As you know, I love me some mountains, and we’ve certainly seen our fair share as we made our way around the world. We’ve been to Faerie. We’ve hiked in tremendous, previously unknown-to-us jagged peaks. We spied the highest point on a continent. But… man, I don’t know if I’ve ever seen mountains as rugged and beautiful as the Tyrolean Alps. I’m not going to try to wax rhapsodic here, as mere words aren’t quite up to the challenge, but I can tell you what we got up to.
Let me place you a bit first: the Stubai Valley winds its way up from the large town of Innsbruck, with a river wending through the massive mountains until it ends in the mind-bogglingly beautiful Stubai Glacier. We were staying in Medraz, about a third of the way up the valley. For this stage we wanted to go carless, so we relied on the fantastic local public bus system to get around, and that worked great!
We did not have much energy on our very first day in Medraz, so we took a little walk from where we were staying at Villa Sonnegg to the Kreuzjochbahn gondola, taking in the mountains above and the little benches and shrines everywhere. It was a beautiful little walk, and as the cable car cranked up the mountain, everything opened up in front of us. Wow.
The forecast was on the rainy side, so we made the difficult (well, difficult for me) decision to skip hiking and head to the StuBay Waterpark instead. It’s a great place – take a regular pool complex, make it indoor/outdoor, add in giant warm bubbling pools (think hot tub, but Olympic-size) and then throw in a water slide. But place it so that when you’re sitting in the bubbling outdoor pool, you get a clear view of the mountains, and of the thunderstorms headed your way… it’s really good.
Hiking day! We took the Serlesbahn cable car to Serles, then walked to Maria Waldrast, which may or may not be the highest monastery in Europe. Either way, it’s a wonderful, relatively easy hike. The monastery is a church, distillery, inn, and restaurant. We availed ourselves of an amazing lunch of spaetzle and beer, then hiked back via an upper trail that was better, quieter, and more beautiful than the way we came. And included dozens of curious cows.
Mountains. Cool. Even cooler if you don’t have to schlep halfway up to get to the good parts. Taking a gondola down is also much easier on the knees. But… why take a gondola when you can take an alpine slide that hurtles you along a mono track at thirty miles an hour? Yeah, we did that. It was beyond fun.
Then… night happened. Every year in the Stubai, they commemorate the war against Napoleon – yep, that guy – over two hundred years ago. The commemoration is wonderful – they light fires on every mountain in the valley. Some climb up the ridges. Some are shaped like crosses or hearts. All are beautiful.
We took another cable car! That’s three different cable cars in four days, if you’re counting. This time we grabbed the Elferbahn up to Neder station, where I thought we had an easy walk up to Elferhutte.
This being the Alps, “easy” was a bit of a misnomer. Fiona broke her vertical-climb-in-a-day record today by cracking a thousand feet on the walk up. But the reward was choice.
Two straight tough hiking days = tired legs, so we decided to hit the alpine slide again (SO FUN) and then check out the Grawa Waterfall and eat lunch up there. The waterfall itself is pretty fantastic, and includes an ampitheater with reclined seats, in case being surrounded by stunning nature doesn’t chill you out enough. We had yet another fantastic Austrian mountain hut meal at Grawa Alm, made even more excellent because we almost had to wash dishes to pay for it. The place was cash only, had no ATM, and we snuck out with twenty cents to spare. Yes!
And that was a wrap. This is yet another stop where both the pictures and the words I write do not do the place justice. We could easily have spent another few days in the Stubai – there’s a village that you can only get to via funicular railway or walking! The glacier and ice caves opened right after we left! There are side valleys! And so much more…
Boy, did we love the Stubai Valley. We loved it so much. We cannot wait to go back.