Tag Archive: Dorfgastein


Day 21: Hiking in Vienna

After our usual classes on Thursday, we were taken to the 19th district of Vienna. To reach the 19th district we went by UBahn, so I was surprised when we came out of the underground and found plenty of trees and small little houses. It was a completely different Vienna. Our guide, Bergit, told us that the 19th district is a very expensive place to live and I can understand why. All the houses are very cute and bright. I felt like I was in a separate little town nowhere near a large city. All the houses had yards, which was the first time I’ve seen a yard since Dorfgastein.

I immediately felt at home in the 19th district. It reminded me a lot of Portland and the actual hike was almost exactly like Forest Park, with unpaved roads and thick dense trees. Everyone was really friendly and it felt great to get away from the fast paced life of the city.

Our hike took us slowly, but surely up a hill towards a place called Kahlenberg. Compared to the hiking we did in Dorfgastein, this one was nothing and we all agreed that Dorfgastein hadn’t been a vacation, but boot camp to prepare us for all the walking we would be doing in Vienna. The hike was actually very relaxing and once we got to Kahlenberg, there was a great view of Vienna and a place to stop and eat. We didn’t stay there long though and instead headed further up the hill to Leopoldsberg.

Leopoldsberg provided us with an amazing panoramic of Vienna and the Donau. It was really interesting to see the difference between the Neue Donau (on the left) and the Donau (on the right). From above it was pretty obvious which one was cleaner. We tried to look for landmarks to see exactly where we were staying in Vienna and we were eventually able to see what we thought was Karlskirche, which is somewhat close to where we are all staying.

After the hike we headed back into town and went to a little *”restaurant” called Schwammerl Wochen. Inside was an open courtyard where there were picnic tables and an open buffet. It was a really cute place and very relaxing after the hike.

My snack was bread with bacon and a Radler. I was a little queasy at the thought of having bacon after a long hike, but it was one of the only foods I recognized and I didn’t feel very adventurous that day. It actually tasted really good and what I couldn’t finish, the others were more than happy to eat.

Soon after eating we made our way back to the UBahn, which would have been a simple ride home if it wasn’t for a group of 100 men, what we assumed were soccer fans, all trying to cram into one single, and already full, train. While they all boarded we had to wait at least 15 minutes and also listen to them sing and bang on the train. We knew it was getting serious when the police also boarded the train and stood at the entrances with their bulletproof vests and helmets. Miraculously, everyone made it onto the train and nothing more happened.

That night I ate a quick dinner and packed my backpack for a four day trip to Venice the next morning. I was so excited that I didn’t even mind that I was going to have to wake up at four in the morning to catch my flight.

*EDIT 9/24/12

I finally figured out what these restaurants are called in German. The place we stopped at is called a Heuriger. A Heuriger is like a small tavern where people sell this year’s newest wine.

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It was almost time to leave Dorfgastein. Although we had only been there for about a week, we had also gotten to know the little town pretty well. We no longer got lost on the main street (this did actually happened, but it only took us a few seconds to figure out we were going the wrong way), we hiked every hill you could possibly hike and we had eaten at every restaurant.

Instead of sitting cooped up inside the pension, we decided to head out into the town and explore one last time.As we were walking I looked up and saw the sign Römerplatz. It was only then that it hit me that I was standing in the exact same place that the Romans lived, breathed, and worked. It’s hard to think about such a distant past and such a different culture, but it’s truly amazing how a single place can connect us to the past.

We came up to a small bakery and there we decided to have ice cream and because everything looked so good, I decided to be adventurous and bought some sort of cookie with berries and peanut brittle. Both the ice cream and cookie were delicious.

With only an afternoon left, Annika (another student in the program) and I decided to take a walk along the Hauptstraße or main street to see where it would take us.

On the way we passed the volunteer fire station where we sometimes had classes. It’s only in a small town like Dorfgastein that you would actually be able to get away with volunteer firefighters.

As we headed out of the town the road turned into a footpath.It was a very nice walk along the fields and there were a lot of fun games for kids along the path. The start of the path and the end were both marked by one stone pillar. We weren’t sure what exactly they meant, but they looked as though they were built from  the different stones that could be found in the Alps.

Also along the path we came across a stone with writing on it. Zum Schutze unsere Almen.To Protect Our Pastures. Beneath these words was a spout for water, but it was dry. We really had no idea what it meant, but perhaps the well is dry so that the farmer’s fields will never have to be.

After only a half hour, we arrived in the next town over Bad Hofgastein.

Just getting out into the air and walking until we felt like stopping was a great way to end our week in Dorfgastein.

Day 5: The Schwimmbad

After our grueling hike down the mountain we all woke up sore and tired.

Thankfully were given a day off.

With so much free time we decided to go check out the Schwimmbad, or the pool.

Inside there was a spa, which unfortunately we did not have the money for, but we paid for the outdoor pool which was just as amazing. While in the water you could look out and see the mountains above you, the sky was blue and the water was just the right temperature.

The inner circle of the pool was two degrees warmer than the outside ring. There was also a colder pool down the hill, which had a slide. We went down the slide once, which really didn’t go very fast and we had to push ourselves down most of it, but mostly we stayed in the warmer inner circle and just enjoyed the sun.

