Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Sounds of the Alps

The Austrian Alps form a stunning backdrop to any visit, particularly for a long-running musical set in Austria. Of course, I am referring to The Sound of Music. Set in Salzburg and the Austrian Alps, the majestic scenery adds to this classic musical film. And you can walk, eat, and sleep in it, just as thousands of others have.

Innsbruck is a great destination to start a walking tour. Nestled in the Tirolian Alps, Innsbruck was built around the bridge over the river Inn (bruck means bridge), where travelers could find rest at one of the city’s hotels or inns. To the north of the city are some great hikes and treks in the Karwendel Alpine Park. This can be reached by cable car from one of the resorts around Innsbruck, and day trips are easy to arrange. Buses travel frequently to the outlier villages around Innsbruck, such as Igls, Mutters, or Telfes, where you can enjoy the wildernesses available in Austria.

One unusual walk we’ve discovered is a herbal walk that starts in Oberau, barely just inside Germany. It features a herb farm, Holzalm Farm, at 3,600 feet, and the knowledgeable expert who accompanies the walk every Tuesday will leave you filled with the knowledge of herbal lore. It’s only a short bus ride from Innsbruck, so it’s well worth seeing if you’re interested in herbs.
Achensee is a lake in the center of Tirol between Rofangebirge to the east and the Karwendel Mountains to the west. This warm alpine lake, fed by a glacier, offers the chance of wonderful nature walks. We got some lovely shots of flora and fauna during our hikes, so it’s a real photography lover’s area. Part of the Tyrolean Eagle walk passes through Achensee, so if you are cycling or walking through the area, spend a day exploring the stunning scenery.

Spas and baths are another attraction of Tirol, which lead to a visit to The Bad Häring Spa Center. Bad, as it happens, just means the town has a spa or hot water spring (i.e., a bath). It’s a sulfur bath, so it has an interesting smell, but the treatments offered were very relaxing—just what we needed after a week of walking.

If you’re up for some mountaineering, the via ferrate (iron road) or Klettersteige offer a great way to explore more isolated mountains without the risk of injury or falling. These routes use iron ladders, maintained ropes, and other methods to make the mountains more accessible to all. While my partner thinks it’s cheating to use a ladder to scramble up the side of a cliff, it does make the higher peaks available to anyone, and experienced mountaineers can always use the traditional (harder) methods of scrabbling up the side of several billion tons of rock. Either way, pay attention to the difficulty of each route, and you can often find extra information in your hotel or apartment about the precise routes and difficulties.

Tirol is one of the most travelled to areas in Austria, so be prepared to find lots of like-minded people trekking with you. It’s a great experience wherever you go, and as long as your voice isn’t as terrible as mine, you can even sing something from the Sound of Music.