Day 21 (July 3, 2018 – Salzburg, Austria): “Sound Of Nature”
It was 4:20am when I awoke. With some errands to run before I go off and divide-and-conquer, I needed this early morning wake-up, which even preceded my 4:45am alarm.
I’d wind up spending the next couple of hours doing the blogging, then getting dressed, and then making my own leftover breakfasts while also getting my dose of kefir and Julie’s unfinished topfen. I also washed fruits and gathered up some fresh munchies to hold me over throughout the day.
Julie managed to get up at around 6am, and she made sure that I left with apples and an orange as well as a couple of Slim Jim-like meat sticks. And by 6:35am, I was in the car ready to get the day started.
It took a bit of time to get out of the city of Salzburg and onto the A10 autobahn. But once I was on the autobahn, the progress went a bit smoother. Every once in a while, the car would make a beep sound, and I wasn’t sure if it had to do with speeding (even though I was following people and was sandwiched by a car behind me, and couldn’t possibly be speeding, could I?) or if it might be an indicator of me passing through a toll zone.
With my vignette being a sticker, I wasn’t sure how the toll thing would work considering it was stuck in plain sight on the windshield. I doubted that the sticker had any kind of smart chip or something in there that would communicate with the transponder or whatever device they might have going concerning Austria’s toll highways.
Somewhere around Bischofshofen, I left the A10 and took the B311 road. So with the lanes narrowing into one lane in each direction, any trucks or slower vehicles would cause log jams.
At about 7:30am, I had passed by the town of St Johann im Pongau where I saw a brown sign pointing the way to the Lichtensteinklamm. In my research, I hadn’t come across it, and so I made a mental note of it to see if I had time available that I might explore it and see what it was about.
Nevertheless, I had to keep pushing forward as I continued south on the A10 as I was headed further south in the direction of Bad Gastein. I decided to make this the first waterfall of the day since I figured that it was in a town, and the later in the day it would become, the more traffic and people I’d have to contend with.
Eventually, I left the B311 and took the B167 road south towards Bad Gastein. The road first went through a few tunnels, then passed through the town of Bad Hofgastein before making the final approach to the town of Bad Gastein. Along the way as the road climbed above the valley, I noticed that there was another attractive cascade facing west looking against the morning sun. Could that be the waterfall of Bad Gastein?
Well, I’d follow the signs which led me to a parking structure called Parkplatz am Wasserfalle. I got there at 8:10am, where the parking rates were 2.5 euro for the first hour and 3 euro for each hour thereafter. I had a feeling that I’d end up paying for two hours.
After getting ready for a walk, it was about 8:25am when I went onto a bridge with a direct view of what appeared to be the main Bad Gasteiner Waterfall. There was some signage about the history of the falls, and there was a nice downstream view over another tier of the waterfall with attractive buildings further down the ravine.
Just on the other side of the bridge, I saw steps that continued the Wasserfallweg, which climbed alongside this main waterfall, and then followed along more loud waters of the Gasteiner Ache before climbing up more steps and switchbacks to the upper bridge, where I got a direct view of an attractive upper tier of the Bad Gasteiner Waterfall flanked by some old mills. I got up there at about 8:50am.
I then did a little more exploring further up the hill to see if there was more of the Wasserfallweg to go. But the further up I went, the more I came to the realization that I should be heading back. So by 9am, I was back at the high bridge again, and then I followed the path down towards the church in Bad Gastein. Along the descent, I could see that the path I took up originally appeared to be the top of some kind of channel wall or something.
That led me to believe that perhaps the Bad Gasteiner Waterfall was more channeled and thus man-modified to enhance the waterfall effect. Who knows what the original watercourse took before all this development took place? Then again, this town was centuries old, so who knows what would constitute when and what “original” meant?
By 9:15am, I descended to a bridge by the Lower Falls flanked by the Kraftwerk building, which on its opposite end had some kind of high wooden wall that was supposed to block the mist or something. Indeed, there was quite a bit of mist being thrown by the lower waterfall.
I then continued down a somewhat steep path that apparently wouldn’t be available in the Winter time (probably due to snow and ice making the steep path intractable). In any case, there was some signage here saying there was some original building that once stood here before a flood apparently took it away.
I went about as far down as the Lower Cascade Steps before turning back and making the climb back to the car park. I’d eventually get there at 9:45am, and sure enough, I had to pay 5.50 euros. Throughout the return walk, I managed to get a few more shots of the charming town’s buildings, and even at some platz almost back at the car park, I saw old photos showing Bad Gastein in the past.
Anyways, next up, I had to drive back up the B167 to the B311, and then cut across along the B163 to the B320. Once on the B320, it was pretty much following this road for a while before finally reaching the town of Schladming.
