THE HILLS ARE ALIVE
The real Austria seems silenced by the cheery songs of The Sound of Music. Nuns and lederhosen choke the imagination and prevent the true European beauty from coming through; the stunning green valleys and snow-capped mountains are assumed to be merely a set for a film from the sixties.
The Austrian Alps are actually very quiet. Only cows, lowing in alpine meadows, disturb the silence.
The region's botanical beauties are not to be underestimated. The rolling emerald hills are pixelated with delicate wild blossoms. Various petals unfurl each spring and summer along the rambling routes, alpine flowers of spectacular pinks and oranges totally uncultivated. Pretty purple Soldanella drop delicately, resembling a lilac cousin of the humble snowdrop, and majestic wild orchids occasionally peek from pathways. We’d pause between steps, pondering over each species, before our guide Bob appeared with insight to spare. His knowledge of the native flora was impeccable.
Each evening we’d gather around Bob and our other guide, Chris, who would offer us a choice of two walks of different difficulty levels for the next day. For some being able to pick and choose how much of challenge to take on was liberating; the chance to push to the next level without committing to a whole week outside their comfort zone was ideal. I decided to stick to the tougher treks, but others in the group alternated throughout week.
The walk that lingers most vividly in the memory began with a gondola ride above an avenue of dark green pines, bristling mysteriously in the high-altitude sunshine. Come winter, the snow-carpeted slopes would be whooshing with skiers, but for now the vibrant summer grass rippled in the breeze.
At the start of the day's trek our lively chatter and laughter was echoing across the hills, but as the incline steepened the less we joked, concentrating on the goal ahead and hesitating only for the sight of scampering marmots.
Topping the summit, we were rewarded with a pristine 360 degree Alpine vista; shutter clicks filled the air. Making our way back down into the valley, we came across a charming highland hut where we devoured a mountainous pile of strudel and washed it down with schnapps - the perfect downhill dessert.
The week was over all too soon. I'd immersed myself in a lush, Alpine world, delighting all my senses, and along the way I discovered the hills were alive, but not with The Sound of Music!
By Rachel George, Customer Operations Supervisor, who travelled on Trins: The Austrian Tyrol