The one thing I’d definitely planned for my Austria getaway, was escaping into the countryside for a day to breathe some very fresh air. I’ve spent so much of the last year appreciating cities and towns (albeit not very industrial ones) that I suddenly found myself craving a walking holiday. Okay, we’d left it a tad late to do a full walking holiday but I found that regular buses run out of Salzburg to the nearby lakes- I believe there are seven within the time-distance circle of about an hour- I was genuinely very excited to get out.
We chose the nearest lake, Fuschlsee, which has convenient bus stops at either end, in Fuschl am See and by Schloss Fuschl, for a perfect round walk. It also houses the Red Bull headquarters, which I’ve been dying to see since I did a presentation on Red Bull in Austria for my speaking class last year. I do want to work at the headquarters, I must say, there was such a modern, futuristic feel to the barely-there glass buildings but because they reflect all of the colours around them, they still blend almost seamlessly with the stunning back drop they’ve landed in. Red Bull is certainly spot on with design.
Not having been into the countryside properly for a while, I felt like I was in heaven; with alpine peaks still covered in snow standing watch either side and the idyllic clarity of the water, sparkling in bright turquoise thanks to the near-perfect sky. The little holiday village of Fuschl was delightfully deserted, still in low season, with its delightful private beaches and shady alcoves and the fields- the most classically Austrian fields I’ve ever seen- full of bright meadow flowers, almost an unnatural quality of green, stretching up to the hills behind. We wound our way through the quiet village and set off on the lake-coast path, soft underfoot and dappled in shade and soon became distracted by a path leading higher up the hill. As we were wandering past the tractor-red benches, through the peaceful golfers’ heaven, towards the course, I can’t remember who first voiced the thought ‘shall we go up to that peak’. Now bear in mind, I hate heights and I’m not a fan of climbing or scrambling- losing my footing even within about 100m of a sheer drop is my idea of hell. We started walking towards where we thought the ascent might start nevertheless, unsure of the difficulty, but we knew it must be somehow possible to reach the jutting, rocky peak because a quick zoom on the camera revealed three people stood atop it and at least a regularly climbed trail (but for actual climbers, not people without ropes and climbing shoes). The ascent was definitely do-able, pretty unrelenting up-ness but it didn’t take us too long in the end at all. We followed the Austrian flag, marked out on trees and rocks, through the forest, amid constant protests from me that I probably wouldn’t make it to the top and that the sign had said ‘for experienced people only’- it failed to mentioned what they ought to be experienced at.
For most people this was not even a remotely challenging slope, and despite my fears about scree, I was reassured by a lovely +70 lady who told me it would get less slippery soon, as she powered on by, a little boy who took the descent like one might attack a sand dune, and a girl we passed on the way up as she was coming down in booties. Yes. But for me it was still a challenge. I don’t see the point in going that high and not looking around, it just takes me a little while to get comfortable with being perched there. On the way to the very peak, there are two great, slightly off-track, view points. One we were beckoned to by a man, with a fabulous local dialect, telling us how often he came up here and how he was going to have a bench put there so he could bring a beer up and sit in comfort; top plan. And he wasn’t wrong about the view being great, he estimated you could see seven other lakes from this mountain, on a clearer day, and said too, that we were lucky, this was the south facing side and free from shadow, because all the snow from the previous days had melted, making it easy going for those of us just in walking boots and jeans.
It could have been a clearer day but the top was still so rewarding. Once up there we found plenty of space to pose for photographs, sit and stuff our faces with much needed food, and watch other people as they hiked by or sunbathed. We even found the time to watch a heli-rescue from the other side of the mountain. While up there, only 1,303 m, I found myself thinking that I could get used to this, that this could be my year for taking my height-fear face on. I won’t ever completely shake it but I loved the exhilaration of just being up there, enjoying my much expanded horizon and watching the toy town below. I’d forgotten how much I love to hike, not least the friendliness of it (Southern Germany isn’t always the friendliest, most open culture), with every person, be they running, walking or sunbathing, throwing a ‘Grüß Sie’ and smiling as we crossed their paths.
We still finished our loop of the lake and even continued down the bus route for a few stops (to Bader Luck- yes really) as the bus wasn’t coming in a hurry, and even the roads barely interrupt the beautiful countryside in its stride. I’d forgotten how rewarding and tiring a decent length walk can be; and the peak was just the icing on top of an alpine cake. Possibly the best spontaneous choice of the year.
Some images provided by AJF Stuart Photography