Austria

8:33 p.m. on October 4, 2013 (EDT)
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Barb and I got back last night from our civilized and low key trip to Austria. I haven't gotten a chance to sort the photos yet (something about sorting out and paying the bills that accumulated during the month). Thanks to the blessing and curse of the internet, I did post a few comments on Trailspace during our stopovers in the cities (used as basecamps). But here are a couple observations -

1. Austria is the last bastion of smoking in Europe. They have not yet discovered that food tastes better in "nicht raucher" restaurants.

2. It is quite exciting to drive the winding roads in the Alps at legal speeds of 120 to 140 (that is kph, not mph, but still exciting when you go through 7 or 8 hairpin turns in the last 5 kilometers of road to the trailhead).

3. It really rains a lot in the Alps in the early Fall. And with it comes the reminder that Goretex and eVent are not truly waterproof OR breathable, even when freshly "renewed" with Revivex and similar products - pitzips are a necessity when doing the roundtrip to a hut that is 12 km RT and 2400 ft of elevation gain during a storm. Sep and early Oct sometimes have flakes of ice instead of or in addition to droplets of liquid water.

4. A terribly large percentage of wanderwegs (hiking trails) are either paved or steep scree slopes in the Austrian Alps (from past experience, the Dolomites - Italian Alps, Swiss Alps, and French Alps are just steep, rocky/root trails, not paved).

5. Hut-to-hut hikes are far better than UL hiking, both for "required" gear weight and for food (all you have to carry is a lot of Euros and/or plastic cards that have Visa, Amex, or MC logos).

6. Virtually all Austrians (and other Europeans, except the French) speak English - no need to learn German (Austrians don't speak Deutsch anyway, they speak "Austrian", which is related to German much like "Brooklyn" is related to Midlands English). Besides, in the cities like Vienna, Salzburg, or Innsbruck, within any 1-hour period, you will hear people speaking in at least a half-dozen different languages - well, that's true on the wanderweg as well - Deutsch, Italian, French, several Slavic, English English, American English, any of the 3 Scandinavian plus Finnish, multiple Middle Eastern, Japanese, Chinese - pick almost any language in the world. You also will see Muslim women hiking the trails in everything from full burqa to abaya, hijab, and chador (we were a bit startled by the lady 3 km out with her husband in a full burqa - she was keeping up a pretty good pace, though she did have to keep tugging at the eye-slit on the rockier parts of the trail).

7. Yes, many of the Austrian men really do wear lederhosen (both the shorts and the knickers). They are really quite appropriate for a lot of the farming chores (better than jeans by far). And a fair number of the women do wear dirndls, even when it isn't a festival (though we encountered a couple of these - Fall is the time when the cattle, sheep, and goats are brought down from the higher mountains).

8. The Austrian Alps, as is true for the Dolomites, Swiss Alps, French Alps, and Pyrenees as well, have some of the most fantastic, beautiful scenery anywhere, and some of the finest climbing (both rock and ice).

I will expand with photos when I get all the bills sorted out and the photos downloaded.

12:17 p.m. on October 5, 2013 (EDT)
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Austria is like Germany with a more relaxed attitude and better looking women. We soent time in the standard places but the highlight was a hunting lodge in Imst. I had dinner with true jaegermeisters with game heads on the walls. The women sang when asked questions. A lovely country with swell traditions and the people did not take themselves so seriously as the Germans and Suisse.

8:04 p.m. on October 5, 2013 (EDT)
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ppine said:

... A lovely country with swell traditions and the people did not take themselves so seriously as the Germans and Suisse.

 Interestingly, a group of Swiss we met on one of the trails near Mosern made a very similar comment.

1:26 p.m. on October 6, 2013 (EDT)
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Bill,

Glad to hear of your experiences. This is a difficult concept for many people to grasp. My Mom is 100 percent Prussian. I found the Germans to be intense and sometimes rude . Thank God for beer which changes everything. They still have the WWII hangover, especially the older citizens. In the Black Forest the outback of Germany I found a waiter that would not serve me. I found a bilingual patron that offered to help. I told him what I asked for in German. The guy said your German was fine, the guy just doesn't like you because you are from America.

I cut short my visit to Switzerland because even the people in the mountains were so tightly wound. Perfection and living outdoors are not necessarily always compatible.

Austria was a refreshing change. Going to Italy and France afterwards are like being reborn.

11:26 a.m. on October 7, 2013 (EDT)
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Looking forward to the photos, Bill!

From the tourists I've seen here. the national character of each European country varies quite a bit, from stuffy and repressed to open and friendly. The same holds true with people from different areas of North America, though. 

December 21, 2014
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