The Zillertal is the biggest valley branching off the Inntal in Tyrol,
Austriadrained by the river Ziller. It is surrounded by the strongly glaciated Zillertaler Alpen to the south and east, the lower grass peaks of the Kitzbüheler Alpento the east and Tuxer Alpen to the west. The largest settlement is Mayrhofen.
The Zillertal branches off from the Inntal near
Jenbach, about 40km northeast of Innsbruck, running mostly in a north-south direction. The Zillertal proper stretches from the village of [http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strass_im_Zillertal Strass] to Mayrhofen, where it separates into four smaller valleys, the Tuxertaland the sparsely settled, so-called "Gründe" - Zamsergrund, Zillergrund and Stilluppgrund. Along the way, two more "Gründe" and the Gerlostal, which leads to the Gerlos Pass and into Salzburg, branch off.
Unlike other side valleys of the Inntal, the Zillertal rises constantly, but only marginally, from one end to the other - only about 100 m over 30 km. Permanent settlements cover about 9% of the entire area of the Zillertal municipalities.
Near the Tuxer Joch, a pass between the
Wipptaland the Tuxertal, there have been archeological finds from middle Stone Age. The oldest remains of settlements in the Zillertal date back to the Illyriansduring the late Bronze and early Iron Ages - a tribe from the Balkan Peninsula who were absorbed by the Bavarians ( Baiuvarii).
The earliest written record of the Zillertal dates from 889, when
Arnulf of Carinthiagranted land to the Archbishop of Salzburgin the "Cilarestal". Ownership of the valley was divided along the river Ziller. Even today this division is visible, as churches on the right bank of the river generally have green towers and belong to Salzburg Diocese, while churches on the left bank have red towers and belong to Innsbruck Diocese.
In 1248 the land west of the Ziller was acquired by the Counts of Tyrol, while the lands east of the Ziller pledged as security to the Counts of Tyrol by the Lords of
Rattenbergfrom 1290 to 1380. In 1504, with both the County of Tyrol and the Archbishopric of Salzburgdominated by the Habsburgs, the Zillertal valley was united under Emperor Maximilianand put under joint Tyrolean/Salzburgian rule.
In 1805, the
Treaty of Pressburgended the War of the Third Coalitionand forced Austria to cede Tyrol to Bavaria. For the purposes of this treaty, the Zillertal was considered part of Salzburg and thus remained with Austria. The people of the Zillertal nevertheless joined Andreas Hofer's Tyrolean Insurrectionof 1809 in the Battle of the Ziller Bridge (14 May). Later that year, the insurrection was defeated and the Zillertal briefly became Bavarian until the Congress of Viennain 1814/1815. While the relatively lenient stance of the archbishops of Salzburg had allowed the creation of small pockets of Protestantismin their lands since the Protestant Reformation, the remaining Protestants were oppressed more harshly during the Habsburgrule of the 19th century. In 1837, 437 Protestant inhabitants of the Zillertal left the valley after they were given the choice of renouncing the Augsburg Confessionor emigrating to Silesia, where Frederick William III of Prussiaoffered them lands and housing near Erdmannsdorf(now Myslakowicein western Poland).
In 1902, the Zillertalbahn railway was constructed, which still runs between Jenbach and Mayrhofen to this day, opening up the valley, the economy of which had previously relied mostly on
agricultureand mining, to commerceand tourism. From 1921 to 1976, magnesium carbonate(and later tungsten) were mined around the Alpine pastures of the Schrofen and Wangl "Almen" above the Tuxertal A ropeway conveyorof more than 9 km length was used to transport the ore to the Zillertalbahn cargo station in the valley below.
With the downfall of the mining industry in the valley, tourism has become the dominant economical factor in the second half of the 20th century and beyond. There are now (as of 2003) 6 million nights spent by tourists in the valley, mostly during
winter sportsholidays. Following a phase of mergers by building connecting lifts during the 1990s and early 2000s, there are now four big ski areas and three smaller satellite areas in the valley, with a combined total of more than 170 lifts and more than 630 km of downhill slopes.
Traditional agriculture - mostly
cattle, dairyand some sheepfarming on the "Alm" pastures - is still widespread, securing the continued existence of this predominant cultural landscape. There is also a significant lumberindustry with a large sawmilloutside the village of Fügen, and a relatively large number of factories of various industries in the outher valley. Four large reservoirs in the "Gründe" supply the water for a total of eight hydroelectric power stations generating slightly more than 1,200 GWhper year.
The Zillertal is particularly renowned for its musical tradition. For instance, several families of travelling singers and organ builders from the valley have been credited with spreading the
Christmas carol" Silent Night" across the world during the 19th and early 20th centuries. More recently, the Schürzenjägerband have had tremendous success in German-speaking countries with their crossover mix of " Volksmusik" and pop.
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