The rock face is immediately in front of us and our rate of ascent has slowed almost to a stop. Whereas the view from from our cable car was spectacular as we rose the 1,000 metres from the base station in just 6 minutes, we also seemed detached from it, as though floating across the valley towards the mountain. But now the sheer height of the receiving station, and the fact that it is invisible above our heads, makes this a scary – no, terrifying – experience. My god, it’s a very long way down.
We’re on the Dachstein in Austria, near the former mining town of Schladming, now a thriving holiday resort. We’ve been high up a few times in the last few days, but this takes ‘high’ to literally a completely new level.
I may have led a sheltered life, but I don’t think I’ve been this high before without being inside an aircraft. The lovely warm summers day below is transformed into a 7° winter landscape this far up. There is a glacier up here and it’s frozen.
There’s also a full-blown restaurant, a snack bar, gifts and lots of seasonal mountain goers, I guess as I notice I’m the only one wearing just a T-shirt. Austrians obviously live in their mountains. I may never have been this high before, but I’m clearly in a small minority in this company. They are wearing fleeces, walking jackets, thermals and brandishing walking poles – they obviously knew the score.
We need to sit down after the last few minutes since docking. Opening the restaurant door we are hit by a cosy warm blast. Life is going on as though this were a diner in a bus station, catering for its transient visitors. The fact that the staff here clearly make the terrifying cable car journey at least twice a day as a matter of routine makes me appreciate that there are just some jobs that I really wouldn’t want to do.
Our reason for being in Austria is to help John, a Rotary friend, to celebrate his 60th birthday. Two days ago we had been driven up into the mountains by bus to a local restaurant, complete with its own trout lake from where many of the menu dishes clearly originated. It was a great party.
The day before that, in Salzburg, we had savoured tripping through the Mirabell Gardens in the footsteps of Julie Andrews and the Von Trapp family as we do-ray-me’d our way through the Sound of Music Tour. Whether or not you’re a fan of the film (which I am) this is a great experience, as you learn about the way that films are made and the grand deceits that take place along the way, and relive some of the key moments from the film. Highly recommended.
We hadn’t visited Austria before but there is clearly plenty to enjoy. Salzburg is a fabulous city full of delights, and the mountain regions around the area are clearly a winter sports haven when it’s snowing, and an outdoor pursuits playground when it’s warm. We’d love to return and spend more time here in the future.