Thursday, July 5, 2007

AT - Zell am See

I took the Pinzgaubahn train from Zell am See out to Mittersill, which is an enjoyable train ride in itself. I slept on the connecting bus ride between Mittersill and Krimml, waking up periodically to lovely views but also a bus load of screaming schoolchildren on their way home.

Upon my arrival at the Krimmler Wasserfälle (Krimml Falls), I first got the obligatory photos of the base of the waterfalls. I soon made my way hiking up the trail, stopping at every viewpoint along the way to check out the view. After about an hour of going uphill, I reached a café and felt a sense of relief and accomplishment to have made it to the top. I looked down over the fall and admired the view, though it wasn’t quite what I was expecting. I turned to sniff about the café and restaurant when I noticed something behind them… more waterfalls. I was only halfway.

Another hour later – once my legs couldn’t feel pain anymore – I was up at the actual top, looking down and again admiring the view. It will wasn’t quite what I was expecting. However, I looked back at the stream approaching the falls and was curious where all of this water came from. Here, I felt like the mountains did not continue too much further above me, so it struck me as odd that water could just keep flowing and flowing without it coming from anywhere I could identify. Of course, I later realized that mountains which seemingly end shortly above you in fact hide even bigger mountains just over the tops of those near to you.

Determined to find the river’s source, I continued on; besides, it looked like “just over that next hill” would be a spectacular view of the other side of the mountain. Foolish me, one does not simply hike to the other side of an Alpine mountain – these are not the Appalachians. I followed it for about 2 miles, which equated to about 10 “just over that next hill” thoughts.

I eventually reached a point where the water changed from torrent to stream; wind from gale to whisper; and an open pasture appearing as sweet sanctuary. It wasn’t the other side of the mountain that I had hoped for nor the river’s source that I was seeking, but the sight of that valley made it all worthwhile. Of the whole trip, this view ranks as among my favorites. It took me about 3.5 hours to get there and only 40 minutes to return. I love when gravity is on my side.

After checking out the area on Google Earth, I would have had 7.5 miles and a 3.5 mile-long branch before I reached the end of the river, near the Italian border. The glaciers supplying the river are obvious from space, but are hidden away when viewed from the ground.

For dinner both this night and the night before, I ate at an Italian restaurant in downtown Zell am See, just north of the central plaza. Both the pizza and pasta I had eaten were quite tasty.

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