Thursday, 18 August 2016

Chiming Hills of Österreich - Day 5


Austrian Mountains

Hinterglemm                                                                   Austria

Wednesday 1st July 2015

Another beautiful morning arrived outside as more workers began making noise. It was a good job I had to be up early as today was another excursion for me. I was heading to a place called Grossglockner. This was home to Austria’s highest mountain and we would be driving up the highest alpine road reaching an area known as Franz Josef’s plateau to explore the glacier. I was looking forward to this excursion mainly for the glacier and the views which I was expecting to be awesome. I grabbed my belongings and rushed for a good breakfast. I headed into the dining room once more and sat with Paul and Pat. We were talking away about what we were doing today and I couldn’t help but notice that there weren’t any waiters or even Kate for that matter. I thought that I scared her off with my stunt last night but I was reassured that it wasn’t the case. Apparently all the staff had a day off today which meant there were no hot food for breakfast and no evening dinner later on. I wasn’t expecting that to happen but also not expecting the staff to work none stop. Anyway I was advised by Paul to grab some food from the breakfast buffet and so I did filling my bag up; Paul also gave me his hard boiled eggs which I was grateful for. 

Time was creeping up and I had to get up and leave in time for the coach. The walk to the bus stop was quick and as I arrived I realised it was the same double decker coach as yesterday. I thought it was quite lucky at the fact I ended up with the same seat on the top deck. I lay back with my headphones in knowing pick ups were along the way. However, after the usual pick ups, there were 3 others to do which was tedious as I just wanted to get going. I immediately realised we were on our way to Grossglockner when the holiday rep began talking through the microphone. She had to do 2 languages though on the trip as there were Germans too. At this point I was excited to witness Austria’s largest mountain and glacier too. As we came nearer, the gradient was gaining height with me sucking on my sweets to relieve the pressure in my ears. Obviously the higher we were going, the more beautiful the landscape was becoming. After a while we came to a toll area for the national park and as soon as we got through, we were immediately hit by the ever inclining road. We were climbing up the mountains slowly due to the fact we were in a coach so full of people. Many cars and motorbikes were overtaking us but I didn’t care, it just meant we could see the views in greater detail. We were zig zagging up the road with sharp turns at each end and nearing our first stop. We were quite high up and had a marvellous view of the mountain range. As soon as the coach had stopped, I got out straight away and headed for the edge which had the better views. 

Winding Roads

As I was nearing the edge the first thing I caught sight of was the glittering effect on rocks and stones. It was amazing to see and it was all natural too as it was formed through millions of years. Anyway, I got to the edge and looked at the amazing mountains in front of me. I stood still for a very long time admiring the scenery until little flies began hovering over and around me quite closely following me everywhere. I headed into the shop to get away from them and had a quick look around buying a few items. I headed back out and back to the edge hoping the flies would be away. They were thank god and I could look on again taking in the amount of snow that was still on top of the mountain peaks. 

Mountain Views
It was time to get back on the coach and continue climbing up. When we finally approached the top area we entered through a large tunnel then all of a sudden my jaw dropped at the most fabulous site of gigantic valleys with huge mountains scattered around the vast area; it was truly remarkable and then we finally arrived. I couldn’t wait to start exploring but we were told to be back on the coach by 2pm. The rep also said that there wouldn’t be enough time to walk down onto the glacier and back even with the shuttle lift provided to get half way down quicker. We arrived at the bus depot at about 11:45am so I was determined to prove the rep wrong. After getting off the bus I was off on my own heading for the glacier. However, there was a time I stopped to admire the group of rodents which were called ‘marmots’ which are famous in the mountainous area of Austria. They looked quite friendly too despite them looking half like a rat and a squirrel. 

Marmots

I continued on my journey and as I turned the corner going around, there was the marvellous spectacle of Grossglockner Mountain and the breathtaking glacier next to it. I was shocked as this was my first glacier I had ever seen. As I got closer I could see the shuttle lift taking people down the side of the mountain slope. Alongside it was a footpath which was zig zagging all the way down to the bottom area. So I headed to the start of the path which had thousands of steps down and rocky pathways. Before I went any further there was a sign saying ‘For professional walkers only’. I stopped and thought ‘am I a professional walker? Hell yeah’; so I began descending down for the glacier 2 mile away. 

Glacier

It looked like there weren’t many people choosing this option and at times going down it felt like I was alone and it was peaceful. There were times that steps weren’t there but only rocks and gravel which I had to focus on. Sometimes at points there would be glittering rocks and stones in my eye sight but I kept going for my goal. I stopped to have a look at the views which were greater the lower I went. All I could hear too was the rushing streams far into the distance where the snow was melting down the side of the mountain giving off an echo too. This reminded me that I had an empty bottle to use so I came across a stream right next to me and I filled it up. It looked clear as crystal so I drank it. It was so refreshing and definitely quenched my thirst so I began descending right to the bottom. It felt great arriving and at the distance close to the glacier were quite a few walkers. So I began heading in that direction. There were some fragile areas the nearer I got to the glacier. Yet again I was still descending and arrived at a sandy area with small rocks and boulders which half of them glittered against the sun. I realised I had entered the fragile area and there were signs basically saying be careful. I still carried on though and as I continued on I stumbled on a pool area and it was gorgeous as the colour of the water was a very light blue. Just behind that was what appeared to be a shelf of sand where the water underneath was degrading it. Now and again I could here large chunks of sand and rocks giving way splashing into the water. This made me extra wary of where I was placing my feet but I had a strong mind and followed the make shift footpath. 

