- CHRISTMAS IN AUSTRIA -

Rattenburg Part 1

LINKS to other pages in the 'Christmas in Austria' site and to the Travelling Days series:

1 : Welcome to Austria
2 : Schloss Hotel Rosenegg
3 : Fieberbrunn
4 : Salzburg
5 : Innsbruck
6 : Kitzbühel
7 : Rattenburg
8 : Austrian Countryside etc.

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RATTENBERG is one of the smallest towns in the Tirol. Its architecture is a typical example of a so called Inn-Salzach-Town (multi-storey buildings with oriels and the front facades facing the streets). Rattenberg was built between high rocks and the Inn river at the foot of a ruined 10th century castle.

In former times Rattenberg was a trade centre for the 'bateau' shipping on the river Inn and served as a 'customs house' on the border between Bavaria and the Tyrol.

Founded in the 1300s, Rattenburg was built in the shadow of Rat Mountain. It was designed to protect itself from marauders but protection comes at a price. Rattenberg, now a little town of only 600 inhabitants, still preserves a uniquely medieval appearance with its handsome oriel-windowed burghers' houses of the 15th and 16th C.

Today Rattenberg is a centre for the glass industry (see the next page of this site). The Gothic centre was originally a long a narrow passage for traffic from the west to the east. Today the centre is a pedestrian zone. The traffic route goes on a tunnelled bypass or on the Inntal Highway across the river.

Like an estimated sixty other communities situated in the Tirol region of the Alps, Rattenberg receives little or no sunlight during the winter. It is one of the few places at at a significant distance from the Arctic Circle that has a time of permanent darkness.

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On a projecting spur above the town lie the ruins of Schloss Rattenberg within which are held open air dramatic performances during the summer.

The castle was erected in the 11th century by the Bavarians as a bastion against the Tirol. In the 15th century it was massively fortified by an outer wall. It also served as a prison and it was here that the Chancellor of Tirol, Wilhelm Biener, was beheaded in 1651 on a false charge.

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In November of 2005, the town announced that it would be introducing thirty specialized rotating mirrors called heliostats to reflect sunlight into parts of the town during the winter months. The $2.4 million operation was suggested by Bartenbach Lichtlabor GmbH, a lighting design company. The EU in 2005 indicated that it would foot half the bill.



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In detail, thirty computer-controlled 8 feet (2.5 metre) square reflectors, or "heliostats", will be placed half a mile to the north of the village in the sun-kissed neighbouring commune of Kramsach. The hi-tech mirrors, precision engineered to ensure they are completely flat and thus reflect light accurately, will then bounce the sun rays back to another array of reflectors fixed to the remains of a 17th-century fort on the slopes of the Stadtberg overlooking Rattenberg.

This second set of mirrors will direct the sunshine down into the village at a dozen strategic points, bathing the courtyards and house facades in winter sunshine for the first time since it started life as a silver and copper mine in the 1100s.

Helmar Zangerl, the joint managing director of the Bartenbach Light Laboratory, a private academy specialising in illumination and allied to the University of Innsbruck, is extremely enthusiastic about he project. He has said: "The principle is very simple - to take the sunshine from where it is plentiful into a place where it is not using a material we have had for millennia. Of course, the practice is more difficult, but this project will have a massive psychological benefit by giving people sunshine when they have learnt not to expect it."

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The wine House (right)....

....
and the Gothic parish church which is featured on the next page (below)



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