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.

Hinterer Langbathsee

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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Hiking in Vienna.

Hiking is a very popular sport among Austrians, and the many hills and mountains in Austria are truly inviting. Even in the capital city hiking has a long standing tradition – many are drawn to the numerous Heurige (wine taverns), the Vienna Woods, and the vineyards that can be found in the outskirts of Vienna. In recent years it seems it has become even more popular, especially among the young generation. Needless to say, hiking was on my summer to-do list for 2017.

The city – to be more precise: the Forestry Office – has laid out eleven city hiking paths called ‘Stadtwanderweg’ that lead around the outer corners of the city through beautiful scenery and with great viewing platforms. They are all properly kept, well signposted, and accessible by public transport. There are also many picnic tables, benches, and playgrounds along the paths. People who manage to collect stamps at official stamping points along the hiking paths will even be rewarded with pins and certificates that recognise their efforts: a silver pin for 3 stamps, a golden pin for 7+ stamps. Too bad that we only found out about this after our hike, or else we would have gotten 2 pins already.

So on a mild Sunday after a rainy Saturday in August my boyfriend and I wanted to check out some of the best viewpoints over the city and decided to hike across the three hills in the north of Vienna: Leopoldsberg (425m), Kahlenberg (484m), and Hermannskogel (542m). A total of 13 kilometres, fairly easy, well-signposted (nowadays with Google Maps this is no must anymore), and the start & endpoints are easy to reach via public transport – perfect for a person who hasn’t been on a proper hike in years!

We loosely followed a suggested route, a mix of the Stadtwanderweg 1a until Kahlenberg, and later Stadtwanderweg 2. We started our tour in Nußdorf where we walked along the Danube for the first part, and then headed up the steep paved passage with a 300m altitude difference to reach the Leopoldsberg. This was definitely the toughest part, but luckily we already had a great view over the vineyards, the Danube, and parts of Vienna on our way up the hill. On top of the Leopoldsberg there is a church dedicated to St Leopold that was built in 1679 which is already clearly visible from Vienna.

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The view from up there was great – we saw parts of Lower Austria, Floridsdorf (a district of Vienna), Vienna itself, and the vineyards that lie in the north of Vienna.

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We then continued on our way to the Kahlenberg where we met hundreds of tourists on a terrace, taking selfies with the scenic view over Vienna in their backgrounds. This lead to only a brief stop to take in the view – way too many people for our taste! We could definitely see that day that the Kahlenberg is one of the most popular destinations because of the view over the entire city and even parts of lower Austria. The 165m steel tower serving as a transmitter for the Austrian Broadcast Corporation, a private university, and the Stefaniewarte, an observation tower erected in 1887, are also located on the peak of the hill.

Interesting to know: the Leopoldsberg used to have the name Kahlenberg because of the bare rocky slope down to the Danube and was later given the name Leopoldsberg after the emperor Leopold in 1693. Whereas the now-called Kahlenberg was first called Sauberg (sow mountain or pig mountain) because of the many wild pigs roaming the forests and then Josephsberg (Joseph’s Mountain) after an emperor in 1628. Only after changing the original Kahlenberg into Leopoldsberg did the now-Kahlenberg receive its final name.

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From there we first walked along the Höhenstraße but soon came to a non-paved path through the forest. It was the most quiet part of our walk, we encountered less tourists and casual walkers there. We then reached the highest natural point of Vienna – the Hermannskogel atop of which the Habsburgwarte is standing. This 27 metre tall observation tower was erected for the Habsburg emperor in 1889. In 1892 the tower was specified as kilometre zero in cartographic measurements which was used in Austria-Hungary until 1918. The lookout tower is open for the public for a small entrance fee on weekends during summer. Luckily the sun was shining and most of the clouds were already gone, so the view was great from up there!

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We then started our ‘descent’ in order to get back home, but made a quick coffee break at the restaurant “Grüass di a Gott Wirt” which was quite funny because this place had chicken and a rooster running around in the outdoor seating area, not minding all the people sitting there. A true countryside feeling I must say! The final kilometres took us through a forest and past some other beautiful vineyards with a view over the outskirts of Vienna.

The hike was fairly easy, but the first part was quite tough. It is definitely not suited for strollers or wheelcharis because of the steps on the Nasenweg (the steep part at the beginning). However, hiking boots are not a must, but solid footwear is definitely recommended. We walked for around 5 hours, but had many breaks to enjoy the view, look at the nature, eat our lunch, go up the observation tower, or have a coffee. The Leopoldsberg and Kahlenberg are both reachable via public transport (Bus 38A), so if you ever want to enjoy the view but don’t want to hike or don’t have the time for doing so – that’s a great option as well.