The Psychology of Quality and More
Half-term in the Austrian Tyrol
Austria (W, M) has a lot of mountains in it and some of that is called the Tyrol (W, M). And in the Tyrol is the Zillertal valley (M), with the ski resort of Mayrhofen (W, M) at the end of the valley and the village of Schwendau (W, M) a few kilometres down from this. In Schwendau is a family-run 'pension' (= small hotel) called the 'Alpina' (M). Which is a long way around of saying that we had a holiday there at the end of May in 2009. This is the blog of our exciting adventures there.
Saturday 23rd May 2009
Great room with stunning views from under-the-eaves dormer and external balcony. Significantly underestimated weather -- assuming it would be cold and maybe wet, but it was blue skies and in the high 20s (Celsius).
Mayrhofen is not big, pleasant church and environs and quite apres-ski, with bars, hotels and retail opportunities. Stopped at a bar for a beer and ice-cream. Spilled the beer into my lap. Ach.
Took the narrow-gauge railway back to Hippach (W, M) and its quaint church, then strolled up the road back to the pension, pausing only to buy wine, schnapps and crisps. Took another photo of the view. Out for the count by 10pm.
Sunday 24th May
Long sleep. Just missed train from Hippach so legged it to Mayrhofen in a record 40 minutes to get to the travel agent's talk about what to do. Weather variable so decided to take their tour to Krimmel falls.
Wandered around Mayrhofen past gaily decorated buildings. Stopped for a coffee then got on a huge bus. Tip for photographers: get the back seat - the back window isn't covered in flattened flies.
Nice views along the way, including a stop for a stunning perspective across a reservoir and a distant view of the Krimmel falls. In total, they are the fifth highest in the world, though by multiple steps rather than a single fall.
Lots of spray at the bottom (makes photos difficult!). Then up past strange car and brass goat, alongside boiling stream, flowers and views through the spray to distant church. Eleri was a patient and amused model.
We went around 31 steep hairpins up the path with frequent stops for endless wowza views of the thundering falls with occasional calm waters and much-needed rest. Then it started to rain so we legged it back down past the increasing torrent in the trees.
Monday 25th May
Lovely start to the day so it's up the glacier. Hintertux (W, M) is at the end of a long valley (take a bus from next to Mayrhofen train station) from which three gondola rides will get you to the very top of the Gefrorene Wand Spitzen (M), at 3250m above sea level.
The first two gondolas were just fine but the last one was broken. So we stopped and the bottom of the ski slopes for coffee whilst we watched skiers and snowboarders whilst we plucked up courage to go on the rather precarious-looking chair lifts.
And we were glad that we did, because the views from the top were astonishing. 'Top of the world' comes to mind with great views west, south and southeast. Northeast had a nice ridge and deep slope. Remarkably, at 3350m (about 10,000 feet) although a bit chilly we were comfortable in tee-shirts. Eleri read whilst I took more photos of snowshifters and skiers as clouds gathered.
On the way down we passed a dog on a chair lift, though by now seasoned lifters just enjoyed the view down and Eleri decided this was a good way to travel. After some welcome gluwein (at 3 euros, the same price as Coke) we decided to walk from the top of the first gondola as it didn't look too far down. But it was. After negotiating steep snow-covered paths we were taken on a circuitous route of about four miles before we got down to Hintertux, with roadside alpine flowers that provide yet more photo opportunities.
Then back to the pension for dinner and flop into bed, with of course a quick photo of sunset over the mountain.
Tuesday 26th May
Opened one eye. Glorious view still there. Checked it was still great from the balcony. Aching a bit from all the exertion so decided to have a quiet day. Blogged and fiddled with photos whilst Eleri went for a walk to town.
Then wandered down to bike hire place in Hippach, which was closed for lunch until 14:30. Never mind. Walked down riverside path to local capital Zell am Ziller (W, M), where there's what seems to be the standard pointy-steepled church. Interesting graveyard around it with wrought-iron graves. Some other nice buildings but not much more to thrill the tourist.
Went for a beer. Then an ice-cream. Then wandered home, via off-licence for another beer to drink whilst reading book. Usual few drips of rain late afternoon but nothing really happened until about midnight when there was a splendid thunderstorm. I tried photographing it, which is difficult as sometimes it's faint and sometimes it's so bright it lights the whole area. Got one reasonable photo that lit mostly clouds whilst also showing lightning bolts.
Wednesday 27th May
Innsbruck centre is not that big and it was an easy walk from the station through an interesting square and past a hairdresser with a huge sign outside. Dangling signs is an old tradition and we had coffee in a quiet backstreet where there were many such signs.
Innsbruck is a delightful city with much to photograph, especially in the old town, particularly around where a square containing the 'golden roof' (W) and the Heibling House with its ornate windows. There's a common style of bay windows, perhaps to allows occupants to look up and down the streets. Around the square are lovely arcades for retail therapy. We went up tower in the square with its splendid gargoyles for more views down to the square, and local street, including of a sedentary party.
The main shopping street was being dug up so I took a high-level picture of the Maria Teresa column and the statue atop. We andered around some more then headed back via the Triumphal Arch with its interesting top piece.
Then photo of the view dinner, blogging and bed.
Thursday 28th May
Relatively cool day after the heat of the early week so we thought we'd go for a long-ish stroll. Setting out at 08:30 we walked down to the Ramsau (W, M) chair lift which took us up 2000 feet (M). Stopped for a coffee, to enjoy the panorama and telephoto shot down to the Alpina, Schwenau and Schwendau-Hippach.
We then climbed another 1000 feet over the next hour and a half, past flowers and meadows, and over snow-filled gulleys. We then walked the aptly-named 'Panoramaweg' route 50 (M), pausing for coffee and photos of a beautiful flower meadow and notice how far we still had to go to Mayhofen.
Perhaps the most exciting moment was when I stopped to photo a view to a distant waterfall and my camera backpack decided to roll away down the alp all by itself, spewing lenses and other kit along the way! Fortunately it didn't disappear over the edge and we managed to retrieve all the bits which were thankfully unharmed.
At the end of the ridge we dropped down past alpine cows (complete with soothing bells) and through trees to Brandberg (W, M) where we stopped for a well-earned beer before walking back to Mayrhofen (noticing how far we still had to go to Schwendau). Another coffee and we walked back past hang-gliders and were absolutely pooped when we got to the Alpina at 18:30, having been walking for nine hours with only four stops for coffee along the way.
After dinner we could hardly climb the stairs and flopped into an early bed.
Friday 29th May
Then up the Penkenbahn cable car (M), with great views back down to Mayrhofen and across the Ahorn. After the heat of the early week it had cooled down and we regretted not taking warmer clothing as we ascended the chair lift to the almost-abandoned Penken (W, M) ski area. But it was still worthwhile with brilliant views across to the Ahorn. I took three panoramas (and here and here) though like up the glacier, you can't beat get a sense of it all from photos. Not much open on top and we walked past a burned-out place to the Penkenjoch where we got a welcome cup of gluwein to warm us for the descent, strolling past glorious views such as to the snowy Ahorn (and panoramas as above).
Saturday 30th May
Up early to get home. Farewell Alpina, we had a great time.
See also the full set of Austrian Tyrol photos.
And the big