Flinserlumzug Bad Aussee

To The Carnival-Afterparty In Bad Aussee

By Reinhard Mandl*

On Shrove Tuesday the streets of Bad Aussee in the Styrian Salzkammergut region are taken over by the traditional Arbeiter-Trommelweiber, and the famous Ausseer Flinserl with their imaginative costumes also make their big appearance on the last of the three holy days of carnival. Reason enough to travel to the Aussee region once again, especially since the journey there itself already offers some wonderful experiences, especially the trip with the Salzkammergut cable car.

A picturesque journey

I arrive punctually at Bad Aussee station on Shrove Tuesday at 9:41 am. I have been sitting on the train for almost four hours, and yet the journey could have taken even longer. The second leg from Attnang-Puchheim to Bad Aussee was particularly impressive. Since the trains on the Salzkammergut cable car are much slower than on the western line, I had a lot of leisure during the ride to enjoy the magical landscape through the train window. The absolute highlight was the ride alongside Lake Hallstatt, with the unobstructed view of the world heritage site of Hallstatt on the opposite shore. Seen from a distance, the dimensions of the unique location of this place were even more impressive: Rugged mountains rise up almost vertically around the town of Hallstatt.

From the train station in Bad Aussee, my path first leads along the railway promenade. After just a few meters, I get to know the typical architecture of the Aussee region: well-proportioned residential buildings with wood-clad upper floors and pretty balconies.

I meet a friendly gentleman who lists the names of the imposing mountain peaks around me: They are called Sarstein, Sandling, Loser, Tressenstein and Trisselwand. He also tells me that there are several carnival parades taking place today. “The Trommelweiber are already on their way, at half past two there is an adoration at the Blaue Traube inn.” An adoration of the “drummer wives” – what does that mean? “The young people who are attending for the first time have to pass a kind of initiation, for example, drink a quarter of a litre of brandy. If they are still very young, though, a glass of milk is enough. There are also donuts that could be filled with mustard. The newcomers are also required to take a vow: I pledge to use all my strength on the holy three days of carnival to nip any eagerness to work in the bud,” the knowledgeable gentleman recites with a mischievous smile.

I reach the Kurhausplatz square at the same time as a strange group of figures clad in white and playing musical instruments. They wear old-fashioned white nightgowns with lace caps and are led by the Obertrommelweib, who swings a kind of baton. A closer look reveals some quite masculine faces behind the various women’s masks since all of them are in fact men. The costumes are a mocking reference to resolute wives who had to bring their men home late at night from various Aussee taverns. As a counterpart to the bourgeois “market drummer wives”, who have held processions through Aussee on Rose Monday since 1767, the “worker drummer wives” (Arbeiter-Trommelweiber) were founded in 1928 and hold their procession on Shrove Tuesday. The so-called “fifth season” (carnival) is not staged as a tourist attraction in the Aussee region. Rather, it is a long-standing tradition in which large parts of the population are actively involved.

At 2:00 pm, the Ausseer Flinserl also have their big appearance. Musicians perform in front of the “Blaue Traube” inn. These are also attired in eye-catching, fluttering costumes – light linen suits, on which imaginative patterns of different coloured felt fabrics are stitched by hand, and decorated with shiny silver sequins, called “Flinserln”. The inspiration for these costumes is likely to have been brought to the Aussee region from Venice in the 18th century. The precious costumes are sometimes more than a hundred years old and are passed on from generation to generation.

When the procession begins, there are already a lot of children on the roadsides and on the square, who excitedly shout “Nuuss, Nuuuss!” (“nut”) as soon as they see the Flinserl coming down the street. Each time one of the children says it, the Flinserl reach into their linen bags and throw a handful of nuts and other sweets into the air. The Flinserl are led by musicians, with two bodyguards at the front, the so-called “Zocherln”. They carry sticks with inflated pig bladders attached to them. Their job is to clear the way for the procession through the many onlookers, while also making sure that the adults do not lay hands on the sweets for the children.

In addition to the Flinserl and the Trommelweiber, other costumes can be seen in the cheerful throng, such as the “Pless”. They move through the streets with wicker baskets on their heads and carry sticks with cleaning rags attached to them. In Ischler Strasse (Ischler Street), I observe two Miss Marples talking in a “very British” nasal accent, to the general amusement of the crowd. The streets of Bad Aussee are now also frequented by the “Maschkera”, masked figures who stroll through the city until late into the night.

Unfortunately, I cannot stay that long. Shortly before 4 pm, I walk back to the station with many impressions in my head. With a few minutes delay, the express train from the Styrian railway junction Stainach-Irdning rolls into the platform at Bad Aussee. I have been on my feet all day, so now I enjoy the luxury of stretching out my legs and letting the landscape pass by outside the train window. I arrive back at Vienna Central Station shortly after 8 pm.

depart from Vienna Central Station at 5:55 am, arrive in Bad Aussee at 09:41 am (via Attnang-Puchheim) // depart from Bad Aussee at 4:16 pm, arrive at Vienna Central Station at 8:05 pm. (CO2 emission savings compared to driving by car: 105.64 kg)

* This text is an abridged version of chapter 1 of his book Discover Austria with the KlimaTicket – 20 Trips by Bus and Rail.