Lake Attersee, Austria
The Attersee is the biggest lake of the Salzkammergut and in fact, the biggest lake that belongs to Austria exclusively (as Lake Constance/Bodensee and Lake Neusiedlersee are shared with neighbouring Switzerland, Germany or Hungary). The Attersee is popular among people from Munich and Vienna, as it is well-connected to the motorway and thus, within fairly easy reach compared to other lakes of the Salzkammergut.
The surroundings of the lake are mountainous, especially towards south. Correspondingly, the lake is a rather deep one: 171 metres at its deepest spot. Lake Attersee is popular with divers and for all kinds of other water sports. In the late 19th century, the lake was hugely popular among Viennese aristocrats. Celebrities such as Gustav Mahler, Sigmund Freud or Gustav Klimt spent their summers in the region. The most important villages and towns are the very pretty Unterach, St. Georgen and Weyregg.
Because of the depth of the lake, its water volume is rather enormous: Approximately 4 billion cubic metres exceed the "contents" of much larger lakes such as the Chiemsee in Germany. The name of the Attersee is derived from an Illyrian language in which "ata" refers to water. It is the last in a series of lakes that starts with the Fuschlsee and Irrsee in the West of the Salzkammergut: Both of these lakes contribute to the Mondsee, which in turn is linked to the Attersee via a creek. A creek departing from the Attersee finally merges with the Danube. To the south-west of the Attersee, one can see the Schafberg, known for its train that features in "The Sound of Music". To its south-east, one can see the Höllengebirge, a mountain range.
History & Activities of the Attersee
The Attersee region is populated for a long time: The oldest findings are Neolithic and date back to 2000 to 1000 B.C. Later, Illyrian and Celtic people lived here and Romans after them. Roman houses have been found around the lake. The region remained largely rural - agriculture and fishing were the main sources of income - until 1881, when a railway link was established between Vöcklabruck and Kammer. In 1907, a second, electric railway was built between Mondsee and Unterach, but dismantled again in 1949. The railways allowed tourism to spread and bloom all around Lake Attersee.
Today, Lake Attersee is mostly known for its excellent water sport opportunities: Divers enjoy the depth of the lake; however, lake Attersee is not considered an easy water and on average, about five of them die every year. The national record of 170 metres depth (at the deepest spot) was achieved by a gentleman called Hans Brandstätter in 2005. Other, less extreme, water sports include swimming, windsurfing, sailing and other boating, and water skiing. Once a year, a circle of roads measuring 48 kilometres and running around the lake are closed for cyclists only. This event is called "Autofreier Rad-Erlebnistag".
Note that there are several yacht clubs in the area. Off-season, the Attersee can be pretty dull. I recall a spontaneous road-trip around the area one day in late spring where I encountered ghost-towns of non-inhabited holiday houses, hotels and empty streets. The few cars that were around were mostly from Vienna and surroundings. The Attersee tends to get lively mostly during late June, July and August.