June 16: Over the Arlberg Pass, Austria
It again rained all night and I was pessimistic about the weather for the coming day. Nevertheless, we planned to drive north over the Fern Pass to see what we could see. About the time we left, we began to see breaks in the clouds and by the time we got 30 miles north the sun was shining. It turned out to be a beautiful day - our most outstanding day in Austria thus far. We saw more snow-capped mountains than we have seen in any one day before. That was one dividend of the long rainy spell in the valley - it left beautiful deposits of new snow on the mountaintops.
We drove north over the Fern Pass, an easy and not too spectacular road. The Fernsee is very pretty, a striking green-colored sheet of water nestled among the evergreens. The Fernstein Castle sits above the lake, but it is overshadowed by a large house and not particularly interesting on the outside.
Driving on through Lermoos, we turned off the main road and went to Berwang. It had had a very recent snow, probably the previous night, and the mountains above the town were very attractive. There was snow on the evergreen trees and glistening white sheets of snow where there were no trees.
From Berwang we took the small road which led to Namlos, not knowing what lay in store for us. The road soon turned to a one lane dirt road. It led through a couple of small villages with just enough room to get the car through. The road led up and down hills with switchbacks and places where the road hung to the side of a deep gorge. Although the road was narrow and we were often looking right off the edge down a steep drop, it was well engineered and the surface was in most places smoother than that of the heavily traveled main roads. In one place however, a rockslide had apparently knocked part of the road off the side of the mountain. Attempts to repair it had left a lot of mud and a steep slope on the narrow road. We had to go down the steep slope through the mud with only inches clearance between us and a steep gorge. I am sure we could not have gone up the slope, but we made it down ok and proceeded.
The engineering of the road itself was not as spectacular as the small road we traveled in northern Italy - the terrain it had to negotiate was not nearly so difficult as that in Italy. But it was aspectacular road and a memorable experience. There were fields of wildflowers, green wooded slopes and white snowtops on the mountains. We passed through green forest and by many streams before coming out on the main road aat Stanzach. The view of Stanzach from high on the mountain road was spectacular.
From Stanzach we drove to Steeg, Warth and then south over the Flexen Pass. On the way up the Flexen Pass we saw a snowplow working to clear part of the road, throwing a stream of snow in a high arc off the road. The extent of snow on top was similar to the Julier Pass in Switzerland, but was much more spectacular because the sky was blue and the sun was shining brightly. For at least a couple of miles there was complete snow cover, with drifts and wide expanses of dazzling, undisturbed white. To my mind it was the most spectacular pass we have crossed. South of the summit there are avalanche shelters covering the road almost continuously for about a mile until it joined the Arlberg Pass Road. It was certainly the best mountain pass road that we have traveeled.
We traveled back over the Arlberg Pass and it was really a revelation to see what we had missed the first time in the snow and fog. It was covered with a heavy blanket of snow and was really beautiful - almost as spectacular as the Flexen. We saw terrific mountain scenery on this crossing, whereas we had seen only snow, fog and the back of a truck the first time.
We drove again the road through Landeck to Imst - through all the road work. It was much more pleasant this time - there was so much beautiful scenery that we missed on the first trip.
Even the campsite was almost unrecognizable in the sunshine - we had been living there two days without seeing the beautiful ring of snowcapped mountains which covered almost 360¡. We would now have to rate t his campsite second only to Lauterbrunnen for scenic beauty.
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