Barbara Kern's small home town of Bad Goisern on Lake Hallstatt is also the location of her Hand.Werk.Haus, a tribute to local craftsmanship, which allows the historian to combine her profession with her passion for tradition. Every morning, she rides her bicycle through the winding streets to the institution housed in Neuwildenstein Palace. Built in the 18th century as an administration building for a local prince, the palace presents the master craftspeople of the region.
At the far end of the handcrafts shop, visitors climb a short flight of wooden steps to reach the upper level of the Hand.Werk.Haus. Through the windows in the old walls, light falls on the tools and other objects on exhibit. Shoemakers, wood turners, carpenters, upholsterers and decorators, hat makers, and clock makers share the exhibition space. A master optician is represented as well, who makes his eyeglass frames out of genuine stag horn, a special material you rarely find in good quality. Also on display are depictions of working conditions of the past, and products of the present day – like the so-called “Tracht”, the traditional costume, which originated as work garb.
“In the old days, work garb in the Salzkammergut was a simply cut ‘Tracht’”, explains Barbara Kern. “The word ‘Tracht’ comes from ‘tragen’, to wear. It was first and foremost practical and durable clothing and intended for everyday work. The material used to make them was usually an inexpensive wool or linen. Only the privileged upper classes could afford silk, cotton, or other fine materials.” The men wore lederhosen for woodcutting and hunting. Generally made from goat hide and worn as knickerbockers, they were part of everyday dress.
“Only in the course of the 19th century”, continues Barbara Kern, “did people begin using the traditional costume as an expression of their origins, and this became increasingly important.” Today, every local “Tracht” has its own distinctive colour and pattern: there is, for example, the “Ausseer Dirndl” and, as a recent addition, the “Hallstatt Dirndl” – designed and custom-tailored in the region.
The best time to experience the region is during the “Meistersommer” or summer of masters. Each year from mid-June to the beginning of September, the Hand.Werk.Haus Bad Goisern invites visitors to events and exhibitions featuring the region’s master craftspeople. In 2019, it will celebrate its tenth anniversary.
Barbara Kern is excited about the event: “For nearly ten years the knowledge about traditions and handcrafts has been passed on to the younger generation. For this, in 2016 the institution was also included in UNESCO’s Register of Good Safeguarding Practices for the Preservation of Intangible Cultural Heritage.
While the bodice of the “Ausseer Dirndl” is green, the skirt pink and the apron lavender, Katharina Stork and Rebecca Schilcher have designed their “Hallstatt Dirndl” according to the colours of the lake and the landscape.
They make a conscious reference to the geographic surroundings: the grey bodice makes the connection to the millennia-old salt production on the Salzberg – with grey representing the rocky mountain face.
The blue skirt symbolizes the water, and the pink apron refers to the vitality and exuberance of the people here.
The buttons are also of interest: they are modelled after prehistoric brooches from the Hallstatt Period (800 to 450 BCE).