|From flatland to highlands - Off to the mountains!|
|Impressions from inside 500 year old Dachstein ice cave|
With just a map and limited rations, I left the mountain station near the ice cave and started the onward journey to the top. And boy, the mountains can get tricky! The first three hours of walk was good, with me taking breaks in between for water and taking pictures. I didn't meet another hiker on the way and around midday I reached the first signpost near Heilbronner Kreuz, and thats when the weather started changing real fast and bad. On the signpost it was written that a 14 member school group got killed here in 1954 on a snowstorm. Wow, that piece of info didn't quite help me at that point of time because turning back was out of question due to visibility getting worse every minute with fog. With barely any phone network and nobody around, only horrific images from the movie 127 Hours flooded my mind. On the left side of my narrow trail was a deep abyss, the depth of which I couldn't perceive due to the fog, and then the wind started howling hard carrying flecks of ice from the top of the mountain. I had to hold onto whatever little vegetation I could, and not get blown off the mountain. Waiting there forever wasn't an option for me. So I walked on, taking no more than two steps at time and then waiting for the path to clear ahead a bit. Never in my life I felt this scared and excited at the same time! Living at the mercy of your own decisions is indeed exhilarating at times.
|Between devil and deep abyss - tough choice to make at 2100m|
I am glad I didn't listen to my fears then and continued till I reached Five Fingers. From heavy fog and wind, the weather miraculously cleared by the time I reached the peak. And what a view from the top! I don't know how long I stayed there in silence - I finished my packed lunch and laid in the ground. It was so peaceful, like being in a meditative state of mind, not thinking of anything but simply soaking in the grandeur of the nature around me. It was like letting go of familiarity and trusting the unknown. I was vulnerable and completely at the mercy of the nature, and that forced me to trust my own instincts and not go on autopilot mode instead. This experience in turn opened my heart to what was around me, and at the same time forced me to be alert. Vulnerability made me feel more alive.
|Fortitudine Vincimus—by endurance we conquer|
It was late afternoon by the time I made my decent from there. The mountains revealed another side of me and I was not entirely pleased. So I took the next train out of that region. Later that evening, I reached the city of Salzburg which was filled with old world charm, spectacular architecture, connection to the Sound of Music and for being the birthplace of the world’s most prolific composer, Wolfgang Mozart. So after checking-in for the night at a backpacker's hostel, I did touristy stuff in the city the next day. Everything is ideal about the city- Ideally clean, ideally gray, severe, and ascetic as a monastic cell. While walking along Salzach river, I even pondered whether to write about Salzburg at all or not - everything was in such order that it made me suffocate. But then again one cannot blame the city which was ruled by bishops for too long - till the very 19th century. In my opinion, this fact left some kind of an imprint on the appearance of the city and its lifestyle, and that gray May day has significantly deepened such an impression. Churches, abbeys, and castles predominate the overall picture, you know what I mean?
Even the great Mozart couldn't resist a McDonald's right in front of his birth house.