Schladming – Where?

Schladming is a small ski/mountain biking town in Austria.  It was the perfect spot for us to stop for 3 nights on our way back to Frankfurt.  The whole area is very picturesque with lots of hiking and outdoorsy things to do.  As we had both come down with pretty heavy head colds, it was great to check into our Air BnB apartment and regroup.  We stayed in the small (er ) town of Oblarn and used it as a base to travel around.

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While I am not a mountain biker, at this time of the year the chairlifts are opened up for mountain bikers.  Surprisingly, there had been a decent snow dump when we arrived so apart from being pretty cold (out came the ski jacket!) the bike runs were only open from mid-station.  I have it on good authority that natural runs are really “natural” with loads of tree roots and the advanced runs are much steeper than elsewhere!

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The town of Schladming is worth a quick look around.  When we were there, a small farmers market was in action and there were other interesting things to look at. I found a couple of interesting jewellery shops.  (I can shop anywhere!)

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We also drove up to the Dachstein glacier which is well worth the trip.  The road up is steepish (nothing compared to Montenegro) and there is a 14 Euro toll to get on to it.  This is refunded if you go up the mountain and validate your ticket.  Once at the carpark, you get a ticket for the cable car up and can also get tickets for the ice palace and sky walk.  We got all three and were very glad that we did.  The cable car ride is breathtaking and on the way back, if you get in first, you can ride on the top of it!  Now that is a once in a lifetime experience!

Once at the top there are a couple of viewing platforms, a suspension bridge (not for the nervous) and some really cool ice caves with sculptures in them.  Be aware it is incredibly slippery so wear decent shoes.  I used my walking poles and still struggled!  There are cafe’s/restaurants to grab a hot drink while you are there.  This is one of the best views you might get in the area so don’t miss it.

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Also check out local events.  While we were in the area, we discovered a local cheese festival (Kase fest) and followed the signs to a rural area where others seemed to be parking.  From the precarious parking spots, we hiked up a hill to the top where there was a church with rock boundaries. Inside was a celebration of Austrian life.  Many of the people were in traditional dress, there were accordion players giving it heaps and a number of cheese stalls ( and a few others).  We didn’t stay that long but it was a really interesting insight into the local community.  We were the only English speakers there!

This whole area of Styria, Austria is a lovely place for a break.  I could have stayed longer and done some more walks.

Petzen and surrounding areas

As my travel companion is a mountain biking fiend, we travelled from Ljubljana to the Petzen area in Austria which only took a couple of hours.  We were there to try out the longest flow trail in Europe which was apparently out of this world!  While we have great trails in New Zealand, we certainly do not have anything of this length.  The recommendation is if you are close to the area and you are a keen mountain biker it is definitely worth the trip.  You can hire bikes and body armour on site.

We decided to stay a couple of nights in the area and found a hotel close to the lake at Klopeiner See.  It is a cute little area designed for families and retirees so if this isn’t you, it might be worth staying somewhere else.  As it was, it probably wasn’t our speed but it was really hot so lounging on the hotels private beach (dock) in one of the deck chairs under an umbrella is not too much of a hardship.  The lake itself is deep and clean and you can buy a myriad of inflatables in the township.  It is easy to wile away a day but make sure that you have food or snacks as a number of the restaurants and eateries in town are closed until 5.30pm.

This area was an interesting interlude for us, driven by a want to trial the flow trail and be able to swim so a win win really.

Climbing in the Dolomites

After leaving Salzburg and spending time in the Austrian Alps hiking and mountain biking, we headed to the Dolomites to do some Via Ferrata climbing.  The Dolomites (or Dolomiti to the locals) are a mountain range in northeastern Italy.  They are a truly spectacular group of mountains.

We were last in the Dolomites 14 years ago and both loved climbing the Via Ferrata’s so were pretty keen to return.  A via Ferrata is a steel cable which runs along a climbing route and is periodically fixed to the rock. Using via ferrata gear ( harness, helmet, lanyard with carabiners and gloves,  climbers can secure themselves to the cable, limiting any fall. The cable can also be used as an aid to climbing, and sometimes there are also iron ladders, pegs, carved steps and even bridges.

There are opportunities to hire guides, hike/climb with small group tours or plan out your own routes using information from the Tourist Centre or books.  As we had a guide last time, we felt fairly confident in having a go ourselves.  It was as spectacular as I remember and we had a great time.

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For anyone interested in mountain biking in the summer, there are also numerous trails to enjoy which can be accessed via the gondolas and chairlifts which take you wherever you would like to start!

If you are unlucky to get bad weather, there is plenty of delicious food to be tried ( strudel is always good) and they have also set up really interesting museums around the area which explain the significance this area had in World War 1.

There are lots of places to stay in the Dolomites area.  We stayed in Arabba, but Corvara and Cortina also have restaurants, outdoor gear shops and small minimarts for anything you might need.

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