We had arrived early at our hotel, not expecting our room to be available, but it was. With a view from the balcony looking skywards to the mountains, the sun shining on the remnants of the winter snow and a river rushing past out front, we were very happy to think this was it for a week. With our booking we were given the SummerCard - introduced to entice tourists here through the summer months. Amongst many other things, it gave us a free round trip daily on any of the working cable cars to the top of the alps. So not wasting any time, we dropped our bags and walked the 5 mins into town to catch a ride to the top of the Planai.
The ride takes you up to a height of 1825mts, it's a long ride with 30 support pylons along the way. There are numerous ski runs of all levels leading down from the peak, but at the moment they are all lush grassy slopes covered with wild flowers - buttercups, forget-me-nots and dandelions. As we made our ascent, we crossed over mountain bike riders tearing down the hill on specifically designed tracks and hikers on designated trails making their descent back into Schladming. At the top the views were amazing in every direction.
The view from half way up the cable car to the Planai - Schladming below
At the top of the Planai - with wonderful views across the Alps
After doing the Panorama Circuit around the top, we headed down the hill along the hikers trail, taking us 2 hours to make it back down into town. We had booked half board at our Hotel Zirngast, so dinner each evening was included. Nice to shower and change at the end of the day and walk into the restaurant for a lovely 4 course meal.
Next day we headed back up to the Planai, then hiked further up to the summit of the Krahbergzinken to a height of 2134 kts. Back down to the Planai, then taking a different trail than yesterday, back down into towards town. Unfortunately this track proved to be much more difficult, in places no more than 12" wide and more like a goat track down the side of a steep slope. In total, it was 6 hours of trekking for the day and the result was a huge blister on my big toe, so that's my hiking done for a few days.
Just short of the top of the Krahbergzinken. It was a hard climb but worth it.
This was as close to the edge as Pete was game to get - a long drop below !!
Looking down to the valley below on our descent from the Planai
Day 3 was much more sedate due to my foot. The skies were cloudless, so we decided to spend the day at the Dachstein glacier. It was a short drive, meandering our way up the mountain to the cable car station where we caught the gondola up to the glacier. It was spectacular ride and not for the faint hearted, the ride very close to the cliff face and reaching a height of 2700 mts. There is even a platform for the adventurous ones to ride up on top of the car in the open air. There is enough snow at the top for skiing all through summer and the slopes were dotted with skiers and snow boarders alike. Another attraction is a glass floor viewing platform (sky walk) which looks down the cliff face, but neither of us could bring ourselves to actually try it. We were content with a walk in the snow and a seat in the sun, real t-shirt and shorts weather.
One of the viewing platforms hanging out over the cliff - Dachstein Glacier
That's Pete on the Skywalk .......... ? Not a chance of that happening !!
Any one for a snow ball fight ? Glorious weather at the glacier
The gondola to the top of the glacier - indoor or outdoor ride
The getting off point at the top of the glacier. Gives some perspective as to the sheer cliff face.
After a couple of hours at the top, it was time to return down and Pete surprised me by opting to ride on top of the gondola in the open air section. Not me, I much preferred the security of walls around me.
Next stop was at an area named 'Wilde Wasser' where the Wild Waters alpine path takes you up to the Riesach waterfall, the highest waterfall in the region. It's a steep though wide path with lots of steps, but the reward at the top is worth it. The waterfall plunges 140 meters over 2 ledges down to the Untertal valley below, the spray of your face a welcome relieve from the heat and the sheer noise of the powerful flow is deafening.
Reisach waterfall at Wilde Wasser in Austria
Continuing along the trail, we came to the 200' high, 50 meter long steel rope suspension bridge across the gorge. This was seriously going to test both of us! Thankfully there was only one other couple about to cross - had there been hordes of people on the bridge, I don't think I could have done it. So with gritted teeth (and without looking down), we slowly edged our way across to the other side. It was a very solid structure but nothing feels as good as terra firma. Interestingly, the bottle screws were made by Ronstan of Australia.
A little higher up the mountain is the Riesachsee, a beautiful lake nestled against a spectacular backdrop, but we will return tomorrow to do that. So it was back across the bridge AGAIN for and heading for home.
Proving a point Just another beautiful view of Austria
Day 4 was trying another of the cable cars taking us up to the Hochwurzen - the same altitude as the Planai. More stunning scenery at the top, and only a gentle walk for us today, choosing instead to sit in the sunshine with a cold beer and chill out. In winter the Hochwurzen is famous for its toboggan run down the 4.5 mile forest road. In summer you can take a mountain go-kart and go zooming down instead. I opted for the cable car and left Pete with a group of enthusiastic 'downhillers' all eager to try their skills on the winding gravel road.
The view from the top of the Hochwurzen
Our stop for a sit in the sun and a cold Austrian beer
Pete checking that the brakes work before starting the long road down
Day 5 was back to the Wilde Wasser and our hike up to the lake. We have had the last 4 days of beautiful weather but the forecast says things are about to change. It took us about 50 mins to walk up the road with a fairly constant slope of about 30 degrees, not plateauing out until we had reached the top. Being Sunday, there were a lot of families there having picnics in the sun by the lake edge, though I am guessing many of them had driven up. The sunshine was fast disappearing and a definite change in the air so after only following the path a short way around the lake, we decided to head back down the hill to the car. It only took us about 30 minutes to come back down, and the first of the rain just starting.
After a long slog up the hill to the Riesachsee
Pete talking to some of the local girls
Leaving me in the hotel room to get the blog up to date, Pete headed back to the Planai cable car with the intent of taking it up to the middle station then hiking to the top. However, because the winds had increased so much, they had suspended the ride and so he hiked up to it (1350 meters). Just short of getting there, the heavens opened so he arrived drenched with sweat and rain. Thankfully by then, the winds had dropped and they had reopened the ride, so he was able to cable car back down.
They look like Forget-me-nots and Buttercups
A sample of the beautiful flowers that grow wild on the road side
The last 2 days of our weeks stay saw the weather change and the rain/drizzle set in. It wasn't worth even going for a ride on the cable cars as the top half of the mountains never came out of cloud all day long. We did some driving around the surrounding area, back up into the alps and discovering small lakes everywhere - it was still stunningly beautiful even though visibility wasn't the best. One of the nearby villages needed to be investigated, just for a photo shot.
Our stay at Schladming had come to an end and it was time to hit the road and head for Slovenia, hopefully chasing the sun. We have enjoyed the use of the SummerCard and it's free passes on the cable cars, as well as our beautiful walks and hikes through the forestry, mountains and alpine villages. We have been entertained with the 2015 Alpen Tour event going on for 4 days, with road races and mountain bike races down the hill from the Planai with hundreds of competitors.
Zirngast has been an great place to stay. Nice facilities, friendly staff and lovely meals. We did however need to have them translated each morning at breakfast so we knew what we are choosing as a main for that evening. These were some of our choices:-
Kraftige Rindsuppe mit Tirolerknodel
Geschmorte Kalbsbackerl mit Pastinackenmousseline und Kohlsprossen
Hausgemachte Palatschinke mit Erdbeermarlmelade
We have been very impressed with the tidiness of the country. In all the places we have stayed, we have not seen any rubbish or litter around the place, and often shopkeepers are out sweeping the path and road In front of their premises each morning before opening. The locals have been friendly and often stopping to chat. On realising we didn't speak German, they would break into broken English for us. Those who had none would just smile and walk on. All in all, a great week.
Thanks Austria, it has been a memorable stay.