“Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson, American Poet, 1803-1882
When I was a girl, I read all the time, and the first book I remember wanting to reread was Johanna Spyri’s HEIDI. If you aren’t familiar with the children’s classic book, HEIDI is about an orphaned girl who comes to live in the Alps with her reclusive grandfather. Like most fans of Heidi, I relished the notion of finding hope in the face of hopelessness, but I also loved the setting of HEIDI: the rugged and beautiful mountains of Europe where man and mountain thrive together. There is something about being in the mountains that connects with who I am. Whether it is in the Tetons or Rockies of the Western United States, the coastal mountains of Maine, or the Alps of Austria, Switzerland, or Italy, my heart sings when I am in the mountains. Luckily for me, my family feels the same way …
Over the fourth of July, my family and I along with some visiting guests ventured down to one of our favorite spots in the Austrian Alps, the “Sound of Music” country near St. Gilgen, Austria, east of Salzburg. We left Prague in torrential rain and continued through it as we entered Austria, and though the rain tapered off as we neared St. Gilgen, the wind was strong. I could sit for hours in quaint St. Gilgen along its glassy Lake Wolfgang. But on that day, the storm that had followed us from Prague stirred the air and water—the storm was coming. To get to Franzl’s Hutte at the top of the Zwolferhorn, where we were to spend the night, we were to take the cable car from St. Gilgen up the mountain. But, they had shut the cable car down hours earlier because of the high winds. Instead, we were to drive up the Zwolferhorn, with Franzl, the owner of the hutte.
It promised to be an adventure.
Armed with directions in German of where to meet Franzl, we set off to beat the storm to the top of the mountain.
And it turned out to be WAY more of an adventure than I imagined.
Where the cable car ride takes little more than fifteen minutes to rise to the top of the Zwolferhorn, driving the windy rocky road to the top took almost an hour. My youngest son and I rode with Franzl, a tiny Austrian with eyes that sparkled like the mountain lakes, in his Nissan pickup. We opened heavy farm gates in the mud and rock trail, teetered on the edge of the trail he’d driven countless times, waited for massive dairy cows to move from the rocky road, and heard firsthand stories in broken English and German of life on the mountain.
Though we had been to Franzl’s Hutte many times, everything about the experience surpassed everything we thought before: the detailed and spotless rooms done in red gingham, the incredible hearty Austrian meals, and the fact that we were the only ones at the top of the mountain.
As the storm blew in, we watched in awe as the usual view of aquamarine Lake Wolfgang turned to a wild and blowing cauldron of clouds.
The next day, as the storm moved out and the beloved views and hiking returned, I had to marvel at the beauty of the mountain peak in both weather conditions.
I had never experienced anything like it.
And I can’t wait to do it again.
What did you do for the Fourth of July? Mountains, barbeques, fireworks, beach and ocean? Fun times with family?