“Blimey,” one of us remarks, “didn’t realise I was this tired!”
The scenery is breathtaking, and taking a cable-car to the nearest mountain-top never fails to excite us - we’re easily pleased. This time we stayed for our first time at the relaxed and charming, family-run Schneeberger Hotel in Niederau, literally five minutes away from the Markbachjoch lift station. Every summer tourist is presented with a Wildschonau Valley Card which offers unlimited travel on two lifts, daily swimming at the local heated outdoor pool and entrance to the local museum - all free! Our main pastime is of course the daily walking; generally we start off with a few easy ones before tackling the mountain hikes. We always nip into the local tourist office when we first arrive and buy a copy of the best map available - an invaluable purchase if you mean to do any serious walking. Even so, map or no, we still seem to go wrong at least once or twice; this experience has been known to produce some exasperated sighs and even the odd bad word, especially when you realise the last 200m downhill descent you’ve been finding such an incredible doddle was completely wrong and you now need to entirely retrace your steps back uphill.
If your idea of a summer vacation includes wearing a pair of slingback heels (I’m thinking of the ladies here, please don’t imagine me shod in this way!), then you should probably avoid this destination. However, that’s not to say the holiday’s only fit for serious mountain hikers; not at all, there are good paths and walks for all ages, every fitness level and ability; even so, if you’re planning a walk, a pair of walking-boots, a hat, a rucksack containing waterproofs, something to eat, some sun-cream and a water bottle are all advisable - the weather can change very quickly in the mountains.
We generally avoid large towns, however, on this occasion we did a lovely round-trip walk from Niederau through woodland to Worgl. We bought some lunch in Worgl and became a tad overjoyed on spotting a C&A store; these have been long extinct in Britain and our excitement probably only serves to give away our age. I remember my mother taking me to Swansea C&A in the mid-sixties to buy my first off-the-peg suit for chapel. For old times’ sake I bought a linen shirt and a new pair of shorts, and Judith got herself some t-shirts.
The coffee, even when served at a hutte on the top of a mountain, is almost invariably good; we did however get an expensive cup of instant (surely a work of the Devil?) at one alm that we had instinctively wondered about before entering - the place was scruffy and seemed a bit grubby - so very untypical for sparkly-clean-in- every-way-Austria; we should have trusted our instincts, but let’s face it, a two-week holiday where the only bad experience is one lousy cup of coffee has to be a winner.
Apart from the walking, there was of course always time for daily reading. I happily devoured Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston (see review in previous blog),The Shape of Water by Andrea Camilleri, Oh Pioneer by Willa Cather and The Masters of Atlantis by Charles Portis - all different but all great reads and definitely recommended.