at home in... w| Gerald Zhang-Schmidt

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Tag: Salzkammergut

Alpine Traditions: The Liebstatt Sunday in Gmunden

Feeding people during the Lent fasting season may be strange, showing love as well… but traditions are kept alive even as they change and adapt their original intentions.

One such tradition is the Liebstatt Sunday in Gmunden, a pretty little tradition now all around loving – and often, somewhat cheeky – gingerbread hearts.

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Feuerkogel_Panorama_2017_03_25

Up, from Traunsee Beach to Feuerkogel Peak

If you want a big expedition, this wouldn’t be for you.

Microadventures are finally gaining in popularity, though, and if you just want to see if you can make it up a mountain, as fast or leisurely as you wish, then this may be an ideal trail for you.

If you want or need to go extra-leisurely, there’s even a cable car going up there (or down from there, if the downhill would make your knees suffer too much).

Sure, it is almost too easy a trail to describe it.

Except for a few turns, especially at the very beginning, still in the town of Ebensee, this trail just goes up to the Feuerkogel in one pretty continuous climb.

Feuerkogel Trail

Feuerkogel Trail, as recorded by my Suunto Spartan Ultra (Screenshot from Movescount)

When you’ve reached the top of that mountain, where the cable car goes, you could still go on into (and even across) the Höllengebirge, but are more likely to just turn right back around. Perhaps after a little time in one of the huts up there offering food and drinks…

So, if this is your microadventure, it is very micro.

It is a very pretty little tour, or a nice mountain running session, all the same.
Perfect for me now, on my training path to the Stelvio Marathon.

It is also a trail with easier chances for rests and no problems turning around, with enough roots and rocks to demand attention but no serious climbs that present chances for bad falls.
Perfect for beginners and people you want to show around a bit, but don’t know the experience and fitness level of.

This is exactly why I went here once again last weekend, with a fan who’d taken me up on my offer to get in touch and see if we could do something together.

If you’re wondering why I’m calling this tour “From Traunsee Beach…”: Well, this is where we also went, before our train back came:

Between Traunsee Waters

Next month, I’ll be busy with other things, but you’re welcome to continue to follow along here, via the #GetAtHome Facebook Page, on Twitter, YouTube, or Instagram

Kaiser 'Reception' in Ebensee, Upper Austria (Kaiserzug 2016)

A Return to Austria. By the Kaiserzug

Traditions often seem quaint; the past, a bygone.

All that is all the worse when they are traditions where one grew up, but not traditions one grew up with. After all, often enough, we give up on traditions even – or all the more – when we grew up with them.

In a foreign country and culture, there is a chance that we will find them exotic enough to be interested in them, at least. (See “Chinese Family Affairs“)

When they are just a remnant of “our own” history, however, it takes something more to make us want to experience and feel that we can enjoy them.

Kaiserzug Steam Train, Salzkammergut

Last year, I’d already noticed that there would be a steam train into the Salzkammergut, playing on the motif of the Kaiser’s summer visits there, one day in summer.

Old-fashioned, but at least in an interestingly quaint way.

This year, it was running again.

It was also for a special occasion, as 2016 marks the centennial of Kaiser Franz Joseph’s death – and he was just that Kaiser who used to visit Bad Ischl in the Salzkammergut for the summers, on just such a train.

Kaiser 'Reception' in Ebensee, Upper Austria (Kaiserzug 2016)

Kaiser ‘Reception’ in Ebensee, Upper Austria (Kaiserzug 2016)

It was also a bit of a gamble, as this year’s journey would take place just the day after our return flight from China, when chances were we might be afflicted by jet lag… but it also seemed just the right time for something like this, to mark our return to Austria with something playing on a return to Austria’s past.

Given we’d come back to Austria on an A380 (and in business class), it all even made for a great contrast of how things had changed in terms of technology, just (just, huh?) within the last 100 years…

Bivy on the Sarstein

Sleeping High under a Blood(less) Moon

So, there was that “super moon” and “blood moon,” and I felt like adventuring under the moon again.