That night we hiked an hour to dinner, basically straight up the mountain. It was both exciting and painful. Going up, Ewan ( our Scottish guide who works at the Institute as an English teacher) and Nick (another student in the same program as myself) were determined to make it to the restaurant without stopping for a break, so naturally we all arrived at the restaurant sweaty and red faced.

The food was great though and afterwards we had a lot of fun walking back down the hill waddling like penguins, because our legs hurt so much.

Today we went on another great hike.

All throughout the mountains of Dorfgastein there are hundreds of trails and roads that are great for hiking and sightseeing, but instead of hiking all the way up to the top, which I think is probably a day long adventure and only for the most intense hikers, we took cable cars. On the way up we could see the entire town of Dorfgastein and a few of the towns around it.

At the top lift, called Bergstation, Berg meaning mountain, we could see out across the whole valley. Although it was cloudy while we were at the top, we could still see most of the mountain range streached out in front of us. The view was made even more spectacular by the deep blue reservoirs that sat on some of the smaller hills below.

On the ridge it was very cold and windy, but it was a great place for paragliding. Throughout the week we’ve been able to look up into the sky and see at least four or five brightly colored paragliders spinning around in the clouds. Apparently, on this hike we also saw the brother of a very famous Austrian skier strapping on a helmet to go paragliding.

From the top the hike was all downhill. We started out along the ridge, which allowed us to see on either side of the mountain.

On the left we could see Dorfgastein and on the right we could see further into the mountain range and also a few little homes here and there. All along the path there were also signs that talked about Yin and Yang. In one spot, the sign would tell you to leave all your negative thoughts and energy behind and then you would walk over to another, more beautiful, lookout and there you would think only positive thoughts. It was refreshing to let all my worries go while standing on top of the world!

After only a half hour or so, we made it to a crossroad. One path continued up, while the other turned down and went back into the valley. The path that went up eventually went to the halfway point and also the highest peak in the area. On the very top we could see a large cross.

We decided to head back down and go towards another Alm where there was a hut for eating and drinking. I’ve come to realize that in Austria the only “true” meal as Americans would see it, is dinner. Breakfast so far has consisted of bread, cheese, meat, and chocolate cake (which I very much approve of) and your choice of orange juice, vitamin juice, coffee or tea.

Lunch is also very similar to breakfast and usually very light.

So far the only food I’ve had for lunch is a small sandwich and a peach. Even after all the hiking we’ve done and all the traveling, I haven’t found myself searching for more. It’s been surprising how much extra food I consume when I’m just sitting at home in front of the TV.

Before heading down we stopped at a small cabin, which turned out to be a shrine. There we took a break and made sure to put on a lot of sunscreen, most of us having woken up in the morning with a sunburn from the day before. From there we headed down into the Mushroom Field. I never actually saw any fields of mushrooms, but dotted here and there in the woods were some large Mario Kart looking mushrooms. The winding trails and thick trees reminded me very much of the Columbia River Gorge in Oregon. Halfway down we also wandered onto a logging road and I felt at home.

Whenever I’m walking or hiking I would probably say that I would rather go down than up. After hiking down to Dorfgastein this has changed. We hiked down some of the steepest trails and roads I’ve ever been on and they were not very forgiving on the knees, legs, or butt. We were all hurting so much by the end that soon we all just decided to run down the hill, both because it was easier on the knees and because it would get us back to the pension faster.

It was definitely worth the pain.

Day 3: Sportgastein

After getting settled in to Dorfgastein for a day we took a trip farther up into the mountain to Sportgastein. To get there we had to travel by bus through some smaller towns and eventually we make our way  through some very long and dark tunnels. The trip us was beautiful with a lot of great views and many cute towns along the way.

In this area where we are staying there are three main towns. Dorfgastein, which is family oriented has many restaurants, pubs and small guest houses, Bad Hofgastein has more shopping and I guess what you would say is more teen oriented, then there’s Badgastein which has healing spas, a casino, and is, in general, a great place for people to get away from the rush of everyday life. Lastly, Sportgastein is the most scenic of the towns and is great for hiking. Naturally, all of these towns are covered in tourists during winter when the ski season is in full swing.

We arrived in Sportgastein to find ourselves completely surrounded by mountains. I’ve seen a lot of mountains before and there aren’t many places that I’ve been that can rival Mount Hood, Mount Rainier or Mount Saint Helens, but the Alps were stunning. The Alps are a different kind of mountain range. There are hardly any foothills. One minute there’s no mountain and the next your looking up and wondering how such a giant beast could have snuck up on you. The Alpine peaks towered above us and the rolling green hills made me constantly look over my shoulder to make sure that Julie Andrews wasn’t running down the pasture singing “The hills are alive”.

Not only was the scenery beautiful, but there were also cows and goats wandering around and hanging out with people like it was no big deal. Dotted everywhere were little huts, where people could stop and drink and at each one there was a small band singing and playing the accordion. Many of the local people were also dressed in their traditional clothing, the men in lederhosen and the women in dirndls. Usually Sportgastein isn’t so active, but we were there during the Almfest. I’ve come to realize that for many people hiking in the Alps, the main goal of the trip is to hike to a hut, sit down and finally have a drink with cheese, bread and maybe some meat. All in all it doesn’t seem like such a bad way to live life.