Resident: Herbert Oberhummer
Photographer Bernhard Müller in conversation with Herbert Oberhummer, senior chef at the tavern and ex-vice mayor of Obertauern. He was born in Bischofshofen in 1942 and has lived in Obertauern since 1946.
„Obertauern is winter-fixed, unfortunately.“
How many people live in Obertauern?
Maybe 200 – at the most – I guess. All together. We have about 150 voters in Tweng. The mayor of Tweng is our mayor. That’s how it looks.
Your tavern sign says since 1002. Has the tavern existed since 1002?
Well, there was the Roman road over the pass and the tavern is mentioned in 1002 in the chronicle of Salzburg as a place to stop. At that time, all inns were called taverns. In Untertauern or the post office in Tweng – Taverne spelled with an f, because there was no v.
My father was a teacher in Obertauern in the primary school, with 8 school children, until 1961 both communities were together, one school in Obertauern. And now there is a school in Untertauern and one in Tweng, the main reason was because the journey costs nothing.
The tavern has belonged to the family since 1952, all built by themselves. Family-owned in the third generation. The father, then me and now the son, but he doesn’t have a wife yet, he’s still looking for a landlady, hard at work. He has a brother in Tamsweg, who has a family with three children. He is more of a tourism manager, works in Cologne. From Tamsweg by taxi to Salzburg and from Salzburg to Cologne in an hour and a half to the office.
Do you feel more like a Lungauer or a Pongauer in Obertauern?
I have to say that everyone who is here in Obertauern feels like a Lungauer. When I drive down to Radstadt, I get a sore throat, because I went to secondary school in Radstadt, there was no secondary school up there and no connection to Tamsweg. The Radstadt bourgeoisie was so snooty – it was a strange feeling. When you go down to Tamsweg, everyone sits together, everyone is on a first-name basis, when you’re in the swimming pool it’s “Yes, hello, we worked on the lift in Obertauern 40 years ago. Yes, how are you?”. We all feel like Lungauers. You know, now we have a butcher, he’s in Mauterndorf, the ham comes from the butcher, that’s a completely different quality, a dream, the bacon and the schnitzel meat. And Radstadt, I don’t know, everyone from the Lungau works up there, the painters, the electricians and so on.
There is a lot of renovation and construction going on here in Obertauern, how are you doing?
Yes, five outdoor pools are being built at the moment! Outdoor pools in winter, because it doesn’t cost them anything, there’s been enough money, corona-wise. It seems everyone didn’t do so badly, we did too, a bit, I say. Once we got a fine of 1000 euros because three of the hotel staff, the secretary and three roofers ate lunch, subscription food, but in an extra room. Now we have appealed, it took 2 years, now we have been sentenced again in the second instance. But the aid was perfect, no one can complain and that’s why many people are building, they have received millions, partly I think. We had the advantage that we were the only ones open in the summer, the workers all eat with us and the turnover in November was calculated from the previous year, 80 percent, and we didn’t lose much and we have very few staff.
Do you have staff problems at the moment?
Yes, sure, we don’t have any at the moment. On Fridays, we open up and do it ourselves on a smaller scale: my wife cooks, I serve and my son also cooks and serves.
Why is there so little going on here in Obertauern in summer?
