The Secret Retreat at Märzengrund

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Have you ever wondered what the life of a hermit is like? And where he lives? For forty years, a hermit named “Siml” lived in one of most remote areas of Inner Zillertal. We wanted to find about more about this secret retreat, which might as well make a rewarding filming location. Anna Griesser from the Cine Tirol Team went in search of a man who chose to live in solitary—and she found this place of complete isolation. Here is her travelogue:

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Every time I start planning an internal Cine Tirol Location Scouting, I am full of joyful anticipation and curiosity. I am looking forward to the places that will be shown to me and even more to the people I will meet.

On our last location tour across Zillertal Valley, however, I recognized that this is much more than the search for stunning locations; it is as well a journey in search of the tales that become the stuff of legend.

Naturally, Siml is a local legend at Tripplonalm Alpine Pasture Hut.

Naturally, Siml is a local legend at Tripplonalm Alpine Pasture Hut.

What triggered this Location Tour off among others was an article about the “Stummer Schrei” Festival of Culture in Zillertal Valley. This year’s main theater piece is titled “Märzengrund”, a play that was specifically written for the festival by Tirolean author Felix Mitterer. Based upon a true story, it tells the life of a hermit who lived alone in the Märzengrund area and was considered a real man of nature. The article as well showed a picture of the remote retreat, which made me think it could be an amazing filming location.

A farmer’s son who went into the wilderness at an early age, built a cabin high in the mountains in a place called Märzengrund, where he lived alone for forty years. Why did he choose such a reclusive lifestyle, shunning civilization for decades? What did the people in the village say? What kind of life is this, alone in the remote mountain wilderness? Whether determined to live “off the grid,” disillusioned with society or simply out of contact with the outside world, he lived in self-imposed seclusion for decades. So I headed out to find some answers to these questions.

The Drive Into Remote Wilderness

Together with our trainee Anna and heavily loaded with photographic equipment I drove into Zillertal Valley to meet our contact Rupert from the local Tourist Information Office.

Even getting to the area of Grund was an adventure in itself and during a photo stop at Gmündaste, we could already feel that there was something special about this place. This Aste, a remote mountain wilderness location, was the winter residence of Simon Koch, aka “Siml”, the hermit of the Märzengrund (the cabin was built entirely by himself, by the way).

We continued our drive into Märzengrund, up on the left hand side to get to Obweinalm Alpine Pasture Hut to take a few snaps first. After that, we drove up the right hand side of the valley to Tripplonalm Alpine Pasture Hut. The more we talked to Rupert, the more the story of “Siml”, who willingly lived in seclusion for decades, was revealed to Anna and me.

Having arrived at Hochleger, the high Alpine pasture hut, we met two “milkers” who knew the hermit personally. Though he was seen as an eccentric and a recluse, the two men described him as a kind soul and told us some tales. Having chosen to live on the fringes of life, “Siml” spent his summers a few hundred meters above Tripplonalm Alpine Pasture Hut in complete solitude in a remote area, continuously trying not get to get caught by the sun, as he considered sunrays harmful.

Einer der Melcher zeigt uns die Richtung zu Simls Sommeralm

One of the milkers shows us the way to Siml’s Summer Pasture.

A Dead Hermit turns into a Folk Legend

Listening to the tales about Simon Koch, we understand that he became the stuff of legend, a folktale for modern times. Upon leaving Märzengrund, we had got a proper idea of “Siml” and were able to form a clear picture of his unusual way of life and his lack of desire to be a part of any formal civilization. How he built his cabin high in the mountains at Grund where he lived in seclusion for decades. How he alternately covered one of his eyes with a cloth to avoid the rays of the sun. How he never spent more than a few moments with other humans, choosing instead to remain alone. And although we both thought that a life like this, in a cabin high up in the mountains in complete solitude, was not exactly our cup of tea, we somehow could understand him.

Based around this unique story, our mere location scouting had turned into a journey tracing the life of a remarkable man. We followed in the footsteps of Simon Koch to learn about his unusual way of life and to understand why this young man wished to live a solitary life. Why he did shun the maelstrom of modern life and headed off into the mountain wilderness. Living there for decades and all year round, summer and winter… We will never know, but one thing is for sure: He lived in self-imposed isolation in his home at Märzengrund—and in peace and quiet.

Aussicht auf Simls Winteralm

View of Siml’s Winter Pasture.

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