Austria is not just Vienna or Salzburg, it is a perfect balance between man made and nature architecture.
Our first stop was Flirsch and since it had rained solidly for the past week we decided to treat ourselves to a roof and a warm shower. We stopped in Flirsch, normally a ski holiday destination, and struggled to find anything open. Finally we saw some movement and stayed at a stunning hotel called Basur (translating into peaceful surface) was the towns tavern since 1300’s. And as soon as we entered the pin to pay for the room, the sun started shining, so bright it burned as it burns at altitude. But we were happy with our deal: room, dinner and breakfast included in the 40€ fee, which seemed like a bargain after Switzerland. Their English skills were surprisingly poor and when we ordered a glass of wine each, they came with a bottle. We wolfed it down, went to the original bar that gave the name to the hotel and had the best Weiss beer ever.
With a slight hangover we headed to Innsbruck and what a city it is! Home to probably the strangest crypt ever constructed, a beautiful baroque church where you can lose yourself in the details and a house with a gold rooftop that is the inspiration for most street artists in Innsbruck’s old town.
Well… it rained again but this time we decided not to make the same mistake as the previous night and we headed for a campsite thinking “it’s raining now… but it might get better like yesterday”. Oh how wrong we were. It rained so much you would’ve thought the ocean had been sucked up into one massive cloud. The ground wasn’t ready for such a discharge and we were almost floating inside our tent. In the morning it was like it never happened. Achensee is a massive glacial and thermal lake with two beautiful villages on its banks.
I don’t really remember how we came across Krimmler waterfall but I’m glad it happened. It’s an incredible trick of nature that rises 380 meters from the ground and spits out tons of water per second making it the largest waterfall in Europe!
Another unplanned stop was Mittersill. The idea was to head to Hohe Tauern national park and go for a couple of hikes and in this village was the closest to us with a tourist information office. The weather was starting to improve and we were feeling confident. Stayed 2 nights in a private campsite owned by the cutest old man I’ve ever met – Schmidt. We didn’t speak a word of a common language and yet we managed to converse. His house was right next to a cow farm, we made some friends there and meat has now completely left our dietary options. For the walks we chose a lake and a summit and in both occasions we had high altitude picnics, for some reason a tomato and cheese sandwich tastes much better high up or maybe it’s because we were half starved. Hiking always makes me smile and I normally feel I could plod along all day. That day I was feeling like something was missing, something wasn’t quite right.
I tried to ignore that strange sensation of misplacement and focus on our surroundings. The higher we go, the thinner the vegetation is. Tree roots are used as steps, somehow they found their way to the surface and are desperately trying to go back underground. After we reached the end of the trail, we decided to carry on for a bit longer. There was barely no grass and the ground was now bare and muddy and dotted here and there with drifts of melting snow. We stop upon a big patch and I have this urge to build a snowman, my first ever snowman! Way too excited. He was small, misshaped and quickly melting, but those 5 min made me forget completely whatever it was that was bothering me.
Our next stop was nothing short of extraordinary – the temperatures are hitting the mid 30’s, hiking was becoming a sweat fest and the idea of winter was way past our minds. So… we visited the biggest fridge in Europe! A huge ice cave right at the top of a 1700 meter hill. There was the option to use a cable car to take us there, but 30€ for a total of 6 min (there and back) of fun wasn’t really on our plans. We walked there. When you read about the way up they try to scare you – it is too steep, too high, too unsafe, you need to be experienced and have a helmet. We went anyway obviously, using 30€ for that wasn’t an option and it could be a bit of a task for the faint hearted ones, the path is a bit narrow and with massive drops – but on the way we passed a couple with 3 kids clearly under the age of 10, 2 middle aged, overweight men and an elder man with his dog. I think this says it all.
From here our way was down towards Slovenia. We will be back for you Vienna!