After Salzburg, I only had a few days before my Slovenian language course started in Ljubljana (Slovenia), but I decided to break up the relatively short trip there and stop for a night in Seeboden, which is on Lake Millstatt in southwestern Austria. This is not a typical town on most Austrian travel itineraries, but it has a special significance to me because it is the place where my mother was born.
My mother’s family, like many other Slovenian families, fled into Austria after the end of WWII. They lived in a displaced persons camp in nearby Spittal for several years before emigrating to the US. During this time, my mother was born in a local maternity ward -formerly a villa- in Seeboden that was later converted into a hotel. (She was three years old when they came to the US). I was luckily able to see this hotel on my first trip to Europe 20 years ago, but as those memories are fuzzy, I thought it would be nice to stop by again since I was in the neighborhood, so to speak. Sadly, the old hotel was razed and has been replaced by a modern hotel and recreation center (which wouldn’t be such a terrible thing if it wasn’t so garishly designed. Boo).
I stayed on the main street running through the town and was able to walk around the whole town in about two hours. I passed by many beautifully decorated homes and guest houses, all with the signature carved wooden balconies and flower boxes that I have come to associate with Slovenia itself. There was a Friday night festival going on right across the street from my hotel; live music played while vendors sold wooden handicrafts, baskets, and local meats, cheeses, and honey. I also spent some time in a small park that is right across the street from the site of the old hotel; I spoke to an older woman (who was walking both her dog and her cat!) who remembered the presence of the hospital there. I was actually in search of a bridge that is infamous from one of my mother’s stories: while living in the DP camp in Spittal, my grandfather had worked as a bicycle delivery man. He would work at outside farms that would pay him in produce, which he would then take by bike back to Spittal to sell. (It was illegal to go outside a 50km radius of the camp, but my mother states that my grandfather didn’t care and even convinced one of the policemen into loading his bike onto a train so he could travel to more distant farms for work!) Apparently he was taking a crate of 13 dozen eggs from a farm back to the camp when his bike crashed and fell on one of the bridges in Seeboden. My mother says that he always claimed that the eggs survived the fall unscathed, save two, which suffered only small cracks.
Here are some scenes from the picturesque town of Seeboden.