Thursday, September 4, 2014

Little Free Library, Austrian Style

I recently spend a few days in Obertraun, Austria while on vacation.

We stayed at the Seehotel, which is across the lake from the more touristy town of Hallstatt. While Hallstatt is beautiful, it's also crowded with tourists from all points on the globe and rooms are booked way in advance.

I was thrilled to see this bookcase in one of the common areas of the Seehotel. Most of the books were in German, some in Russian, and a few in English.
The only English novel I spied on that bookcase. Saturday Night and Sunday Morning by Alan Sillitoe.
Obertraun was perfect for our stay and the day we spent in Hallstatt was fun--full of browsing shops, visits to churches, and a hike up the mountain. However, there is no bookstore in either Obertraun or Hallstatt.

Local businessman Wolfgang Müllegger took matters into his own hands earlier this summer and brought books to the people, without using public funds. He designed his own variation on what we call, here in States, Little Free Libraries. Bücherschränks is what they're called in the newspaper article that someone left inside the free library, which means 'bookcase.'  Müllegger donated three free libraries, one of which is conveniently located behind the Seehotel on the shore of the Lake Hallstatt.

For a list of such free public bookcases (öffentlicher Bücherschränke) in German speaking countries check out this Wikipedia page. It's in German, but there are pictures.You'll notice that most of these really are bookcases and not little.
We first stumbled upon the Bücherschränk that's behind the Seehotel hotel in the dark while on a walk exploring the grounds after dinner. That's me above posing with it the next morning to give you an idea of its size.
There was a thunderstorm one night during our stay and the wind whipping down the mountains and off the lake make those sturdy legs a must! The morning after the storm I was surprised none of the books inside were wet or even damp (of course I had to check on them...you would've, too).
A newspaper clipping someone left inside, dated July 2, 2014.
A stamp to use on your contribution to the cause, identifying the book as coming from the free bookcase in Obertraun.
Some of the books.
My German isn't good enough to take a book, but if it were this book would've been my choice.

I want to go back!
Note: If you should ever book a stay at the Seehotel or any hotel in Obertraun it will be helpful to know that the building numbers won't help you find your destination. After driving around, baffled by the numbers on the houses--24 next to 12 next to 101--we stopped to ask for directions. Our GPS was useless. A woman explained that the building numbers represent the order in which a house was built. Oh, okay. In that case 2 next to 89 next to 43 makes sense.

One night while walking home from dinner a car pulled up and a young man got out and asked if we knew where the Seehotel was. He was Korean. After fumbling around in German it came out that he spoke English (very well) and so we were able to give him directions with landmarks. We all had a good laugh about that later at the hotel.

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