Sunday-Friday, September 23-28, 2018
With Beethoven’s dramatic music echoing in our heads we left the Beethoven-Haus Bonn and pointed south for the Austrian Alps.
After a long rainy drive the sky cleared to a full moon as we wove through a narrow cut in the mountains on the Fern Pass, the second-most travelled pass in the Alps (the first is Brenner Pass, which is the lowest one). A bright-colored string of lights between two mountain tops greeted us
as we continued our way to the rental apartment in Lermoos, just 14 miles south of Reutte which sits on the border between Germany and Austria.
Actually, we were traveling on a Roman Road called Via Claudia Augusta. Completed 46-47 CE this road connected a Roman compound in southern Germany to the Po River in northern Italy. As the main travel region between the Adriatic Sea and the Danube river it later became known as the “Salt Road” with salt being an important commodity (and excellent tax resource for those fortunate enough to control the route).*
*Some days later we did some sleuthing and found tire ruts on a small segment of the Via Claudia Augusta after an hour of roaming up and down the road between Lermoos and Biberwier.
which provided Max the opportunity to see if the width matched the space between modern train rails based on oxcart travel several thousand years ago.
And, the only reason we decided to search out this piece of history began with a photo spotted at another site earlier in the week:
But, the road we took to Lermoos seemed tame compared to others we traversed during our week in this part of the world.
Our arrival in Lermoos started with a wonderful couple of days partly due to blue skies-warm sun throughout our stay and mainly due to meeting up with Christine and Jürgen.
We met them over breakfast a year ago January when both of us happened to be staying at the same hotel in Kayserberg, Alsace-Lorraine region of France. A short conversation followed with their recommending an art exhibit of Otto Dix (1891-1969) in Colmer. Soon after, Max and Jürgen were friends on FaceBook with Jürgen kindly advising us where to base ourselves for daily explorations.
With Christine being an artist and nature guide and Jürgen a journalist and author** we were treated to a lovely walk along the Tyrolean Lech River, Austria’s last wild river landscape in the northern Alps flowing through a beautiful alpine valley (for the best images, click Here).
Christine works at this nature park during the summer season, so we had an excellent guide explaining the beauty surrounding us, from the grandeur of the expansive river bed to the earthen mounds of soon-to-be-hibernating ants.
On the walk back Max and I noticed Jürgen stooping to pick up something. When we went over to see exactly what was so intriguing, we saw it was mushrooms! Which turned the last bit of our walk on a hunt for edible fungi :)
** If you speak and read German, then you’re fortunate for you can get one of his fascinating guides combining amazing hikes with historical sites. For a preview of his new book click Here ).
A tour of the Nature Park Center Klimmbrücke where Christine’s office is located ended our day but not before Jurgen and I became human dragonflies :)
And, not before a quick stop at a lovely village church whose spartan exterior belies the elaborate interiors:
A separate building featured a chilling bones room. Due to a shortage of burial plots human remains were disinterred and deposited in the cellar.
It’s also where I saw some eidelweiss, albeit long past its original glory.
When I exclaimed how I’d love to see some live ones Christine gently told me that eidelweiss only grows above the tree line, a height not conducive to fair weather hikers such as us.
The next day Christine had to work but Jürgen suggested another alpine walk, this time a gondola ride in the Tannheimer Valley outside of Reutte.
From there we spent an easy hour or so following one of the well-groomed trails (the top left in photo below)
We made our way to a restaurant perched on the mountainside with expansive views down to a lakeside village and a typical Austrian meal, and friendly waitress.
Yes, Max is sampling the local schnapps after seeing the folk next to us prosting the day :)
With such a warm sun it surprised me to see icicles from the night before
as we made our way back to the gondola sated from a beautiful dream of a day,
Including spotting a decorative straw hat perched atop another happy hiker:
Prior to our walks with Christine and Jurgen we had done a bit of exploring ourselves beginning with a vital strategic stronghold built during the Middle Ages in Ehrenberg. The complex is comprised of four different fortified areas: Klause (a strong house), Ehrenberg Castle, Schlosskopf Fortress and Fort Claudia.
The complex served as both a defensive barrier to the north and it’s Bavarian dukes, and a protection of the only north-south trade route (i.e., Via Claudia Augusta) at that time.
Of course, today the buildings are either castle ruins or rebuilt as a museum (where the Klause sat).
Of the four we walked past the Klause and followed the path on a 20-minute walk up the mountainside. But, before we entered the castle ruins we opted to walk across the one of the world’s longest suspension foot bridges (!).
The Holzgau Suspension Bridge connects Ehrenberg Castle with the Fortress Claudia. It’s 200m (656ft) long crossing the Höhenbach Canyon. Although a new (2017) Swiss pedestrian footbridge is the longest at 494m (1621ft!), this one is still the highest at 114m (374ft) vs. the Swiss one at 86m (282ft).
Even with my deathly fear of heights I couldn’t NOT do this: (1) there’s no reason to think you could fall because you’re contained by a fairly high net on each side of the walkway: (2) it wouldn’t be easy to jump because of the fairly high net on each side of the walkway; and, (3) if the fairly high net didn’t feel quite high enough, I could always drop to my butt and scoot across.
So, with some trepidation and a desire to go first to ‘get it over with’, I began the walk only feeling a bit more jittery when someone at the other end hopped on and caused a gentle sway to the walkway. With a straight-ahead gaze and hands gripping each handrail I made it across only daring myself to look down once or twice through the metal grating to the road below.
On the way back I managed to sing “Do Re Mi” over… and over… and over again adlibbing lyrics such as ‘am almost there’, ‘what a fool am I’, and such morale-boosting phrases.
Max also felt the height as he, too, held onto the rail at certain points.
And, just for the record I, too, removed hands from the railing (every now and then, well, mostly ‘then’).
I finished our ‘stroll’ with a certain self-centered pride quickly dashed when I realized how undaunting it truly was compared to the thinking of doing it.
After a quick perusal through stone ruins we retraced our steps, down the path–not across that bridge, and headed to a quick cable car ride up a ski slope located right in Lermoos. Another tremendous view accompanied by white stuff on the ground
and home we went feeling very glad Jürgen had recommended this particular section of Tyrol.
Because we wanted to watch the hearings beginning at 4:00pm our time we stayed an extra night at our Lermoos lodgings due to the certainty of a CNN channel. With an extra day we decided to go to the top of the tallest mountain in Germany, Zugspitze 2962 m (9718 ft) tall. We reached it by taking the cable car up on the Austrian side, which provided several stomach lurches when we bounced over the cable poles.
The mountain top presented stunning views, something of which one never gets bored.
We mulled around going from the Austrian side
to view the German side.
There we witnessed, to me, a palm-sweating fear of seeing tourists of all ages and sizes and abilities clamoring up the precipice to snap a photo of “THE” top id’ed by the golden cross.
No. Thank. You.
Max said he would have done it, which I believe, if so many people weren’t clogging the ladders and brittle path of the summit. For that, I am ever so thankful to the Alpine gods and goddesses for those crowds. To see him doing it would have either made me catatonic from terror or from glugging the local schnapps at one of the cafe picnic tables.
An easy ride down landed us on terra firma in time for the devastating hearings. No need to say more of that.
And, before we leave Tyrol and its majestic peaks, here’s the view from our rental in Lermoos for morning coffee…
And evening cocktail gazing.
Not too shabby :) No, not shabby at all! And, a huge ‘danke’ to Christine and Jürgen.
Stay tuned for more mountains….