My time in Innsbruck may be defined by one word: Heavenly. I was either running, hiking, scrambling or even climbing my way to what was one of the most beautiful nights I’ve ever witnessed. If one were to enjoy the Alps in its pristine beauty far from the madding crowd, a hike up to Pfeishutte is highly recommended.
I arrive at Innsbruck from Munich with a friend.The train journey is like a joy ride in a fantasy park. Innsbruck falls in the Tyrol region of Austria or Osterich as it is called. As soon as the train enters the Austrian border, I know I am in a different country. The dramatic change in scenery from the Gothic buildings of Munich to the Alpine meadows is a welcome sight for my tired eyes. We land in Innsbruck, look around the station and I would certainly label it as the prettiest main stations I have ever seen. I stare in awe at the Alps in the backdrop and can’t help understand how people go about their everyday work without being distracted by the mountains towering above them. After all, beauty of this magnitude is not to be ignored! We head to the tourist office, ask the person at the counter ‘English?’ and he replies ‘No! Do I look like one?’ I knew these people had a good sense of humour. I take the hiking trail map from the smiling man and head out to reach the cable car that would take us up into the mountains from where we would have to hike further up to reach the hut.
We take the cable car to go up to Hafelekerbahn from where we would have to hike. As the cable car goes up, the the views overlooking the mountains keep getting better and in the end the car takes us to our destination at about 1500 mts. I spot a few mountain goats. These creatures are so evasive and spry that I try in vain to take a picture of them. The cable car finally reaches our destination. The next step is to hike to the hut. After almost four hours of breathtaking scenery, an encounter with a goat on a narrow strip 2000 mts high up seemingly admonishing my presence there uninvited, sore muscles, bleating goats, mooing cows, echo of bells ringing through the passes and gorges of the Alps, I reach the hut. I meet a couple of hikers on the way, talk to them and get some suggestions on better hiking techniques ‘Keep you weight on both feet’,‘ one step at a time and you will be fine’….the kind smiles they beam at you; how can you not like the Tyroleans? Almost everyone attempts to speak to me in English. Some don’t do a good job of it, but they have to converse with me, no?
Finally I see the hut, the destination of our hike. We reach the hut at around 7:00 pm and the sun is still shining. High up in the mountains the sun sets quite late but the switch over to darkness is almost instantaneous and when its dark, it is pitch and all I see are the star studded night skies and I wouldn’t dare take a photograph of it lest I do grave injustice.
Pfeishutte nestles in the Alps high up at 2000 mts. The feel of the place is magical. The The creak of the hut every time I walk along its narrow stairs and corridors is a sound I am not going to forget. There is a definite Nepali presence that I sense from the flags typical of the ones spotted in the Himalayas strung along the rooftops of the hut. I learn that one of the volunteers at the hut is a Nepali girl who helped design the place partially which has given it this very exotic look. I play for a while with the host of the place L’Anouk, a snow white dog and talk to a few people about the places they are from and the like. The temperature hovers around 3 deg C and have a very interesting Tyrolean meal for dinner which contains spinach cooked in lentils and sleep for the night in the hut.
The next morning we hike our way down from the hut. I have had a refreshing sleep dreaming about the carpet of stars, the goats, the cows and now I am ready to take in more sights. I cannot have enough of the mountains. They are remarkable at 2500 m altitude where one does not see much grass. Here and there, now and then, I see the grass dotting the alpine rock and cows lazily ruminating a bite of the green. They suddenly stop on hearing our footfalls, look up and realising that we shall not enter their world, get back to their job at hand.
A couple of hours later we reach the base, take the cable car back into the town. I walk along the busy streets of Innsbruck town, buy a cow bell as a souvenir, learn about the greatest mountaineer of all time, Hermann Buhl. Buhl is a legend in these parts. He was the first to discover the Alpine routes that so many of us would never have known, existed. At a very young age he began a career in mountaineering and ascended the Nanga Parbat alone and was the first man to ascend it without any help and in doing so became the first man to scale the heights of a peak over 8000 mts high single-handedly. He lost two of his toes due to frostbite during that expedition. Four years later he attempted to climb the Chogolisa peak in the Himalayas and he has been missing ever since. It is believed he died on that expedition. He was only 33.
We take the 3:05 pm train to Salzburg speeding away at over 200 kmph. I get talking with a student about Austria and its education system and as the conversation comes to a natural halt, I look out of the window of my train. Huts tucked away in the large green laps of the Alps, cows and sheep randomly dotting the green meadows with the golden sun setting behind all of them. I remark to my co-traveler that she must be lucky to see these things so often. To this she says that because she sees them so often, something is lost. I agree and return to window gazing. Everything just seems so much slower in these parts. People are very content with the slow pace at which their lives move on. I wonder about the daily routine of the farmers of these meadows. They must be milking their cows, preparing fresh cheese in the mornings, help take their cows and sheep to graze in their well trimmed meadows and perhaps spend the evenings savouring wine in the company of the Austrian maids and farmers. What a wonderful place…I dream about this and after 3 hours of the journey, I alight in Salzburg bidding good bye to my lovely travel companion.