3rd September – 9th September
We said goodbye to Burghausen and Germany and crossed the border into Austria without any problems. Dave’s research has shown (as well as the guy in the tourist office confirming) that if we stay off the autobahn, we don’t need to purchase a vignette (road toll) so that is what we did. We skirted around the perimeter of Salzburg and headed up the winding road to our overnight spot at Mt Gaisberg which at 1265m gives us an amazing view of Salzburg as well as the Austrian alps surrounding it. I managed to squeeze in a chorus of the Sound of Music, much to Dave’s horror! Again, as in Norway we were surprised at the number of people riding their bikes up, not my idea of fun, but each to their own. Such a steep climb, perhaps they are in training for the Tour de France? We have missed our mountain hikes so once parked, we headed off on our first Austrian one. As is nearly always the case, we took a wrong turn and found ourselves on a very steep mountain bike path in the forest heading down. Each time we have been lost we have seen some beautiful scenery so it isn’t all bad. We stopped and had our lunch before we found the right path which was considerably easier for a couple of kilometres then back into the forest on a zig zagging path that climbed back up to the top. We were very hot by the time we got back to Tilly so after a quick wash we headed back out to watch the paragliders with their brightly coloured kites running off the top of the mountain and gliding down to their landing spot. Amazing to watch and a great first day in a new country.
We had our breakfast on one of the benches watching the view on a slightly clearer day than yesterday. Even at 8am in the morning there were several paragliders enjoying the breeze and gliding back and forth in front of us. Our drive down had Tilly’s brakes a bit hot and we continued on to St Gilgen which is situated right on the beautiful aquamarine waters of the Wolfgangsee and surrounded by mountains. I know we shouldn’t compare countries but so far this part of Austria reminds us of both Norway with the rugged scenery and Switzerland with the timber houses adorned with flower boxes full of petunias and geraniums. We had a nice walk around St Gilgen where a festival of some kind is on today. In the square were a large number of people all in traditional costume attending a religious service and there was a very large beer hall set up by the lake. Murals decorated many of the walls of the buildings as well as pretty coloured flower boxes. We walked a little way along the lake where all types of water sports are available as well as little shops selling local produce and your usual beach goods. Continuing on we drove to Bad Ischl were we have found a very tidy Stellplatz next to the Ischl river and surrounded by mountains. After lunch we had a walk into this very tidy town which for a Sunday was quite busy. We walked along the river for awhile dipping our toes into the freezing cold water before returning through the town and home again.
The scenery on our drive today was beautiful even though it was raining. Rugged mountains hugged huge lakes with waterfalls cascading down to the waters edge. We drove through two tunnels to arrive in Hallstatt. All of the parking was gated, many with height barriers so we didn’t stop, just had a quick look as we kept driving. We stopped at a roadside bay for a cuppa overlooking the Hallstättersee before continuing on to Lammerklam, a deep gorge near Oberscheffau. There are two parts to this amazing place, the first being about 5 minutes from the entrance gate along a timber boardwalk that hugs the rock wall and the water below thunders past. This area is called the Dark Gorge and is so named because of the cave like rock walls with fragments of light coming through that surround the raging torrent below. Back in the other direction for around 30 minutes, the path, another wooden boardwalk through the gorge with many steps up and down follows the river as it twists and pummels the rocks eventually breaking through to become the fast flowing Lammer river. We have found a nice wildcamp spot just 1km up the road next the to river where tomorrow we will do a hike to a waterfall.
Our wildcamp spot was downstream of the gorge at the confluence of the Lammer and Schwarzenbach rivers. Overnight we had a massive amount of rain (and not much sleep) and when we looked out the window in the morning, the rivers had swollen considerably so after breakfast we walked part of the gorge walk again in the rain. The power of the water gushing through was amazing, it was hard to tell exactly how much higher the water level was but at a guess it would have been at least two feet. Back to Tilly for a quick change and off to do the Mühlenrundweg. This circular walk through the forest follows the Schwarzenbach river past a historic corn mill and onto two waterfalls, the Schwarzenbachfall and the Winnerfall, both of which had tonnes of water thundering down the mountain. On the final leg of the walk a wild deer crossed our path about 50 metres away, a fitting end to an amazing morning. We drove to Werfen, 22kms away where we had our lunch before walking into town. Only a small town, Werfen is best known for the Eisriesenwelt, the largest ice cave system discovered so far in the world which we will explore tomorrow.
After the wet weather of the past few days it was nice to wake to blue skies. After breakfast we drove to the carpark at the start of the climb to the ice cave, Eisriesenwelt. The sign said the road gradient was 21%, so we figured the €7 each return to get the bus was well worth the money. Once we arrived at the carpark there was a 20 minute hike up to the bottom cable car station. From there an ascent straight up to the top cable car station, then another 20 minute walk to the cave entrance at 1641 metres. We had a wait of around 15 minutes for the guided tour to start which was in German and English. The tour took about 75 minutes and Davy lamps were handed out as there is no artificial lighting in the cave. The tour guide was very informative providing us with the scientific and historical background of the ice formations. 1400 steps up and down rising a further 136 metres in temperatures of 0° had us passing many ice figures, stalactites and stalagmites which the guide illuminated with magnesium flares that he lit from his Davy lamp that showed the ice as a beautiful blue colour. There were several large “rooms” where in one spot the ice was 25 metres thick! With over 40kms in length this system of caves within the Tennengebirge mountain range contains a unique natural phenomenon with the lower parts of the cave being cooled by the passage of cold wind in the winter and the thaw water freezing as it trickles in forming the gigantic ice figures. It was an expensive day, €48 for the cable car and tour of the cave and €14 for the bus, but it was well worth it. We spent the rest of the afternoon gazing in awe at the Hohenwerfen castle and the huge mountain peaks that surround us.
Today is one of those days that women hate. Washing day! We drove about 30kms to Kellerbauer Stellplatz, just outside of Altenmarkt to this lovely site (thanks Baxterbus) to do this menial task and we love the area. We have 5 baby cows in the field next door. Dave had the opportunity for a bike ride and rode into the village of Altenmarkt which he said was lovely. I’m hoping we can stay another night here so we can have a good look around and walk into Radstatt. Stay tuned!
We have decided to stay another night, it is so pretty here. After breakfast we walked in to Radstatt around the farms, patting the friendly cows along the way. Only a small village the highlight of the town were the beautiful houses surrounding it overlooking the ski runs above the town. Again very Swiss in style with lots of colourful flowers on their balconies and very tidy gardens. On our return leg, we walked along the river, stopping to watch a man fly his remote controlled plane, which he was very skilled at. Heading east into another town, Altenmarkt, this too had ski slopes in the distance and was heavily geared for skiing with several ski shops, restaurants and cafes. Back through the fields and home again, a journey of around 10kms so the rest of the day was sitting in the sun and relaxing.