Lakes in Austria: Langbathseen.

In the heart of the Salzkammergut, a very beautiful area in Austria where you’ll find high mountains, precious salt mines, cultural heritage sites and many many lakes there. Back in May, I took a prolonged weekend to explore the Salzkammergut a bit, go on hikes and check out the local lakes. There are actually some of the most beautiful ones that you’ll ever find in Austria if you ask me: the Vorderer & Hinterer Langbathseen.

Two lakes make up one

The Langbathseen are mountain lakes in the Salzkammergut, in its Upper Austrian part right between the Traunsee and the Attersee, on the foot of the Höllengebirge (literally ‘mountains of hell’). There are two of them, and they’ve got a very creative name to distinguish them: ‘Hinterer’ and ‘Vorderer’, which translates to the one in the back and the one in the front. The surface elevation of the lakes is 664 metres and their surroundings are a nature reserve.

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Hinterer vs. Vorderer Langbathsee

 They are located in a long basin next to the limestone massif of the Höllengebirge and are both surrounded by deep green mountain forests. However, the lakes are actually quite different from each other.

The lake in the back has a darker, greener colour. The Hinterer Langbathsee lake isn’t a typical bathing water, probably because of its high biomass content aka algae.

Grey mountains and clouds at the Hinterer Langbathsee

Reflections and a fisher hut on the Hinterer Langbathsee

The Vorderer Langbathsee, the one in the front, the bigger one of the two. Its colour is lighter and its water (in terms of classification and temperatures up to 25°C) is perfect for going for a swim. It’s also rather populated with many visitors who go swimming or diving, or who sit down for a cup of coffee in the restaurant, the Langbathsee Stüberl, next to the parking lot on the shore of the lake.

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Vorderer Langbathsee

On the shores of the Vorderer Langbathsee, there’s the hunting lodge of the famous emperor of the Habsburg monarchy, Franz Joseph. In 1870 he had this lodge built there and used to say in the Salzkammergut for extended hunting trips in the surrounding mountains. The lodge is still there, and sits dreamily, almost a bit deserted in the meadow with the mountains in the back and the lake in the front. So you see that this area has been a nature paradise for quite some time. In case you’ve got some loose change, you can rent the lodge, by the way. I stumbled over this while trying to find out when it was built… In case you’re interested, check out this website. They’ve got more info on what’s inside the building etc.

hunting lodge on the shores of the langbathsee

Hiking around the lakes

The Langbathseen are perfect for very easy hiking adventures (to be honest, it’s more a leisurely Sunday stroll) as you can walk around both of the lakes on a nice gravel path. If you wanna do this, the 6.84km would take you less than 2 hours. Or you can also opt for the shorter route of 45 minutes and just turn left (or right, depending on whether you’re walking clockwise or not) at the western shore of the Vorderer Langbathsee and skip the lake in the back.

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woods near the Vorderer Langbathsee

Vorderer Langbathsee

The hunting lodge

It’s even possible to take your car up to the Vorderer Langbathsee (coming from Ebensee), park there and march away. If you’re opting for the circular route, there’s this Bergfext tour that you can follow. Or if you want to be as adventurous as my boyfriend and I were, you can actually combine it with an actualy uphill hike coming from the Großalm restaurant via the Hohe Lueg mountain. This would be an additional 4km that would take you 200 metres up a mountain (981m) and 200 metres down again, then you’d surround the lakes and hike back to where you started from. So in total you’d be on the road for around 5 hours, plus breaks from time to time to take in the scenery and have some food maybe. You’d be walking a lot in the shades of the woods, so it’s also a perfect hike when the sun’s out. It’s still a fairly easy route and you won’t need very good equipment for this tour.

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The Pfänder mountain.

The Pfänder is the local mountain close to the Lake Constance and situated next to the small town Bregenz in Austria. With the highest point of 1,064 metres the mountain offers a unique panorama of the nearby Lake and its three surrounding countries Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. A total of 240 Alpine peaks can be seen on a day with good visibility, making the Pfänder a great lookout point of the region.

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For those who are keen on sports or need some diversion from their sightseeing tour in the city, hiking or biking up the mountain is a very attractive option. There are various well sign-posted networks of walks taking one up to the top from within a short amount of time or an all-day hike.

However, for those who do not want the exercise or simply do not have the time for that, there is another great option available: the Pfänderbahn! This spacious panorama cable car takes visitors from the base station in Bregenz near the harbour up to the summit in just 6 minutes. It is open daily from 8:00-19:00 on the full and half hour, or every 15 minutes if there are more visitors. A single ticket for adults is €7.40, and a return ticket €12.70.