I managed to bypass the sandy area and started heading towards the ice. Just before I did though there was an elderly woman struggling to get on her feet after taking a family photo so I gave her a helping hand which she and her family were thankful for. I finally made it to the icy area and precariously walking on the very thick land of ice. I got to the end and couldn’t really carry on safely so I stood for ages looking up at the monstrous cold mountain right ahead of me and admiring the way the glacier was flowing down as well as the unique ice bridges carved by the flowing water. I was overwhelmed with emotions at the fact I was standing right on a glacier too. I immediately realised that as I was right on the glacier below the snow topped mountains, the temperature dropped right down as the wind blew against me. It wasn’t too cold to be uncomfortable but just right and it felt magical. I really felt recharged and as I looked at my watch, it was time to turn around and leave. I didn’t want to leave so as I was walking I kept glancing back at the marvellous view. 

Standing on Glacier

I knew it would be a hell of a lot more difficult to get back up so once I was away from the fragile areas, I sat in peace eating my dinner I scraped together. It did the job of giving me energy so I grabbed my small rucksack heading towards the incline area. It wasn’t long before I got there but this would be the more time consuming. So I went for it and climbed feeling pain in my legs the more I hit every next step. I had to stop every once in a while to catch my breath and as I looked up and seen my goal at the top, it pushed me forward thinking to myself ‘I can do this’. Sweat was pouring down as I climbed passing people on the steps nearly tripping a couple of times. I looked up once more and had seen the end in my sights. I was so happy to finally reach the top panting like a dog and I kept looking at where I had walked too and back and felt like I had accomplished something truly special. I rested for a moment and looked at the time. I was relieved when I still had 40 minutes left. So I proved the rep wrong which made me happy as I was heading towards the bus depot. 

Along the way were marmots again looking cute and devious at the same time. I entered into a shop along the way to browse and pass the time. The majority of the shop was selling cuddly toys of marmots all shapes and sizes with lederhosen outfits on or without. I left the shop with a few victory snacks heading towards the edge again looking down onto the valley below and got talking to a couple who were on my coach. I asked them if they had fun and they said yes but couldn’t really do much with the age they were. I told them what I accomplished when they asked me and they were surprised and understood why I looked so tired. By then it was time to get back on the coach and the relief I felt once I sat down was incredible. 

I wanted to go to sleep but I didn’t want to miss any brilliant views on the way back down. A passenger opposite me overheard my conversation on the coach and it turned out that he and his wife were fellow Geordies too; I thought I was alone. The coach started moving as we left the glorious Grossglockner Mountain and me sticking my headphones in munching away on my food. I thought it was going to be a straight trip back but we stopped off again a few miles down the winding road to another interesting area. This area had a small lake set in the rocky landscape and a wondrous view of the mountain range beyond. Right next to the lake was a mountain slope which still had quite a lot of snow still on it so I headed around the small lake and went into the snow like a 5 year old trying to keep on my feet. I could hear a stream nearby which made me thirsty yet again. I approached and filled my bottle up immediately realising that the water was freezing cold; it was yet again amazing. I moved onto the next snow patch and had seen that someone tried to start a sculpture of rocks but didn’t finish it so I gathered a few rocks and stacked them on top of each other hoping it would hold. It did and as I stood back and looked at what I did I thought it looked really good. 

At this point I headed towards the shop and entered looking at what they had to sell. It was the typical trinkets of Austria and marmot toys so I came out with nothing and as I was heading back to the coach, there was an old man with a tamed marmot on his shoulders. It was gigantic up close but still managed to look kind of cute. I plucked up the courage to stroke it and as I did, it slightly turned but I didn’t know if it was going for my hand or not. I continued stroking more and I think it got used to me. I then headed back on the coach as did everyone else for the journey back. 

Tamed Marmot

There were times I thought I was going to nod off but the views stopped me doing that. A long time passed as drop offs were happening and like always I would be the last. As we were leaving Saalbach for Hinterglemm, I paid attention to the onboard temperature reading which was reading 31 degrees. I felt every degree too when I finally got off the coach. I didn’t have any lotion with me so I tried to stay within the shaded areas but even still it was stifling hot. I eventually got back to my room in one piece emptying my rucksack and resting for a while checking through photos and watching the work that was happening outside. At this point I almost forgot that the staff were on there day off so I headed out into the village in the hopes that somewhere was serving food. 

Once I had left I never really had a clue on where I was going to go. The majority of the time I walked slowly up the street checking menus seeing what they had to offer. I then came to a place called the ‘Heurigenstube’ restaurant which made snitzel. I always wanted to try it so I crossed the small bridge over the river and entered the outside area of the restaurant. I took my seat and waited for a waitress to arrive and when she did, I was amazed of the way she was dressed with a chequered pink dress with a German style to it. I told her what I would like and I ordered a beer too. The beer came first of course in the large glass and I took my time drinking it savouring the flavour. My food eventually came and it was large so I dug straight in and because I never new what snitzel really was, I was surprised to find out that it was basically an escalope. The food was great nonetheless and I eventually finished my beer too whilst trying to swat the flies away. 

Austrian Snitzel

I paid my bill and was on my way exploring the village as I was always away; I never had time to appreciate what was in the village. I took a stroll along the street looking through shop windows and then ending up at the park. I wandered around the mini golf area admiring the fish pond for a moment continuing my walk. I then bumped into a couple from my hotel and began talking about what we all did for the day and talking about tomorrow’s plans. We parted ways and I decided to head back to my room resting my tired legs from the most remarkable thing I had done so far on this trip. Standing on the glacier was worth all the aches and pains I had in my legs; it was truly an incredible moment in my life.
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