Enjoying the Unexpected

Posted by Kathy Wood – European Experiences / The Luberon Experience

In addition to our Luberon Experience weeks in Provence, Charley and I now lead a few trips each year to other special areas in Europe.  We recently completed weeks in the Salzkammergut region of lakes and mountains near Salzburg, Austria and the Bavarian Alps in southern Germany.  These are areas of spectacular natural beauty and also very strong regional cultures.  In today’s modern society, it is inspiring to see the strength of customs and traditions in these alpine regions.

St. Gilgen in the Salzkammergut

St. Gilgen in the Salzkammergut

One of the advantages of a small group tour is flexibility.  Charley and I always have a plan for the week, but our plan can always be adjusted based on the weather, the interests of our travelers, or unexpected opportunities like a festival or concert.  One of the most memorable moments of Salzkammergut Experience week was totally unplanned.  Our week in St. Gilgen happened to coincide with an important religious and public holiday in Austria:  Fronleichnam or Corpus Christi.  Parishes all over Austria hold special processions and church services, involving various associations and societies, all in their special uniforms and native costumes.

We happily rearranged our schedule for the morning to stay longer in St. Gilgen and watch the festivities.  Our guest house was right across the street from the village church of Saint Aegidius, so we had an excellent vantage point to watch the first two parts of the procession.   Our hostess Monica and her nephew Michael who runs the coffee shop explained the holiday tradition to our group.

A couple hundred people of all ages were involved in the parade, led by the village brass band. (The band also performs at a free community concert in the lakeside park every Friday evening.)

St. Gilgen's brass band

St. Gilgen's brass band

Each group was dressed in special costumes, and many of the onlookers were also wearing traditional Austrian dress.  After the first procession from the lakefront, everyone gathered in the church for a service.  Afterwards they marched down to the street to an altar set up across from our guest house for another short ceremony.  Even a short rain shower didn’t dampen the enthusiasm. This was clearly a very special day in the village.

Villagers in colorful traditional costumes

Villagers in colorful traditional costumes

Young people participated with pride

Young people participated with pride

Participants of all ages

Participants of all ages

We loved every moment of our week in St. Gilgen and the Salzkammergut, but this unexpected morning and the pride of the local community are memories I will always treasure.

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Charley and Kathy in St. Gilgen

Charley and Kathy in St. Gilgen

Kathy and Charley Wood lead The Luberon Experience, a week-long “slow tour” in the most beautiful area of Provence, France. Their popular trips are offered five weeks a year, in May and September. They also now lead two or three trips a year to other special places in Europe. Their 2010 European Experience weeks will be based in the Salzkammergut area of Austria and the Cotswolds in England.

Kathy and Charley describe themselves as “passionate European travelers.” Often traveling with their daughter Kelly, they have made 22 trips to Europe, including a 14 month “grand tour” in 2004 – 2005.  The Woods are now happily enjoying another summer in Europe. Read more about Kathy and Charley here.

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