Not sure which road or exit to take to get up to the Riesachfalle (the target of this part of town), I stopped by a conveniently located tourist info center at 11:15am, where a lovely lady helped me by giving me a pair of maps – one for showing the whereabouts of the Riesachfall and another showing the whereabouts of the Steirischer Bodensee.
She mentioned that for Riesachfall, there was some kind of gorge experience on suspension bridges and metal bridges. However, she said that it was only open on Fridays. She also mentioned that the road I was about to drive on was a toll road, except it was only a toll road on Fridays, and today wasn’t a Friday. I wasn’t sure what was so special about Fridays when it came to this waterfall, but I guess it didn’t apply to me on this day.
After what seemed like a pretty lengthy drive on a mix of 1.5-lane roads in the Untertal Valley after turning onto that road from Rohrmoos, eventually at 11:40am, I finally stopped at the RiesachFall car park at the very end of the road. From there, I walked up past some guesthouse before going up a steep path following the Riesach before the path forked towards one path going across a sturdy wooden bridge, while the path on the right went to the misty metal platform directly in front of the spray zone of the waterfall’s main section.
It didn’t take long for me to experience the falls given that it was such a short walk to get up here. I wasn’t sure if that was the end of the whole Riesachfalle experience, but I did notice on the maps that it appeared to continue hiking higher up and possibly rejoin up with the creek again. The problem was that I wasn’t sure if there was any more worthwhile waterfalls that far upstream.
In any case, I went ahead and made the attempt by going up a more exposed private road switchback, which revealed nice top down views of the Untertal Valley above the car park as well as above some cow grazing pastures. Upon seeing those cows, I thought to myself that these were what happy cows were supposed to look like (free range and grazing on grass). The Happy Cows Come From California campaign was pretty much a lie, especially once you see “Cowswitz” along the I-5 between LA and Frisco.
When I finally made it up to the switchback, I saw that there was still more climbing to go, and I ultimately decided that I had enough of this excursion. That said, I looked across the valley and noticed a different waterfall that was tall and only made its full appearance across the valley from this switchback.
Well, that was my turnaround point, and when I headed back downhill, I was treated to more views looking towards the head of Untertal Valley (albeit against the sun when it wasn’t covered up by the budding clouds threatening to create a thunderstorm).
On the way out, I also made one more stop at some gasthof car park where there was plenty of unpavd parking spaces so I could look back at the head of the Untertal Valley and check out another tall waterfall way up the mountains. Unfortunately, the best and most complete views of that waterfall was from further down the valley, but there were no sanctioned pullouts to allow for such nice views of that other waterfall at the head of the valley.
Next, I continued driving towards the Steirischer Bodensee car park, which the tourist information center lady that helped me out suggested that I take the B320 road to Haus, then follow the green signs for Bodensee.
I did have to pay 3.50 euros on the way up (as told to me by the lady), and eventually at 1:45pm, I finally made it up to the Steirischer Bodensee car park, which was quite busy. That said, I still managed to score a parking spot a short distance south from the junction of the Haus approach and the Aich approach.
I promptly geared up and then followed the mostly paved path, which was well-used by Austrian tourists and locals. It seemed like I was the only foreign tourist here as lots of people were giving saying “Gruws Gott” or “Servus” to me (just like the self-taught German language lessons I had been learning from had predicted when it came to greetings in Austria and Bavaria).
It seemed like I was an unusual presence so I did get a lot of looks that kind of said to me, “How did you find out about this place?” or “What the heck are you doing here?”
In fact, some people simply just said, “Hallo”, as it was easier to just say that to cover any ambiguities as it was assumed that I didn’t know any German, and that was one way to be very clear about being polite when passing by. I must have said “Guten Tag” nearly 100 times (that’s how many people that were here that I just happened to pass by), and I eventually started using “Gruws Gott” instead of “Guten Tag” just to sound more local.
At about 2:10pm, I made it to the mouth of the Steirischer Bodensee lake. Decorating the opposite side of the lake was the impressive Bodensee Waterfall, which was tumbling with nice volume, and it was impressively tall. I kept wanting to take pictures of it with every spot around the lake that I walked because it was that appealing!
The only thing was that the early afternoon brightness and sun kind of made the lighting on the harsh side. Had I been here in the morning, this place would have really looked incredible in the photos!
Also at the mouth of the lake was some kind of cafe as well as a fish farm. There were like 3 or 4 different pens, and one guy was doing something to one of the pens (maybe to stir up the feed or something, who knows?).
The signs suggested that the rundweg was around 45 minutes, but it also suggested that the waterfall itself was 45 minutes from here. So I figured on spending a couple of hours on this hike to take in the scenery and get closer to the waterfall itself to complete the experience.
After taking in the initial euphoria of the waterfall views across the lake, I then did the counterclockwise loop as I first followed the signs pointing the way to the waterfall. The gravel path was quite nice and flat though it was getting pretty hot with my hat and with the partial sun beating down on me (I was also wearing long sleeves for protection against the sun).
