Home again

I have never been walking in the Austrian Alps before so I was not ready for quite how stunningly beautiful it is.  This is the Lunersee, glowing like a turquoise far below us on our first day.

Neither was I ready for quite how hard much of the walking was. When you look at this picture and think that you have to get over some of these mountains, it is not really surprising.  I think I had just forgotten what real mountains are like, or put my head in the sand, overwhelmed by life before we went and just closing my eyes to the scale of the task.

Also we were carrying these:
although mine was much smaller than Ian's.  I had hoped for that magical moment which came on about day five of my Offa's Dyke Path walk last year when you lift your rucksack and it suddenly seems lighter and you start walking and think you could go on for ever.  Sadly it never came and I carried on grunting and puffing my way up the high hills. it is just the most extraordinary thing to be in such a landscape, slow or not.  To be honest, things did get easier as we went but I never achieved tripping around like one of these
This is one of Ian's photographs of a group of ibex which we found startlingly close to our path when we climbed Sulzfluh.  We came round a corner and found a small group.  I thought they would run as deer in Scotland would at the first hint of human contact.  But they stayed, wary but still, within camera range.  It is astonishing to see creatures so large and so strong surviving on what seems to be a landscape of stone.

The flowers are amazing.  I have hundreds of flower pictures but I don't want to bore you rigid.  To see so many things which you clearly recognise from your garden at home growing high and wild in alpine meadows is a revelation.  I am going to try lupins and doronicum up here on my own much lower hills now that I have seen them growing in their natural environment.

It is a world away from planes and trains and cities.  It is a world where humans have learnt to survive but where they seem to cling on to the edges, home not to men but to the ibex and the marmot, although there were plenty of Austrian and German walkers in the mountains: old folk and children as well as the superfit young, all tripping up and down the high paths and leaping streams.  They weren't yodelling.  The only yodelling we heard was here

on a sunny deck on top of a mountain by the cable car in the pretty village of Gargellan.  Here we also stayed in a small pension where the hospitality and the food were simply wonderful.  If you are ever in the Vorarlberg in Austria and want somewhere to stay, try the Wulfenia haus, run by the familie Bachman, just the perfect example of a small family run hotel.  They did our washing and gave us marvellous meals and comfortable beds, all with easy and genuine hospitality.

We didn't lose any weight, although we both got fitter over the fortnight.  I suspect that, just as the Offa's Dyke walk was powered by chips which led to my walking 180 miles and putting on two pounds, this one was powered by beer, not generally calorie free. Mostly we stayed in huts high in the mountains and all the huts also offer huge meals called "bergsteigeressen" (mountainclimbers' food) which are supposed to provide you with a guaranteed number of calories.  Spaghetti bolognaise was a favourite with me.  I was less keen on meals involving dumplings although the quality of food coming out of these high, isolated kitchens far away from roads and shops, where supplies came in on rickety pulley cars, was generally astonishingly good.

The paths are marked like this, from stone to stone, and those are my walking poles.  I have never used them before but am a complete convert now.  I am amazed, looking at this picture and wanting to walk right back into it, that I did it.
Now I need a holiday, perhaps a kitchen, and someone to help in the overgrown and overflowing garden.
It was good to go and it is good to be home.


  1. How absolutely beautiful Elizabeth.

    I haven't walked in the Alps either but MANY years ago I was a rep for a tour operator in Kolsass Weer.

    I was only there for one season and wonderful as it was, as you say, it is good to be home. Bet the garden has grown.

  2. Have seen similar flowers growing high up in the Picos in Spain. how resiliant they are.

    Wonderful scenery - makes our mountains seem quite tame.

  3. Offa's Dyke walk/chips/putting on two pounds..LOL. That would be my luck too Elizabeth.
    Great harmony with your text & 'photos-hopefully when you're less busy we'll get to see some more.It does look like hard work though I must say-as much as I'd like to do some mountain walking I think I'd need a good network of chairlifts and donkeys!

  4. Lupins - what an excellent idea ELizabeth - they will be just the thing for your place, growing as they do in the wild (rather than growing how they grow in parks and gardens)

    Glad you had a good holiday, and welcome back.

    PS _ I have just read Helens comment - I am with her on the chairlifts and donkeys after looking at the pictures of the mountains you walked upon!

  5. And I thought I had done quite well getting up to Penycloddiau. Looks like a wonderful week.

  6. Stunning scenery, but no doubt you're happy to be back in your Welsh Hills Again. I used to live on Offa's Dyke; nice but no comparison! Now, what about that kitchen?

  7. Beautiful mountains and great photos. It always makes me laugh how many definitions of 'dumplings' the Austrians seem to have - sweet, savoury, huge, small, gnocci-like, - all are just labelled 'dumpling' in English.

  8. What a stunningly beautiful area for walking! You will have earned every calorie offered along the way.

    So nice to come home too; perfect.

  9. Gosh that does look wonderful! I get a bit overwhelmed and panicky in big mountains (as well as being awestuck by the beauty - or 'sublime' to use the landscape art history term), it's probably because I'm a Fen girl whose natural habitat is 2m above sea level, and at home under the giant open East Anglian skies.

    I love seeing familiar garden plants in their natural ecosystem - it makes gardening so much more rewarding.

    You must be totally refreshed now (if a little tired).


  10. Fabulous photos. The last climb I did was Aran Fawddwy which I found pretty demanding in places, but I can see from your pictures what a challenge the Alps presented - lots of rewards though. So, what are you doing to relax after your holiday?!

