Sankt Gilgen, Austria

Sankt Gilgen is located at the easten end of the Wolfgangsee lake in the Salzkammergut region.  I found the town particularly impressive as I approached from Salzburg with the almost perfect U shape of a glacial valley in the mountains  

The name of the town possibly comes from that of the church although of course it could be the other way round.  There are less than 4,000 inhabitants although numbers swell in the summer because of tourism.  Surrounded by mountains, it lies at 545 metres.  One can take a cable car to see the town from above.

The mother and grandparents of Mozart were from Saint Gilgen and his sister lived here.  Their former house by the lakeside commemorates this.  In 2005 during the 250th anniversary celebrations of the birth of the musician, the town attempted to market itself as a Mozart Village although he never actually visited.

Whereas St. Gilgen was first mentioned in documents in 1376, it is largely due to the railways and then shipping on Wolfgangsee that allowed the village to be 'discovered'. The first passenger boats were crossing the lake in 1863, followed by the Salzkammergut-Lokalbahn in 1893.  As the Emperor Franz Josef used to go to nearby Bad Ischl in the summer, that also encourage others to visit and explore the region.

One of those that did this was the Viennese surgeon Theodor Billroth who in 1884 had a house built here and is today commemorated by a bust on the promenade overlooking the lake.    He was appointed professor of surgery at the University of Vienna in 1867 and pioneered a number of surgical practices.  In a way it could be argued that he was the Austrian 'Florence Nightingale', his work during the Franco Prussian war in treating wounded troops led to the Austrian government voting money for military medical care.  He was one of the first doctors to use a white coat and was the first to perform various operations to remove cancer tumours.  

Another famous visitor is the former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl.

 

 

 

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