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Arlanda - Salzburg - Bad Gastein


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I got up early on Saturday morning after spending the night at Arlanda Rest & Fly to check-in on time for the flight to Salzburg. The plane took off according to schedule and landed after 1 hour 30 minutes at Salzburg Airport in Austria. When I had picked up my luggage, a tour leader guided me to the right transfer bus. Fail-safe even for people like me ;) As soon as everyone boarded the transfer bus and gotten checked off the tour leader’s list, the one-hour bus ride to Bad Gastein could begin.

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When in Bad Gastein, my hotel (Hotel Goetehof) was right next to the bus stop. I checked in, got up to my hotel room and changed to hiking clothing – time for some afternoon hiking down in the village! But I had not been counting on the warm +25 °C outside… During my afternoon tour I saw beautiful houses with amazing flower arrangements. Austria’s highest waterfall with its 300 meters height in total runs straight through Bad Gastein. The water comes from Gasteiner Ache that flows across the county and creates this enormous waterfall. The waterfall rushing was ear deafening and I would never be able to sleep in one of the hotels right next to it.

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Bad Gastein was first known as a bath and cure village thanks to the famous thermal water streaming out of the sources in the surrounding mountains. They have estimated that 5 million liter of thermal water flows out of the mountains around Bad Gastein. When the water comes out the mountains it has a +47 °C temperature. Down in the village is a water pump where you can touch and feel the warm thermal water. A village honored with the name Bad has become a status here in Austria. But in order to have Bad in the name, the village must have thermal water. That’s why the neighbor village Bad Hofgastein is leading thermal water in long land pipes from Bad Gastein just to get the honorable Bad in its village name.

The dinners included in my half-pension were enjoyed at Jagdstube, a nice smaller restaurant downstairs in Hotel Salzburger Hof. Cozy atmosphere and interior resembling of a hunting cabin with trophies and horns on the walls. The waiters name was Oliver, originally from Berlin but had been working at a cruising ship in Scandinavia and could actually speak one or two words in Swedish. Early in bed for tomorrows hiking on Graukogel.

Posted by bejjan 16:00 Archived in Austria Tagged hiking Comments (0)

Graukogel: elevation 2492 m.


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I left the hotel early in the morning with my backpack well packed. I walked through the village to get to the lift taking you from the Valley Station at elevation 1100 meters and up to the Top Station at elevation 1950 meters. The lift took about 20 minutes and did cost €18,- (tour and detour). At the Top Station you will find the only mountain house along this hike – so food and water are a must in your backpack!

It’s been told the water in Alpine creeks is drinkable – but watch out! Animals sometimes drop their feces and urine in the creeks and dying animals lying down next to or in the water and dies.

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Now the actual hiking began. Beside the amazing views there were grazing cows, Alpine lakes and purling creeks along the trail. After half the way up to the top of Graukogel, I stopped for a break at Palfner See, an Alpine lake at 2074 meters above sea level. Even though it was +27 °C in the air, it was definitely no more than +12 °C in the water. Freezing in other words! So, I only dipped my toes, but some brave souls did dive into the lake completely – ugh! After a well-needed break, the steepest part up to Palfner Scharte at elevation 2321 meters was ahead of me. It was tough since the air was getting thinner and the sun was broiling (so extra water was needed here). Once up at Palfner Scharte the view was stunning towards Tischler Glacier, Stubnerkogel, Grossglockner (Austria’s highest mountain) and Gasteiner Valley – a true panoramic view! From up here you could now spot the top of Graukogel and the narrow ridge to get there.

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After a nervous climbing over the ridge I was finally there – on Graukogel’s top at elevation 2492 meters! A wooden cross is erected on the top in memory of those who lost their lives during the First World War. After an astonishing hike up to the top it was eventually time to start descend again. On the way down you pass an area where Edelweiss is growing, but in order to get a glimpse of the flowers you must hang out over a cliff holding only a wire… well, that’s where I draw the limit! So, after a quick descent to the Top Station and the lift ride down to Bad Gastein again, I was pretty tired. After hiking for about 8 hours I was exhausted yet proud pulling it all off! Early in bed in the evening.

Posted by bejjan 16:00 Archived in Austria Tagged hiking Comments (0)

Cleopatra: energetic chestnut


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All riding started out from Gut Römerhof Stable in Radstadt (Altenmarkt), about an hour car trip from Bad Gastein. The travel agency had booked a cab that picked us up every day of riding. The cab driver, a delighted and nice lady from Gothenburg, nowadays living in Bad Gastein and runs a cab company together with her husband, became more or less our guide during our traveling to and from the stable. She told us many great stories, unfortunately I barely remember any of them.

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All together we were three people from this travel agency who booked this horseback riding tours. Besides myself there was a lady from Jämtland (Sweden) and another lady from Gothenburg. The horses were already groomed and ready upon arrival at the stable. All left was to tack the horses. Since I had the most riding experience of everyone in the group, I was assigned a chestnut mare named Cleopatra. She was pretty energetic and strong but as long as I was firmed, she obeyed without protesting.

