It’s true, we have been listening to Sound of Music quite a bit.
We’ve been joined by Molly’s parents, Tom and Barb, and decided to spend July touring through the Alps. After a three-day sojourn in Bassac, visiting Pam and Fred, we crossed France in a day, arriving in a drizzly and snowy Chamonix. You might expect four life-long Southern Californians to wilt at the thought of battling snow in July but with Alpine beer, playing cards and World Cup we stayed plenty happy. Our hopes of crossing Mont-Blanc via Aguille du Midi and Hellbronner cable car were thwarted but we did manage to take the railway to the Montvers Glacier and climb down 485 steps to the ice caves carved into the glacier. Oh and yes, we then realized we had to climb the stairs back up in the freezing rain.
From France’s Haute Savoy we headed to Italy’s Dolomites, Molly driving us down a small cliffhanger road as the sun set, giant rocks soaring above our heads. Corvara, a tiny town in an isolated valley had three cable cars that rain up into the mountains. The first day we strolled through fields of green that butted up against grey vertical rock, the views astounding in every single direction.
The second day we went up to 9000 feet above the treeline and traipsed around a moon-like landscape – but as Europe has proven, even the moon has a restaurant/bar serving up cold beers, bottles of wine and hot meals.
We’ve settled in Tirol, Austria, renting a mountain chalet with an extraordinary view. We spent a day in Innsbruck, taking a gondola above the clouds to look north to Germany, saw Hall-in-Tirol, a medieval Alpine town, hiked up the Rosengarten gorge in Imst (turns out there isn’t a rose garden at the end) and visited the Kimml Waterfall, drinking beers at the mountain pub after a 45 minute hike straight uphill.
The first thing we noticed about the Alps is that everyone is using the hiking trails: we’ve seen numerous 3 year-olds scaling peaks with their parents and an endless string of 80 year-old couples have passed us by on trails above the treeline. The second thing we’ve noticed is that no matter how steep the trail or high the mountain there is a bar and restaurant close-by. Alpine refugios or landgasthof can be found on every mountain ridge providing shelter to long-distance trekkers or lunch and a beer after a morning of hiking. The Alps, in every country we’ve seen, are well equipped and well used, and it’s been delightful to be a part of the mountain crowds.