Elizabeth Walden and her husband Roger have been on several European trips with HF Holidays and here we hear about their experience in the popular Austrian region:
“So many people have told us how fantastic the walking is in the Zillertal Alps, that we just had to go and see what they were raving about. We’ve done various walking holidays in Europe − Italy, the Canaries, France (all with HFH, of course) – but never Austria.
Driving from Munich airport to Mayrhofen gave a taste of what lay in store – lakes sparkled in the sunshine, the houses got gradually prettier and more alpine-looking, and rolling hills gave way to soaring mountains.
The picture-postcard scene continued as we arrived at our destination. Nestled in a valley surrounded by snow-capped mountains, the meadows of contented cows and wooden houses decked with colourful flowers make Mayrhofen a tourist board’s dream.
Gardens were well tended and the streets were clean – even the roadworks seemed to be managed in a neat and tidy fashion.
The family that runs Hotel Waldheim have been welcoming HF Holidays’ guests for 25 years and we felt at home very quickly. Our room was large and comfortable with a view from the balcony of the mountain backdrop and the meadow across the road.
Over the course of the week, we were to watch the farmer as he attempted to cut the grass using a scythe, making extremely slow progress.
Clearly we would need to clock up plenty of miles to walk off a week of Austrian food.
Which James Bond film was it when our hero fought the villain’s henchman on top of a cable car? Anyway, I could have done without hearing about that as we took the Penkenbahn up onto the Penken, one of Mayrhofen’s local mountains.
However I concentrated on enjoying the view rather than looking at the ground far below, and soon forgot that I don’t like heights.
At the top we walked through fields of wildflowers, enjoying views of Mayrhofen far below and snow-capped peaks on the horizon, the view reflected in the mirror of a lake. We soon reached an alm, an alpine hut serving food and drinks. This became a theme for the week – you’re never far from food on a mountain in Austria.
Our leader was a mine of local information, telling us how the cows were taken into the barns at night and tethered by their tails – or was this a leader’s tall tale?
The Kaiserschmarrn challenge. No, not another mountain, but a local speciality, of which more later.
Our walk today started from the beautiful Schlegeiss reservoir, one of several in the valleys surrounding Mayrhofen.
We were immediately faced with a long steep ascent of about 2,000 feet in full sunshine. I get very little practice of mountain walking, living in suburban Hertfordshire, but found the climb much easier than expected with advice and encouragement from our leader.
We arrived at the alm, where we were recommended to try Kaiserschmarrn for elevenses. Not wishing to spoil our lunch we ordered one between two – a wise move as it turned out.
What arrived was a very large, very thick pancake cut into pieces and served with stewed fruit. I staggered through my half, hoping that we had completed all the ascent for the day and that they could just roll me back down the mountain.
Clearly I’m a bit of a lightweight, as one of the group managed to eat one and a half of these monumental desserts.
The rest of the walk was indeed downhill (apart from a few ‘undulations’, as HFH leaders are wont to call them) and we set off at a pace.
This was fortunate as the clouds were gathering and we had just got back to the bus stop when the heavens opened in spectacular fashion. I didn’t actually climb aboard the bus, but was propelled by the press of the people behind, all of them eager to get out of the teeming rain.
The worst of the rain passed overnight, but left behind mist and drizzle. We opted for the easier walk, preferring to explore the local and very dramatic Finkenberg Gorge rather than spend the day up in the mountains in the clouds.
Inevitably the walk included a stop at an alm, allowing us time to dry out and enjoy their hearty soup for lunch.
In the evening we all went bowling Mayrhofen-style. The bowling alley was unlike anything we’d seen before. Whilst there was the usual equipment to pick up and place the skittles and keep the score, the alleys themselves looked rather more rough and ready.
It was soon clear that they hadn’t bothered with the spirit level when building them. You would bowl a nice straight ball down the centre and then it would suddenly veer off to the left…..or to the right…..or go straight on through the skittles leaving most of them still standing.
Any level of bowling skill was of no advantage whatsoever. It made for a hilarious evening.
The previous day’s rain had been replaced by warm sunshine, just the weather for sitting outside a café with a coffee and chatting to friends.
We took the cable car up the Ahorn, another local mountain, and had a pleasant stroll enjoying the view of the valley below before lunch at an alm (again).
Our evening meal at the hotel was a gala dinner of local specialities including the option of more Kaiserschmarrn for dessert. Our meal was accompanied by harp music played by a member of the local band.
Afterwards our leaders suggested a stroll to the local cemetery, saying that it would be worth it. We weren’t convinced by the offer of a walk round a graveyard in the drizzle, so we didn’t go – and missed the wonderful sight of a mass of fireflies. It just goes to show you should always listen to your leader.
What a glorious day.
We followed the river up the pretty Floitental valley towards its source in the mountains. We had the place to ourselves – amazing considering how busy it was around Mayrhofen.
The tumbling blue-green waters sparkled and the snow on the peaks glistened in the sunshine. Waterfalls cascaded down the valley sides and orchids were in bloom.
Just a fabulous walk.
In this idyllic location there was the inevitable alm, but no hot soup was needed today, just cold drinks and a wedge of chocolate cake.
After dinner we went to listen to the Mayrhofen Town Band. Dressed in traditional costume, they play a weekly open-air concert during the summer to entertain visitors.
There was plenty of the traditional oom-pah music you would expect, plus medleys from around the world. They even managed a couple of choruses of Land of Hope and Glory to make the British feel at home.
Another delightful walk to end the week.
However we were slightly concerned to be told by our leader that on this walk on a previous occasion he had been in one of the meadows when the farmer had suddenly turned on the silage spraying equipment. The group had to run to avoid being soaked with the evil smelling stuff. Luckily no such problem for us today.
For our final evening the whole group (about 30 in all) went out for a drink after dinner to thank our leaders, share our stories from the week and celebrate a great holiday.
So, did Mayrhofen live up to its reputation?
Glorious scenery, comfortable and welcoming hotel, never-ending food, superb walks, excellent leaders and great company. Now I know why it’s so popular.”
What a fantastic tale from our Guided Walking in Mayrhofen holiday.
For more information about our holidays in Austria call 0345 470 7558 or email our travel experts.