Tuesday, August 16, 2011

An Adventure in a Valley in the Shadow of Death

(The above photo is actually mine. Click on the picture for a full view)

Around the Salzburg area, the hills may be “alive with the sound of music,” but head east and you get to another of the 26 mountain ranges that make up the Northern Limestone chain of the Eastern Alps: the Totes Gebirge. Literally, the Dead Range, it is named that because of the fact that there is little vegetation on much of the range. Even so, or perhaps because of that fact, the range is impressive and beautiful.

If you ever make your way into the dead mountains, a little known (You won’t find it in many if any of the guide books for Austria or on English websites.) but fun excursion is the three lakes tour to the source of the Traun River, high up in the Kammersee, a lake that is only accessible by foot after a boat ride across the incredibly deep Toplitzsee. Toplitzsee is one of many such deep, mountain lakes rumored to hide vast Nazi treasures, dumped there at the end of the War and inaccessible even with the most advanced technologies today.

The whole tour starts on the large Grundlsee, the largest lake in Styria, and far from the dead body that one would imagine in this mountain range. Along with the vast amounts of Austrians and Germans seen swimming there on any given summer day one will find ducks, fish and snakes aplenty.

Adding to the adventure are little touches of detail that any perfect excursion demands. For instance, the captain of the first leg of you journey may have enough alcohol in his system to cause anyone in the vicinity of his porous skin to lose their sea legs. The boat crossing Toplitzsee is very reminiscent of those long, motor-powered, dugout canoes from 1930s jungle films. Hiking to the Kammersee you cross a channel carved a meter wide and 100 meters long through sheer rock all the way back in the 1500s! And the source of the Traun is a wispy waterfall hundreds of feet tall, plunging into the most hidden of a corner-pocket valleys decorated with the greenest grass surrounding the greyest of stones. Literally picture perfect.

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