Austria Adventure around Salzkammergut region

FYI:  This posting is directly from my journal, it has not been edited and does come with it’s fair share of type-o’s and abbreviations.  I hope you enjoy nonetheless.  Photos are posted on FaceBook only for now.

Best wishes to you…

June 26-8, 2016

Setting off on another adventure, this time meeting up with friends and family along the way with plenty of hiking and nature throughout.

As with many trips, it seems something happens to shake up the game before departure. This trip it came in the form of an injury made a bit worse after running about 1/2 of the 1/2 Mammoth Marathon with a crash and burn on the Tarmac thrown in.
Air Berlin with it’s tiny seats and extra fee for reserving a seat.
All transport seemed a bit delayed with my name being paged in Düsseldorf for my connecting flight to Munich, which it turned out was also delayed. Friendly people through and through, and nice to share the journey to that point with friends.

Nicole, River and puppy were so kind to meet me at the train station.

Dinner in Hershgarten, the largest beer garden in Europe. I tried the local dumplings with local mushrooms… Yummy, but heavy food. I was craving fresh veggies, so also got a small salad which came drenched in dressing and laid on a bed of coleslaw and potatoes. The best part was sharing the yummy wheat beer with Nicole and John…and River (sparkling water)…oh, and of course Bennie too. The Italians were hammering it out on the soccer field with Spain on the big telies adding a bit of excitement now and again as goals were earned. Another game going on that likely was rather an upset to England was Iceland’s dominance. I love it when the underdog wins!

After we walked over to visit and feed the local deer and one goat some fresh potatoes Nicole brought for the occasion. The entire setting is lush and forested with dogs all off leash playing and frolicking with one another. It’s the way it should be I think. Hershgarten means “dear garden” as this was the grounds surrounding the local castle and where hunting once was a big thing. Now the dear are protected, as they should be.

I slept in this morning after a good night’s sleep, having woken about 7:30 to say thank you and good-bye to John and Nicole. Bennie and I went back to sleep afterwards and conked out until 10…yikes! It sure felt good though. So Darling Bennie and I just enjoyed a leisurely morning in their lovely garden before I set off on my way.

So far language buriers haven’t been too much of a deal. The trick for me is to just go slow, be in the moment and keep asking as until I get to where I need to be. I took some wandering an asking to find the main ticket counter to buy my ticket to Salzburg, but all is well as I am writing from just that train. I love the trains in Europe… So smooth and fast with lovely scenery out the window. The only “stink” is literally just that. In my room on the train is a friendly elder man who doesn’t seem to be as keen on showering as some of us are and there’s a bit of a smell. I think I’m getting a little used to it, but hope I don’t absorb things and offend John and Ghislain at the other end. He’s getting off earlier than I, so I think all will be well.

Yippee… Off to Salzburg!

June 29, Wednesday
Off to Wolfgang. John is checking out photos of it on his iPad as we enjoy a leisurely brekky in our cute apartment in Salzburg. Over a latish dinner last night in a lovely biergarten under huge trees and served by a friendly waiter we chatted about our day exploring old town and climbing the hill up to the Castle that overlooks this very special city. I think I might add this place to my list of “places to live” for a while when my life heads in a direction that lets me live that dream. It’s a charming place, very clean, loads of history, gorgeous parks, lush gardens, a delightful river, and stunning mountain views all around. It does snow here, so perhaps I’d live here in springtime or fall with a shorter visit during the holidays to see it all dressed up for the season.

Wed. 29-June

Bus to the lovely lakeside town of St Wolfgang. One might assume the name derives from Mr. Mozart, but in fact this Wolfgang was a pilgrim and the walk we will do tomorrow is a part of his route. Getting here on public bus was uneventful aside from the screaming school kids in the back. They got off about 2/3 of the way along and peace was able to make its way to our journey. The scenery is idyllic as one might imagine in these parts with wildflowers sprinkling the lush pastures, cows enjoying their lovely feast, a torquise blue lake shimmering in the warm sunshine, spectacular mountains framing out the scene with gorgeous Percheron horses leading carts down cobbled streets lined with charming chalets painted in every cheery color one can imagine. I made good friends with a couple of the horses and thought I could easily hang out with them the whole day. I got kisses from the horses and my day was made.

It took us a little extra time to find our lakeside hotel having walked the wrong direction out of the bus, but the scenery was so charming the walk was a treat. Good thing too because upon checking in with a very friendly receptionist, we found our self-guided hiking information a bit unorganized and lacking in user-friendliness. We spent about 2 hours sorting through everything and making extra copies, that should have been included. We could easily ponder reconsidering what we have in front, but none of us are that sort. We’ll piece together what we can and ask around for details until we find it all.

Speaking of working together, so far we’ve been a good group. We’ve been open and honest about our quirks and all is good for the most part. Challenges include one snorer, the obvious 3 girls to one man room-sharing thing, in which all is ok, but a little awkward at times. Also, 2 of us are early risers, the other 2 are not so getting going in the morning means 2 of us feel we’re letting the day slip by as we wait for the others and the others feel (I assume) like they’re being a little rushed to meet a time schedule. We’ve all been open about this with one another, so it’ll be interesting to see how it plays out over a 2 week period.

