We were driving on the Felbertauern Strasse, a scenic alpine road in Austria known for its beautiful views and its tunnels, when the weather turned foggy and chilly. We stopped for a bit at a place called Rastplatz Elisabethsee to have a look around, and we were treated to these wonderful views of the mountains above, the Osttirol Alps, where a snowstorm had begun, even though it was still early autumn. The contrast between the greenery being covered by fresh snow and fog was so wonderful to see, and it was a reminder of how quickly the weather can turn at high altitudes. Enjoy the photographs!
During our stay in Matrei, we hiked to the top of one of the local mountains, which I believe is called Inner-Klaunzer Berg, and where you’ll find a mountain cabin/guesthouse caled Kals-Matreier Törl. The altitude is about 2200 meters, so it’s not something that will tax your body greatly, but it is something that you’ll notice and you may experience a headache, depending on how accustomed you are to high altitudes.
It was lovely to be up there. The air was so pure, and other than the whooshing of the mountain winds and the occasional cow bell, there were no other noises. It was a real treat to be away from the unwelcome cacophony of the world. I know some people prefer the noise of a big city, but I’d much rather be far away from all of it, as much as possible.
Here is a gallery of 87 photographs from that hike. Enjoy!
In Austria’s Hohe Tauern National Park you’ll also find Krimml Waterfalls (Krimmler Wasserfälle). This series of tiered waterfalls is Austria’s highest at 380 meters. The waterfall begins at the top of the Krimmler Ache valley and plunges downward in three stages. The upper stage has a drop of 140 metres, the middle of 100 metres, and the lowest a drop of 140 metres. The highest point of the waterfall is 1,470 metres above sea level. The Krimmler Ache is a glacial stream whose flow varies greatly with season. Its volumetric flow in June and July is 20,000 m³/h (about 5.28 million gallons per hour), while in February it is only 500 m³/h (about 0.13 million gallons per hour). The greatest measured flow was on 25 August 1987, when it was 600,000 m³/h, or almost 160 million gallons per hour. That must have been a real sight!
We visited the waterfall in mid-September 2008, when the flow was still generous, but I’m sure the falls are even more spectacular in the months of June and July. Of course, that’s when you’ll have to put up with the summer heat and the most amount of tourists, so just know what you’re getting into. About 400,000 people visit the falls annually, and that means it can get crowded at times.
I took a lot of photos. I loved the different shapes formed by the water as it fell down those tall drops, shapes that could only be seen with high shutter speeds. I also had an ND filter and tripod with me, and that meant I could take long exposures of the waterfall and the river, where the shapes are completely different and everything turns out silky smooth. So you’ll see both kinds of photos, sometimes of the same scene, side-by-side: a high speed photograph and a long exposure, to show the difference.
There is a gravel-paved walkway that winds its way to the top of the waterfall. It takes a little over an hour to get there, depending on how busy it is that day. The forest is beautiful on the way up, with lots of evergreens and shrubs. The misty spray of the waterfall creates ideal growth condition for hundreds of mosses, lichens and ferns, which you’ll see in the photos. That fine mist hangs in the air and you’ll get to see it in most of the photos I’ve taken there; it looks like camera noise, but they’re actually tiny little drops floating in the air and reflecting sunlight, making it seem as if the photos are noisy. Let me give you an example: this is Ligia, standing in front the waterfalls. All the little dots you see in front of her face and in the air around her are tiny drops of mist.
During our stay in Matrei, we visited Grossglockner, which is the highest mountain in Austria and one of the highest in the Alps. It has an elevation of 3798 meters above sea level and is reached via the appropriately named Grossglockner High Alpine Road (Großglockner-Hochalpenstraße).
Technically, there are two peaks on the same mountain: the Grossglockner (the one holding the records) and its little brother, the Kleinglockner. The Pasterze, Austria’s most extended glacier, lies on the Grossglockner’s eastern slope.
You’ll be able to see photos from our ascent into the mountains from Döllach, of the big mountain and the long glacier themselves, and of our descent toward Ferleiten in the gallery I’ve uploaded here for your viewing pleasure. Enjoy!
Here is a large set of photographs from a visit to a little town in Austria called Matrei in Tyrol (Matrei im Osttirol). We visited it back in 2008 and stayed there for a few days, taking daytrips to various cities and places around the Hohe Tauern mountain range of the Central Eastern Alps.
The photos are of the town itself, of the surrounding countryside (including the Klaunz, Glanz, Hinterburg and Strummerhof settlements), and of a hike up and down Inner-Klaunzer Berg, the mountain that rises right next to Matrei. (You can see photos taken at the top of that mountain in this post.) There are also a few photographs of the exterior of Castle Weißenstein, which we would have liked to visit but was not open to the public.
