The Alps and the Black Forest - September 6-20, 2009 - summary - updated Oct23

For those of our dear friends who don’t speak Hungarian...

As usual, we took a big bunch of our yearly vacation days in September (that means 2.5 weeks), and we spent most of it with traveling.

Thanks to the financial crisis, our beloved currency’s exchange rate and the strange interest policies of our banks, we didn’t go to far-away places this time, "only" to our neighboring Austria and to Germany.
Our trip looked like this:

Nagyobb térképre váltás

This time we spent more time at each spot, rather than traveling further every other day like last year, so I will not bore you guys with our daily driven kilometers and other interesting data. To keep statistics to a minimum - according to Google Map our trip was 2212 km (1382 miles) - of course we drove more than this, since we took some day trips at each location. Watch our pictures here.

Places where we spent several days:
Point B: Heiligenblut, Austria (Sep 6-14)
Point C: Schwangau, Germany (Sep 14-16)
Point D: Gerlingen, Germany (Sep 16-20)

Click on ’Read more’, where you will find out more about these destinations.

So, as you can see from the dates, we spent the most time in Austria, 7 full days. I will write about each day, since every day we did something different, we went to different places, all of them an incredible experience!

Day 1 - September 6, 2009 - we took off on Sunday, so we had no chance of shopping in Austria on the way, they have a habit of keeping everything closed on Sundays. No problem, at least we reached Rojach next to Heiligenblut (that’s where we stayed) on time, still during daylight. We had a hard time figuring out the numbering of holiday homes and guesthouses along the narrow road leading up on the mountain - the logic seemed quite, umm, illogical, our best guess was that they were numbered in a completeley random order. We almost gave up, when on the way back to the main road we finally saw the sign ’Haus Marina’. Yay! We found the house, we just have to get our apartment now. There was a post-it on the main door, telling us to go to the neighbor for the keys. We did that, Austrian lady runs out of her house, tells us to wait a little bit. We are waiting, making new friends in form of some cats, then it turns out that she went to our house. Maybe the ’please wait’ was not directed to us, who knows... Whatever, we went back to our house, the lady told us how the front door works (from the outside you can only open it with a key), then she opened a door on the first floor and told us that this is it. There was a corridor in front of us and some doors opening from it as we were waiting for the lady to show our room or something. But she didn’t, she wished us a good vacation, and ran out like before. That’s when we realized that we have in fact a vacation home, but not any little one. It’s almost the same size as our home in Budapest. A fully equipped kitchen-dining-living room, 2 separate bedrooms, bathroom, toilet and a balcony. All of this for 30 EUR/night/apartment (roughly 45 USD). It really is worth the extra 10 EUR more than camping. :)

On top of everything, this was the view waiting for us from the balcony:

látkép a teraszról
We packed our stuff from the car, then we drove to the village to see what’s there, where the elevators are, etc., and of course couldn’t take our eyes off the amazing towering mountains with all the beautiful green fields and forests all around us. It was a bit cold at night (they didn’t turn on the heat yet, and you could feel the effect of the 8-10 C/ 46-50 F weather), so we decided to ask our hosts to turn on the heating whenever we get to meet them. Luckily we packed our sleeping bags, so there was no problem at all. :)

Day 2 - September 7, 2009
We planned a light walk for our first day - to visit 3 waterfalls in the area.

While we were getting ready, our host knocked on our door. He came to say hi, to make sure that we met, and he brought our Nationalpark Hohe Tauern card. This is a card that you get if you stay in one of the ’supported’ accomodations of Hohe Tauern National Park. Our holiday home was one of these places, so he brought the cards, we filled in some papers (he has to prove that he is not just giving away these cards to anyone). The card is a great thing, it gives you free entry to a lot of places (cable cars, waterfalls, museums, swimming pools), and to some places you get a 30-50% discount. So we spent really little money on entry fees during the week. This is the way their government supports tourism - they want tourists to come, pay for accomodation, eat out, use services - so ensuring the income of all those people living from tourism here in the Alps. It’s a good thought, I guess! :)

So, after getting our cards and drinking our morning coffee, we drove to the village. We bought all kinds of goods stuff for breakfast in the local store (fresh baguettes, ham from Tirol, orange juice...), then drove to the parking place that was suggested to visit the first waterfall. Of course there was a small rest area where we could comfortably eat our breakfast, and make another cat friend. :)

After breakfast we headed into the forest to visit the first waterfall, the Gössnitz Waterfall. During the walk of course we couldn’t take our eyes off the green mountains. I have no idea how long I could sit in one place and watch them...

