Only ten minutes outside of Salzburg city and already it feels a world away. The urbanity fades from ones senses immediately upon leaving the city proper, with pristine countryside to the East, West and South. As Las Vegas sits in a basin smack in the middle of the vast Mojave Desert, Salzburg doesnt phase out in gradual sprawl, but rather contains itself within city limits; ten minutes on the A10 and youll find yourself amongst the rivers, mountains and wide-open sky of Tennengau.
Im on my way to visit a 250-foot two-tiered waterfall just outside Golling, a small town of 4,000 inhabitants 40 kilometers south of the city on the Salzach River. From the exit, signs for Wasserfall lead through quaint neighborhoods, one classic Austrian house after another. Balconies adorned with window-boxed geraniums of folly, red and tangerine bring color to the meticulous, wooden architecture. While idling at a train crossing, a group of women in their 70s and 80s exit a Gasthaus, all dressed in their finest dirndls. Theyre smiling, clinging onto each others arms. Traditional dress in Austria Trachten in the German language is still ubiquitous in this region, and seems to manifest an anomalous pride in ones appearance at any age.
Its a Thursday, and Im by myself as I walk along a path next to the torrential mountain river translated from the Romanic word, Torren, after which the sleepy community beside the falls is named. The water is cold and crystalline, jade green under a canopy of summer foliage. Across the river stands a wooden mill built in early 17th Century to till grains communally for the town; Torren was self-sufficient up until just a few decades ago.
The majestic Golling Falls
In less than five minutes the lower falls come into view and they are write-home-about-it beautiful. The lower tier is 75 feet looking up toward the sun, the sprawl of cascading water wider than most of this height. Its reminiscent of a waterfall I found deep inside one of the nine volcanic islands that make up the archipelago of the Azores, only here in the Alps the vegetation framing the falls consists of conifers in lieu of azaleas and kahili ginger.
I dip my feet in the natural pools at the base of the falls, the temperature as to be expected from glacial waters, and continue up the path. Steep only in parts, the well-maintained trail elides with series of stairs and bridges making for a well-varied hike suitable for families with small children. Traversing the first metal bridge, a mist radiates from the second tier this is double the height of the first and is sensational against the 30-degree summer heat. Within 20 minutes of meandering at a leisurely pace, the path leads to the source cave.
The upper tier of the falls plunges one hundred and fifty feet to its successor with a feral roar. Ivy hangs low above a dance of bubbles on the waters surface within the caves pool, and Im brought back to adventure parks in the White Mountains as a child. The scenery appears staged, as though someone draped the ivy there and at any moment, a log plume ride full of children with their arms in the air will materialize from within its depths, plummeting over the vertical drop-off in an echo of thrill.
Golling Falls are at the base of the Göll massif in the Berchtesgaden Alps. The massif hosts a network of caves that act as a drainage system for the glacial cirque, the caves descending as much as 1,200 meters with lengths of over seven kilometers. Speleologists have been exploring this subterranean world for decades.
Less than a kilometer from the parking lot is a guesthouse boasting lovely outdoor seating. After a glass of refreshing Hollersaft and a traditional Backhenderlsalat an elderflower cordial and a green salad with pieces of fried chicken drizzled with pumpkin seed oil a colorful dessert of strawberries and fresh, unsweetened whipped cream in a massive wafer cone drifts past me on its way to a nearby table. I cant resist ordering the same, and when I leave Gasthaus Abfalter fifteen minutes later, my belly is pleasantly buzzing with one of the best meals I can remember.
From the middle of March through the end of October, eight kilometers of water as clear as glass beckon fly fishermen to the Torrener Ache, just south of the falls. A slow current passes through deep pools where brook trout, rainbow trout and graylings await nymphs. Federally protected, this area is untouched and peaceful a fly fishermans paradise.
Bluntautal offers more than just fly-fishing and waterfalls, with hiking trails, emerald lakes and Alpine flora & fauna. Half of Land Salzburgs great butterfly population can be found here.
It wasnt the butterflies that attracted royalty to this valley, but the wild game. Just a few years before his assassination in Sarajevo precipitated WWI in 1914, the Archduke of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Franz Ferdinand, frequented Bluntautal. Due to his asthma, he ordered the Imperial Army to clear a service road for his hunting excursions so he could be taxied in by bicycle. Now hikers use this road with its dramatic cliffs of up to 2,000 meters rising up on either side of the narrow valley. Though you wont see any wild bears here today, sightings of rabbit, Alpine chamois, deer and red fox are all likely possibilities. My companion happens to be a bird-lover and points out
A world away in 30 minutes
Im able to experience several natural wonders of Tennengau and get back to the
city for an evening yoga class, reminded of a Mark Twain quote on the drive home:
Those mountains had a soul; they thought; they spoke, one couldn't hear it with the ears of the body, but what a voice it was! and how real. Deep down in my memory it is sounding yet.
Read more about the author Sachi Cote Kozel.