This blue marble

– and yet it spins


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A ship called Kaiser Franz Josef

stwolfgang-4The good ship Kaiser Franz Josef labors hard to take passengers around the Lake St Wolfgang. I try to recall what the rules are for naming a ship: as ships are usually referred to as feminine, in which case is a ship allowed to be named after a man? Perhaps being a Kaiser justifies the cause?

Kaiser Franz Josef the Ship is a paddle steamer. He is over 140 years old, thus quite the senior and well beyond retirement age, one should think. Yet he whirs his wheels and pedals his paddles every day, without much complaint. No rest for the living.
stwolfgang-3(St Wolfgangsee, Austria; July 2019)


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The little town by the lake

stwolfgang-5St Wolfgang by the lake is one of the coziest towns there is. And just like traditions call for, all the balconies have red or purple flowers. No Japanese boxwood shapes or other modern inventions here. Petunias and pansies, please.stwolfgang-1With its lakefront view, abbey, and old buildings, St Wolfgang bears a teensy bit of similarity to Montreux in Switzerland. Another cozy favorite town of mine. Fortunately, no chilly castle dungeons here, as far as I know of.
stwolfgang-2(St Wolfgang, Austria; July 2019)


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On the top of Sheep Mountain

schafberg-14There has been a Gasthaus on top of Schafberg since 1862, and it prides itself to be the first mountaintop Gasthaus in all of Austria. Since the steam cogwheel train was not built until the 1890s, the only way up was on foot (or horse or mule). Quite a lot of work for the gentry and nobility that liked to come up for a day’s outing. That train is going upward, by the way, pushed by the steam locomotive. schafberg-7Schafberg seems to be well known by Austrians and less so by foreigners. As I do not exactly have millions of readers I take the risk of making a warm recommendation for anyone wanting to combine a weekend in Salzburg with a couple of days of fresh air. By the way, there is a decently accessible hiking path up and down the mountain, too.schafberg-3(Schafberg, Austria; July 2019)


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Straight down from Himmelspforte

schafberg-6“The Himmelspforte is the place to start.” Herr Pasch, the owner of the inn, seemed quite elated that a non-German-speaking tourist had asked him for advice on hiking routes instead of advice for where to take the best selfie. “It looks scary, so don’t look down. Just look up at the mountain.” He handed me two walking poles and my sister his own wooden walking stick which once had belonged to his grandfather. schafberg-2After a few minutes of convincing we chose the circular route around the tip of the mountain and peered down the Himmelspforte, or Heavens’ Gate. And what a view. Because the route led us straight down the rocky mountainside. Nearly vertically.
There was some clambering, some climbing on all four, and some worry that Herr Pasch’s Gandalf-stick would fall down into the valley below.
schafberg-10In some places there was a via ferrata built to keep us stuck to the mountainside. In other places, the locals must have run out of wire as we had to climb the slanting bare rock face on all four, thanking our lucky stars there was no wind to sweep us off the mountain like lettuce from a plate.schafberg-12Somewhere along the way Herr Pasch’s excitement dawned upon us: not a single person had greeted us in English or with a foreign German accent. Sofar we were most likely the only non-German speaking people on the route. The route was not marked out as such, but there certainly was signage belonging to other, longer routes. Where was everybody?schafberg-11Five hours later we encountered the train track again, just under the tip of the mountain. As I sat down among the flowers in the meadow, it occurred to me that this was probably the most gorgeous hike I had ever done, at least when it comes to visual entertainment. Physical entertainment was not far behind, either. schafberg-13(Naturally one should always hike in pearl earrings and a scarf from Paris.)schafberg-15(Schafberg, Austria; July 2019)


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About bucket lists

schafberg-4Do you love lists? (or perhaps you are now asking yourself, “what kind of question is that anyway – lists??”) I do. I love reading other people’s themed lists, and making lists of my own. And I love checking things off the list. Not for the sake of completion, i.e. feeling good after I’ve made the check-sign on top of an item (“been there, done that”). But during the experience in itself. For me, lists are tools to remind me of what I once decided was important, and then making the effort of actually going through the experience I consider important. Mindfully.

In the top corner of this blog I keep a few lists: two reading lists and an experience junkie list. But I have more lists, including a travel bucket list (who doesn’t?). Some of this travel bucket list I share with my sister, as we for the past 10 years have wandered off somewhere for a week together in the summer. It is a random collection of activities and places, mostly with a historical connection. And this summer we checked off one item of quite blurry origin: staying at the Schafberg in Austria.schafberg-8Why? Because of the view and the old historical guest house. How did it end up on our list? Honestly, neither one of us can remember. Perhaps my sister googled for something years ago, and found it. The photo above speaks for itself. And so one morning we took the bus from Salzburg to St Wolfgang and hopped on an old steam cogwheel train that slowly climbed to the top of Schafberg mountain.schafberg-1We were not the only ones who had the place on their bucket list. It would seem an Asian travel agency did, too, as each train brought up more Japanese and Chinese tourists, wearing sandals, dresses, sunhats, and scarves to keep them warm. It was not more than 14 degrees Celsius up there you see, and hardly the weather and terrain for summer finery. But the Japanese ladies admirably posed in their sundresses, holding their hats, while their (somewhat more ruggedly dressed) husbands took instagram and family album photos.

During the day the bald, grassy mountaintop was overrun with people. When the last train left at 5.30 pm, there was no more than two handfuls left. I was sad to see not a single Asian tourist had decided to stay overnight. But we did. We took a walk in the sudden silence. So did the others. No one spoke loudly. The only sound was the feathers of the jackdaws ruffling in the wind as they navigated the gusty winds around the cliffs.schafberg-5(Schafberg, Austria; July 2019)


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One still night

salzburg-14One night in Salzburg there was a little train that took us aboard and climbed up the hill, all the way to the top. Strong fortress walls welcomed us (or perhaps rather said “keep out, strangers to the city!”). There was a simple Austrian dinner in a simple wooden restaurant with a view. There was a waitress who was happy it was her last shift as she confused the orders and languages needed (her job cannot be easy on her mind).

And there was a magnificent wooden state hall, simple but tastefully decorated (and probably awfully cold in the winter!). With views over the city. And finally, there were violins and a cello; Strauss and Mozart.

As the joyful music drifted out from the open window over the city below, just like it has done for centuries, I thought of the castle lords’ best rewards: after months of chilly days and nights with no heating, after years of worry about defences and politics and threats for the safety of one’s head, disregarding the lice and cockroaches; a couple of soft, warm summer nights with good food and music must be very soothing for the soul.salzburg-13(Salzburg, Austria; July 2019)