Today we wander to Austria.
Conny and I head to a Hutte Saturday. I have my bag hastily packed, with just the essentials, but while I'm ready to rush off, Conny is making brunch: coffee, eggs and muesli. This is not like any "hiking buddies" trip, where we meet at the Bahnhoff at 7am - bleary eyed and desperate for coffee. Conny's planning involves a slow start, with a noon train to Scharnitz, Austria, and then a long walk up a steep slope.
The trainride alone is two hours. It's incredible with gorgeous sun. We pass the most beautiful mountains as we past through Garmish - the Zugspitze among them - yet I am warned that the beauty of the mountains can easily be forgotten when the hike is a line-up of people and the peak is like disneyland: filled with cafes and gifts.
As we pass Mittenwald, I am overjoyed to see a smaller town with larger mountains. This area feels like the rockies, with mountains immediately surrounding the towns. So close, that when we get off the train it's only a few minutes before we're in the hills and walking in snow.
It's a very warm winter here, yet Austrian mountains still have some snow. Today the sun is shining brightly and in seconds we are hot and hiking through wet slick snow. It's gorgeous but hard to keep your footing. Luckily, Garnot has lent me snow shoes and sticks so I can keep up to Conny and her set. As the afternoon continues, we meet skiiers on their way down, and rodelers (sledging) who almost knock us off! It's all in good fun though and everyone is smiling. Nothing can beat this weather.
Several skiers have made it to the top - a 5 hour hike - and are now skiing down. They must have started early to be coming back at 3 in the afternoon: yet I forget how late we started. Only a 2.5 hour walk and we're at the top, yet it's 4:30 pm - too late to keep going to the top and see the sunset, yet perfect for an early start to happy hour.
And it is happy. Everyone at the hutte is smiling and enjoying the sunshine. Skiiers, hikers, snow shoers, even a group from DAV Oberland, the big hiking group from Munchen, are here. The going shtick is a beer or coffee, a snack, and people enjoying the view and sharing stories. It's not busy with the strange sunny warm weather - not clear enough to invite many hikers and not snowy enough to invite many skiiers - yet those who arrive are all in good spirits. I think the mountains and forests do something wonderful to people that forces you to enjoy life a little more. Maybe it's the mountain air :)
Either way, the night passes slowly and joyfully. Everyone creeps inside as the air chills. We cuddle around small tables and say hello, or not, and order dinner and drinks. There's no electricity here so the cabin gets darker and darker with the sunset. I almost can't see until the hutte-meister brings out oil lamps! The atmosphere is "very romantisch" - a fire burning in the corner, oil lamps, people cuddled together after a long day in the snow and a chill to wear off near the heat.
It makes for a good night; simple. The bedrooms are also simple - just mats next to each other, and rooms that sleep 5 or more. We only have 4 people in our room yet 2 are like tiny motorboats - driving all night with no one at the wheel. By morning, we're still tired from hearing the boats drive around the room. The weather is also tired: yesterday's clear blue skys are now clouds and slow rain. It doesn't sound promising, yet breakfast in the warm dining room does and we enjoy coffee and watch the rain come down hoping it will ease up.
It doesn't. We have all the time in the world, yet to head to the peak is another 2 hours up and 3 more returning past the hutte and to the train. No one wants to spend 5 hours in the rain, so everyone slowly packs up their bags and heads down. Conny and I are the slowest to pack up, yet overtake almost everyone on our way to the train, where naps, more coffee, and beer is had on the way back to Munich.
It's a really nice way to have a weekend.