30 June
The last day of the 1st half of the year. Linda had us all join her in celebration with yet more of her favorite box wine from Spar. Thanks (or no thanks) to me being silly and trying on a pair of lederhosen, we missed our bus to Bad Ischl, so headed to Spar for some vino and an avocado (miss them) after our day’s adventure.

So what was today like? We got a slow start as I think is the norm with this group, but let us really enjoy a lovely and healthy breakfast at the charming hotel. We took a while to locate the tiny dock where our ferry to Abersee, which turned out to be at the edge of town where St Wolfgang becomes Reid once across a little bridge. Linda got a bit of job envy as the captain of the tiny aluminum boat greeted us with a long ponytail, shorts and bare feet. He took us across this serene lake to the camping village across the way. From there, we followed the lakeside along lush green pastures sprinkled in wildflowers and enjoyed by local healthy looking cattle. The sun was out, with a few clouds and a nice breeze to puff away the humidity. Unfortunately some of the walk was adjacent to the busy road on a bike path, but that was just for a couple miles and the views were still really beautiful.

We eventually turned off the path and turned into the town of Gilgen, leading us to sing the tune of Gilligan’s Island. A

Gondola, town investigation, lunch, super gorgeous walk after that along foot path then up to church

Down hill, shoe issue, rain, Linda nearly run over by car, relaxing ferry to Strobl, leading to the starting story. Late dinner due to bad directions to hotel, kinda cheesy hotel, but really friendly greeting.

July 1
1st day of the second half of the year.
Patience of others as I look for new shoes. Pricey and overly colorful… Carried on without.
Delightful walk along the river, through forest, serene views. Lots of locals and few, if any, tourists along here. An impressively large house appeared and it so happened a couple local gentlemen were crossing our path at the time and used their little bit of English to share with us its history. It’s titled The Bernstein House, built in America by Jewish man and shipped here. Now Israeli lives there, with Roils Royce and a Mercedes parked in its driveway.
A bit hot and muggy, but lots of shade along the way from the lovely forest of tall trees
Lunch by the river under shade of trees… Took our time, I even napped a bit feeling a little short on sleep today.
Arrived Bad Guiser, incredibly charming, gorgeous gardens, “sun flower” solar feature, perfect gardens, lush, friendly horses/ponies.
Pension, greeted by super friendly pit/terrier with hugs smile and wanted us to come play with the bugs and flies on the ground with her.
Super quaint rooms with lush views.
Walked around town, visited churches and local market, dinner at Pension. Funny Dutch hotelier with a quirky sense of humor. Cold been tasted wonderful!
Shower felt wonderful… Perhaps better than the beer tasted.
Ghislain, Linda and I headed out again to explore in the lovely cooling dusk. Came across local band and a couple darling kids playing hide and seek. Turned out they’re from Berkley, so we got to chatting with their folks. Really nice family here on holiday.
Found play ground: Tight-rope, slides, ladders, etc, all made from natural word. Also Huge slide with jungle gym to climb and to top it off a “flying fox” zip line. We all took turns playing on that! Laughter galore as we made our way back to the room with stop to get kisses from and give pets to the friendly ponies.
2 July

To Hallstatt. A World Heritage Site for good reason, it’s like a fairytale village nestled in a gorge right on the lake… Stunning on so many levels. We could tell the place was special upon arrival as bus loads of tourists, mostly from Japan and China flooded the streets with the phones in front of their faces taking snap after snap of them in front of every possible viewpoint. These folks are day-trippers, so depart by evening leaving the lakeside village with e peaceful afterglow…even in the persistent rain.

Our pension was charming, with a Dutch hotelier who had a bit of a crush on Linda. It was quite cute, but more than that, he had a lovely rapport with his darling dog, the one who loves to chase flies, but also loves people. She’s a gem of a dog. The horses across the street were out in the morning too, so it was delightful to visit with them before sitting down to eat.

Our day got off to a slow start from Bad Guison as we stopped in at Spar to see about blister treatments for John, then to the pharmacy where the good stuff is sold. The also carried lots of organic oils and products we all tried as incognito as possible leaving us smelling fresh and citricy as we headed off on our way. The playground deserved one last visit with a final zip line, then off we set to find our way in the thick humid air toward Hallstatt. The sun was out, but the humidity levels matched the days temperature in Fahrenheit, whew! As careful as we were to follow the instructions, we still missed a turn taking us to the high trail along the steep walls of the valley, where we should have been walking along the river. At Steed, we made out way down and across the Traun River to follow the train tracks along a foot and bike path along Lake Hallstatt. The scenery was out of a storybook with a serene lake, forest covered cliffs jutting skyward and lush pastures and charming villages sprinkling the valley floor.

