Radstadt breathes history – a number of spots bear witness to bygone days. On a tour around the historic town walls dating back to the 13th century or at the 3 defence towers (16th century) – you can feel the history all around. Radstadt received it “town privileges” in 1289 already and after the Salzburg the oldest town in Salzburger Land. So let’s delve deeper into the history of the “Old Town in the Mountains” on a tour with the “Radstadt Night Watchman“
We meet up just before 8.00 pm at the “Pond Tower” next to the town pond – a relic of a guard moat which originally surrounded the northern half of the town. An illustrious group of interested folk are present. Two brass horn players welcome us with music, before Dieter Pflüger, the Radstadt Night Watchman, dressed in traditional costume with halberd and lantern welcomes us officially. The former professor gives us a short introduction to the town’s history before we start off on our tour around the town walls. It’s obvious that he is a passionate Radstadt local and is very knowledgable. Right at the start we pass the curious “Radstadt Bike Garden“, where unusual bikes can be seen. For example there’s the Eiffel Tower on wheels, a giant wedding rickshaw or a football bike. Creator of these unlikely vehicles is, by the way, Didi Senft, known as “tour devil” of Tour de France or the Giro d´Italia. And where’s the best place for these vehicles? Radstadt of course, as Radstadt literally translated means “Wheel Town or Bike Town”.
A few steps on we first marvel at the impressive town walls on the northern side and rising up right behind the high tower of the Town Parish Church dating back to the 14th century. After another 100 metres the musicians welcome us for the 2nd time, before we head into the “Old Blacksmiths’“, where the blacksmith master, Georg Scheibner, introduces us to the art of this trade. Even today he produces grave crosses, stair-rails or other small works of art in the traditional way. As the night watchman tells us, this is the only house which belongs to the inner town, yet is situated outside the town walls. This is due to the five great town fires – as the blacksmith works with open fire he was resettled out of the town to avoid further blazes. Just 50 m on further the next highlight awaits. The night watchman leads us to the “Kapuzinerturm“, (CapuchinTower), one of the 3 town towers of Radstadt. He explains to us, that these towers had to be built after the Farmers‘ Wars 1525/26 by the conquered farmers as punishment. Today the building is used as a museum with emphasis on the “Farmers’ Wars“. When we reach the top of the tower, we see the centrepiece, the 500 year old and originally preserved roof, a witness to ancient handicraft. The name of the tower, by the way, comes from the neighbouring former Capuchin Monastery, which was home to this order until 1978.
We then carry on to the “Steirertor“ (Styrian Gate) by the former town tower, a brattice with two coats of arms dating from the Emperial Monarchy presents us with another puzzle. Night watchman Dieter explains that this is a so-called “pitch-nose“ from which hot pitch was poured onto enemies trying to enter the town forcefully. However, it’s very doubtful whether a drop of hot fluid was ever poured out of this “pitch-nose”. We then carry on towards the inner town. This is, by the way, being currently transformed into a “shared zone“ and the paving work is well underway – a big bonus for the resort. We marvel at the newly-renovated town houses such as the Stegerbräu, a 600 year old tavern. Then we head for the southern part of the town wall with views of the Radstädter Tauern range, where even 2000 years ago the Romans crossed over the Alpine divide heading north. Even today you can even still see some 2 m high milestones along the Tauern pass.
We carry on and reach the Town Square, where the brass musicians are waiting for us one last time and we learn further interesting information regarding the inner town from night watchman Dieter. Afterwards we head for the Town Parish Church, which was built on this site in 1314. As the church was a victim of the many fires over the centuries, this particular place of worship is a successful combination of Gothic and Romanesque styles. We’re surprised by the sound of the church organ, a further highlight of the tour. In the adjoining churchyard we marvel at the “Schusterturm“ (Cobbler’s Tower), a late-Gothic light column dating from 1513 and one of the few buildings which survived the town fires. Afterwards we head back to our starting-point by the town pond, where the interesting and entertaining tour comes to an end. We say goodbye to the night watchman and now know more about the historical meaning of Radstadt, which was told to us in a spellbinding way.
By the way, the so-called “Millennium Trail“ leads around the town too, giving detailed information about the history of Radstadt, the Province of Salzburg and Austria on 33 boards.
Photo Credits: Lorenz Masser, Gudrun Pflüger, TVB Radstadt