Archive for the ‘Austria Outdoors’ Category
Although touring Hallstatt when in Austria is a must…
The surrounding region known as the Salzkammergut is Austria’s hidden treasure in the Austrian Alps.
Normally when places in the Austria Alps are mentioned, you hear of Tirol, Salzburg, Innsbruck, Kitzbuhel, St. Anton and such but, not Salzkammergut, which by the way translates to something like “Salt Chamber Place”.
The “salt” comes from the fact that salt mining has been a major staple of the area going back 5,000 years when it was discovered, and has been mined for over 3,000 years. Some 230 million years ago the area used to be an ocean floor. Nature sure does wonders over the eons.
Salzkammergut is not a specific town, village or state, rather it is an area situated mostly south and east of Salzburg that takes in parts of three Austrian states – Salzburg, Styria and Upper Austria. It’s a beautiful Alpine region with numerous large mountain lakes, meadows, hot mineral springs, little quaint villages and just great outdoors. There’s the Wolfgangsee, Fusslsee, Hallstattsee, Wolfgangsee and Grundlsee (lakes) among others.
One of the quaint villages in the Salzkammergut region is Fussl, which also happens to be the home of Red Bull. And unless you know what to look for, you’d never guess that a set of totally discreet single level glass enclosed structures that sit on a pond and blend beautifully into the surroundings, were Red Bull’s world headquarters. The village itself, which sits on the shore of the Fusslsee (lake), is a place that invites one to spend some time in and soak in the setting.
Nearby is the village of Hallstatt, which is bound by a cliff on one side and Hallstattsee on the other. The colorful boathouses at the edge of the lake make one of the most photographed settings of Alpine Austria. Speaking from experience, I can tell you that photographs don’t capture the full essence of the setting. It’s a village where you’d definitely would want to spend some time at. Numerous guest house (Gasthof) accommodations are available.
The Salzkammergut area is also known for its spas and hot mineral springs, with villages such as Bad Goisern, Bad Ischl and Bad Aussee, the latter used to be a health retreat for the Vienna aristocracy of the past. Today, these facilities still serve as retreats for guests from all over the world.
Besides the recreation available at the lakes, the hiking, and just plain relaxing, here you’ll also find Salt mine tours, such as in Hallstatt, ice cave tours and a two leg gondola ride to the top of Krippenstein, where the view of the surrounding area, the Hallstattsee down below, the Dachstein glacier and the southern Alps is truly magnificent. While on Krippenstein, step out on one of “Five Fingers” platform and look a thousand feet straight down.
There’s much to see and do in the Salzkammergut region and it’s definitely worth spending a few days, or more, exploring and just taking in the surroundings. A good base for such a visit is the village of Gosau, with its Gosausee and glacial backdrop. The setting is idealic, with the green meadows, roaming sheep, cows and plain unspoiled country side.
BTW, the wearing of tracht (local traditional wear), which varies from village to village and personal preference, is fairly common in the Salzkammergut region. It’s almost worn as a badge representing people’s individuality as well as association with a particular area or village. There’s definitely a lot of pride shown in one’s heritage and village.
And then there are the local residents that greet you with a “Gruss Gott” and some with a MOOOOO!
Activities in the Austrian Alps don’t stop with favorite activities that draws visitors to the Austrian Alps – skiing. Come summer and the Austrian Alps bustle with summer activities, especially in July and August, which are also the peak travel months for the Austrian Alps and the Tyrol area.
Vacationers from all over Europe flock to the Austrian Alps and the summer time activities. Here you’ll find; hiking, trekking, biking, horseback riding, or just taking in the fresh mountain air and the scenery. Even prior to summer, spring time can also be a great time to visit the Austrian Alps; the crowds are down and you’ll get to enjoy the serenity, take in the explosion of alpine flowers and enjoy the stunning mountain views. Some will even claim, as I would, that spring time is the best time for hiking and enjoying the outdoors. Whether you choose guided hikes or go it alone, hiking in the Austrian Alps is about as good as it gets.
A word of caution – in the Alps, the weather can change rapidly and it’s advised to check with the locals about conditions and what to wear. If staying in a Gasthof, the person running the guesthouse will be a great resource for you.
As we get into summer, besides the typical active and outdoors activities, music definitely fills the air in the Austrian Alps. As elsewhere in Austria, music is just a part of the Austrian culture. There’s the world famous Salzburg Music Fest in Salzburg, celebrating its favorite son, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and that city’s musical heritage. Go a bit further West and you’ll find the Innsbruck Summer Festival in this the Tyrolean capital.
Also in Tyrol, the town of Erl celebrates with the Tyrolean Festival Erl and its presentation of classical music set amongst the spectacular outdoors. Lastly, there’s the Summer Festival at Lake Constance, at the far Western edge of Austria, which features world class performances set on the largest floating stage in the world. Besides being the setting for this spectacular Music Festival, Lake Constance shares its shores with Switzerland and Germany.
In the summer many of the larger lakes, or “see” as they are called in the Austria, become a playground for campers, boaters, canoers, sailors, swimmers and even divers. The relatively moderate elevation of these lakes allow the water to get to a comfortable temperature during the summer season, making them ideal for summer activities. Between Salzburg, Carinthia and Tyrol there are over 20 such “sees”, each with its own charm and many with great resorts and spas. Check out the “Alpine Beaches” for detailed information.
Austrians are also proud of their equestrian heritage and horseback riding is definitely one of the summer time activities, and is especially wonderful in the Tyrol area, where there’s the opportunity for horse back rides along ridges and enjoying the alpine flowers and spectacular vistas. A number of resorts offer a day in the saddle followed by spending time in a great spa. And then there are the 10,000 or so springs of pure mountain water feeding the Alpine lakes and streams.
In the Fall, of course you have the change in color of the leaves; many of the tourists will have left, the rates are down and this could be a glorious time to visit the Austrian Alps and just enjoy the peace, quiet and rustling leaves. As you can see, this is a magical place.
As we get into winter, skiing is again king. Check it out at Austrian Alps Winter Activities