Folks here seem to buy tiny plots of land along lakesides, just big enough to for a picnic table to enjoy an afternoon at the “beach.” Kind of a charming idea I suppose and keeps houses from creating in to clutter the water’s edge. There were a few little boat houses here and there, some likely modified with a small living space, but likely not suited for the winter months. We found a small patch of public land shaded a forest of young trees to enjoy our sandwiches, made from bits and pieces of our breakfast buffet.

We carried on in the heat along the river on a picture perfect little foot path. Toward the Hallstatt train station the trail becomes a bit of an engineering marvel as it is man-made, bolted to the granite cliff cantilevered over the deep lake below. It made this part feel extra special that folks here love walking and biking so much, they’d go to the effort and expense to install such a path.

The fun-path ends at the train station and a little walk down leads to the ferry dock that was to take us across the lake to Hallstatt. It was a perfect way to enter the town seeing it from the water, it really is the best view of the place and sadly missed by the thousands brought in via bus. Alas, the town is beautiful from everywhere and a treat to come into at the end of the day. It’s beautifully looked after with flowers planted in every window box, fresh bright paint on all the walls making it look all shiny and new…ok, not so new. It does have a certain Disneyland quality though.

Our family-run pension is in a quiet part of the village off the water, but along the river. Looking at the map, were weren’t too excited about the locale, but being here, is another story. We have large rooms with big windows to open and let the breeze blow through. We all met in one room to share a glass of wine, share the day’s fun and listen to the constant rain that started nearly the moment we arrived… Perfect timing! Dinner is served here and made by the grandma of the family, so it’s all made with love as well as herbs and things from their own garden.

After dinner, we headed out in the rain for a walk that ended at the church listening to the Danish boys choir sing their hearts out, it was so touching. That sort of thing really hits me in my heart, it’s just so lovely it brings tears to my eyes. Linda was so excited to share the evening with us all, we held hands as we cheerfully walked in the rain back to the pension. Whereupon, were greeted with such warmth that extended to having one of the family members lead us to their drying room where we could put our soaking boots and jackets on drying racks so they’ll be all dry and ready to go in the morning… Wow!

Tonight we get to sleep with the windows open to the sounds of the rain and the river, it’s like meditation music, but so much better.

To Bad Assee
By far the prettiest day of hiking and the most time spent on actual dirt trails rather than paved trails shared with bicycles. The starts of our mornings seems to be growing later and later, which I could let myself get frustrated over, or just relax and enjoy… I choose the later. The compromise is that we missed going up the cog train to the top and sliding down the miner’s slide. We did check out the larger church on the hill and hear some of the angelic music from within the walls on this Sunday morning. The weather is much cooler and so refreshing after yesterday’s humidity. By the time we caught the ferry across the lake and started along the trail it was 12:30, which seems a bit funny when Ghislain and I woke at about 7am, brekky was at 8, but still, heels were drug. This town is so pretty though, it was nice to spend time wandering back through it again.

We all will have comments for Phil, the organizer of this self-guided trip, about his trail notes…or lack there of. There seems to be gaps in his remarks as well as the maps and very shy on details about directions to head and trails to follow. As we wander back and forth in streets, then hike back up to a trail we should have taken a while back, but the notes made us head down to the train station for some unknown reason. Also, it’s said that there were nice signs along the way with descriptions about the formation of this valley, but he failed to mention they are all in German. Some notes added in on that would have been nice. Well, we all enjoyed the day anyhow.

We’re a funny group together, especially when it comes to making decisions. Linda goes with the flow, Ghis is really detailed wanting to know just what’s going on and John is also quite map detail oriented, but also is nice to take consensus, which elicits 3 blank stares as we all are too polite to say just what we think or want. After a long discussion about where to go when we found ourselves walking on the road through Obertaun due to odd instructions to go to the train station, when we should have been up on the “wilderness trail”, all options were laid out on the table. I’d say we’d been at this for about 10 minutes and John brought up time due to our late start, which was good but also funny that we were using up so much time just standing there in limbo. I finally spoke up and said I really wanted to be hiking on the trail and my inclination is to go back and find that. That got some nods in agreement from the gals and John kindly gave in and back we went to find the trail back up the mountainside to walk in the forest. A yellow sign suggested a steep drive that possible lead to the trail as a shortcut, we climbed up and low and behold…the trail! We all were super happy once up there to be on dirt again and in nature. I skipped along for a few meters so loving this lovely forested trail. My calf is healing, I believe as a result of the evening of playing in the park a couple night’s back. That may sound odd, but seriously, the day after all that is the first day since the injury it feels loads better…probably 75% better, if I dare go so far to say… Yeah!

