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It’s cold. It’s raining. Not only is there not a pub open in this god forsaken village, but there is also no traffic in it; understandably I guess. We’re leaving Tragöß and Grüner See for new adventures to Spiegelsee and the surroundings at Schladming. We wave our biker friends good bye as they screech past our hastily chosen hitch point, hoping they had somehow devised a plan on how to take us with them. They didn’t. And they didn’t even follow us back on Instagram. Wasters.
Eventually an elderly lady stops and offers to take us to Bruck an der Mur under one condition: we need to make sure that the pot of soup she has stored in the back of the car doesn’t tip over. Throughout the drive, she completely opens up about her family life and tragedies within it, something that I would notice occurring quite frequently in the future while hitchhiking. Suddenly it seems irrational that her biggest concern would be the soup which we manage to keep safe until we reach our destination. Our reward for it, partly because she felt sorry about the prospect of us having to walk 2km in the pouring rain, is being driven right to the train station, god bless. From there we catch a train to St. Michael and set out to find a good spot to catch our next ride towards Schladming.
Well that is easier said than done because even though this town itself is not particularly big, it seems that every single motorway in Austria leads through it, so after an hour of unsuccessful hitching in the wrong place, we walk for over half an hour to the next decent point and let me tell you half an hour walking carrying almost 30KG isn’t as easy as it sounds.
New hitch point doesn’t really work much better. By the time we’re pretty much soaked and miserable a young guy approaches us from across a car park and advises us to walk down towards the motorway for a better chance. We reluctantly walk down there only to discover that there is no way a car could stop anywhere there, the only reason we keep on trying is because we don’t want to walk all the way back to the station to catch a train.
Finally, after both getting pretty fed up, we see a truck with a massive illuminated cross in the window approaching. Aydin hasn’t even finished joking “You better be a damn good Christian” when the truck pulls over and Erich tells us to hop in. Yeeeha. Not only does he have a giant cross but also soft plushy carpet and fancy ass bouncing seats that hop up and down as we drive over bumps in the road, something Ayd cannot enjoy because he is squashed in the back with the two rucksacks.
I’m living the dream though, a grimy trucker princess on top of the world. Together we cruise across the east of Austria and Erich drops us off at a petrol station not too far from Liezen where we take a coffee break and continue to (unsuccessfully) hitch again. We give up and make our way to the next bus stop, hanging our heads in shame and dragging our hitch sign behind us when a dude who’s on the way to tennis training immediately pulls over and brings us to the train station in Liezen.
We attempt to hitch on the main road for the final leg to Schladming but it’s freezing, pissing down and getting dark so in the end we have to call it a day and get on a train, plus book a room for the night because it’s too late to get to a campsite. At this point we were pretty demoralised and wondering if the whole trip would be bullshit like this.
Instead of the booked, overpriced room we get a whole apartment which means we can eat our ramen noodles in a classy environment, hang up the wet tent in the spare room and get a surprise treat at check out the next day: a “summercard” which takes us up on all surrounding mountains for free by cable car, plus free public transport, for the day. Since the cable cars are super expensive and we wanted to go on them anyway, this means the apartment was actually a bargain for the night! Ever so elevated, we hop on the free bus and then another free bus until we reach the Preunegg Jet cable car which takes us up to Reiteralm (free again, in case you weren’t following).
About 1800M high, it’s absolutely freezing and it doesn’t take long until we’re covered in snow, something Aydin obviously enjoys very much. The reason we’re hiking up here is Spiegelsee (mirror lake in english), an alpine lake that, given good weather conditions, reflects the Dachstein mountain range opposite of Reiteralm perfectly. Needless to say, on a day like this we don’t get the shot but it’s stunning nonetheless, especially in falling snow!
We continue our hike upwards which soon brings us into snow covered peaks. Aydin is brave enough to take a detour to the top of Rippeteck at 2126M while I wait, hopping from left to right to stay warm.
We continue the hike which is getting quite scary as the snow intensifies and we are walking on a ridge 2000m high with no protection from the heavy winds whatsoever. The ground is soggy, half-frozen and slippy and each step has to be placed with razor sharp precision in order not to fall some hundred meters down to a cold bloody death. After what seems an eternity, we make our way around the final bend and clamber down the last peak, we wonder into the pub and try to warm up where we decide:
That’s enough stupid things – from now on we plan ahead better and take more precautions
(remember this sentence while you read the next few posts).
