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Phespirit goes to Austria
Bruck an der Großglocknerstraße     September 2007

Within two hours of arriving in Bruck an der Großglocknerstraße, Phespirit was joined in the village by a touring party from the Slovenian Tractor Club. Scottish bagpipes played Dvorak in the distance, adding to the surreal multi-national flavour. On the outskirts of the village Phespirit happened upon a local league football match. As the second half commenced, Bruck were trailing 0-1 against top-of-the-table Wagrain. The fifty or sixty spectators were fairly subdued, but an early goal (Wagrain), a sending off (Bruck) and a steady intake of beer (the fans) helped to liven up proceedings. Rowdiness peaked when Bruck pulled a goal back and shortly thereafter were reduced to nine men. Wagrain sealed the win with a late third and Phespirit sauntered back to his hotel.

So this was Phespirit's introduction to Bruck an der Großglocknerstraße, 5km from Zell am See at the heart of Austria's Salzburgerland. The following morning saw yet more international tractor enthusiasts converging on the area, having driven their vehicles from all corners of the continent. Phespirit spotted Germans, Dutch and Belgians joining the Slovenes, the locals and various others for the fifth Annual Vintage Tractor World Championships, plus drinking and feasting. This was not Phespirit's purpose in town, however. He had come for the hiking. During the course of his stay he managed six hikes, the first five of which were hikes around Bruck and Zell am See.

The sixth hike was along the Krimml Waterfall trail. This really couldn't have been more straightforward: he paid an entrance fee of €1.80 and simply walked up a broad zig-zagging footpath alongside the falls, which roar from a high valley of glorious green fields sheltered by mountains. Phespirit's leisurely amble to the top took the better part of two and a half hours, mostly because the views to the falls were so consistently spectacular, necessitating multiple photo stops. Oh, and possibly also because he stopped at the Gasthof Schönangerl along the way for a large apple strudel with vanilla sauce.

The Krimml Falls cascade in three parts - lower, middle, upper - over a combined vertical distance of 390m. Phespirit walked beyond the upper level, along the Krimml Achen Valley into magnificent Alpine pastureland, as far as Veiten Alm - the first rest house in the valley. This was the kind of hiking that Phespirit likes best: easy going, through a starkly beautiful remote landscape, bathed in warm sunshine with just an occasional chill breeze to remind him of the high altitude.

A single day of rain blighted Phespirit's hikes. The upside of this, however, was that overnight it turned to chocolate-box snowfall on the highest peaks, to be followed by a crisp cloudless morning. An ideal day, therefore, for Phespirit to travel by bus, bus, funicular, bus to the Kaprun Alpine Reservoirs. These tranquil turquoise lakes with irregular mountaintops ranging above, and their mathematically perfect dams arcing below, with snow and water both gently glittering, provided Phespirit with the most splendid spectacle he'd seen all year. It is strange. Purely man-made wonders such as Mosteiro dos Jerónimos in Lisbon, Angkor Wat in Cambodia, and the Renaissance city of Urbino in Italy can't begin to compete with nature's finest contributions.

Sadly, hiking around the reservoirs was out of the question as the fresh snow had rendered the footpaths too trecherous. If it had been possible it would have been a bonus, but Phespirit had not planned it. Indeed, he hadn't set any expectations for his time in Austria, so he was happy to have found so many simple pleasures to enjoy whilst there. If only life's complicated pleasures came so easily.

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