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Today’s trail went along a mountain foothill, mostly in the shadows since it was +28 °C, sunny and a cloud-free sky. It was beautiful well-posted riding trails underneath leafy trees with long distances suitable for long canters. We paused at an Alpine creek watering the horses before heading back towards the stable. We rode by beautiful houses, surrounded with green meadows and amazing Alpine mountains in the background. After the ride we showered the horses before letting them out in the pasture. We gathered in the cab and drove back towards Bad Gastein. We stopped by a nice restaurant for a late lunch. I ordered a Kaiserschmarren as dessert that was delicious. A must if you are in Austria!

Posted by bejjan 16:00 Archived in Austria Tagged horseback_riding Comments (0)

Fantastic weather


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A longer trail in a slower pace was the curriculum for today since it was +30 °C outside. The sun shined and the sky was clear-blue with only a few clouds. Our guide Theresa had a saddlebag on her horse where we could put our water bottles, because today we would really need to drink water. We rode through villages and along glimmering alpine creeks, mostly in the shadow. After about two hours of riding we stopped for lunch at a cozy farm, where the horses got a well-deserved rest and opportunity to drink water.

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After lunch we began a fairly long climb up a mountain. The horses fought bravely in the heat taking us uphill. Beautiful Tyrolean houses lined up beside the way up to the top, all decorated with colorful geraniums. Once at the mountain foundry, we stopped for coffee and another pause. I ordered an Apfelstrudel that was fantastic. You must try that if you visit Austria!

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After enjoying the amazing views of mountains and alpine peaks we began the downhill ride towards the stable again. The sun blazed significantly so that even Cleopatra – my horse – was calm. Otherwise Cleopatra was spirited and energetic, but now the heat affected her. When the horses had been showered and taken care of, we sat down in the taxi and went back to Bad Gastein. After a full day of riding in this heat, I took it easy until dinner and thereafter went early to bed, because tomorrow morning the bus to Venice departure at 5.55am.

Posted by bejjan 16:00 Archived in Austria Tagged horseback_riding Comments (0)

Venice: the lagoon metropolis


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Got up early in the morning to catch the bus that departed at 5.55 am, just outside my hotel. Since we didn’t have time for any hotel breakfast, the travel agency had prepared breakfast bags for all of us to bring on the bus. After a short bus ride, we arrived in Böckstein for switching to train. After disembarking the bus, our bus driver Hans drove the bus up onto a train wagon and we passenger got a seat in the passenger wagon. The train passed in an 8.5 km long train tunnel through the mountain massifs which took about 10 minutes. The alternative was to drive over the mountains which would have taken four hours with bus… The train tunnel was completed in 1905 and was back then unique in its way since it was drilled from both ways. With the tools they had at that time, they only got 65 centimeters into the mountain each day and when the construction was getting rather late, the construction manager and emperor Franz Joseph took his own life the day before the two work teams was supposed to meet. It turned out all calculations were right and the teams met up at the exact location as planned, so emperor Franz Joseph killed himself for nothing.

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Once back on the bus again we had a long and warm journey south to Venice ahead of us. It was a mighty experience to see how the magnificent landscape changed the more south we came. The green mountains in Austria changed into white mineral mountains in Italy and suddenly we had gotten to the Italian flat country with dominating vineyards.

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To get to the actual Venice we had to disembark the bus on a huge parking lot and then embark our taxi boat Barracuda and travel by water the rest of the way to Venice. Since it was +35 °C warm outside Hans parked our bus in the shadow during the day. When I disembarked our taxi boat time was 11.30 am so I was starting to get hungry. But the travel agency had a deal with a gondola company, so if you wanted a gondola ride with discount you had to do it first thing in Venice. Said and done, I got in line and soon enough got into a gondola. We passed many beautiful buildings and bridges, Bridge of Sigh among others. Unfortunately, there was a lot of commercial advertising everywhere (on bridges and houses) that ruined the experience a little. I then joined three ladies who rode along in the same gondola. We looked up a nice Chinese restaurant and ordered lunch. Then it was time for taking pictures of Rialto Bridge, Church of S:t Mark and S:t Mark’s Square. To visit Church of S:t Mark you had to wait in a queue and the queue went all back to S:t Mark’s Square. So, I skipped that since we had limited time here in Venice. I’ve heard that the S:t Mark’s Square is famous for all the doves there. But today was probably too hot even for the doves, because I only saw a few doves running around pecking the ground.

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From what I understand several travel agencies have co-ordinate their daytrips to Venice on Wednesdays. A little boring if you ask me, because it was crowded here today. Wonder how the rest of the week is? No tourists at all? They could at least spread it out on two or three days… After a cold and tasty ice cream it was time to head back to our taxi boat. It was a nice wind during the boat ride on Barracuda. After a short walk we got back to the bus and even though the bus had been in the shadow all day we reluctantly embarked the warm bus. The outside temperature had reached +38 °C, and you could tell since we were all sweating. Half way back to Bad Gastein the bus made a longer pause for us to buy something to eat. Before the bus started driving again, I managed to photograph a nice sunset over the Alps.