Once back on this trail, the day just got better and better. The views through the forest trees are overlooking a charming village along the valley floor with perfectly tended yards, beyond that, gorgeous mountains jutted skyward adding both to the beauty and the adventure for many as paragliders took flight from high up to soar like birds over this lovely place with views up the valley and down toward Hallstatt Lake. Everything is so green, lush and full of life, but oddly lacking in wildlife. There are scattered birds, who seem happy as they sing their lovely songs, and various farm animals…chickens, horses, goats, sheep and cows, but not a squirrel or deer in sight so far…hmmm…

We stopped at a locale used for rock climbing lessons, utilizing a nice place to sit to enjoy a late lunch, before carrying on the Koppenbrullenhuele…a natural cave full of stalagmites and stelagtites as well as where a massive river of watch gushes out from. We met up with Christina and Brigit (pronounced Bier-gift), from Sweden for a bit, then carried on toward the cave. The best part was the huge waterfall that powered down the rocks leading up to the concession. The trail itself looked to be a feat to build as it hung from the cliff side lining the powerful flow. We opted out of the cave tour due to the wait and the 1 hour tour in 6 degree Celsius temperature, took a bit more time enjoying the scenery and again carried onward.

The trail follows what was once an old trail track along the river. The tracks have been removed or covered over, but the tunnel remains as does a little description (in German) with old photos of the building of the railroad and an eventually landslip that mandated the moving of the track to higher ground. The train still runs through this lovely Koppen Valley and would be quite a scenic train ride…but a prettier to be walking.

In total for the day, we walked about 12+miles, the confirmation of that is debatable as the three of us who have GPS’s or pedometers have quite different outcomes in mileage each day, so we take the average and figure that’s close enough. The last mile, mile and a half took us by the river where brave souls take to kayaks and head down toward the rapid waters lower down. A smelly sewage plant we hurried by, then came to the train station from which our directions led us onward to our friendly family-owned guesthouse for the evening. I love these places, as they often have a resident dog as well…this one has a dog named Archibald.

The rooms are simple and charming, dinner was delicious, we chatted with Christina and Brigit again finding we share a knowledge of two of the same individuals. A horse named Chagal (the granddaddy of a horse I used to have in my life) and a very good dressage rider who immigrated to the US from Sweden… What a small world. Linda loves her food and is so cute about it liking to keep all her dishes on the table as they come. The owner/waitress would try to take one dish away as she would for us all when done with that, and Linda would say “no” she wanted it there…the reactions of the gal was so cute and she came back with some really funny comments that made us all laugh. It’s fun to see Linda enjoy her meal so much…happy girl.

Thankfully, we all headed to bed on the early side, as tomorrow is a longer hike with more altitude gain than today. It’s a loop that’ll bring us back here to Bad Assasee where we’ll take the train back to Bad Ishcl (and the not-so-great hotel, that Linda is trying hard to change with Phil).

4th of July
Happy Birthday USA! About a decade to the day ago I was climbing Kilimanjaro…how time flies and so thrilling to think of all the experiences that have transpired between then and now. Speaking of now, I’m in Austria hiking with some remarkable friends, enjoying the whole adventure. I’m also learning quite a lot about differences between folks in the varying way we each process things and make decisions.

After saying our good-byes to our gracious hostess at the guest house and diligently consulted our notes and map, we set out to see what the day holds. As usual, it included a good bit of walking on Tarmac, but not before wandering about trying to figure out the instructions for the day’s route. Today is was a turn before a bridge that was to lead us along the river, but it turned out to be a a dead end, stopped by a dilapidated gate with a danger sign attached. We asked a few folks including the information people in the post office and got bearings toward what looked more promising and would eventually lead us to where our notes said a bit later on. Of course we stopped in at the market, I bought some spinach, tomatoes and parsley to add to our lack-luster sandwiches. Others bought varying other items…the wine, Linda would buy on the way back.

Eventually the path we were guided to walk matched the one we’d been given in the notes and we marched joyfully onward along a lovely river running between a number of hamlets. After a few miles though, it ended in an intersection and again the notes failed us, aside from one small comment about following the blue and while signs to the Salz Via. We say one, then not another until again, we stopped in to ask someone who pointed us in an odd direction up streets not mentioned in our notes. We did start to see more signs, even if we had to walk ever further on Tarmac. Once up a steep hill, the road turned to trail with a lovely send off by the person who lived at the edge of the road. A lovely large old tree shaded the transition with a drinking water fountain and a picnic table complete with red and white checkers. Just up further was a pasture with 3 gorgeous horses to enlighten our way.

We walked past an old building associated with the local salt mining from way back when. I can’t tell you much more because the information boards are all in German. Again, that lovely trail ended and we were back on Tarmac, only heading down now. At the junction there were a plethora of signs to decipher and compare to our lacking notes. We took a leap and turned right up another street toward a water fall (Wasserfall) and ruin stopping at a lovely shade bench for to enjoy our lunch on the way.

From there, signs became more abundant and clear leading us up a nice hiking trail passing a spectacular water fall and then on up to the ruin where a stunning panoramic view awaited us on this glorious day. That view made all the mishaps worth the effort!