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Apart from the great panoramic view one has over Bregenz, the Lake Constance, and the surrounding alps, there are three restaurants, a souvenir shop, and a small Alpine wildlife park up there. Right next to the cable car station there is a small stall with a variety of fruit gums and other sweets which reminded me so much of the times when buying sweets like that was relatively common in Austria.

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From up there one can spot the small city Lindau which is situated on an island on the Lake Constance. Right after taking the cable car up the Pfänder, my friend and I actually took a train to visit the small city to spend the rest of the day there.

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Taking the cable car up the hill was a great idea to get another perspective of Bregenz and its surrounding. We went there at around 10am, so the cable car was almost empty when we took it. Unfortunately, the sight was not the best, it was a bit foggy and the sky was full of clouds. After a while though the sun finally came through, and we could enjoy the view and had our breakfast up there before continuing our journey.

Travelling through Austria: Innsbruck.

Is there any better place to go in summer when there are temperatures over 35°C than to the capital of the alps? To skip the scorching heat of Vienna, my friend and I decided to head to Austria’s western border, and on our way back make a short and less than 24h-stop in the beautiful capital of Tyrol: Innsbruck.

Although many of the tourists are drawn to the city or region because of all the sport activities one can do there and the Bergisel Sprungschanze Stadion, Innsbruck offers a range of cultural activities too, with many museums, theatres, old buildings and monuments. Or for those who are interested in a staircase adorned with 20,000 crystals (and much more other interesting things there I hope?!) – the Swarovski Kristallwelten are there as well… So Innsbruck is truly a unique mix – a place where the alps meet the valley, and where the city is one with nature, with attractions between 574 and 2,350 metres above sea level.

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The city

Innsbruck is with over 130,000 people the biggest town of West-Austria and the fifth-largest city of Austria. The name translates into ‘Inn Bridge’, as the city is located in the Inn valley, not far from the German and the Italian border, engulfed by the alps. It is a perfect location for doing all sorts of sports: a hub for winter sports such as skiing, ski touring, or ice skating (hosted the Winter Olympics in ’64 and ’76) but also interesting for summer sports such as hiking, climbing, biking, or water sports.

Traces of first inhabitation in this area date back to the Stone Age, and Romans established an army station there. During the Middle Ages it quickly became a transportation hub because of its prime location near the Brenner Pass, the easiest route over the alps. A market was erected in the 12th century (where the Old Town is today) and the revenues generated by the transit helped the city to flourish. Innsbruck soon became the capital of Tyrol and was briefly the residence of a Habsburg emperor. During WW2 it was heavily bombed, but the thriving tourism industry and the economy lead to a rather quick reconstruction of the city.

The historic Old Town brings one back to the late Middle Ages – with arcades constructed in the typical Innsbruck-Salzach style, late Gothic façades built around 1500, with colourfully decorated bay windows. However, the glory of the Old Town and the landmark of the city is definitely the Golden Roof (which can also be seen by the tourist masses standing in front of it) – a roof of an alcove balcony added to the “Neuhof” building around 1500. It is decorated by 2,657 fire-gilded copper tiles, all still original apparently. Only 50 years older than the Golden Roof is the City Tower close to it. With 51 metres tall it was quite an impressive building in the late Middle Ages and a proud symbol of the city. Other imposing buildings of the town are the Triumphal Arch which was erected in 1765, on the occasion of the marriage of Empress Maria Theresa’s son to someone from Spain, and the Cathedral of St.James which dates back to 1180.

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City Tower

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Innsbruck Cathedral

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Triumphal arch

 

The Alps

A visitor of Innsbruck cannot walk through the city without noticing the impressive alps that more or less surround the city – the Karwendel Alps (2,334m) in the north, the Patscherkofel (2,246m) and Serles (2,718) to the south.

The Nordkette – North Chain – (obviously, in the north, where else?!) is part of Austria’s largest nature park Karwendel Nature Park. This mountain is not only interesting for sport enthusiast who want to hike or bike up or down there – it’s for everyone who wants to enjoy the breathtaking and unique panorama of the city and mountains.

The Nordkette can be reached directly from the city centre by a funicular and subsequently a cable car. Visitors can take the funicular from the city centre up to the Hungerburg in just 8 minutes to get a first impression over the city. From there a cable car takes one up to the Seegrube at an altitude of 2,000 metres in less than 15 minutes. Another cable car continues 300 metres higher to the Hafelakar where one can take a short walk to reach the top of the mountain. So one can take the whole journey from the city to the top of the mountain without doing any real hiking! This is especially interesting for people who do not have enough time for the hike and/or do not have the necessary equipment (or shoes!) to successfully do so. My friend and I were definitely one of those people. And once (almost!) on top of the mountain we could not miss the occasion and just had to drink a Schnapps before making the descent (with the cable car). That’s just how you do it in Austria. That’s a vital part of the experience! ;)

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Cable car on its way to the Seegrube

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see the little house on the mountain? that’s the last station to reach the Hafelakar

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Somewhere over there in the south is Italy. Supposedly.

