Go to Gosau

By | Category: Travel destinations

The Salzkammergut comes into its own in summer says Charles Shelbourne

Now spring has sprung in the Alps, the rush of river water and the flow of waterfalls signals the imminent end of the ski season. All that lovely snow on the ski slopes is beginning to melt away. But it’s not the end of the tourist season in Austria; it’s time for preparing all kinds of other active sports. Whilst ski instructors become redundant, locals return to their main work as carpenters, builders, plumbers, whilst others re-start alternative sporting and leisure activities.

Austria is a holiday destination with a wealth of really exciting and adventurous activities amid beautiful scenery that appeal to tourists from all over the world. The snows feed the rivers which feed the lakes and rivers that pass through this glorious landscape. It is especially beautiful in the Salzkammergut, the Alp’s own Lake District, which lies just under an hour away from Salzburg (cheap, two hour flights are available from London with Ryanair and EasyJet).

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There’s white water rafting, kayaking, hot-air ballooning, mountaineering, rock climbing, and caving for starters. These activities are all the more enjoyable for being in the mountains, but the Lake District offers much more: On the lakes there’s boating, swimming and fishing while marked trails around the spectacular Gosau valley add up to 140km of pure enjoyment for bikers and hikers who seek new challenges. This is a place not well known to the British; it is a secret of the Austrians. Gosau is a lovely wide open valley blocked by the lake and massive Dachstein Mountain at the end of the road.

Close by, the lovely Gosausee Lake can easily be walked around in 90 minutes or so. Beyond Gosausee is a trail up into the wilderness to a smaller lake with a hut beside it – for another day perhaps?

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The walk down from Zwieselalm at the top of the cable car from Gosausee, next to the lakeside restaurant, is another must. The view of the valley stretched out below is wonderful from the bar terrace above, and the sound of cowbells of mountain herds makes the occasion even more memorable.

Not far away is Hallstatt, a UNESCO protected lakeside village, beckoning visitors. It is famous for its salt mine and pretty houses, shops and restaurants squeezed in between the steep mountainside and the lake, across which is Obertraun, reached by boat and railway. In summer the ski slopes above it are transformed into walking trails giving easy access, from the cable car, to the Ice Cave and the ‘5 Fingers’ panorama look out that is a big attraction in the area.

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Beyond is the historic spa town, Bad Aussee, where locals still wear traditional dress. One of the lakes here is infamous for the Nazi’s testing of weapons and a cache of hidden booty including counterfeit British pounds intended to destroy our economy! More Nazi evidence is seen at Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest which makes a good destination for a day out, as does a visit to Salzburg to see sites from The Sound of Music made.

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Accommodation found in the valley is as varied as you could want it. Hotels, apartments and B&Bs are tucked away on the mountain slopes, around the three churches and beside the main road, which leads nowhere except to the lake. It is a peaceful destination which has just enough nightlife to keep the weary walker awake after a hearty dinner!

But before dinner is taken, time must be found to relax those tired muscles in a way not normally available at home. A drink at a lakeside bar is one option; another is a drink on your own balcony overlooking the valley at sunset, but one extra special way to make the most of your time in Austria’s Salzkammergut is to sign up for a spa treatment in the local spa centre.

Private apartments in the Sporthotel make the perfect base for couples who seek the self catering option with the luxury of 4-star leisure facilities. Guests staying here can enjoy free use of the indoor swimming pool and sauna (and free bus to the cable cars), and may eat in the fine restaurant, drink in the cocktail bar and take spa treatments in its own health centre if they so wish. There is a wide choice of good places to eat in the valley, including those in Hallstatt, some of which feature musicians playing traditional Austrian music, so it is nice not to be tied to one place every night, in Gosau.

Visit www.gosauapartment.co.uk to find out about private accommodation in the hotel and what there is to do locally. Today’s ‘Weather’ and ‘How to get there’ is also displayed there, as well as some links to useful local sightseeing.

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