  11. Gorgeous! How amazing is that turquoise?! The goats have special feet, you see. If you had goat feet I'd bet you'd be as fast as they are. Love the flower pics.

  12. I havent walked in the Alps but sking in the various areas was magic, but my one try at ski mountaineerng was terrifying, exhilarating, an depressing, I was passed easily by people at least 20 years older than me!

  13. It looks amazing Elizabeth. Glad you had such an enjoyable and interesting holiday, and isn't it always good to be back!

    I'm busy trying to get out of spending August crossing the North Sea on the boat... again. Once was quite enough. Maybe I'll come and see you instead!

  14. You have done what I have wanted to do for years, Elizabeth. I'm going to make MFB read your post and then maybe he'll be convinced, although he knows Austria well and agrees its beautiful.

    Bravo for you! Two weeks of hiking requires a considerable amount of stamina, even if you're fortifying youself with beer and spaghetti!
    The pictures were gorgeous and those Austrian paths...I've seen them mow a path through the middle of a meadow for walkers.

    I hope everything went well in your absence and that all that organization beforehand paid off. You have been replenished by the mountains, I suspect - they are the most spiritual of places.

  15. I admire you for your mountain climbing! I can walk forever on level ground, I'm strictly a bog lady and do not "hill" well.

  16. Amazing photographs! Only really seen the country under a blanket of snow (except in films). Will certainly get you fit. Glad you had a good time.

  17. East, West, Home's Best as they say Elizabeth - the scenery looks wonderful as do the flowers. It is sod's law really that all that walking does not take any weight off, isn't it? I suppose we get hungrier and we eat more. Ah well - small price to pay for such a lovely holiday.

  18. BSM - it was a stunning place. Can't quite imagine you as a rep!
    Mountainear - it is odd, in some ways our hills are tame and yet in others we have a sense of wilderness still.
    Helen - donkeys! That was the answer. Didn't see a single one.
    Karen - yes, am quite into lupins. My sister living on Dartmoor was growing them too so they clearly don't mind a bit of hard living.
    Neil - ah, but you will have noticed that I didn't come with you up Penycloddiau. My excuse is that I came home only the night before but if the sun had been shining I might not have been able to resist.
    Cro - kitchen? puts fingers in ears and sings loudly.

  19. Elizabeth, It's stunning~and magnificent. Congrats on the climbs! gail

  20. The first photo is an absolute stunner! Worth the trip just for that one breathtaking view. Thanks for sharing it. Canadian Chickadee

  21. The first photo is an absolute stunner! Worth the trip just for that one breathtaking view. Thanks for sharing it. Canadian Chickadee

  22. Looks like a wonderful holiday. I've wondered about walking poles but decided that the blind collie would probably use them as an opportunity to trip me into a ravine.
    Mad x

  23. Thank you for that invigorating walk through the Austrian Alps. The scenery must be so beautiful there. And no - I never get bored of looking at pictures of plants and flowers.

  24. Glad that you had a great time Elizabeth. It looks and sounds just the sort of holiday himself would relish but having no head for heights I have just wobbled looking at your photo of the Lunersee. I will just appreciate the beauty from afar though most sad that I am unlikely to ever see alpine flowers in their own habitat - you must show us more of your photos!

  25. You must be very proud of yourself for doing it! Those Alpine hikes are no picnic.
    Lovely pictures of a wonderful landscape, lots of drama.

    Perhaps being back in our tame hills and gentle valleys is better for everyday consumption.

  26. Oh that was gorgeous, lovely photos...absolutely breathtaking. I used to do a lot of climbing, I think it's once you get home you really appreciate the experience you have been through, at the time, with a heavy back pack it can seem like hell. I used to stand at the top of the mountains and hurl my back pack down ahead of me when it all got too much. Posie

  27. You are amazing. That is a fantastic achievement. That's the nice thing about living in Europe so many countries to visit.

  28. It makes your heart sing when you see such breathtaking views. But did you get to yodel! Sounds like a great holiday - don't worry any extra weight is just muscle from all the exercise - it weighs more than fat (or is that just a myth !

  29. What a wonderful experience that must have been! I've done my share of walking in Germany but never really high in the mountains. The food, though - I remember it being as good as you say.

  30. My what a stunning trip, with amazing alpine flowers to boot! Very jealous :)

  31. what a stunning sounding holiday. I loved your photos and wouldn't have been bored at all, let alone rigid, by hundreds more flowers. Have only done the alps on skis - very little turquoise that way!

  32. HM - you are right about dumplings. We kept being told that dinner was so and so, asking for a translation of yet another unknown word and finding it was dumplings.
    Rachel - certainly did earn every calorie, and ate them all too!
    Magic Cochin - I am a hill girl and feel a bit as you describe when the landscape is huge and flat, funny!
    Chris - not sure about the relaxing bit. We came home, rushed about and rushed off to help son and his wife with new kitchen. Back home now and about to go down to Oxford to see daughters, and do some more jobs. Perhaps I will just go and have a little lie down right now!
    MOM - the turquoise is extraordinary isn't it? It hardly looks real.
    Penny - oh yes, I was passed by an elderly couple with ancient rucksacks and cheery smiles. Mind you, I think they were a bit special.

  33. So glad you're back! If it's any consolation, I lived at altitude for five years when I was younger, and I learned that it does take a couple of weeks to aclimatize. The thinner air makes your body produce extra red blood cells, then it all gets easier, but that takes about 2 weeks. Did you feel like superwoman when you came home?


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