Author: Birgit Hartmann
How lovely it would be after a long day of work to sit at the edge of a lake and watch the evening fall. Your thoughts immersed in the gentle, meditative ripple of the water, reflecting on the events of the day as your sense of calmness increases with every incoming wave. The quiet, the vastness of the lake – this is a true place of energy. So, just consider how amazing it would be to call this one’s workplace and therefore not only end the day but also start it here...
Anna Pirtscher is among the fortunate employees who work at one of the 2,000 standing bodies of water in Austria – in her case, at Lake Altaussee. The forestry manager and biologist with the Austrian Federal Forests not only helps to maintain the forest, she also tends to the stock of young fish in the local waters. “It is a gift to be able to spend my day here and to support nature in so many different ways,” she says during a break from work. And Lake Altaussee is without question one of the most beautiful open-plan offices one could imagine: you get around by boat instead of the underground, your coffee break is sweetened by birdsong, and your favourite colleague is nature itself.
Lakes and rivers provide energy; they have a calming effect and are a valuable resource. Just like the woods, water means something special to Anna – it has a nearly magical attraction for her. Indeed, humans have always sought to be close to water. The reason for this is rooted deeply within us and has to do with our evolution – after all, water is the most important elixir of life, and the distant view across its shores gives one a feeling of security. It's hardly surprising that Anna also spends her leisure time at the Altaussee lake, either on her own to take a breather or to enjoy the idyllic spot with friends.
“The tranquillity, the broad perspective, the fresh air and the clear water – being able to work out in nature is the best thing that could happen to you. The calming sounds that surround you, like the singing of the birds and the lapping of the water, are especially precious.”An Alpine Sense of Life © Österreich Test / WEST4MEDIA Anna Pirtscher, Forestry manager and biologist
The area around the Altaussee lake in the Salzkammergut region is a gem that must be protected. The 214ha lake, also known affectionately as the ‘dark-blue inkwell’ because of its colour, is the native habitat for many fish species such as lake trout, char and perch. To help endangered amphibians such as the Italian crested newt and the yellow-bellied toad reproduce, Anna is involved in the EU LIFE project ‘Ausseerland’, which builds ponds in which newts can spawn and their young can grow up undisturbed. Other items on the agenda of the young biologist are bog re-naturalisation, the introduction of mixed-tree species, and the removal of water barriers – “so that nature is allowed to be itself again, at least a bit,” she says with a smile as she heads off to work at her open-air office.
When it comes to water, not many other countries can measure up to Austria. With over 2,000 standing bodies of water (including 62 lakes) and a river network of some 31,000 km, Austria is one of the most water-rich countries in the world.
Water comes in all forms here - as lakes or as rivers flowing into valleys or cascading down the mountainside as waterfalls. And in winter, fat snowflakes fall from the sky that in spring then feed the lakes as snowmelt.
The average annual precipitation in Austria amounts to about 92 cubic kilometres of water. How much is that? Picture the entire volume of Lake Constance, the second-largest lake in Central Europe, raining down on Austria – twice.
A particularly well-known kind of rain in this country is Salzburg's "Schnürlregen", or string rain, a special form of fine drizzle that looks like it is raining thin threads.