Tuesday, 28 August 2007

Exploring Austria (iv)

Our next visit was Burg Hohenwerfen, where we were again astonished by the spectacular flight demonstration of the birds of prey, although the weather conditions on that day were not really good. There was no wind and the poor eagles, and especially the vulture, had it really difficult to take off and to get some altitude.

It is always worth it to see the birds at Hohenwerfen Castle.

On the same day we visited the Eisriesenwelt in Werfen, allegedly the world's biggest ice caves with galleries spanning 42km under the mountain. The guided visit takes one hour and even though some of the caves are as big as cathedrals, sometimes you have to go through really narrow and dark passages, not really friendly if you suffer from claustrophobia. It was a pity that no photos were allowed inside the cave (mainly to avoid broken groups of visitors, and that someone gets lost inside the cave) because some of the ice formations are really incredible. The temperature on the inside keeps constant and slightly over 0°, not depending on the outside temperature, so we had to get ourselves some warm clothes before going in.

On the next day we went to the Großglockner Hochalpenstraße, the highest alpine road in Europe (read more about the Austrian need for numerical precision in a previous post). This road crosses from North to South through one of the most important passes on the Eastern Alps, the Hochtor at an altitude of 2504m, which has been continuously used for a long long time (yes, the Romans were already there, but they were not first). The highest point of the road, the Edelweißspitze (Edelweiss peak), has an altitude of 2571m. I love this road because you go through the different types of flora as you drive higher and higher.

The Swarovski look-out and the Großglockner and Johannisberg in the background.

The road continues to Kaiser-Franz-Josefs-Höhe, at 2369m, with an insuperable view of the highest peak in Austria, the Großglockner (3798m), and of the largest glacier in the Eastern Alps, the Pasterze, 9km long approximately. It is said that in 1856, as Emperor Franz Joseph ascended up to this point (hence the name), the glacier reached up to there. Today it has lost half of its volume and there is a cable car to go down, which in 1963 arrived at its foot, but now there are still 300 steps downwards to reach it.

The marmots had still not got enough food from tourists and looked at us.

Besides mountain and glacier, marmots and ibexes are the big highlights. Spotting marmots is relatively easy, especially if you arrive early in the morning, before the tourist hordes have fed them massively with apples, bread and cookies, and they retire to their dens to digest everything. The ibexes, also called by their German name, steinbocks, are shy and not willing to be near humans. To see them you need a little good luck, lots of patience and good binoculars. We only spotted one ibex, far far away, under the shadow of a rock.

Our day ended with a visit to the Krimml waterfalls, the highest in Austria with their 380m divided in three sections. A path goes up the waterfalls, and you can look at them and hear them roaring from little balconies each two or three hairpins. In some of them you are likely to miss a raincoat!

The Krimml Waterfalls. In the picture you see the middle and lower sections.

Two days of records, then:
- Eisriesenwelt, biggest ice caves in the world
- Großglockner Hochalpenstraße, highest mountain road in Europe
- Großglockner, highest peak in Austria
- Pasterze, longest glacier in the Eastern Alps
- Krimmler Wasserfälle, highest waterfalls in Austria

The last part of our holidays brought us to Munich in Bavaria...


Incurable Insomniac said...

I found your blog via the Expat Blog and I have to tell you that I love it and have linked you on my own.


Tonicito said...

Many thanks for visiting! I'm happy to learn that my efforts with my garbled English are not in vain! :)