I took the number 5310 PostBus from the centre of Klagenfurt to Maiernigg, on the shore of the Wörthersee, and walked up the narrow 640m woodland path to Mahler's Komponierhäuschen, the 'little composing house'. It was good to be out in the country again after so long in cities and on trains. It's very peaceful and isolated up there – even today with traffic on the road below – and I can see why Mahler found it so perfect for composing. One bad thing, though, is that the first thing you see as you approach the hut along the path is a bright red portaloo!

The building is only about 5m square inside. The structure itself and the window fittings are the only original items, and it now has a polished wood floor and modern light fittings. Mahler had a desk and a baby grand piano in the room. The only music, other than his own, was by Bach, and he kept the manuscripts locked in a wall safe, the site of which is still there. His bookshelf contained all the works of Goethe, and of the philosopher Kant.

Each morning, according to Alma Mahler, Gustav would get up at about 6:00am and make his way up to his study in the woods. The cook was expected to have been there first with breakfast, using a steep and slippery path through the trees rather than the regular path, because Mahler couldn't tolerate seeing anyone else before he started work.

Building work had started on the 'composing cottage' and the lakeside house, to designs by a local amateur architect called Theuer, at the end of 1899, and the cottage was ready for Mahler to use in the summer of 1900. It would give him the peaceful yet inspiring environment that he needed for composing, away from the pressure of his post, since 1897, of artistic director to the Imperial and Royal Court Opera in Vienna, the highest position to be achieved by a musician at that time. It was a job he took very seriously, conducting more than 100 performances during his first opera season, in addition to rehearsals and administration work. The site by the Wörthersee had been located by his sister Justine and his friend Natalie Bauer-Lechner. Mahler married Alma Schindler in 1902, and she joined him at Maiernigg that summer.

You can barely see the lake from the hut. I wandered all round the outside among the trees and tried to take photos that would convey the feeling of isolation and hiding, some including the hut and others just of the woodland. I took a couple of pictures inside, which was OK, but I felt inhibited by the caretaker looking on.

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