Oetztal, Austria

Having made our way over the Timmelsjoch passis into Austria we headed to the Oetztal valley, which isn’t far from Innsbruck. Oetz, a small town in the valley, is where Marcello’s mother Hanne spent her childhood during the war before her family moved to Cape Town.

With no campsite in Oetz itself, we opted for Umhausen nearby. One thing we’d noticed almost immediately on crossing the border was how clean and organised everything was: even the loos in the petrol stations were spotless! The area had branded leaflets on everything you could want to know/visit in Oetztal and the campsite had bathrooms that would out-rival those in a lot of rental homes.

The campsite was also in a great location as it was only a short walk from the Otzi-Dorf museum and the Stuibenfall waterfall. It was these that we visited on our first day. The waterfall is the highest waterfall in the area at an impressive 159 metres. There are five viewing platforms and it’s a fair climb to get to the highest, but well worth it. Admittedly Karen felt a little peculiar on the top platform which is suspended midair overlooking the falls after a previous run-in with a waterfall (I was thinking of you Sal). However, after a few minutes of acclimatisation, we were soon eyeing up the Via Ferrata next to the falls. We decided we’d definitely give them a go if we couldn’t get a camping spot in Munich, meaning a few days leeway.

Next was the Otzi-Dorf museum, a reconstruction of a pre-historic village based on findings from the man found preserved in the ice in Oetz in 1991. We basically had the place to ourselves and spent a pleasant hour wandering around the huts and animals. We were amazed at how innovative the people were in terms of their buildings, tools and way of life: perhaps more comfortable than a lot of people today. We were also amused to find a certain five-leaved plant growing in the garden patch – apparently for making clothes, but we think perhaps also to help them through those cold winter months!

On our second and final day we headed back into Oetz. Our first stop was the church where Marcello’s Great-Grandparents are buried as well as having a remembrance to his Grandfather. We then walked up to the house where Hanne had lived as a child. Just as we’d reached it a dog, obviously being good at its duty, started barking and alerted the man who currently lives there. (I hasten to add that we were on the road outside and not in his garden!) He was very friendly and once we’d explained that Marcello’s mother had lived there, invited us to come in and take some photos. It was a lovely cottage and he explained that it hadn’t changed much over the years.

On our walks the previous day we’d spotted lots of mushrooms along the path and in the woods, Marcello keeping a keen eye out for any porcini. So when Marcello finally spotted some on the way back into town he got somewhat excited and, for once, was walking slower than Karen! After selecting a great crop and planning a beef stroganoff for supper, we headed back into town and for a traditional lunch of pork, gravy, sauerkraut and dumplings. (Food is never far from our thoughts!) Having fuelled up, we set off into the woods again and up to Piburger See, a lovely lake just outside the town. Apparently it gets up to 24 degrees, but it certainly didn’t feel that warm that day. Between that and the rain, we decided to give going for a swim a miss!

The next day we were setting off for Munich to experience the Oktoberfest. We would have liked to have stayed longer as the combination of the beautiful setting and how friendly and helpful the people are made it a lovely place to visit. However we decided we would end up regretting it if we didn’t make it to Germany. However we left knowing we would be heading back into Austria in just over a week’s time.

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