Monday, January 10, 2011

Vamsee's list of Must-See Places in the World - Austrian Alps

I ran out of peanut butter this morning, so was looking in the refrigerator for some jam when I saw a small bottle in the back of the side rack. It was 'Elder Flower' jam that I bought in Austria. Intensely fragrant, it took me back to last summer when Saru and I were on a road trip in the Austrian Alps. We rented a car in Venice and drove through the Dolomites and Alps to Salzburg. This was one of the most beautiful roads I have ever been on and is a MUST-SEE.

Here is a tip when you are on a road trip in the Alps. DO NOT pre-plan your trip. Go where the road takes you, stop where you feel like and THAT is the most fun part. Practically speaking, you will not cover the distance you planned because the road is SO scenic. You will want to stop every few minutes to take pictures, do side hikes and in my case, take an afternoon nap. There is nothing like napping with a view. When we were hiking in the Valley of Flowers, I made the guide look around for 15 minutes to find me a spot to eat and nap with a view. The guide rolled his eyes in disbelief at my silly request, but it is great to wake up to an awesome view.

The only thing to remember is to get to a tourist office before 5:00 PM. Tell them your needs and price range and they will find you a place to stay in minutes. That is exactly how we found Alpenrose, a bed & breakfast in Iselsberg, a town that I did not even know existed. In a small community of 20-30 homes and with some grand views of the mountains, it was nice beautiful room for 50E per night.

Breakfast was a spread of artisan breads and farm fresh cheese and a menu of jams.

"What Jam is this?" I asked the German lady. It was pink in color and I knew the smell, but could not quite place it with any jam I ever had. It was ROSE PETAL jam!! The next one, had a light-honey color with a very intense flowery fragrance. When I asked the lady about that, she stared at the wall, scratched her head and walked away to the next room before coming back with aGerman-English dictionary and pointing out "Elder Flower". It was yum. There was one more mystery jam which tasted weird and felt a little grainy on the tongue. That one, the land lady struggled to explain. Finally, she walked into the garden and came back with a piece of Christmas tree leaf and said - "THIS". She had made jam with Christmas Tree leaves - Can you believe it!!! She went on to give the recipe in broken English and some very violent gestures - Add lots of sugar and small pieces of the leaves and stir and stir and stir until your arms falls off:):)

The drive from Iselsberg to Heigenblut was beautiful with green rolling hills, wild flowers and small communities, each with its own little church. After visiting Italy where they compete with one another to build large churches, these were small structures with pointy roofs.

The Großglockner High Alpine Road

This toll road that runs about 50 kilometers is one of the most scenic highways in Austria. With 35 hairpin bends and a 2500m gain in altitude, this road has panoramic views of the highest peak in Austria, The Großglockner (3798m). We were there in June, but it had snowed a few days back leaving beautiful vistas of snow peaked mountains. As is the case in mountains, clouds would come and go, so it was hard to get good pictures with blue skies.

I tried taking some videos, but it was very windy, so the videos are a little shaky. But here they are anyway.

Practical Information

Best time to visit
: The Großglockner high alpine road is only open in summer from May to November. August can get very hot and crowded because of school holidays

How to get there: There are a lot of cheap flights in Europe these days. We took a Flight to Venice and drove from there. Salzburg is another big city close to the road

Getting Around: Renting a car is the only way to get around the mountains. There are coach tours from Salzburg, but these have fixed stops and might not be that much fun

Lodging: There are no big hotels in the regions, just pensions and B&B's.


  1. Wow, wow and more wow! I am a sucker for snow covered really made my day with these pictures! And Vam, taking a nap with a view is the funniest thing I have heard! Its nice to see scenic pics, but would love to see some of you and Saru in there as well.

  2. first photo reminds me scene from an Old SRK movie...

  3. I remember exactly how you were raving about all the rose jam and Christmas tree jam when u got back from this trip...still sounds amazing..lucky you! I wanna start doing the same travel though food exploration thing...taking ur inspiration! Narration is very free flowing and informative at the same are fab as usual..but second kala...i want pisc with u and saru too!

  4. Photos are lovely. Your whole post makes me miss my "ultra budget backpacking" trip to Europe ... Hoping to see Austrian countryside another time :)

    @Srinidhi: It is DDLJ. The first thing I remembered as well

  5. Ah! So this is what we missed!! What mountains, what picturesque meadows and churches! Rose petal jam! WOW!! I am transported!!! Waiting to go there in reality!! Wonderful, wonderful post!!

  6. I love the thin, long, pointy spires churches.....reminds me of my own road trip through the Austrain alps with a friend ( in 1990!!). The memories are still so vivid. We had done a stretch along the Danube and then moved to drive to his farm in Upper Austria. I so love Austria...more dynamic and alive than its neighbour Switzerland......

    great post, as always, and lovely pix....

    Suddenly, I want to write too....

  7. Lovely!!! This is something I would give anything to experiecne. Lovely pictures, enjoyed reading.

  8. i briefly went to the austrian alps when we visited salzburg, but a storm cut short our trip and i went to italy instead

  9. Just too stunning to think of commenting

  10. Whoa!!! amazing photos... and a nice write-up too...

  11. What a delight to read about your trips Vamsee. Thanks for sharing such awesome shots.

  12. wonderful shots!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    napping with a view..i gotto to completely agree with you on that!!

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