Looking again at the maps, we realized Phil’s notes had taken us the reverse way somehow and it was time to make our own plans about getting down and back to the train station before the 6:15 train. That required more roads leading us past perfect wooded houses with the most charming of yards, all manicured with tender loving care. A bit of deja vu took us back to earlier in the day as we happened back by our lunch spot and the corner we pondered for so long whether to turn up or not. The plan/our plan was now to hook up with the little path we’d arrived her on the took us back along the river. It starts just outside a town called “Loser” and we kinda felt it had a humorous place in the day… Even if it was a lovely spot adjacent to the gorgeous Altasee Lake with it’s sheer granite mountains standing proud and tall around it’s forested shoreline.

We made the train and had the fun of retracing our steps from the past few days along the valley, past Hallstatt and it’s striking lake and landscape, then back to Bad Ischl and our least favorite hotel. We did get better rooms in the end and well, it’s just one more night here, then off to St Wolfgang tomorrow. Dinner was at the Sisi again with lovely huge salads to enjoy.

5 July
Bad Ischl to Wolfgang

Today is an “easy” day, but after the last two longer days, it’s a welcome relief. It’s also hot again today and the walk is mostly through shady forest with an air con bus in the middle to get us from one trail head/end to Strobl, where we had lunch and walked along the lovely lakeside to St Wolfgang. We decided that if we still have lots of energy when we get to Wolfgang, we can continue the walk up the lakeside and up to the church we walked past the first day when we walked around the upper portion of the lake. Gosh, it’s a pretty lake, the water is so clear and clean, even to drink it is super pure they say. The color is bluish-green and the warmer temperature (meaning warmer than glacial temps) make it the 2nd best swimming lake in Europe – apparently. It’s a playground for water sports, for relaxing, laying around, visiting with resident swans and just being near enjoying the peace of the place. We haven’t met too many Americans on this trip at all letting us know it’s all more of a holiday destination for locals and a hidden gem.

The hotel we’re at is right on the lakeside and Linda and I are sharing a beautiful room on the top floor with one of those picture-perfect balconies all decked out in colorful flowers with views of the village below and the lake as well. We love it here! To top it off, the food here is wonderful, super healthy and plentiful. Fresh fruit is everywhere for the taking and brekkie includes such things as chia seeds, sprouts and ground flax, as well as all sorts of other foods that skirt the “processed food” list… Delightful. I hope our next place in Gosau is as nice… Fingers crossed!

We again had a lovely dinner at the same local restaurant following a gentle walk about town. We admired the horses as they trotted by with their carriages in tow, sampled items from the local bakery, longed to eat at a local vegetarian restaurant… Perhaps lunch tomorrow if we’re still here. It took some doing, but Linda was determined to eat outside at a table void of cigarette smoke and good for us all, her persistence paid off, a smoking could left and we were next in line. Good thing because Mother Nature was keen to give us a show with black and brown clouds rolling in sprinkled with flashes of lightning and grumbles of thunder. In my limited experience, when brown clouds roll in, a show is eagerly waiting back stage, and this was no exception. Lightning flashed constantly and rumbles followed. In an instant big drops of water turned into a torrential downpour. We sat just under and awning and we’re thrilled by the show!

After paying, we took advantage of a lull in the rain and all four of us scurried back to our balcony to sit back and enjoy the performance. Linda somehow showed up with wine for us all. Where does it come from? She has a magical knack for producing goodies out of thin air to share with all. The weather is cooler, but still warm enough for shorts and perhaps a light covering for the the more sensitive types like me. We all ooo’d and aww’d as the show intensified. As it passed overhead, our group broke off to head for bed. The church towered chimed and made me wonder about all the storms that tower has witnessed in it’s perhaps hundreds of years in this gorgeous place.

Speaking of enduring the test of time, much of this area was Nazi occupied during the war, in fact I saw photos at the tourist center of troops marching past what is now the Sisi Restaurant where we at 2 meals in Bad Ischl. Growing up learning about all that seemed so distant, but being here brings it all home and transports a person back to what it must have been like back then. It also makes a person realize how fortunate I am to be living now and traveling here as a tourist in relative safety.

6 July
To Gosau via bus

I awoke early eager to go for a walk to enjoy the crisp clean air after last night’s storm. The town was so quiet, it seemed barely a soul was out aside from the baker in the bakery and a few others preparing their shops for the day. The waterfront walk was completely quiet and serene, only the fish seemed to be up leisurely enjoying their morning as well. A few clouds hung low making like a tutu around the waist of the surrounding mountains, the lake was still and reflective and the birds and lush flora all seemed to be lazily waking to the new day. I find all the boat houses so charming even if most are in a run-down state. I think of what they’ be like all fixed up with a small apartment above and a deck looking out to take in the views. One was so fortunate to have gone through such a renovation and I pictured many a happy times were spent making memories there.

The trail ends at the cemetery where each plot is like a tiny garden the family comes to care for. They are common in these parts of Europe, and I find them so touching that folks have a reason to come reminisce with their deceased loved ones and tend a garden in their honor. Nearly every plot overflowed with color and life growing anew and tended with loving care. I thought of dad and of my grand parents and the animals I’ve had the great honor to have in my life. I hope animals are allowed to be buried there too.

