Gutentag dach Badgastein,
We’ve come to another halt, this time in the mountains of Austria. The countryside of Austria is predictably scenic, but even more so than expected.
a ferry but no water
The road to Badgastein ended in brilliant sunshine at Mallnitz, which reposes peacefully in a perfect example of a hanging valley. The maps showed a “ferry” for the balance of the journey but there was no sign of water. See the dotted straight line on the map. To complete the journey, we drove onto the Tauernbahn Autoschleuse, a car-carrying train. The idea is you drive your car onto the narrow train, alight from your vehicle and join as a passenger. What a great piece of technology. When the train had conveyed us through the mountains, we emerged from the 9 km tunnel to Paul Simon’s “freshly fallen silent shroud of snow”, which surprised even the under-dressed locals.
Badgastein is a spa and ski resort built in a horseshoe on the steep slopes at the head of a long green glacial valley. From any angle it is a picture worthy of a postcard. The dominant sound is of the waterfall (wasserfall) which slices wildly and abruptly – yet somehow unobtrusively – through the town. This is no trivial watercourse, with an estimated hourly discharge bettering some of our languid western rivers in Australia.
We are able to stay here in salubrious accommodation for a week free of charge by virtue of my ownership of a time share certificate. Despite the sullied reputation that the time share schemes had accrued for themselves, I purchased this three years ago on the thinking that the nice hotel-style accommodation would blend well with the more earthy options I’m normally content with.
On balance, it’s proving to be a positive. This becomes especially true at times like these, when the ownership allows us to visit enchanting alpine villages nestling above idyllic rustic valleys. The hotel has everything we need, including a sauna in which the guests are inveigled – by words and sketches – to enter only when naked and also to “cultivate the community” by chatting to fellow users. This is surely a case of the translation losing something and gaining something simultaneously. We’ll have to try this cultivation one day later this week.
Yesterday and today the sun is out and now we watch the thaw in the
brilliant spring sunshine, the peaks scintillating against the backdrop of
cloudless blue. This morning we walked along the Kaiser Wilhelm Promenade up into a supremely scenic adjoining valley, with scenes immediately redolent of “The Sound of Music”. Among other things we passed half a dozen tiny squirrels, so tame they took peanuts from our hands.
Yesterday we caught the Stubnerkogelbahn up to 2250 m to marvel at the
mountainscape with a 360 degree view. There were snow-capped mountains and ranges in every direction as far as we could see. The area is known as the roof of Austria and contains 300 mountains over 3000 metres in altitude. It was good to ponder on the awe which the sight must have instilled in the very first people to reach the vantage point. Today, it costs 18 Euros and almost no physical exertion, but the vision is no less inspirational or wondrous.
I suppose it’s a truism that mountains draw people to them with an intangible pull. I’ve never had any trouble understanding the feeling, but have never arrived at a satisfactory psychological explanation. It’s too simple to cite their sheer mass or their brooding silence. Some people speak of an affection for their particular mountain ie. the one visible outside their own window in their own home. In some instances it amounts to a kind of quasi-ownership. (We have claimed the snow-capped peak in touching distance outside our hotel window.) This is the best kind of ownership because one person’s quiet enjoyment – whether remote or not – of their mountain does not impinge on another’s.