AUSTRIA-Zell am See, Salzburg, and Innsbruck
By Micha Wilhoite
Where do I even begin with Austria? Just to preface this article and provide clarity to those who may not have had the most extensive geographical education (sadly, many of us Americans fall into that category), no, I am not talking about the place that says “Goodday Mate” and, “Let’s put a little shrimp on the Barbie.” There are NO kangaroos in Austria. Think Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sound of Music, Edelweiss, German speaking, the alps, Yodeling, Lederhosen, and Dirndls (traditional Austrian dress). There you go,that’s Austria.
Growing up, I spent every other summer in Austria with my family at my grandparent’s house in a cute little ski town called Zell am See. For me, Austria is a home away from homes. That is why it is difficult for me to keep my recollections concise. I went back again recently with my husband, so I will write about the places in Austria we visited during that trip, Zell am See, Salzburg, and Innsbruck. True to the Sound of Music song, “These are a Few of my Favorite Things” about Austria:
Zell am See, Austria literally means city on the lake. It truly is a small town surrounding a lake at the base of a mountain called the Schmittenhöhe, on the eastern edge of the Kitzbühel Alps. There are many charming bed and breakfast type guest homes throughout Zell am See ( it is a very popular tourist destination), but we make my grandparents’ former homestead “Haus Otto” our temporary home. “Haus Otto” is nestled near the bottom of the Schmittenhöhe about a 20-minute walk uphill from the lake and town center. This guest home is the perfect winter ski lodge. Guests can ski down to take the lift to the top of the Schmittenhöhe, ski or snowboard the beautiful slopes to their hearts content, then ski right back to the front door of “Haus Otto” at the end of the day.
While “Haus Otto” is the perfect ski lodge in the winter, it is also the perfect location for avid hikers in the summer. It is almost a sin not to hike while in Zell am See Austria, and just as guests can ski the Schmittenhöhe and Kitzsteinhorn (the glacier) to their hearts content in the winter, so can they hike these beautifully looming mountains in the summer. Hikers can begin on the hiking trail to the Schmittenhöhe right from the front door of “Haus Otto.” From there, hikers will walk through dense forests, vast cow fields, blueberry fields, and sometimes snow at the peak. The hike to the peak of the
Schmittenhöhe take between 4-5 hours (depending on how fast you hike), and to the middle station it takes about 2 hours.
The hiking is certainly beautiful in Zell am See, but you will work up a big appetite while trekking the looming mountains. That’s ok because in Austria they normally have at least one Alm or food lodge at the
top of the mountain (and sometimes at the middle station as well). It is at these alms that food is the most satisfying. The alms serve real traditional Austrian “hiker’s food.”
Two of my favorite Austrian dishes are found normally only after a long hike. The more popular of the two,“Kaisersmarren” is a scrambled up pancake-like dish with raisins, powdered sugar, and plum sauce or apple sauce served on the side. My favorite and the less popular of the two (and harder to find unless you have hiked a mountain) “Germknödel,” is a yeast dough dumpling filled with plum and topped with melted butter, sugar, and poppy seeds. Perhaps it is an acquired taste, but that’s okay because the Alm’s normally have the more traditional Austrian foods like sausages, pork, “Wiener Schnitzel,” potatoes, and bread.
Amongst my favorite activities in Austria is something the Austrians refer to as “Tree Walking.”……
Read the rest of the article on pgs.13-15