June 19: Achensee to Zell-am-See
Late yesterday afternoon thunderheads built up after the hot day and it started to rain. We went to bed about 9PM to the pleasant beat of rain on the tent roof. It was a special time together, and we slept soundly. We were awakened at 5 AM sharp, not by a cuckoo as yesterday but by the tremendous din of the bells of a herd of dairy cattle going right by our tent. We had pitched our tent close to a small road which turned out to be the road by which the farmers drove their cattle to pasture early in the morning. In one string I counted 70 cattle and there must have been at least 10 such strings which came by between 5 and 8 AM. They all wore bells which ranged in size from tiny tinklers to monstrous bells on the lead cows which could have served as church bells. Some of the bells were of thin brass and sounded more or less like our cowbells at home, only louder. There were some of these which were a full foot across at the widest point, but there were only one or two of these. Other bells were cast brass and had a very nice sound. It was really hard to see how the cows could carry some of the heavy bells, and hard to see how they could stand the noise right under their ears.
After breaking camp we decided to drive down the east side of the lake bank. This turned out to be one of the most outstanding and moving moments of the entire trip. The sun was shining brightly ont he mountians with their snow trim and upon the village of Pertisau. The water was calm and quiet and made almost a perfect mirror, reflecting the mountains and the green, tree-covered hills. The countryside was almost completely quiet except for bird calls and the now-distant cow bells across the lake. The scene created was really almost unbelievable. It was so awe inspiring that we were moved to sit down on the lake bank and pray together. We had a difficult time leaving the lake. I am sitting on the bank writing this, and I wish I were a better word artist to describe the scene.
After spending about 45 minutes by the lakeside we reluctantly left it and drove south over the pass road. We stopped again at the restaurant where you get such great views of the valley of the Inn.
We drove east to the small village of Kramsach on the Inn. I had read about a famous school and factory for engraving on glass located in Kramsach. We went ot the factory but they didn't seem anxious to sell anything so we went to Rattenbery across the river, another glass engraving center. There are two workshops on the main street of Rattenberg which have magnificent selections of cut glass and engraved glass. They do the work right in the shop - you can see them working from the street. They have a small lathe-like apparatus with a grinding wheel on which they do the engraving and cutting - it looks like it would require a great amount of skill.
A fancier of cut glass would really have a field day there. We like engraved patterns better, perhaps because they are not so common and perhaps because they are not so easily duplicated by dime store items - but mainly because we think they are prettier. We bought two salad oil holders, an ashtray and a set of 10 engraved glasses. I hope we can make it home with all of them.
After our jaunt to Kramsach and Rattenberg, we returned to the Zillertal and drove up it as far as Mayrhofen. It was very nice, but not spectacular - perhaps due to the cloudy weather. Even in clear weather it is no match for the Otztal. Nevertheless, we would have found it very striking if we hadn't seen so much of the same things before. We drove from Zell am Ziller to Mayrhofen because Mayrhofen is very highly rated by all the tourist books. We didn't get to see much because we drove around for 30 minutes and couldn't find a place to park. The open country yielded no parking because the farmers had built their high wooden fences right at the edge of the paving, not yielding an inch of pastureland - and the roads themselves were quite narrow. In the town of Mayrhofen, crowded and hectic, there were a few parking lots - but at hotels and marked "Parking - nur fur Gaste". So we gave up Mayrhofen and the Zillertal as overrated and went back to Zell to eat lunch.
After lunch our outlook was perhaps less critical, but we found the drive east of Zell am Ziller very nice - much more scenic than the Zillertal itself. On the way up the mountain road you get excellent views of Zell-am-Ziller and the valley. The road was steep and we had to watch the temperature gauge, but old MO made it over OK.
At Gerlos - or a little past it - we hit an unexpected toll road - and an unexpectedly high toll, AS 45 ($1.80) for just 12 kilometers. It was a very nice road, but that really seemed like a stiff toll. The road went up to 1628 m ( 5340 ft) and we stopped at the top for a look around. We walked up to the hotel at 1687 m (5530 ft) and were surprised by an excellent view of the Krimml Falls - we could see all three of the cascades which total about 1250 ft of fall. As we continued down the mountain road we got several nice views of the Krimml Falls. When we reached Krimml we decided to stop for a few minutes to see if there was and easy walk to the falls. We weren't quite prepared for what awaited us - after an hour's hard walking we arrived at the top of the middle cascade! It was a fairly short walk to the foot of the bottom cascade, but we decided to take the path to the middle cascade. The path must have been about 2 miles long. It would have been an excellent walk if we hadn't been so pushed for time. We saw rainbows in the falls at several places. At a little Gasthof at the top of the path you could look down at the first two falls and up at the top cascade. Being pushed by the clock and by a big black thunderhead hanging over the valley, we half-ran back down in about 30 minutes and were on our way again about 4:30 .
Only minutes after we drove out of Krimml the thundershowers arrived. We drove to Zell-am-See and around the lake to camp at a large, well-equipped campground. It hadn't rained too much there, but started just after we got the outside tent on to keep things inside dry. I got drenched while driving the pegs, but otherwise things were fairly dry. It set in to rain the rest of the night.
We turned in early, tired after a very full day.
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