June 17: Otztal Valley, Austria

It dawned a very beautiful sunny day. We drove down the Otztal valley. It had everything you could ask for in an Austrian valley: green meadows with wild flowers, a nice river, small villages, the green haystacks which make such an attractive pattern, evergreens on the mountainsides, waterfalls and rugged snowcapped peaks ever in the background. But with all these things, it was a relaxing beauty - a quiet and restful place to spend a holiday.

As in other places in Austria, we noted a large number of carved wooden crucifixes and other small shrines in the fields and by the roadside. The Austrians are Roman Catholic, and by external evidences must be rather religious.

We reached Solden about 10:30. It is very beautifully located in the valley on both sides of the small river. For a tourist trap, I found it rather nice. We enquired about the chairlift to Hochsolden and found to our surprise that it only cost about a dollar for the round trip, about 60 for the ride up. After having a snack and packing my rucksack with our lunch and my camera equipment, we caught the chairlift up. It was really an exhilirating experience - we just sat in the gently swaying chairs in the warm sunlight and were swung up through a green forest and before a beautiful valley and mountain scene.

Hochsolden was not too impressive itself - it was about at the snowline and we have noted that the snow is much more spectacular if you are below it, looking up. The view of the valley was nice, but somewhat blocked by the side of the mountain. Thus we started walking back down.

We saw a lot of Gentiana. It is very interesting how this blue, deep flower (it is about as deep as a jonquil) can grow with so little stem and plant around it. The flower almost grows right out of the ground - often it will be lying on the ground. There were quite a few buttercups, dandelion flowers and some other flowers that are common in North Wales. Growing in the cool ground around a patch of snow we found a large number of small white flowers similar to snowdrops. We found foliage which we assumed to be the alpine rose plant, which is a dwarf rhododendrum. There were large patches of foliage which looked like rhododendrum and the plant had red buds on them, but no blooms. We had hoped to find some blooming alpine roses.

We stopped and ate lunch and then had a very pleasant walk down the mountain to Solden. We walked through the woods and then out in the open among the wildflowers. We watched the operation of one ot the cable lifts. The farms high on the mountainside receive their supplies and send out milk, etc., by little baskets or boxes on a cable line strung to the valley. We got good views of Solden and the valley on the way down. We passed a woman carrying a sythe, a rake and a huge basket on her back - evidently on her way to cut some hay. We have seen a lot of women working in the hay in Austria.

From Solden we drove up to Obergurgl - reputedly the highest village in Europe. We found the valley on the way up much more impressive than the view from Obergurgl itself.

On the way to Obergurgl, Brenda saw two or three brown goats high on the mountainside and we supposed them to be wild goats. This supposition was soon disproved, however, as we drove around a curve and found a whole herd of them begging for handouts on the roadside. They were causing a traffic jam similar to the "bear jams" in Yellowstone Park. They were really cute and at the same time comical looking. There were several milchgoats with their strange-looking two-teated udders hanging almost to the ground. Brenda got out to feed them and soon had a whole herd standing around her, staring up at her with their fixed-looking eyes like a tree full of owls. As I got out of the car to take a picture of her, one came up behind and tried to eat my shirttail.

After a very short look at Obergurgl we drove back down the valley and back to camp at Imst. The two days of lovely weather have certainly improved our outlook on Austria.

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