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The Food

Our Airbnb host was so kind to give us a view recommendations for places where we could enjoy really good food at a reasonable price. One of her recommendations was Machete – Burrito Kartell in (or near?) the university district of the city. As they say themselves – they specialise on the really important things in life: Burritos. But they do not only serve a delicious self-assembled burrito, they also serve a mean Moscow Mule (and various other types of cocktails). So it is not only a restaurant, but also something like a hip, trendy bar at night. The interior is very peculiar, very trendy, and it might not be the biggest place one can find in the city, it is definitely very cosy inside! Open Tuesday – Sunday, kitchen is working 11:30 – 22:00. For the exact opening hours check out their website ;)

The second restaurant that I can recommend is Ludwig. It is actually a burger restaurant, but they also serve a great breakfast. We actually stumbled upon it when we walked around during the evening and saw many happy customers. Only coincidentally did we end up there for breakfast the next morning, but lucky us! The vegan options were clearly marked on the menu, and they also focus on getting high quality produce from local companies. My friend and I were really surprised by their portion sizes – usually when having breakfast at a hip and trendy place one normally gets to taste only a small bit of deliciousness for an outrageous price. But this is not the case at Ludwig’s – portions were actually too big for us, so breakfast turned into brunch, and this for a very good price :D They serve breakfast Monday – Saturday from 9:00 – 11:00.

The bottom line

The capital of the alps is great for a little summer adventure, as the temperatures are perfect in my opinion – it’s not too hot but also not too cold. It is great that one has the possibility to enjoy all sides of the city – the culture plus the alps – within just 24 hours. I wish I had more time there so I could do some hiking and enjoy the nature even more, but maybe I will have the time and come back next year? Let’s hope for the best ;)

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Travelling through Austria: Bregenz.

On our way to Liechtenstein and Switzerland we also wanted to explore the westernmost province of Austria – Vorarlberg – and its capital Bregenz. With around 29,000 inhabitants the city is only the third biggest town of the province (after Feldkirch and Dornbirn). Bregenz is located on the eastern shore of the Bodensee (Lake Constance) between Switzerland and Germany.

Even though the city is kind of hard to reach and it takes me over 6 hours on a train to get there, I really wanted to go there this year. It’s already been the third time for me but I’ve taken a great liking to the small town so of course my bf and I had to make a stop there and do a little exploring :)

Bregenz Festival
The city is famous for its annual performing arts festival – the Bregenzer Festspiele (Bregenz Festival), which is held every July and August. A very special venue of the festival is the ‘Seebühne’ – a floating stage with an open air amphitheatre on the shores of the lake. Every other year they change the stage decoration and as this year’s opera performance is Turandot (a play set in China) the decoration consists of the  Chinese Wall and the Terracotta Army. I never knew that you could just walk inside the venue during the day or else I would have gone there all the times before… It was really cool to see everything ‘up close’ without having to pay for it :D

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Bodensee
The Lake Constance is the third-largest freshwater lake of Europe. It is situated in Germany, Switzerland and Austria. The river Rhine flows into the lake from the south and has its outflow in the west. In Bregenz there are many seats right next to the lake where you can enjoy the beautiful view. Naturally, there are many birds – especially swans – hoping to be fed by the people. It’s also possible to rent a paddleboat and enjoy the cool breeze on the lake itself.

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Bregenz City
We couldn’t just sit next to the lake the whole afternoon so we went on a little tour through the city. We started our tour by climbing the hill to reach the Martinsturm, which is located in the Upper town – the oldest part with remains from the 13th and & 16th centuries. The Martinsturm is the landmark of Bregenz. This tower is apparently the biggest Baroque bulb-shaped steeple in Central Europe, built in 1601. Right around the corner of the tower is also the old town hall from 1662 with a beautiful colourful facade. A little further down the road is the Gothic parish church of St. Gall, whose foundations date from before 1380. The Landhaus – already in the Lower town –  was also nice to look at, which was built in the 1970ies.

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Relaxing
We had our early dinner break at a very nice restaurant somewhere in the city – Nashia Kulinarisches. It’s a vegetarian and vegan restaurant that offers a variety of african, asian and indian food. Very delicious and at a reasonable price. I’d definitely recommend the place.

After our almost 8 km march through the city we felt like we deserved a little break on the shores of the lake, where we just sat and relaxed for the rest of the evening before heading to the next city.

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Even though it’s been three times now I’m definitely going there again. Maybe I’ll even be able to get hold of a festival ticket and see it in real action – even though I’m not the biggest opera fan to be honest… :D