Wednesday, May 5, 2010


By Claire
Our new friends Kees and Lianne very generously invited us to go see Grossglockner, the highest mountain in Austria at 3798 meters (12,460 feet). We jumped at the chance. They have a caravan, instead of a motorhome, which means they have a car to zoom off and see the sights. Lianne mentioned that we would stop for coffee along the way and we would also have a picnic. We brought our own lunches, dressed for the cold and off we went.

Along the way Lianne spotted a picnic area right next to the river and Kees pulled in. Out came a box packed with hot water for tea, two thermoses of coffee, along with a small container of sugar packets and another of creamer. She also brought a delicious dessert kind of thing with a whipped cream filling.

This is a gorgeous natural park, Höhe Tauern National Park and the area where Kaiser Franz-Josef and Empress Elizabeth (Sisi) used to hike together--or so they say. Everything I read said they had a pretty distant relationship and she was miserable but that didn't take away from the vision of what it must have been like back then. We arrived at the entrance to the park and the beginning of the High Alpine Road where we took advantage of the WC and looked at various photos from the old days. We especially loved the old cars. The High Alpine Road is 48 km. with 36 bends and an altitude ascent of 2,504 meters (8,215 feet).

We took it slow to the top and breathed in the view. Welcome to winter! I had trouble getting my car door open when Kees suggested we stop for some photos and the wind nearly took my hat off. We checked the car's outside temperature and it was 1°. Chuck could barely stand for a picture and Lianne was afraid he was going to be blown off the cliff.

We made several stops for photos and to check out the views. It really was something, even if we did wish for sun. Sometimes it's even more fun under more wild conditions. Funny thing, there weren't many people around. I wonder why? In fact, I found a handout we had been given at the entrance that stated: "Because you are here on a less than perfect day, if you return in this calendar year it will only cost €4 with your entry ticket from today" (normal entry is €28). We hope they will have a chance to come back before the year is out. Lianne pointed out that all the trees were gone until we happened to see one lone tree.

We seemed to be the only ones on the road, which was just as well. Sometimes it was a complete whiteout and difficult to see. At the top, we did see what we came for: the longest glacier in the eastern Alps, the Pasterze.

We even had our picnic lunch, sitting on a bench outside at the view site of the glacier. I think we lasted about 8 minutes; I was the only one with gloves. We looked around one last time and decided to start the descent with a stop for coffee along the way. We slowly made our way down and chose the fork in the road that took us down a different route and through a small village where we found a café. Lianne asked if we wanted coffee with cream and explained that it was like a cappuccino. We both agreed thinking why not have real cream instead of milk for a change. What a surprise when the coffee arrived with whipped cream on top! I must say, you could get used to this. She also ordered apple strudel all around. They only had three of the apple left and one with a kind of creamy cheese center. Chuck offered to trade with her and really enjoyed it. I had a bite and it was different, not too sweet and quite good.

Coming out of the café I spotted another Maypole. I don't know why it's such a thrill but there is something so wonderfully traditional about it.

The sun began to appear as we descended into the valley below. I guess it was probably sunny all day back at the campground. Maybe that means tomorrow will be too.

What a completely fantastic day. We love this area and hope to venture out even more.

From our window

The rewards of the journey far outweigh the risk of leaving the harbor. Unknown


Carol said...

Loved the pictures of the glaciers and the mountains. How exciting!


Karin said...

I think you have found paradise! It did look cold and forboding up in the mountains....but what fun to go up! And green, green, green below! Here on Paros it is already starting the "brown" season! Glad you are enjoying new friends and finding time to slow the pace and relax!

Karin on Paros