As the toll booth attendant asked me for zwölf euro, I looked at her blankly. In my head, I frantically started counting in German hoping I would manage to reach the correct number. Unfortunately, I was taking far too long and seeing the look of panic across my face, she repeated the price but this time in English.
Yes! 12! THAT was the magic number. I paid the money, mumbled a quick thank you in German vielen dank, and then we were on our way again. At least my GCSE German wasn’t all lost. Although, I did feel a little embarrassed it wasn’t quite up to scratch and made a vow to rectify it as soon as possible.
The road into Postalm, was long and winding with hairpin bends. Surrounded by forest with trees so tall they disappeared into the sky, it reminded me of driving across Yosemite.
Occasionally, we caught glimpses of hazy sunshine, glistening through the pines, and mountains off in the distance, as breaks appeared in the foliage.
Hiking and Running
It was exactly what we’d been looking for. Our trip to Austria was about relaxing, and our only intention was to hike, run and do whatever else felt right while we were away. Not everyone’s picture of relaxation – but it was definitely ours.
We’d decided against visiting places because we thought we should, or because it was in the guide book, or because someone else had insisted we shouldn’t miss it. We’ve made that mistake on other trips, then returned home feeling a little deflated.
This time, we’d picked out the activities we wanted to do, and basically said a big fuck you to everything else. And where better to go hiking than the rugged, mountainous landscape of the Austrian Lake District.
Postalm Day 1
Climbing steadily up the scenic road, we passed a line of classic cars driving in the opposite direction. Like a scene from a movie, one after the other open top cars and E-Type Jags whizzed past us. We were in the middle of an Austrian forest, but it all felt very Italian.
When we finally reached the car park, there were already coaches, cars and motorbikes parked up, while mountain bikers and hikers prepared themselves for the day ahead.
The landscape was a sea of green, with luscious rolling hills in every direction. Ski lifts sat motionless between the slopes and hotels were dotted along the hillside, while the Lienbachhof Restaurant was already a hive of activity.
It was our first day exploring Postalm and I could tell I was going to like it. Our route started out as a well laid bridle way leading through the forest, heading upwards, steadily ascending.
As the breaks in the trees became more frequent, we were treated to breath-taking views. I couldn’t put my camera away – even though I knew I wouldn’t be able to do them justice. Like when we visited the Grand Canyon, no matter how many photographs I took, I just couldn’t capture the magnitude of it all.
Everywhere was so pretty and picturesque. Trees shaped like triangles stood tall and proud, like in a picture that a child would draw. While the mountains in the distance, overpowered everything else with their presence.
The sun shone brightly overhead, and a few wisps of cotton wool clouds danced across the sky. I could feel the heat on my exposed skin starting to burn a little, and unlike the day before, there wasn’t any shade. We continued to hike under the mid-day sun and Ian made a comment about mad dogs and Englishman, the only two crazy enough to do it apparently. But although it was hot, I liked how the warmth felt on my skin.
There were huts and bothies randomly scattered along the landscape, providing shelter for the more adventurous hiker, out walking for a few days or more. We stumbled upon the occasional JCB and building site, but no matter how much work was going on, everywhere was still clean and tidy. One of the first things we noticed about Austria when we arrived, countryside or town, cleanliness was a common thread.
As lunchtime drew closer, I filled myself up with trail mix while we looked for somewhere to eat, and eventually we found a bench – pretty much in the middle of nowhere. There was a woodshed opposite, on the edge of a field, and what looked like a holiday home off in the distance. A road disappeared to the left and a track went to the right, while surrounding us, were the tall triangular trees we’d become so accustomed to. Occasionally, we’d spot a tiny one on the ground. It was difficult to believe that one day it would eventually grow as tall as the others.
All in all, not a bad spot to stop for lunch. Apart from the big pile of horse shit we discovered just behind where we were sitting.
After we’d eaten, we followed the track that lead to the right. It was a good solid pathway, with forest on one side and a vibrant green field on the other. At the far end of the field, some cows grazed in the hot afternoon sun, lazily chomping on grass while watching the world go by. They seemed undeterred by our presence, yet the signs we saw suggested otherwise. Compared to cows in the UK, apparently Austrian cows are vicious and by all accounts you must not look them in the eye – or you will die.
As we walked downhill back towards the car, we saw a random pub sitting on top of a hill. There were a handful of walkers sitting outside under umbrellas, enjoying a beer. But in the winter months it would probably be busting at the seams, filled with skiers, refuelling for their trip back down the mountain. As we continued down the hillside to the car park, we once again saw Postalm in all its glory. The luscious green hills looked like a patchwork quilt, laid out underneath a brilliant blue sky. Hikers enjoyed the late afternoon sun and the restaurant was filled with families, eating and drinking.
It was difficult to imagine that in a month or two, the landscape would be covered in a thick, blanket of snow and ski season would be in full swing. Ski lifts would come to life, carrying skiers up the mountainside and hotels would be open for business again.
But for now, the hazy sunshine enveloped the rolling hills and hikers enjoyed the rest of their day.
Postalm Day 2
The webcam at the top of Postalm hadn’t been updated since 7am, and the hills were covered with a thick blanket of mist. But, the webcam for Strobl showed the weather was clear with hazy sunshine. It was past 9am and we didn’t know what to do. In the end we decided to just go. Postalm was 25-minutes away, so there was a good chance the weather would be clear by the time we arrived anyway.
The main car park wasn’t as busy as I’d expected, but as we changed our footwear, it slowly started filling, as more and more cars turned up. Some filled with families, who made their way to the restaurant and others with dogs who made their way onto the hillside. Then there were the cyclists, in serious cycling gear, who whizzed past us ready to tackle the hills.
