For a long time, it was believed that “Silent Night” was a Tirolean song from the Zillertal valley. The reason for this assumption were the well-travelled Tirolean national singers, who regularly performed the song while travelling and touring Europe and America. The round trip to the three Silent Night locations leads through the hometowns of the Strasser Family and the Ur-Rainer Family into the Zillertal valley and to the Achen Lake, where Ludwig Rainer spent his later years. Both the Zillertal valley and the Achen Lake are among Tirol’s most beautiful holiday and winter sports regions: A journey here pays off all year round and can be combined perfectly with various activities.
Day 1 “Into the Zillertal valley, home of the famous Strasser and Rainer families of singers”
The imperial major and treasurer Count Ludwig von Dönhoff (1769-1838) lived in Fügen’s Baroque Castle during the 18th century. In 1822, his family received Franz I of Austria and Alexander I of Russia at their home in the Zillertal valley: To entertain their guests, a performance by the singing Rainer Family with the siblings Maria, Felix, Anton and Joseph Rainer from Fügen was organised. The little home concerto made such a strong impression on the guests that Alexander personally invited them to Russia. From then on, the siblings — later known as the Ur-Rainers — began touring the world and thereby laying the foundations for the Tirolean national singing tradition. They performed in countless European cities and at some of the noblest royal courts, among them also that of King George IV of the United Kingdom. Today, Fügen is one of the Zillertal valley’s biggest municipalities with around 4,000 inhabitants.
Some of Fügen’s highlights:
- Just a few steps away from Fügen’s castle, you will find the cemetery of the parish church, which contains a memorial dedicated to the Ur-Rainer singers, as well as the burial site of the Dönhoff family and the tombstone of the organ builder Carl Mauracher, who brought the song from Oberndorf into the Zillertal valley.
- Fügen’s Heimatmuseum has an entire section dedicated to “Silent Night”: Here, you find the world’s biggest collection of Silent Night records, many of which you can listen to. Additionally, visitors will discover numerous exciting details about Tirol’s national singers from the Zillertal valley and the organ builder Carl Mauracher, as well as about old handicrafts and Fügen’s mining industry.
- During last year’s Advent, Fügen’s festival hall hosted the “Mauracher & Mohr — Stories all about the Silent Night” evening with music and readings.
- From 2 December 2017 to 2 February 2018, the FeuerWerk Fügen will harbour a nativity scene exhibition by Johann Ebertharter (1925-2003), a Zillertal valley native. The large, orientally styled nativity scenes will be on display for the very first time.
- For the Advent period of 2019, the SteudlTENN — a 700-year-old theatre in Uderns — has planned a musical evening with previously unheard versions of “Silent Night”
After the first stop in Fügen, the journey continues around 19 kilometres further into the valley to Hippach. This is where the singing Strasser Family lived with their four children Anna, Joseph, Amalia and Karolina. They grew up in Laimach, one of Hippach’s city districts, and from here the four also went on countless tours, thereby contributing to the dissemination of the song “Silent Night”.
- A visit to the „Strasser-Häusl”: This is the house in which the Strasser siblings were born. It was built during the 18th century and is a completely wooden Zillertal valley farmer’s house with smoke-blackened beams of wood, an old room with a rolling furnace, crown glass windows and door mountings. The landmarked farmer’s house provides insight into the barren life of the Zillertal valley’s farmers who carried “Silent Night” out into the world, but also into the famous Christmas song’s history.
Day 2 “Ludwig Rainer, the Tirolean National Singer, and ‘his’ Achen Lake”
It’s around 50 kilometres from Hippach to the Achen Lake. Tirol’s biggest lake — surrounded by mighty and tall summits — is located 929 metres above sea-level and is a true paradise for holidaymakers, hikers and winter sports enthusiasts. The Achenkirch municipality, around 12 kilometres in diameter, is where the famous Rainer offshoot Ludwig Rainer used to reside. His traces are still visible here today. When Ludwig Rainer, son of Maria Rainer of the Ur-Rainers, returned from America and Russia to Austria in 1868 as an affluent man, he erected the Seehof Hotel at the Achen Lake. The hotel opened in 1870 and was equipped with all kinds of comforts, attracting guests from all over the world. Following the turn of the millennium, the hotel was demolished due to a large fire and not rebuilt.
The highlights of the Achen Lake region are:
- A walk to the Seehof Chapel, equipped with a neo-Gothic altar, at the Achen Lake. It was built by Ludwig Rainer. His final resting place is located in Achenkirch’s cemetery.
- The “Sixenhof” Museum Achental provides great insight into what life and work used to be like in the region around the Achen Lake during the past few centuries. Among the exhibition pieces is Ludwig Rainer’s original garment chest. Beginning in November 2018, a new exhibition will be dedicated to the famous national singer and the international dissemination of “Silent Night”.
Every year during the Advent period, an atmospheric Advent market is held at the Sixenhof Museum.
Together, the Christmas markets in the eight towns of Innsbruck, Achensee, Hall in Tirol, Kitzbühel, Kufstein, Lienz, Rattenberg and St. Johann in Tirol make up the “Advent in Tirol” programme. All of these Christmas markets are especially well organised, fulfil the highest of quality standards and some of them are among the oldest in Tirol. The biggest with more than 70 stands can be found under the Goldenes Dachl landmark roof in Innsbruck, whereas the highest is located on Hungerburg, 300 metres above the city. The most contemplative of the bunch can be spotted in the medieval town of Rattenberg, where much emphasis is placed on candle light and appreciating the past.