Gudrun Peter is a member of the mafia. At least that’s what was already said about the landlady of the Weißen Rössl in St. Wolfgang. No organized crime, organized Christmas spirit. “We had the reputation of the Advent mafia when we started. Because we were such a tight-knit team”, she says, smiling and reminiscing. It has been 20 years since the first Advent market took place in the community on Lake Wolfgangsee. Peter was one of six organizers – and still is today.
“20 years ago we did almost everything ourselves, ran the huts ourselves and cooked punch until three in the morning. Many people said: It won’t work anyway”, she says. It has become the most famous Advent market in the country. And a real driving force for tourism. More than 300,000 visitors come to St. Wolfgang, St. Gilgen and Strobl every year from mid-November to the end of December. There were 30,000 in the very first season.
“However, the market only took place in St. Wolfgang. We started here with 27 huts, but it got off to a slow start because most people wanted to get an idea of whether something like this could work. Our greatest luck was that Gudrun and the White Horse were there from the beginning”says Fritz Gandl, chairman of the St. Wolfgang market association, which was founded 20 years ago because of Advent.
Today there are almost 60 huts in St. Wolfgang alone and 120 around the lake. “I remember the first year when our landmark, the floating lantern, lit up for the first time. The lake was calm, not a single fan was noticeable. People called and said they had to look at it because it was so beautiful”says Gandl.
“And the candle immediately fell over”says Peter. “Then people called again and said that she was already swimming in Strobl.” At that time, however, it still consisted of oil barrels painted white. “We have already improved there.”
Peter and Gandl agree that it was the quietest time of the year in St. Wolfgang before the Advent event. At least in December. “You could have walked around the place naked and no one would have noticed you”says Peter. But it is important to her that the place remains a living space for locals despite the Christmas hustle and bustle. “We are not Disneyland”she says.
Advent until December 23rd
The best memory in 20 years were the words of the biggest critic of the Wolfgangsee Advent up to that point: “He always said it would never work. At an event he stood up and said that we had proven that it could be done. That was really nice”says Peter. The secret of success is still the same as at the beginning: “No Americanization, not too much kitsch. Traditional and suitable for the Salzkammergut”says the landlady.
On Friday, November 17th, the market will therefore open under the motto “An Advent like back then”. The Zwölferhorn cable car has been converted into a moving Advent calendar, the Schafberg cable car runs to the Alm and an angel sings from the balcony again. Available until December 23rd.
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