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The path to the waterfall is a really nicely kept trail (that was a surprise on the first day). At each intersections, there were really useful signs about where each trail is leading, how far everything is, approx. how long walk that is, and how difficult the trail is. Later we found that this is how trails are marked all over Austria. :) The path turned soon into a geo-trail, that means there are signs explaining a lot of interesting stuff. So we found out what kinds of rocks the mountain is built of, what animals live here, what are the native plants, and of course all this is explained for a long timeline - all the way back to the age of dinosaurs. These geo-trails are a lot of fun, and more useful than a full year of elementary school geology class. Although we didn’t learn if they mine bauxite, but I was never interested in that. But we learned how a moor is formed, and what it will turn into later. They even showed one right there - it was no coincidence that the sign was there... There was a moor with ducks, frogs, snakes, birds. Out of all these animals, we only met the ducks that were really cute, but quite shy, too. They tried their hardest to trust us and come closer to these two strange two-legged creatures, but they were just too afraid... :) We saw giant ant-hills, I’ve never seen stuff like that before. Of course this was explained as well, and we learned that there could be even a million worker ants living in one hill. Incredible! I had no idea. After all the useful information, we reached a torrent, where a sign showed us the hillside that we had to climb to have a view of the waterfall. Hurray, we started to walk up the hill (quite steep, but not that long). After abou 15 minutes, we reached the top, finally the waterfall showed itself, and we said - woooooow, like this:

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A giant waterfall, everything is really green around it, and we got a lot of water on us (nice shower!) even on the next hill where the trail was. :) There was a nice viewing area with benches and rails (they take care of you, so you don’t fall into the water). There was a fantastic view of the surrounding mountains, including the white cap of the Grossglockner, the highest mountain of Austria.

We walked back to the car, and then drove to the next waterfall, the Jungfernsprung. You can see the waterfall from the main road leading south of Heiligenblut. There is a nicely kept trail here too, leading to the viewing platform. We tried to find a geocache as well, but we are out of luck with these .com caches or they are more difficult - or not so good calibrated, I don’t know. Interesting that we never have such problems with geocaching.hu. :) So, the Jungfernsprung. The 130 m (426 feet) tall waterfall has an interesting story about its name. Its name happens to come from the story of a young girl, who was chased by the devil through the forest, when she reached this cliff wall. She couldn’t do anything else, she jumped. And yes, there was a miracle of course, angels came and saved her from certain death, she survived the jump. Then the water came and got named after her. Of course this was explained there in a much more poetic way. Anyway, it looks like this - and you can go real close (to get a shower again):

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The third waterfall was Gartlwasserfall. Well, here it was a bit harder to find the road leading to the waterfall area, since the sign in the village (Döllach) was a little bit hidden. So we explored the village (nice little village with narrow streets - about 2 of them total). I spotted a local style restaurant, advertising home-cooked meals, so we decided to try that later. :) Then we finally found the road to the waterfall. We got lazy and decided to use the closest parking area - it was only a 5 minute walk to the waterfall. This one was the smallest, but it didn’t jump off from a large cliff, rather it rushed through a forest, among a lot of trees and bushes. We tried to find a geocache again, but our tool showed it sometimes next to the creek, sometimes in the forest... Whatever, at least we found the waterfall! :)

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After walking to waterfalls it’s really good to eat something! So we decided to get some pizza, and it was a good thought - we had amazing home-style pizza in one of the two restaurants of the village Winklern! Yummie! :) It’s there in our photo gallery. Since we were eating outside, we saw a lot of bikers, some on really cool choppers! This is one of their favorite places, they enjoy the good weather, the scenery, and they are right, I would try that once for sure.

It was quite early (late afternoon), so we decided to drive around in the area. We drove on the Grossglockner High Alpine Road. This is a road the connects Heiligenblut and Fusch, two villages on the opposite side of the mountain range. The road is a real exciting one, with a lot of curves, the highest point on 2504 m (8215 feet). It is only open in the summer, from May to October, and the quality of the road is exceptional. There are several rest areas, smaller-larger parking places, Hüttes (mountain shelters) with restaurants, museums explaining the flora and fauna of the mountains, and other interesting information. In fact, you could stop about every minute, the view itself is so amazing as you see the surrounding mountains, valleys, lakes, dams, glaciers, green or rocky mountains, the Grossglockner and all the rest of the surrounding 3000+ m (9842 feet) high mountaintops. It is a toll road, but luckily the card that we got in the morning gave us a 15-day pass (that would have been 35 EUR - approx. 52 USD). So we had the chance to use the road as many times as we wanted. We drove around for a while, admiring the views, than it started to get darker, so we went back to our apartment to get some rest and prepare for the upcoming Schareck-tour.

One more picture - of the drive on the High Alpine Road:

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