As I got further towards the head of the lake, I noticed that the lake became more of grasslands and marshlands, and I wondered if there was some sedimentation going on up there. For there was clearly a lake at the mouth, but the head was more grasslands, which was kind of surprising.
I was at the very head of the lake at 2:35pm, where there was a bridge going across the waterfall’s stream as I knew to take that path on the return to complete the loop. However, I kept pressing forward as the flattened path now started to incline. The further I went, the path became rockier and steeper, and it was taking my breath away (as well as others game enough to continue the ascent).
Eventually by 2:50pm, I finally made it to the Bodensee Waterfall. As expected, the view looking up at the falls wasn’t as impressive as seeing it from across the lake. And even though I had climbed quite a bit to get to the base of the falls, looking back at the lake from this spot wasn’t as impressive either as the bush and trees were in the way of a good view.
So I documented this experience, then headed back down. As I continued the loop hike to complete the other half, I couldn’t help but notice there was some kind of line that was connected to a hut at the base of the climb up to the waterfall’s base, and there was another remote hut closer to the top of the falls (which I didn’t attempt). I figured that must have been a power line or something to harness the power of the stream from that waterfall. The wire looked too loose to be anything else.
Ultimately at about 3:25pm, I finally was back at the mouth of the lake, where I got a few more shots of the beautiful scene of the Bodensee Waterfall across the Bodensee itself. I then continued walking back along the paved path back to the car park, where I’d finally make it back by 3:40pm.
One thing that I noticed about the cafe at the trailhead was that there were signs saying they served up gluten frei and lactose frei food. I’m sure Julie would have appreciated that, and she probably would have appreciated the view across the lake. Oh well, she was busy back at Salzburg with Tahia visiting some Sound of Music sights as well as Mozart-related stuff. I’m also pretty sure that Julie went looking for gluten free places to eat since eating is a big part of the traveling experience for her, and the diet restrictions must be torture.
Finally, I drove back going down the Aich approach as opposed to the Haus approach. Sure enough, there was also a toll station near that town, which was actually about 6km from this car park. Anyways, the return drive was via a combination of the B320 and the A10.
I was fighting a bit of road fatigue on this return drive, and anyone sitting by me to prop me up (though Julie always dozes off so I’m on my own), it was a bit of a struggle. Nonetheless, by about 5:20pm, I returned to the Mirabellparkplatz, where I spent some time to get some of the new tourist brochures I took along on today’s excursions up to the apartment.
By about 5:35pm, I made it back to the apartment, but Julie and Tahia were still busy shopping. So I had to wait another 15 minutes more before they finally showed up, and then we could finally unwind from this busy day.
As Julie was preparing dinner and I was busy trying to get caught up on today’s happenings, I couldn’t help but to look out and listen to the commotion that was going on just outside the apartment.
It was kind of mesmerizing to watch the buzz of activity going on outside. All the eateries (especially the L’Osteria across the street) were busy and buzzing with people waiting to get fed, and the kids were busy letting balls float down a stream caused by a fountain and draining right before our apartment.
Seeing what was going on outside, Tahia requested to go outside and play in the water that was being released so the kids could play in it. Of course, that meant I had to stop what I was doing and go out to watch her, but I mind as well let the little girl have her fun.
So Tahia joined in with the kids already having fun there, and she like the other kids loved the water. While I was concerned about the dirtiness of the water and the pedestrian path (you never know what people track on their shoes as well as discard like those toxic cigarette butts), but we let things go on this afternoon and let Tahia enjoy herself.
With the self-cooked dinner, it was a nice way to unwind the evening. Of course from the standpoint of our room, it was also nice to people watch as Europeans tend to do in the cafes. We noticed that some people occupy the tables for hours (at least 2-3 hours or more) in one sitting. That might explain why you actually have to ask for the bill (die rechnung) because they won’t bring it to your table. They’re too busy tending to other peoples’ drinks or foodstuffs.
At 8:10pm, we then indulged in a little bit of takeaway sweets from some well-known (according to Julie) dessert place. While the gluten free options were limited, we bought at the Cafe Sacher, then took the sweets back (all 16 euros worth for nur drei stuck kuchen [just three slices of cake]) and had ourselves a nachtisch in the apartment again.
After that, we could finally call it a night of sightseeing though my evening didn’t end as I had to conference call with the TopTal people about the contractor dispute I was dealing with at 11pm. Definitely no rest for the weary on this very long day. Hopefully tomorrow would be a bit better since I expected it to be a lighter touring day.
We’ll see how it plays out though because Julie and Tahia really wanted to do the salt mine with the roller coaster, which would add to the couple of planned excursions of doing the Eisriesenwelt Ice Caves and the Golling Waterfall…