Some might say the Austrian Alps are heavenly. The mountains resurrect your spirit. The endless parade of wildflowers and grass have you believing in eternity. The air embraces you and instills your being with a sense of “om” calm. And the beer (yes, I said beer) reinforces my decision that there really can be a slight bit of heaven on earth.
This was my state when I found myself just north of Maria Alm, Austria, sitting outside Pichl-Alm, one of the many guest houses situated along the spiderweb of trails crawling the Austrian Alps. At a polished wooden picnic table branded with “Stiegl,” a father-and-niece duo delivered steins of the table’s namesake.
When I set foot on the trail that morning with my family, I didn’t expect that I’d replace some of my water intake with beer. I expected to be awestruck with nature’s beauty. I expected to recreate Julie Andrew’s whimsical open-arm dance in a field of flowers (silly, but when in Austria…). I expected to pick a few wild strawberries and see dairy cows and wild horses. Beer, I did not anticipate.
What I didn’t know is that many of the hiking trails in the area lead to guesthouses like Pichl-Alm, where you can drink down a cold stein and indulge in Austrian snacks. If you wanted to plan a day hike, simply pack a backpack with water, and “guest house hop” throughout the day. For avid backpackers, choose a longer hiking route and opt to rest your legs overnight.
Typically, I measure a good hike by what I see along the way, but in this case, the true measure was an empty beer stein and a satisfied palate.