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We got back to Bad Gastein at 10 pm and for those who had ordered something to eat went to dine, me myself was way too tired to eat anything and went straight to bed.

Posted by bejjan 16:00 Archived in Austria Tagged cities Comments (0)

Only 25 today...


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“Only” +25 °C today and we had a longer trail ahead of us in a calm pace. With water bottles packed down in the saddlebag we rode off. Passed many beautiful houses with magnificent pelargonium in the flowerboxes. From what I’ve heard the Austrians do nothing but putting them out in flowerboxes during spring and the Alpine climate does the rest.

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After an hour of trail riding and steep ascent we arrived at the mountain house for lunch. After lunch I took the opportunity for some photographing of the astonishing nature surrounding the house, before riding downhill again. On the way down we had to dismount the horses and walk by them for a bit. My horse Cleopatra managed to step on a sharp stone with her hoof and was pretty sore for a while. But once down from the hill she wasn’t sore anymore. So, we could mount the horses again and rode the last distance back to the stable.
We showered the horses but we had to interrupt quickly since one of the ladies managed to squeeze her finger so badly we had to rush her to the hospital for stitching (six stitches in total). We were lucky we had our cab driver Ing-Mari who could act interpreter during the hospital visit. Unfortunately, the lady hadn’t brought her insurance card, which had given her free medical care within EU. So she had to pay €180,- on the spot and when back home she could send all the receipts for refund.

After today’s adventure the dinner tasted more than great and I was looking forward to tomorrow’s activities.

Posted by bejjan 16:00 Archived in Austria Tagged horseback_riding Comments (0)

Dare rafting?


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Today was all about river rafting! We who had ridden together during the week had signed up for the river rafting event. Unfortunately, the lady with stitched finger couldn’t participate, so it went down to me and one more from the group. We gathered at 9.30 am and it took about half an hour with taxi to get to Taxenbach. They lent us wetsuits, shoes, helmet and paddles. Three boats in total, two with German speaking guides and one with English speaking guide. I chose Chris, the English-speaking guide and it was nice to hear and talk English for a change.

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After thorough basic instructions and about safety guide lines it was time to go out on the river Salzach. It took about two hours to paddle the 150 kilometers and it was a fun experience. The distance we had rafted was graded to an III+ on the VI grade scale. In my opinion I would have liked a little more action on the river, so next time I decide to river raft I will sign up for a higher graded river. After the adventure we went back to the rafting center and enjoyed lunch and opportunity to buy photos from our rafting. Later we gathered in the taxi and headed back to Bad Gastein.

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When back in Bad Gastein I rushed away to the Stubnerkogel lift to get up on Stubnerkogel, one of Bad Gasten’s two house mountains (Graukogel is the other one). Also here you had to pay €18,- for a tour and detour. And since I didn’t have much time in the afternoon, I went with the lift all the way up to 2228 meters above sea level. Up there is a suspension bridge with amazing views. Unfortunately, it was windy up here so you had to hold on to your sun hat or it would blow away. A little further down I spotted a pack of horses gazing. I rushed down and managed to get many nice photos of gazing horses with alpine peaks in the background. In order to catch the last lift downhill Stubnerkogel I now had to hurry up to the Top Station again. I didn’t want to be too late since I had already paid for it and it would have taken me 2 hours and 30 minutes to hike down to Bad Gastein… wasn’t up for that.

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Once back down in Bad Gastein again I changed into more appropriate clothing and went for the last dinner at Jagdstube. It turned into a festive atmosphere and the group of riders gathered later that evening and was offered Champagne from the travel agency. Really nice!

Posted by bejjan 16:00 Archived in Austria Tagged hiking river_rafting Comments (0)

Bad Gastein - Salzburg - Arlanda


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Home journey day.
The transfer bus departed at 6.50am outside my hotel in Bad Gastein and by then I had been up for a while to pack, eat breakfast and check out. It was with tender sadness I sat down on a seat onboard the bus leaving this amazing place. After an hour of bus transfer, we arrived at Salzburg Airport and soon enough it started to rain. Otherwise it had been a fantastic week in Bad Gastein. Not a single rain drop during the entire week. It had been sunny, blue skies and a temperature between +25 °C and +30 °C, with Venice’s +38 °C as an exception.

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The flight got delayed an hour in Salzburg, but I didn’t really care. I was just going home. But it was a little stressful to have time to both eat and catch the train back home from Arlanda when the baggage also got delayed coming out on the baggage belt.

Would I go back to Bad Gastein? Of course! But I would most certainly choose a more advanced hiking tour and go on the tour to Grossglockner, Austria’s highest mountain.

Posted by bejjan 16:00 Archived in Austria Tagged traveling Comments (0)

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