They slept through it, I’ve been talking for 50 years, 50 years ago there was more going on than now in summer. The houses were smaller then, but now it’s much nicer, I remember 50 years ago in July it snowed three times, sitting outside on a day like today in July, so I have to say global warming is really good there, The bathing lake has over 20 degrees Celsius up there at 2000 metres, it’s nice to swim, there are boat trips and climbing courses, but Obertauern is winter-fixed, unfortunately – that’s the only place, meanwhile it’s much nicer back there, the nature reserve, the flowers. Yesterday I picked flowers back there, arnica, a whole field of them. But I have a flat in Tamsweg, I’ve been renting it for 10 years, when I retire, because when my son gets such a dragon for a wife, my wife and I will be there. My wife is a great cook, she always wanted to go up the mountain, thank God. I’m 80 years old now, my wife 70, we just had our golden wedding anniversary. I was also a ski instructor up there, but I wasn’t in the Beatles’ film. In 1947 we came here to Obertauern, my father was a teacher, he was punitively transferred here, you can’t say that, after the war, he was a fighter for the German people, as far as I know he fought against the Russians, he didn’t know anything about the Jews, at that time they said the Russians had invaded us and after 1947 they rehired him as a teacher because they couldn’t find anyone up there and he was a school teacher until 1961. An eight-grade school in one class, that was great. They all became university professors and all kinds of things. My brother was the physicist, Dr Heinz Oberhummer, from the Science Busters, he was the best physicist in Austria, he was even nominated for the Nobel Prize, but he didn’t stand a chance against the American. He always liked to be up there, he was a nature lover.
What makes the culture in Lungau special for you?
Well, it’s super, now we went to another concert down in the Leonhard Church, because the second son is in the civic choir in Tamsweg, there was a festival of the choirs, he’s the youngest at 45, because they don’t have any new blood. I have almost no time for exhibitions. The only one was in Hamburg, there was an opera singer from Vienna, I used to go to the festival. And now, when we have holidays in the summer, we tend to go to the warm south. And we have our own golf club in Lungau, but they are all old, the young ones don’t want to play golf. There is a golf course in Sankt Michael where we like to play, it’s always fun to sit together afterwards. Once I won a tournament, that was golf and skiing together, 30 years ago. Well, the art up there. We have our own house music, we have composed our own songs. Otherwise I don’t know much about art up there. There used to be a ladies’ choir, but otherwise we have nothing to show.
You already have a church here in Obertauern. Do you also have your own priest?
The church was built exactly in 1526 under the Archbishop of Salzburg, Solari, by the cathedral master builder. And the priest changes, sometimes he comes up from Tweng or from Untertauern or Radstadt, the area always changes, sometimes it belongs to the Lungau, sometimes to the Pongau. What is always nice is the Prangtag, a hike to the Seekarhaus on 26 July with stations. Yes, it is beautiful up here, the huts and the alpine pastures, the Twengeralm, our son-in-law built an alpine pasture himself, he is in the Tamsweg farmer school. The huts are all beautiful in summer, not like in winter when they are industrial huts. Like the Dicktenhütte, they all have products from local agriculture. There are still alpine pastures with cattle, but no more for milking, that has stopped. There used to be three alpine pastures. Now the young cattle are up here. In the past everything was overgrown with mountain pines, they cleared them in summer and then there was a mountain pine burner. We have the roots of the mountain pines.
and we used them to heat the fireplace. We still have an open fireplace, thank God. Apart from that, everything up there is district heating. There is a wood chip plant down there, when I was still deputy mayor, that’s when we started the wood chip business in 2003. I was deputy mayor for 10 years and I would have been mayor too, but I’m with the wrong party – the FPÖ, I had 48.5 percent. But we didn’t really have any politics, there was always cross voting, even when it came to building measures. Yes, that was a nice time.
Is there still a lot of new construction going on in Obertauern?
Nothing new is being built, only renovations and improvements, because everything is actually exhausted, there are the ski slopes, there is a nature reserve back there. There’s a lake back there by the Seekarhaus, but they won’t let you dredge it, it’s a mud cesspit, it was actually artificially dammed, it’s a nature reserve by the EU from Brussels, you can’t do anything there, the lake is only 1 metre deep, the fish already have a fungus because they don’t have enough water, the bottom is just mud from the Seekarhaus, the cesspit. Now it’s all canalised, but it’s from the old days. But what my wife noticed was that it used to be green up to there and now the green is already 100 metres further up, the pine trees are already growing 100 metres further up. It’s good for us, then it’s not so cold.