Never heard of Traunstein? Don't feel bad, not many have. I never heard of it until I went on my Christmas Market spree in 2002, and Traunstein's market was prominently advertised by the Bavarian rail system. Because of its locations, Traunstein was my first stop, but I unfortunately beat the Market's opening by several hours. As I couldn't stay long because of my crammed agenda, I decided to explore it as a "regular" travelogue instead. I was glad I did. It turned out to be a neat little place.
Traunstein was a fairly compact town. Its inner city only covered a couple city blocks, built high on a hill overlooking a sharp bend in the Traun River. The old city wall was still largely intact, as the second photograph shows. The wall was now a mere footnote to the town's growth. The photo was taken on Kniebosstrasse as it led up to the Jacklturm, shown in the first photograph.
Traunstein's "downtown" was the region below where the second photo was shot. Following along the river, this was the lower residential and industrial zone. The factories were small operations, not unlike those around the Black Forest. There was a water mill operating off a clearly artificial canal that ran across the face of the hill well above the river. The river zone gave plenty of indication that it occasionally flooded -- the river flowed like a mere stream, but the bed was very wide and bounded by high dykes on both sides.
The eastern part of the downtown, inside the bend, wasn't that interesting, but the south side, outside the bend, was. There were several structures of interest, the first being the Salinenkapelle, third photograph, followed by the Salinenhauser a distinct set of long row houses. Despite the similar names, they were built a century apart. The Kapelle sat on a park with a playground. The Hauser was completely repainted, renovated, and converted into Traunstein's flashier/trendier shopping district and apartment houses. The photograph of the Kapelle was chopped as the square (presumably once a major marketplace) has been converted into Traunstein's largest (and busiest) parking lot (P2 -- the one visitors should seek).
One photograph that I would have loved to post if it wasn't for the sun's position was from the Salinenkapelle toward the inner city market. From that direction, it sat atop a tall cliff. The difference in altitude was clear as the top of the buildings around P2 matched up closely to the city wall and the base of the inner city. For pedestrians, getting to the inner city from the south can be done through two or three long staircases and escalators, the largest being through the town hall (Rathaus).
The inner city, marked on the east side by the Jacklturm was very similar to others you will find in Upper Bavaria and Austria -- a tight ellipse of brightly painted homes and businesses built roughly equal height, with tall square gate towers on either side and the city's church in the middle, with market squares on both side. Each of the buildings had its own decor, some simple, some with very elaborate sculptures or reliefs. Such contrasts were apparent in the first photo -- note the plain gold house in the center up against the ornate structure to the left.
With the inner city's western side open, only one of its market squares (the Stadtplatz) acted as a traditional square while the Maximilian Platz on the opposite side became a major traffic intersection. The attractions were on the Max. Platz side, such as the gorgeous town hall, the city museum, and galerie, where the Tourist Information Bureau was also located.
At the center of the square was the Stadtpfarrkirche St. Oswald, a facade of which was shown in the fourth photo with the Saturday market underway. This church was very impressive, both inside and out, despite its modest size. The beautiful fresco seen in this photo was just a small indicator of the extraordinary artwork I saw inside. I really loved this church.
I also really loved the town's brewery, seemingly hidden away one street to the north and perched over the opposite cliffside. I did not write down the name, but it was a massive restaurant, very classy, and filled with a lunchtime crowd escaping what was a slightly rainy and cold day. The interior reminded me of a simpler version of Munich's Hofbrauhaus, and I suspected that during the Oktoberfest, Traunsteiners probably made it a busy place.
Another church I found fascinating was the St. George and Catherina Church in the Stadtpark across the street from the Tourist Bureau. A much older church, St. George and Catherina appeared to serve more as a memorial site than as a center of social activity. It was surrounded by monuments.
Most interesting about it was the pair of metallic books mounted on the outside of the western wall, shown in the fifth photograph. They were indeed metallic, and hinged. Each book had about ten pages containing the names of the war deceased for World War I (at right) and II (at left). I had heard of such memorials around Bavaria, but this was the first that I actually encountered.
The great thing about the Bavarian rail system was that its arteries followed the rivers, connecting together long strings of colorful and cheerful towns, like Traunstein. Many of these towns had similarities -- brightly decorated buildings, a very well-defined town square with the town church in the middle, and a local brewery and associated restaurant that was the heart of the town's social activities. Most tourists would zero in on Bavaria's larger, better known locales such as Munich or Nuremburg, but if one was on an extended stay, getting out to the smaller towns was a must. Because Traunstein sat along a major regional artery between Munich and Salzburg, and was a short distance from other popular spots such as Rosenheim and the Chiemsee, it was an easy place to visit.
Trips taken 29 November 2002 -- Page last updated 01 September 2006 -- (C) 2003 Tom Galvin