„Hier ward der Sieg errungen über einen mächtigen, compacten Alpenzug“. Der Semmering in Reiseführern zwischen 1852 und 1873
With the Railway Age, the perception of the landscape has changed. In Austria, the world’s first high mountain railway was built in the middle of the 19th century. It crosses the Alps at one of their eastern foothills, the Semmering. The central subject of this study is the landscape that was completely transformed by the construction of the Semmering Railway between 1852 and 1873. How was the Semmering perceived before it was discovered by the Viennese society as a region of summer resort? How were the massive changes in the Alpine landscape caused by the construction of the railway portrayed in the medium of contemporary travel guides?
The sources investigated cover the period from the construction of the Semmering Railway to the discovery of the region as a summer resort. Starting with the first travel guides to the construction site and ending with the travel guides to the completed railway, seven main sources were analysed. As a starting point for the qualitative content analysis, a system of categories was developed as a search grid to filter the relevant aspects for answering the research question. The analysis follows the process of coding, paraphrasing and generalizing, and clearly reveals different levels of perception.
The landscape in which the railway was built was described in extremely positive, poetic formulations. The negatively judging descriptions are particularly remarkable in the context of the travel guides, as they can be read as a critical reflection of the changed situation. Instead of regretting the destruction of nature, the victory of man or technology over nature was celebrated. From the comparison of the travel guides to the construction site and those to the completed railway, the progress of the construction work is clearly readable. The magnificence of the construction project was beyond question from the very beginning. The travel guides allow one to comprehend this, at the time rather young, transformation of the landscape; they open up a differentiated view of the landscape.