After all, you can’t just complain that a big part in good photography is simply the good luck of being in the right place at the right time, and then only ever stay at home rather than try and find a good place yourself.
You can’t envy others for the experiences they have and the interesting lives they lead while you yourself only just park your ass in front of the TV.

Or actually, you can complain like that very easily, and it is a very popular thing to do, but it just will not do you any good.

You want luck, you have to (also) create it.

So, I let this potential chance give me the pressure that seemed necessary to finally, quickly get some things done which still needed doing, grab my essential gear, and head for the mountains.

This time, the mountain of choice was the Sarstein.

Sarstein (Screenshot from Google Maps)

Sarstein (Screenshot from Google Maps)

The mountain is located between Obertraun, Bad Goisern and Bad Aussee, just north of the Dachstein, to which it does, geologically, belong and of which it offers nice views.
Also, it looked to have a nice trail crossing over it on not too technical a terrain – which is a concern when going to a new place for a night tour, of course.

Indeed, even as the trail was meandering in quite a few more tight turns than my GPS route showed (loaded into my Suunto Ambit3’s navigation, of course), it was generally very easy to find the path, even in nothing but the light of my headlamp.

Sarstein Path in Light of Headlamp

Sarstein Path in Light of Headlamp

It was supposed to be a full moon night, but the cloud cover was already rather heavy, unfortunately, as I started.

Through forest at first, then among high alpine dwarf trees and meadows, the trail led.
Patches of snow from the recent cold front appeared; they were not too many, but still a reminder that the temperatures had plunged.

As if I needed more reminders beside the chill in the air…

Near the top of the mountain, at almost 2000 m above sea level, it was time to organize the bivy and lie down to a short sleep until the time of the lunar eclipse, still in the dark.

Some times, I woke up, opened my eyes to say Hello to the moon which had come out between clouds, then promptly dozed off again.

3 am, my alarm went off.

The eclipse started, the moon was visible between clouds – and just as more of the moon got covered, a bank of clouds moved in and hid it completely.

Bivy on the Sarstein

Bivy on the Sarstein, Obertraun below, Dachstein in the distance, ‘eclipting’ moon above

Camera still at the ready on the backpack, bivy moved over to be able to take photos while hidden away in sleeping bag and bivy, I waited, dozed off, awoke, dozed more.

All to no avail.

The moon remained covered by clouds. Tough luck. Not even a chance for a decent sunrise.

So, I packed and moved on, up and over the top of the mountain, down the other side, into a slow dawn, back into “civilization” and headed for the next railway station from which to go home.

Crazy somehow to climb a mountain just to take photographs and sleep at altitude and in cold, all the more so while the railway stations are filled with war refugees sleeping in the rough.

“We are all of us in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.” — Oscar Wilde

Or then again, wouldn’t it be truly crazy to not use the chances you have, to make yourself comfortable with uncomfortable conditions and grow in the process, exactly while the going is good?

Who knows if that will hold or if physical fitness, psychological preparedness, and practical experience won’t prove their constant relevance soon enough again…

Trails of Spring 1: Winter’s Last Hold at the Traunsee

The passion for exploratory living does, admittedly, profit handsomely from some studies in contrast.

My personal practice for that (as you, my dear readers, may have noticed ;) ) are trips to the Traunsee in the Salzkammergut, Upper Austria.

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Sonnwendfeuer-Feuerkogel

adventuring: The Fire of a Summer Solstice

From the physics of a wood fire to the chemistry of a star, we know so much today – or at least, we could learn so much. And yet, too often, we find ourselves not even at home enough to notice something as elemental as the changing of the seasons.

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The Liebstattsonntag in Gmunden

Gingerbread in Lent?

May seem strange, but in the Salzkammergut, for Laetare, the fourth Sunday of Lent, it’s the tradition. On that day, the so-called Liebstattsonntag, good Christians originally had received permission to “show their love” for their brethren by feeding the poor, a custom that later changed into the exchange of gingerbread hearts as show of thanks for loved ones.

Normally, as you may notice, I rather like to write philosophically (and, I hope, practically) and very nearly wax lyrically, but a part of making oneself at home is getting to know places one lives – and a part of these places, for me, is the area around the Traunsee lake where this festival is celebrated.

So, I invite you to have a look around, too.

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