The lake was so inviting, I took the time to sit on the dock where it wasn’t too wet from the rains and meditate for a bit. The morning just seemed to beg for such time spent being there in the moment.

To top off the morning, I called friends back home via WhatsApp enjoying that chat, then eagerly headed to the buffet and their healthy spread. By far, this is the best breakfast hotel we’ve stayed at.

We made the bus by a nose having stood to wait at the wrong bus stop, then upon seeing the bus we were supposed to be on, ran with all our luggage to the patient bus waiting the extra moment while we loaded up and boarded to Bad Ischl. From there, we connected with another bus to Gosau and a charming Inn we’ll be stationed at for 3 nights in total. Our rooms are on the top floor and it lacks an elevator, so lugging luggage up was a feat for the others, especially Linda and her giant bag and 3 back packs. I took one of them as did everyone else and up we went to be rewarded with delightful rooms with a fabulous view of the valley and the mountains we’ll be hiking up to and through the next 2 days staying at a nice hut somewhere up there.

Dinner was funny in retrospect. The menu the offered the pre-paid folks was really limited and lacked vegetarian options. Ghislain and I asked about alternatives and because the neither of the waiters spoke English, he just wrote down what he understood and off he ran with our order. Linda came late and missed out on the juggling of items and orders, then ordered her food with her own requests and I think that did it for him, he rolled his eyes walking away. We felt bad, but the dinner turned out to be quite good. John and Linda kinda got into a semi-heated banter about who got how much of one another’s dinner sharing what they ordered. It got a little awkward after a bit, but all ended up ok in the and and John didn’t have to have more than he wanted, Linda got more than she wanted I think, but she enjoyed it all as she does.

After dinner, Linda and I took a walk to enjoy the final light of the day. Chatting away, we heard haunting horns and looked up to the tiny church on the hill overlooking all of Gosau. We took strait up the steep meadow having missed seeing the path up and arrived in time to head another beautiful tune. They played slow beautiful tunes from the region and it seemed a truly special way to start this more challenging portion of this Austria adventure. We were so excited to have come upon this gem and happy to help return the chairs set outside to their rightful place as pews inside. The sun set and all is good for tomorrow we hike again.

7 July
To the mountains from Gosausee

A truly great day of hiking! The weather was sunny and not too hot with a few puffy clouds to add a little interest to the photos. The plan was to take the bus up to the lake, which I thought was about 2 kilometers up the road, others had said that too, so I decided to walk that first part thinking it would be about 20 minutes or so and I’d meet up with John. The girls decide to walk as well, so off we set. The 20 minute mark passed and we weren’t even near the lake. The road turned upward through trees, and again, we had a ways to go. 5 miles later, we puffed our way to Gosau Lake to join patient John for the start of the day’s hike. Geepers-creepers! We rested for a short bit then started the trail 612 toward Steigl Pass. Switchbacks aren’t so popular here, so it was strait up the mountain for us, through a lovely pasture the into the enchanted forest with lush undergrowth, flowers and tall trees for shade.

John started about 20 minutes before us, and we slowly gained on him and passed him by. We stopped at a few view points to let everyone catch up. More and more alpine flowers of every color and delicate shape appeared as we made our way skyward. We crossed steep scree fields telling dramatic stories of huge land slips off the spectacular granite towers making up this grand massif.

The trees began to thin as we gained in altitude and even more varieties of flowers were out to color the trails with delight. We stopped in at the little chapel to honor the bible runners from back in the day. Ghislain found a lovely rock in which to enjoy a light lunch and a rest before carrying on. Trees gave way to even more flower varieties and more exposed rock. Speaking of rock, those became a main theme as we carried on toward Steigl Pass. Massive land slips made for challenging but very fun rock scrambling. Red and white markers were prevalent, thank goodness as we wended our way amongst the huge boulders and stones.

Down we scrambled for a bit before a rather steep incline requiring us to utilize all four limbs to make our way upward. The scenery was truly spectacular with immense towers bulging toward the heavens and rocky valleys to take one’s breath away. I seems incredible to have even walked through it all in all it’s stony drama. Behind us stands “the thumb” (Daumling) which looks much like a thumb hitchhiking to whom ever may be passing by. Thumbs-up to the experience for sure! I felt like a kid jumping and climbing the rocks with flowers all around and the occasional patch of snow to play in.

This stretch was quite long actually, longer than we’d been led to believe, but the rocks eventually melded back to trail again, still heading upward. From here though, we could see the pass. Nearly there and I looked over and saw an Ibex… Thrilled to finally see wildlife we all stopped to take a look. A rock slide started a little to the right and across the from us up the steep incline. Another 3 ibex were way up high grazing away at the base of a tower. The 1st one hopped along making his way to meet up with his buddies and the reunion was complete. What a complete joy to finally see some natural happenings of the furry sort.

