"Either you love it or you hate it. You can't stand it up here," says Roman and smiles mischievously. The landlord of the Matrashaus on Hochkönig loves it up there, there is no doubt about that. For 20 years now, he has spent every summer at 2,942 meters above sea level. We were allowed to talk to him about his life on the summit of the Hochkönig, about weather apps, respect for nature and why he doesn't want to be anywhere else.
We meet Roman in the cosy restaurant of the Matras House. A brick tiled stove provides cosy warmth, the guest room is pleasantly quiet. Many of the overnight guests have already left, the day guests have not yet arrived. Roman Kurz has been awake for a long time. "When there is a lot going on, I get up at 4.45 a.m. and make breakfast. Then we clear everything away, clean the house. Then we prepare for dinner, which is at 6 pm. By the time we get to bed, it's between 10:30 and 11:00," says Roman. "Official hut rest is at 10 p.m. and the next day we start again at just before five. Roman smiles. He never gets bored at the matras house. He has experienced a lot up here over the last 20 years - a real treasure chest of anecdotes, experiences and memories.
"We just live here"
Every year from the beginning of June to the end of September, Roman and his wife Jenny run the Matras House. How long exactly they stay at the highest point of the Hochkönig depends on the weather, says Roman. The two regularly report the current situation on their Facebook page - even at almost 3,000 meters, they keep up with the times. "The weather can change quickly," says Roman. "That's why the guests keep asking me: Roman, what will the weather be like tomorrow? When I then say: Well, the weather forecast says one way or another, many people answer: But you, as a lodge owner, surely know that better! I always have to laugh," says Roman and his eyes flash. He really enjoys life here at the Matras House - we can see that. "For my wife and I, this is our life," says Roman. His gaze wanders out of the window, over the peaks, into the distance. "For us this is not work in the classical sense. Many people differentiate between life and work. We don't make this distinction. That's probably what makes it so: We simply live here. And we don't want to be anywhere else.
"Landlord was my dream job"
Whereby this "home" feeling was not there from the first moment, Roman tells us. "When I first came up here 20 years ago, it was March. In the evening there was a beautiful sunset and everything was white with snow. And as I stood there, I thought to myself: Madness! What have I done? I got really scared. The feeling of being at home had already lasted for a while. But today I can say: here I am at home. This development, this being at home, is sometimes the most beautiful thing in the last 20 years. Born in Berchtesgaden, Germany, his passion for the mountains was practically born in his cradle. "Even as a boy I liked to go to the mountains. Landlord was my dream job." Roman pauses for a moment, reflects. "Just like helicopter pilots do for others. I've always wanted to be a cabin warden. About 26 years ago, the Watzmannhaus became available. Roman did not miss this chance. "I applied for the Watzmannhaus and became an innkeeper." But even then, Roman reveals, he was already tempted by the extreme. "When I heard that the Matras House would be free, I didn't think twice."
The Hochkönig leaves traces
Roman particularly appreciates the extreme location of the Matras House. "The people who come up here - after six hours of demanding hiking - they have made a kind of reset. That opens up the people in a certain way." Roman also thinks it's nice that more and more children are hiking up here with their parents. "And it's wonderful to see how the children notice the special things up here. They sense that. Just the other day there was a family with a small, shy boy. The father told me that the boy absolutely wanted to hike up here. I then gave him a Matras House T-shirt. As I said, the boy was shy and did not say much. But when he came down the stairs with the T-shirt, I saw a few tears of joy", Roman interrupts himself briefly, has wet eyes. "That's so nice to see that it makes a difference with the children. That the Hochkönig leaves traces."
"Nature is mercilessly honest"
We want to know if Roman is sometimes afraid - up here, where he is so exposed to nature. Roman laughs, shakes his head. "I'm afraid of all kinds of things," he says. "But nature, I don't fear it. The mountain is merciless, but also mercilessly honest. There are simply rules, and you have to obey them." Things always get dangerous when the weather is dry, Roman says. "When a thunderstorm comes down in the Tauern mountains and everything up here becomes statically charged - then it becomes dangerous. Then the scalp starts to tingle, the hair stands up and I know: lightning is about to strike somewhere. When it's so "weathery", then he won't leave the hut, says Roman. "Then I just look out to see if there's anyone else standing outside and shout from the hut: Come on in! Then it's often really a matter of minutes. Once, Roman tells us, a school class was visiting. When the storm was almost here, the children were still outside. "They were standing right by the summit cross," Roman remembers. "There was a girl with long blonde hair. Her hair was really standing on end because of the static electricity." Roman then quickly dusted these students in the hut. Because the mountain and the weather, you just have to respect both components.
The mountain makes the rules
The mountain has its own laws, says Roman. "Up here the mountain makes the rules. And they do not adhere to working hours. They don't care if there's a traffic jam down there or not. People are no longer used to that, many have to adjust. But that's just the way it is." So what should one consider when planning a hike to the mattress house? "Hood, gloves, anorak - in any weather," says Roman. "And be sure to leave early enough. Some people believe that if they go up for five hours and see on their weather app on their cell phone that a thunderstorm is coming at 5 p.m., then it's enough to leave at half past eleven. And then the thunderstorm comes earlier and in the worst case they have a serious problem. So make sure you always plan enough time. And don't just rely on the weather app on your cell phone. In addition novel an anecdote occurs. "Once," he says, "a hiker came up to us and sat down in the hut by the window. The weather was so mixed - not good, but not bad either. He kept looking outside, then back at his cell phone. Later the weather got better, there was only one cloud hanging over the Dachstein. He looked at his cell phone again, then out the window. Then he asked me: "Say, when is the rain coming? And I was amazed and said: "But look outside, the sky is blue! But there's no rain. And he says: "Yes, that's what confuses me so much", Roman shakes his head, smiles inside himself. "Something like that is really funny."
Without the right people "below" it would not work
The biggest difference between mountain and valley for him is the sense of time, says Roman. "When I'm down in the valley, I always have the feeling that I could actually do this or that right now. I'm always under pressure. I don't have that feeling up here. Things that are necessary must be done immediately. No matter if I'm tired or not, if I like it or not. If you accept that fact, it's a wonderful life up here." Still, it wouldn't work without a good contact to the people "below", says Roman. "If the neighbors, the butcher or the baker wouldn't support us like that, it wouldn't work with us. We are dependent on the helicopter for our supplies. And it only works when the weather is right. And so our suppliers must always depend on the weather. And they do that too. That is a very nice thing.
The real life
We would like to thank Roman for the exciting insights - he has to get back into the kitchen slowly, the next guests will soon arrive. And his everyday life at the Matras House continues. "I believe in the meantime that what we live here is the real life," says Roman and smiles again. "Not the life that they live down there." And the way he says that and sits resting in himself in the dining room of the Matras House, with more than 200 three-thousanders in his back and a smile on his face - we believe that too.