This post is written by Katie, about her solo trip to Belgium, Germany, and Austria.

Today I woke up at 7:30am and had breakfast (toast with butter and homemade jam, scrambled eggs with cheese, onions, paprika and tomatoes, an apple, juice, and tea) at the common dining table with my roommate Yu and a cyclist. Then I went to catch the 9:13am regional train to Obertraun-Dachsteinhöhlen.

Once in Obertraun, I attempted to follow signs to Dachsteinseilbahn but eventually became lost. I returned to the city square where children were chalking the sidewalk and asked the tourist information office for directions. The lady was really nice, and gave me a map. It was about a 30 minute walk from the tourist information office since some of the walk was on a forest trail (that had an extreme mountain bike course set up along it).

The forest trail ended directly at the Dachsteinseilbahn. I bought my Euro 28 lift ticket, and took the 10:30am cable car up to the first station. Once at the first station I immediately continued onward to the second station (which is actually the highest).

At the second station I was immediately awed by the surrounding mountains including the Hallstatt glacier, which is the largest glacier in Europe! Once I was able to tear myself away from the awesome views, I went to the hyped-up 5 fingers exhibit where you can stand on five platforms suspended off the mountain. I was not excited about it. Then I walked to the World Heritage Site Helix exhibit, which did have good views. Then I went to the nearby ‘relax area’, which had wooden lounge chairs that you could chill on and look at the amazing views and paragliders. Paragliders take off from a point near the ‘relax area’, and it was mesmerizing to watch them set up and then run off the mountain. I’ll have to admit that watching them made me want to do it…

Next I decided to take a hike along the 3 hour Heilbronner circular route. This trail was marketed as a medium difficulty hike suitable for families with children that like to hike. I felt a bit guilty about going a ‘family friendly’ hike, but I saw absolutely no families. I saw very few other people, and those I did see looked ready to hike. There was a metal shark that you could climb into, erected perhaps in an attempt to get more people on the trail. There were many marked side trails (from 2 minutes to 30 minutes) that you could easily take. Of course, there were also some longer and more technical trails, so you needed to read the signs. I took a few of the short non-technical ones, and was generally impressed. It was interesting to see as I lost elevation how the vegetation and wildlife changed. The landscape changed from rocky alpine to bushy alpine, and with the bushes came small animals. Once I finished the hike, I took the cable car from station 3 to station 2.

Once I was back at station 2, I went to the ‘relax area’ to spend my remaining time on the mountain looking at the awesome Hallstatt glacier. I also got the bonus of watching more paragliders run off the mountain (many were the same ones I had seen earlier in the day). I could see Simonyhutte in the distance, and although I would have liked to hike to/towards it, doing so would have prevented me from doing anything else while on Dachstein. And I definitely am happy I got to experience the things I did!

This trip – between Berchtesgaden and Dachstein – has made me realize that I am mountain person even though I always assumed I was a beach person. I felt alive looking at and hiking in the amazing mountains.

I took the second to last cable car of the day at 4:45 from station 2 to station 1. While waiting in line I met a couple from San Antonio who were interested in my trip. We chatted for a bit. Once back at the bottom of all the cable cars, I walked down on the forest trail with a different couple and then headed back to the center of the town. I stopped at the grocery store in Obertraun for a yogurt drink, bread, a banana, and potato sticks since the next train was not for another fifty minutes. I ate in the center square at an outdoor theatre where a couple asked me about the Dachstein cable car. After I finished eating I headed to the train station where I easily bought my ticket from the machine. A Muslim couple noticed this, and the woman (in a niqab) asked me in hesitant English to help them buy tickets (her husband did not seem to speak any English). I used the ticket machine and helped them buy their tickets, and then they got on the train with me and I told them when their stop arrived. They seemed confused about when the return trains were, but I showed them the schedule on the wall so hopefully they figured it out.

Then I headed back to Herberge Mörtel Mühle (Euro 85.50 for three nights in a 7-bed female dorm on Booking.com) and struggled with what to do on Saturday. I have two German train pass days remaining, but I decided to stay in Bad Goisern for a third night since it is supposed to be generally nice and not too rainy on Saturday (unlike seemingly all of Germany and Belgium).

Around 9pm, Yu, the owner of Herberge Mörtel Mühle hostel, and I went out to two bars in Bad Goisern. The first bar had three high school boys playing traditional music. The second bar was calmer, but was in one of the oldest buildings in Bad Goisern. It was interesting to get to know everyone better. We all had some wine back at the hostel and spent some time with the sweet female cat that has a broken leg and hence is confined to one room to recover. She was so happy for the attention.

Hallstatt Glacier from Dachstein

Hallstatt Lake from Dachstein

5 Fingers exhibit at Dachstein

Paragliders taking off from Dachstein

On top of the World Heritage Helix at Dachstein with Hallstatt Glacier in the distance

High alpine lake on the Heilbronner circular route

Scenery on the Heilbronner circular route

Amazing alpine hiking on the Heilbronner circular route

The shark exhibit (?!) on the Heilbronner circular route

Heading down into the valley on the Heilbronner circular route

Trails at Dachstein

 Lounging in the ‘relax area’ at Dachstein

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