Away from it all in blissful Austrian Alps
Skiing culture itself requires no further explanation from the likes of amateur me, as one either triumphantly takes to these, on average, 2000-metre-high peaks or not. But regardless of preference it doesn’t matter, as one can also walk, cycle, hike and equally enjoy the surroundings and escape from elsewhere. This abundant region provides everything for the great outdoors, regardless of season.
As with many of these very well-equipped and professionally organised resorts, there are various ways to get by, depending on budget and ambitions. Needless to say, skiing itself is a privileged sport, and one could spend a fortune pursuing this regardless of results. But in our case, we avoided the hotels and the commercial on-the-spot entities, as we like our independence and prefer to go our own way while away from home.
Although the local shops are reassuringly plentiful, the responsibility was still ours to deliver our own ski hire attire and catering, matters that required careful planning and which had to be accomplished with considerable efforts throughout, but it did pay off and keep costs down.
Also, preparations in advance were important for accommodation. Our arrival took us from the busy main road to the chosen remote chalet. This was eventually found through a nearby forest, thick with varieties of monumental pine trees and winding lanes. The further we ascended with the required snow-chains on car wheels, the colder and more noteworthy the immediate environment became. High up on an unfamiliar peak, our place of stay finally appeared before us.
Our efforts paid off as, after much anticipation before arrival, it was most rewarding to step inside a simple characteristic enclosure, clearly decked out in local architectural style. We soon settled in to this cosy, intimate locale, its part-wooden and part-stoneware premises providing a traditional touch that gave a warm, glowing atmosphere. What could be a better welcome?
But it didn’t prove to be so simple mastering the task of getting up and down the peak on mostly icy roads in order to reach the resort itself. It was easy to distinguish the cautious drivers from elsewhere driving at slower speeds than the fearless locals who take to these ice-laden tracks with considerably more ease.
Then on arrival it was simplicity all the way, as the family took to the ski slopes in all kinds of snowy conditions and minus temperatures. Unable to ski myself because of an old foot injury, I found my eventual place walking the mountain pathways and attending to shopping and domestic matters in preparation for everyone’s weary return at the end of each passing day. Although a bit too mainstream and “ordinary” all this may be, this physical and health-conscious holiday was a gratifying and invigorating experience that did much for us all.
Should all this be too reposeful, I recommend visiting nearby Murau, a charming historical town with a cheerful centre similar in vein to Szentendre and surrounded by sedate nature trails. Murau will provide all familiar wants and needs, with very pleasant olde-worlde and distinctly colourful architecture, an abundance of up-market shops, a castle and all convenience.
The 500-kilometre, half-day drive home to Budapest is straightforward and requires minimal thought along two motorways adjacent to Vienna. In these coronavirus-plagued times, the more pleasant and less congested Sopron/Klingenbach border crossing was surprisingly simple and lighter than expected. Entering Austria, my family merely waived our covid certificates at the border guards and, after final approval, we drove through with minimal fuss. The same applied with our return journey. Certainly this was a welcoming contrast compared to other neighbouring border crossings I have experienced in recent times relating to Hungary.
For hospitality, quiet and comfort, the serene Alps always deliver something special. It was wonderful to meet hospitable local people and be immersed in wide-open snow-filled spaces and tranquil settings. This and more brought much calm to our senses, which we all needed. But beware, such luxurious comforts can make it tricky to leave and return to everyday routine
But at the same time, I confess, the wilds of elsewhere were already calling out to me, making it OK to finally pack bags and exit. Still, we will return next year to this delightful family-friendly alpine resort that really made a welcome break and refreshing difference to us all. Certainly this region is a desirable all-year-round holiday destination.