend of leather, linen and wool, a practical waterproof material. The heavy leather belts are passed down through families a great heirloom for future generations. The women wear pretty blouses over a dirndl = a long pleated skirt over which they also wear an apron if it is tied to the right she is spoken for if however the bow is tied to the left the lady is available. Such a lovely custom to witness :) thank you dear family!!
The villagers really do know how to take advantage of their summers and make the most from the warm temperatures. We saw a lot of houses stock piling wood for winter fuel which was left to dry in the warm sun. Solar panels were also used on the roofs to harvest extra energy from the sun's rays for winter use. My two most favourite customs here were airing the bedding through an open window such a joy with all that fresh air and the colourful flowers adorning the balconies. We were told there is much rivalry amongst the villages to see who can produce the best displays of flowers. After winter hues of blacks greys and whites the colourful blooms must provide everyone with a lift of spirit.
The water fountains can be found around the village in various locations. The weather was hot when we visited and the little fountains became my best friend as well as my saving grace!! Locals and tourists alike stopped often to cool off, fill up an empty water bottle with ice cold fresh water, let the dogs have a drink and in my case dip my hat into the water and bring myself some welcome relief from the soaring temperatures. As well as being practical the water fountains were very decorative and pretty providing a good place to sit and chat. There is a saying "Water is the staff of life" in my case how true!!
On the roof tops of most of the houses and restaurants in the villages we saw very decorative bells most usually had a cross at the top of the canopy. Curious to find out what they were and their purpose we asked Helen from our hotel about them. Her story was very interesting and made a lot of sense - long before telephones were in use people from the valleys would ring the bells to warn of approaching storms and avalanches. The bells were also rung on happy occassions to herald a birth or marriage. Today the bells will ring out along the valleys to celebrate Feast Days and Saints' Days. A lovely old custom but I can only imagine the melodic chimes.
The scenery on view around the village of Ellmau is splendid in itself bit it seems that the locals like to paint it on their houses too! This is one such mural we came across as we walked across the back of the village towards the Hartkaiser funicular valley station.
The austrians like their outdoor chess sets - you will often find them in the towns and even in the larger cities like Salzburg. Ellmau is no different and you'll often see locals playing chess in the Kapellen park - just below the little chapel. This park also has tennis courts and a childrens play area.
Many huts are helpful with people collecting the stamps from the huts and will have one of these "Stempl" boxes with the ink pad and stamper inside. Some were empty and the hut was closed in early season :-( and some were closed and had no stempel box :-(( - especially frustating was the Grutten hutte - a hard climb for me and no stamp at the end of it :-(((
So my advice if you are really keen to collect these stamps is to go later in the season when all the huts are open. Watch out for trick ones too that squirt water at you when the box is opened!!
Walking areas often have booklets of the mountain huts in which you can insert their stamp when you arrived there on a hike. These stamps are worth so many points according to distance and height travelled and can be accumulated to gain a walking medal - I found it an incentive when I was faced with a steep climb , to the hut at the top! This is certainly the case in Ellmau where I managed a silver medal in one week
In places like Spain you often see peppers and chillies hanging out to dry. Well this last visit to Ellmau in springtime several times we saw sweet corn being hung out to dry - it made a change from geraniums on the balconies!
The austrians really like to decorate everything with flowers even things which might be useless now! We came across these tatty old walking boots given a new lease of life as flower pots!