We stayed at Hotel Goldried, which has spartan interiors but good views of the town and a funicular that you can operate yourself. It’s right next to the ski slopes, in case you should visit in winter. And on some evenings, you’ll get to see and hear people singing Austrian folk songs, which was a surreal experience for us. We were coming down from the top of the mountain, tired and sweaty, and as as we approached the town, we could hear songs echoing in the valley below. Not crappy modern music blaring from a loudspeaker, but songs sung by people and laughter, lots of it. Night had fallen around us, and in the dark, the hotel’s open door shone like a beacon, music spilling out of it. Exhausted, we stumbled in and saw a full restaurant swinging back and forth on their chairs, singing a folk song in unison. Those Austrians! 🙂
After a hearty breakfast, we explored the Grottammare fortress and beach, then got on the road to Rome. That’s right, that day we planned to cross the whole of Italy, from the coast of the Adriatic Sea almost to the coast of the Tyrrhenian Sea, which we would reach on our sixth day after exploring Rome. I believe we took the route highlighted on this screenshot from Google Maps, the one marked with blue.
We crossed the mountains, took a quick tour of Tivoli by car and could not stop anywhere, apparently there was some sort of local holiday that day and the streets were packed with people. Since I was driving, I have no photos from there. We pushed on and reached Rome just in time for the evening traffic, which meant it took till after dark to reach the historic part of the city. Because at that time things like online maps viewable on phones and GPS navigation and being able to do instant searches for hotels on phones weren’t available, we had a most stressful time finding a hotel. They were all full or were asking astronomical prices. We finally ended up paying a taxi driver to lead us to a hotel by driving ahead of us. By the time we were in our rooms, it was past 9:30 pm, we had spent most of our day in our car and most of that in terrible city traffic. But we were grateful to finally have a bed to sleep in and a shower with hot (or somewhat hot) water.
During our recent visit to Bran Castle, we had a few spare hours that we chose to spend wandering through the mountains above Bran. We found a dirt road that wound its way up the mountains through a beautiful village called Sodohol and then entered into Bucegi National Park. We stumbled onto it by chance and followed it till we could go no further without damage to the underside of our car, so we parked it and walked. We had a wonderful time and I hope the photos you see here will show it. Some of them are high-resolution panoramas and one includes a view of Bran Castle from afar. Enjoy!
Somewhere along the Transfagarasan Road in the Southern Carpathian Mountains is a wonderful place I call the “Four Springs” (La Patru Izvoare). A crystal-clear pond near a bend in the road is the home of four mountain springs whose water has an amazingly fresh taste. After filling up the pond, their collected volume pours into a larger brook that flows down to Lake Vidraru.
I hope you enjoy this short video clip I filmed there!
There’s a majestic beauty in these mountains that’s much more appreciated if you walk on them, rather than drive through on the Transfagarasan or the Transalpina. Their scale is easily underestimated from the car, until you step outside and size yourself next to a peak that seemed small just a minute ago, or you start climbing it and quickly run out of breath. Physical fitness aside, the overwhelming feeling when you’ve immersed yourself in their environment is one of awe and respect.
This weekend, we spent an afternoon on the Transfăgărășan Road, in the Făgăraș Mountains of Romania. (Trans-faragarasan → “Trans” = across and “Fagarasan” = the specific mountains which it crosses.) I enjoyed driving its challenging curves (Ligia not so much) and later we both enjoyed walking and meditating in the mountains. I also took photos (naturally) and I hope you’ll enjoy them.
This is how the mountains look as you approach them from E68, after you pass through a village called Cartisoara.
As we started to climb, these are the sorts of views we started to get. Hold on, the best stuff is yet to come.
At the top, it was fairly crowded. I tried to avoid the crowds as I took my photos. Some people were hiking, others were stuffing their faces. Not sure what it is about the top of a mountain that makes people so hungry. It’s not as if they climbed it — they drove it. There were loads of cars in the parking lot.
This is what the slopes to the top peaks looked like. Although it’s summer, we were fairly high up (above 2,000 meters in altitude) so the weather was foggy and fairly cold (10-15 degrees Celsius).
Since it was too crowded and noisy at the top, and the smell of cooking pervaded the air, Ligia and I decided to drive on past the main peaks and we stopped further down the road, where it was nice and quiet. That’s Ligia hiking toward me.
The views only got better as we went higher up. The black dot in the center of the photo is Ligia.
I’ll let this three-photo panorama show you what I mean. I left the white space unmasked on purpose, to show you everything the camera captured.
Here’s a close-up of the left side of that pano, showing the twists and turns of this picturesque mountain road.
We stopped to meditate and enjoy the tremendous beauty before us where the rock face turned sharply upward and climbing by foot became dangerous (we had no climbing gear with us). As we sat there, fog from the valley rose up alongside the cliff, joining with the clouds.