It was a Sunday, and in Austria, Sunday’s are a time for families. Shops are closed and everyone heads out for some quality time together. Some shops even close at lunchtime on Saturday and don’t re-open until the following week. It’s a nice way of life and reminded me of when I was a kid. If we needed a pint of milk or a paper, we had to walk to the local petrol station, because it was the only place open.
It was a little breezier than our previous visit, but set to be another scorcher. The mountains were lush and green in the hazy morning sun, and I swear they were greener than the week before. They were over saturated and bright, like someone had turned the colour up.
We had a choice of two walks and could even join them together if we wanted. Our route started where our walk on the first day finished – at the hut at the top of the hill. It was busy compared to last time, and there were many other walkers, all heading in the same direction. It reminded me of the Lake District in summer, where no-where is quiet and the landscape is awash with hikers.
On our first day in Postalm, we were greeted with common phrases such as ‘guten morgen, morgen, hallo and servus’ – this time we were greeted with Grüß Gott and the occasional hallo. This is a traditional Austrian greeting, that means may God greet you, or meet God. Religion being important to many Austrian’s, this is more of a Sunday greeting. It’s also something more commonly used by older people.
The sky was a deep, brilliant blue and just like the landscape, the colour seemed brighter and more vibrant than on our previous visit. When we reached the point where the two walks joined together, we decided to take the longer route. After all, it was Sunday, everywhere was shut and we’d come on holiday to hike.
We stumbled upon the top car park which was full, and the trail was busy with people. It was only when we saw the nearby huts that we realised why. Families were gathered in the mid-day sun, eating food and enjoying themselves. While the silence of the countryside was broken, as the sound of laughter and conversation carried through the air.
The next section of the walk was quieter. It appeared that many families were only walking as far as the huts, having something to eat and then walking back down again. Each hut we passed was a hive of activity, as families and friends gathered in large groups, laughing, drinking and generally enjoying the good weather.
Our walk back down the mountain led us through a trail in the woods, and the sun glistened through the breaks in the trees. Damp and slippy from the thunderstorm a few nights before, the woodland smelt earthy as we made our way through. The track was so narrow we had to walk single file, which was interesting when we met a small group coming from the opposite direction. At the bottom of the woods was a wooden bridge that crossed over a small stream. It was the ideal place to stop and have lunch and for me to take even more photographs. On the other side of the bridge, a rocky track led upwards, with trees on one side and a hill on the other.
As we made our way up, we could hear cow bells clanging, like an out-of-tune orchestra. And as we neared the top of the hill, there they were, all munching away on the grass. We passed another hut, where more people were gathered enjoying the afternoon sun. While perched on the next hill along sat the historic Postalm chapel. Surrounded by a fence with only a lone tree for company, blue sky for a backdrop and sun flare dancing around it. As we walked past, 3 women sat on a bench talking, taking a break from their hike. They soaked up the sun’s afternoon rays while horses roamed around a little further along the mountain.
We stood at the top of the hill, looking down on Postalm once again. A patchwork quilt of rolling hills, that changed completely with every footstep. I held onto my camera tightly as we made our way down, stopping every few seconds to take another photo.
At the bottom was a herd of cows, and the closer we got, the more unsure I became of walking past them. I froze. I made Ian stop and pretend to take some photos, so the couple behind us could overtake. Once past us, Ian finished taking his photos and we quickly started walking behind them. I decided it was a case of safety in numbers!
The man confidently marched through the middle of the cows, followed by his wife, with me and Ian trailing behind. The cows didn’t even flinch, and neither did the couple. They headed into a nearby hut and we continued down the hill, back towards the main car park.
We were met with another group of cows, only this time directly in our pathway. Having just learned the secret of what to do, I psyched myself up to march right past them. But this time, it was a mum with her babies. I stayed on course and kept walking, but I’m pretty sure I held my breath until we’d passed them by.
The Scenic Road
We arrived safely back at the car and decided to drive the rest of the scenic road before heading back to the apartment. Just like the journey up to Postalm, it was full of twists and turns and hair pin bends, opening up to the magnificent views of snow-capped mountains off in the distance.
We found somewhere to pull over at the side of the road and got out to take some photos.
The sun had that late afternoon glow to it and was starting to look a little hazy across the hillside. We stood for a few minutes taking in the views. It was so peaceful.
We drove the rest of the scenic road, and did a U-turn at the next toll booth. Driving it all in one go was even better, and the views in the opposite direction were just as spectacular.
Surrounded by forest, with the sun glistening through the trees, we drove along the windy roads back to Strobl. It was hard to believe that in a couple of months, they would probably be unpassable due to the snow.
Tips and advice
- Always check the webcam on the Postalm website before heading there. Weather can get bad with poor visibility. Just like anywhere you go hiking, always have correct clothing and footwear, and plenty of food and drink etc
- Use Google maps along the scenic road so you can see the bends. Being able to see how far off each bend was and how extreme they were (hello hairpin), was helpful. I felt like the co-driver in a rally car, shouting out instructions to Ian, who was driving. And I may or may not have pretended that I was….
- The toll booth is on the passenger side. In the UK it’s normally on the driver’s side
- The prices for the park are per vehicle, not per person. Driving past the sign on the way in, at first glance, it looked like it was £12 each
- We used a map and compass, to keep check of where we were. But if you’re following one of the walking routes, they’re (mostly) well signposted. Each signpost is clearly marked with the route number – and the path number for the map. So, if you have a map and compass, you can clearly see which track you should be following. Also, look out for the coloured markers on the trees and rocks
- Drive the scenic road!
Have you ever visited Postalm?