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Phespirit goes to Austria
St Anton am Arlberg     July 2004

Back in Austria. Back in the mountains. Back in boots. Once more the time had come for Phespirit to go hiking at altitude. Having carefully weighed up his options he selected the town of St Anton am Arlberg as his base, partly because the price was right but more specifically because:

  1. it is an ideal jumping off point for Liechtenstein, which Phespirit had never before visited;
  2. he enjoyed his previous hiking experience in Austria, three years ago at Fuschl am See;
  3. he had stayed in eastern and central Austria but never the far western part of the country.

Reaching this end of Austria meant flying to Innsbruck from London Gatwick. Innsbruck is a small airport; the aeroplane was a small Boeing 737-600; the airline was small Lauda Air; yet the smallness of all these things proved to be inversely proportional to their excellence. Phespirit can happily recommend Lauda Air to anyone who values a simple, laidback, fuss-free service dressed up in black jeans and a smile.

His time in St Anton am Arlberg was divided equally between hiking about the valley and venturing further afield to assorted places of interest. There is a substantial network of hiking trails in the immediate area, mostly well marked and well maintained, and mostly served by at least one Alpine hut that provides food, drink and a bed for the night. Just as at Fuschl am See, there is an added thrill to be had from collecting stamps at selected locations which equate to points on a score card. These can be redeemed for a gold, silver or bronze hiking pin at the local tourist office. Unlike at Fuschl am See, it requires an extraordinary effort of hiking up great heights or trekking great distances over a great many days to earn gold. Phespirit worked out five walks around St Anton am Arlberg to get himself a silver pin. He duly got it.

To the south, to the west, to the north - from the heart of Austria's skinny end it requires no great outward journey to find an international frontier. Phespirit journeyed to Lindau in Germany, Vaduz in Liechtenstein, and Appenzell via Werdenburg in Switzerland. Not too far to the east is the city of Innsbruck, so Phespirit journeyed there too. It is only an hour and a quarter from St Anton am Arlberg by train but Phespirit's train somehow contrived to be exactly one hour late so the whole effort was a bit of a drag.

The next time Phespirit was in Innsbruck it was to board his flight back to London. His lasting impression from this trip was that, whilst Phespirit will doubtless keep up his efforts to visit each and every country in the world, he will keep coming back to the fine country that is Austria.

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