Steigl Pass, oh what a joy to see. I trotted up that final piece to pretend “jump” off the sheer edge with John taking a photo. At around 6K feet, it seemed odd to have worked so hard to get to an altitude near where we might start a hike to Mt. Baldy at home. Still, we worked for the rewarding view, and “oh what a view it was!!!”

After taking the obligatory photos at the signage, we started down toward the Hut, but were immediately taken aback by the steep rocky decline. The cables were strung along some of the upper sections of this section and zig zags were carved to make way for trails. Neither of these are common to European trails unless they are necessary for traversing, and so it was/is along this decline. It was a bit uneasy as there was great opportunity for everything from rolling an ankle to falling down sharp scree and granite faces. The trail was rocky and slippery, so going was slow but steady with times where all fours and even one’s bum was utilized.

Eventually that smoothed out, the descent became gradual, then turned a gradual up toward the welcome sight of the Gofpurglhutt, our home for the evening.

I was feeling great, full of energy and thankfully free of soreness, so I took up a trot and jogged a good bit of the last section… It felt great and I was so happy to be fit enough to do so after a long day’s hike. Linda and I ran back to get John after we’d checked in to bring him home with a smile. Ghislain generously fetched two cold beers… Steigl Beer to be more specific and appropriate and had them waiting out on the deck for us to enjoy as we relaxed to the sights of the incredible surrounding mountains and valley below reminiscing about the day.

The head gal at the lodge is a hoot. She’s super friendly and full of fun, even with limited English at her disposal. We all fell for her and were so appreciative of her graciousness.

Chatted about music from Phantom of the Opera and Michael Crawford’s voice, the looking down from the railing saw a cute black bunny hopping through the lush grass and flowers below. The humor began when the one lady tried to summon him back into his enclosed, but the bunny wanted nothing to do with it, he loved his freedom. The lady left and two others came to help, then another. They tried catching him then herding him back to his space, but the bunny persisted, enjoying his time as a wild one. He’s run off then meander back as if teasing his captures. Eventually he made his way back to the enclosure just as 3 more folks were summoned to help with this bunny. We were in hysterics that 6 folks were there to lure one cute little family bunny back to his enclosure. Yes, I think animals are far smarter than most folks give them credit. Eventually her earned some snuggle time with a guy I assume to be one of the family members who run this hut.

Another bonus to being here is a truly hot shower. It cost 2 Euros for 3 minutes of hot water, but oh, it must be the best 2 Euro I’ve ever spent… Ahhh… Dinner was lovely even had fresh green salad in this place were no roads lead to. I believe all supplies must be flown in via helicopter as they are in the huts in other parts of Europe. It all seemed to have been made and served with love, what a perfect ending to a perfect day. We all turned in early to a fading light, a sliver of a moon and looked after by the sentinel peaks towering ominously above.

8 July
Back down to Gosau

It seemed it’d be an easier day today. I got up about 5:15 to wander outside and watch the sun rise over the stunning jagged peaks and distant mountain range across the valley below. Part of getting up was for some quiet time with nature and because I wasn’t sleeping too well. In fact I was feeling a bit shy of sleep on the whole as odd sleeping hours have me lacking a real good night’s sleep. Physically I was feeling great though, especially after yesterday’s challenges over a vast variety of terrain and to end it with a jog to the end up a hill…and with a pack.

A heard of cows had been brought in to graze near the hut, giving further delight to the waking day. The air was a bit chilly, but not freezing, the weather was clear and it was promising to be a gorgeous day for another hike.

The trail we took could be seen from the hut and it looked to be gentle and kind compared to yesterday’s scrambles. The trail took us through lovely pasture land on a hugely steep hillside. Wildflowers sprinkled a huge array of color throughout the lush grasses. Cowbells could be heard from all around jingling peacefully in tune to the playful birds and buzzing bees. The valley below spread out like a giant patch work blanket and the towers of granite continued to stand sentinel.

Notes to be elaborated on:

Cowbella, the loving cow, sad to depart ways from both our views.
Steep zig zags, putting Walter’s Wriggles and Whitney’s switchbacks to shame
Friendly herd of cows on the “sound of music” pasture
Lunch hut (Theodor Korner Hutte), with bitter owners, but a fantastic view and surrounded with the uplifting chimes of cowbells.
Steeper uphill than planned finish took us way around the mountains and up over a small pass through trees, thick roots, lush flowers, young forest and up over fields of flowers, over the Torleck pass to the overlook of Gasausee and the Lake below and the Dachstein mountains and glacier beyond.
We opted for tram down from there to avoid the 1 hour steep descent and save a bit of wear and tear on our knees and toes.
Beer at the bottom to celebrate
Late bus, but someone from the hotel/guesthouse drove into town to ask that the later bus come pick us up… Such generosity!
Dinner at our guesthouse, with frustratingly long decision making process to figure out tomorrow’s plans. Seems everyone has changed their plans for the day except me… I plan to head to Dachstein and the ice caves. Then concert in the evening.

