It doesn’t take long to sense the cool, clean air; to see the world stretched like a lawn blanket a thousand meters below; to feel the gust of wind that lifts the spirit and says confidently, “I am alive.” Just thirty-six hours is all it takes — in a paradise-land known for the Sound of Music.
While hoards of visitors to Europe’s midsection see the legendary Alps via the predictable tracks of a train, or the confined perch of a tour bus, the best way to experience Austria’s wonder is to step off the beaten path, and find the way up to a picturesque and authentic land — Saint Gilgen, only forty kilometers east of Salzburg, tucked in between glassy azure lakes and spikes of snow
When you’re in St. Gilgen, here are some things to try:
1) Take the Gondola from the town center onto the mountain above. The ride to the top of the Zwölferhorn summit, 1521 meters, takes about 15 minutes.
2) Eat a hearty Austrian meal at Franzl’s Hütte, steps from the gondola depot — or venture a little farther to one of the many huts along the meandering mountaintop trails. The views, the local food and drink, and the friendly atmosphere are worth the trip to the top alone. 3) Venture on foot or bike from peak to peak on the well-groomed hiking paths. Drink in the unique Alpine color: the greens of meadow-covered slopes, contrasted with the light lavender and striking blues of the surrounding mountains as puffy clouds dance across the Austrian azure sky.
4) Spend a timeless moment watching the billowing chutes lift off into the clouds as paragliders take off from the peak above Franzl’s Hütte.
5) Stay the night in one of the quaint Austrian huts, and marvel at the stillness, the stars, and the view of the night from the top of the world.
6) Board the Gondola and descend into town. Watch as the miniature life below the Alpine peaks becomes once again life size, skirting the grand blue lake.
7) Enjoy decadent ice cream from the village gardens while watching sailboats glide across Wolfgangsee.
Most of all, don’t forget your adventurous spirit and your camera. For the views from and around St. Gilgen, Austria, are ones you’ll never want to forget.
Jennifer Lyn King, a native Texan, lives in the Czech Republic, where she writes from her home near Prague. She is the author of The One Year Mini for Busy Women. Read her blog on Red Room. The photos above are all copyright Jennifer Lyn King.