Now to find somewhere to sleep. We take the cable car back down to the valley and get the bus back to Schladming where we collect out stuff from the apartment we stopped in the previous night, all the while cold and wet.
When researching the area, we had decided to stay on a campsite in Ramsau am Dachstein, 1135M altitude, mainly because it advertised a common room, something we learnt to cherish when the evenings are cold and you don’t want to go to sleep at 7pm. It’s quite a way from Schladming so we hop on another free bus to Ramsau. From there, we walk an hour (in which I start to loathe the rucksack more than anything in this sad painful world) and reach the campsite just in time for the opening hours of the reception. Or so we thought anyway. Because no fucker is around and no one answers the number it says to ring in case of absence.
It’s getting dark and we have no other options so we say fuck it, put up the tent anyway and make dinner. Over an hour later, the owner finally rings back and giggles as I ask her for the common room: “Oh well, I got bored, so I left, so yeah, the common room is closed now”. We’re fuming but decide to just try to sleep and leave as early as possible in the morning. After a little argument about the payment with the owner the next morning, we move back into the valley near to Schladming to a campsite that also comes with the magical summercard, meaning the next day we will save about 100 euros on a cable car up to Dachstein, one of the highest mountains in Austria.
To make use of the day and the card, we take a cable car up to Planai to enjoy some sweet views while the weather is nice. For about 20 minutes anyway, because we were lazy and didn’t get up early, whatever we’re on holiday. Planai is a ski resort in the winter but in the summer it offers spectacular views and plenty of activities including hiking and mountain biking. There is also a restaurant at the top where you can eat, drink and enjoy the views. You could also skip the cable car and hike from Schladming if you are feeling up to it. We took the cable car as we didn’t have enough time and we were preserving energy for Dachstein.
Our campsite is part of a fancy hotel but the receptionist made it clear that camping guests aren’t welcome in the lobby because we’re second rate citizens (#forevergrebs) so we find a big youth hostel in town and sit there in the common room with our own beers for the evening, with no one even suspecting we’re not guests. Hahahaha well, thanks for the free WiFi and electricity, JUFA!
We spent the evening doing final research and planning for our excursion up to Dachstein – stay tuned for the next post covering that, trust us when we say it will be eventful!
I guess you’ll take a less complicated route than we did. There’s loads of trains going to Schladming. From Schladming, there are regular buses to all points of interest in the region, in our case to Ramsau am Dachstein and Preunegg Jet cable car. Current schedules can be found here. The Planai cable car station is in Schladming.
While Camping Zirngast seems at first a bit pricey at EUR 30,–/night (2 people, 1 tent, no car), it was a pretty good deal for us because at the time it was the only campsite in the region that offered the magical summercard, and its location close to town was convenient for us because we didn’t have a car. One year later, there are a few more campsites where you can get it for free also if you prefer them. If you’re more into sleeping indoors, there is PLENTY. But mostly pricey.
The hike we did offers you stunning views and is doable if you have the right shoes. We don’t recommend it in snow or bad weather, check the conditions at the hut next to the cable car station before you head off. Take a bus to Preunegg Jet cable car station and then the cable car to the top (free with the summercard!). Check this link for a detailed description, photos and every other information you could wish for when planning a hike. Aydin also did the detour to Rippeteck (2126M) but unfortunately couldn’t see anything because of the snow storm. It’s a beautiful hike and still one of our favourites. In winter, you can go skiing there.
We didn’t have much time up on Planai after taking the cable car from Schladming (free with the summercard!) and “only” went for the panorama loop which takes about half an hour but offered some sweet views over the valley and onto the Dachstein bad boi opposite. If you have more time, you can skip the cable car and walk up and/or down or go for something more advanced – You can find plenty of inspiration and information here. Planai is a skiing area in winter.
When we looked for last minute accommodation in Schladming, we were SHOOKED. It was so expensive, even though it wasn’t season! We discovered it by chance but you can make sure to get a good deal by selecting accommodation that offers the summercard (Find yours here, select Sommercard Partner). The summercard is a magical thing that gives you free bus rides, free cable car rides (You know how expensive they are?!) and plenty of discounts to attractions. Click the link for all information.
Attention, winter! Schladming is cracking in winter. It’s a bustling ski resort with plenty of Apres Ski clubs and prices go up accordingly. Lucky you if you still want to go because there is also a wintercard! We have no experience with it but if it’s anything like the summercard it’s a bloody sweet deal.