9 July
To Dachstein

I had in my mind going to bed that I’d be on my own today heading to Dachstein, but by breakfast everyone seemed to have changed their mind again. John is on board with going to see the ice caves and up to Dachstein, Ghislain remains undecided and Linda was thinking of staying in to get some work done, but may join Ghislain to keep her company. Again, I’m staying out of it and will do as I planned. This decision-making is rather hysterical really, but we are a good group about communicating openly, so it’s nice to be able to support one another in their process.

I turned out to be John and I heading to Obertraun then up to Dachstein for the day, which was worth the effort. The cave is an ice cave like none I’ve seen being a naturally occurring phenomenon rather than caves carved into the depths of ancient glaciers. The ice here is likely no older than 600 years old and replenishes itself each winter and the temps grow colder and the dripping water inside the cave freezes into cathedral like formations inside the vast space. The concession did a great job of lighting the interiors to give different illusions and effects to the ice. In August, ,they hold concerts there making use of the fabulous acoustics, but viewers would have to come fully prepared for sitting for a period of time in sub-0 temperatures… Burrr.

The next gondola took us to the summit of Dachstein where we stopped for a tea and soup to warm our insides before taking the hike out to the “5 fingers” lookout over the Salzkammergut Valley and much of the territory we’ve walked the past 10 days or so. The clouds were kind and cleared for viewing and the very playful Chough birds showed off their soaring skills as they darted this way and that making use of the strong winds pushing upwards off the sheer cliffs. I love those birds and could watch their cheekiness for hours. They’re also quite intelligent and very family oriented.

I love meeting folks along the way and chatting about their experiences that brought them to such places. We’ve met a good number of Austrians enjoying their own lovely country as well as Brits here on holiday being just a few hour’s drive from there. Some were making a romantic long weekend holiday out of this place staying in places like Hallstatt or climbing mountains together.

The bus back to Gosau stopped in Hallstatt, where we connected with Linda and Ghislain, who’d opted to spend a good part of their day there. I’m glad they got out and had some fun too and also that they caught this bus, being the last bus of the day and the one needed to make it back to Gosau in time to get to the magical concert on the lake in the evening.

All over this area we passed mountain bike riders competing in the 220 kilometer Salzkammergut Trophy race. It takes them some 20+ hours to ride with only stops for water and snacks… Whew! We met a guy the other day who was here to race and had come in second in his age group a year ago. He looked uber-fit and we hope he did well.

After a short dinner, we took a cab up to the lake to enjoy a fabulous local concert by the lake. Apparently this was very special as the last 3 concerts were cancelled due to rain, but that night was perfect in every way. We found a delightful table, met up with our friendly waiter who told us about this evening in the first place (he also was the one who retrieved a bus for us after our hike, when the final one didn’t show), and ordered a round of drinks as we settled in for a delightfully perfect evening.

The orchestra was a full one and made up of locals of so many age ranges. They all wore traditional dress, as did about 1/2 of those in the audience. The lake was glassy calm reflecting the towering mountains of the Gosau range and glacier beyond. The music was mostly local folks music as well as medleys of popular tunes, one mash-up being all Beetles music, which we loved and sang to. This was one of those times in life where it was profoundly clear I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else on this planet but here… It was magic! The band played 3 encores as well as an anthem that had something to do with a huge beer glass they all passed around and shared. Afterwards, two trumpeters joined forces as a sort of afterglow to play more Austrian classics adding ever more delight to the evening. 2 cute young girls in dwindles walked about offering schnapps to anywho who wanted. We tried/shared the sharp and the sweet just to add to the evening. Gosh, it was all just so idyllic.
10-12 July,
To Salzburg

The day was hot and dry, but the day is a mellow one as we made our way via bus back past many of the places we’d been to wave a final good-bye before getting back to Salzburg where this all began.

Much of our time back in the city is used making travel plans for the next phase of travel. Linda is working to get back to Copenhagen and I went round and round finding passage to Cortina in one day. I went to sleep with all the options and awoke from the hot night with a plan and booked the 3 phases of travel it takes to get there from here. So here’s the process: 2 trains to Munich airport (about 3 hours), one flight to Venice (1 hour) and bus transfer to Cortina (about 2.5 hours) arriving at my final destination for the day about 4:30, then a walk to my hotel. It just felt so great to get it all booked, even if it did cost a pretty penny to do so. I could have gone for less, but the timing didn’t work out… Or I could have gone for less taking me far longer, so in the end I feel better paying a bit more for a nicer transit.

While buying train tickets, we also were able to buy our concert tickets for the evening’s Mozart event up at the castle.

We all will part ways early in the morning…always a bitter sweet feeling.

Portugal won the soccer camps, so much celebrations for them. Also, Serena won Wimbledon once again…wonder if it’s still thrilling for her after all her successes.

Signing off from this phase and off to Italy. For photos, please check out FaceBook for now, or email me and I can add you to my WhatsApp group.




Categories: Europe

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