Schärding im Innkreis
The small market town of Schärding is the place where I lived for the first year and a bit of my life. I learned to walk by the banks of the river Inn and given the rural tranquillity of this part of Upper Austria, I think it definitely helped to learn how to walk away quickly. That being said, Schärding is a particularly pretty town in a province full of pretty towns.
It is well-known for its Baroque facades, especially on the burgher houses of the main square, the Stadtplatz. There are bits and pieces of Medieval fortifications that you can find strolling around the Altstadt city centre, the Schloßpark or the river banks (the town itself can be traced back to 804), but Schärding′s claim to fame was built in Baroque times.
After the Medieval boom period, in which Bavarian counts and rulers had constantly extended and fortified the city, but fires destroyed much of it in 1724 and again in 1779. This explains the reconstruction efforts that favoured the Baroque face of the formally medieval town.
Merchant houses of Schärding
Most importantly, the "Silberzeile" (meaning "silver row") is a line of houses, the Baroque equivalent to San Francisco′s "Seven Sisters": Wealthy merchants (thus "silver") that had benefited for decades from peace and access to the River Inn (a very important trade route, for example for salt from neighbouring Salzburg - Schärding itself was Bavarian for most of its history and became part of Austria in 1816) competed for the prettiest house.
In the Silberzeile you see the result: Prosperity shown off with the aid of richly decorated facades and big houses. The booming economy faded after the Napoleonic wars, when the entire region was badly messed up - salt trade collapsed and the rivers were no longer competitive transport lines with the rise of the railway system. The city fell asleep and did not change much until World War II.
Sightseeing in Schärding
Today, strolling around the corners of the Altstadt is the best thing to do, maybe to stop by for a coffee or a picnic in the Schlosspark ("castle park"). There are also evil swans bigger than me, as far as I remember…otherwise, there is the obligatory church and other some buildings, but you really want to go there for the over-all impression rather than any particular site.
Schärding makes a good stop-over destination, since it is close to the monasteries of Reichersberg and Engelszell, the Bavarian city of Passau, some spas of Upper Austria and Bavaria and it has access to the Inn, where you could go on a cruise if you got some time to kill.
golf courses and the relative accessibility of
Salzburg (you will probably need a car for a convenient connection) make it an attractive destination for some tourists - although the majority of visitors will be of the day-trip kind. Another scenic town near Schärding is
Braunau, which has a similar story with respect to Baroque trade along the Inn.
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