A hundred yards or so from where we stayed was a spring, where all comers can fill their bottles (a contribution is requested, and honesty box provided). We went most evenings, and often met locals who had driven there for their weekly supply. My German is rusty, but it’s always a pleasure to be able to exchange some friendly words, though so many Germans are keen to practise their English!
We wandered further on one evening and found a signpost for a 3¾ hour walk to the top of Hochfelln, which seemed like a good idea for the next day. We packed our rucksacks with water and a Seed Stacked Flapjack bar (top emergency snack!), rain jacket and trousers, and set off. It was an uphill hike, with no easy downhills to speak of, through meadows, woods, and at one point our very narrow track ran along the edge of a steep hillside (I avoided looking down!). The simple pleasures of looking up through green leaves, of standing below ancient rock-faces, of exerting your legs, lungs and backs to the point of breathlessness, of watching a butterfly land on your hand to taste the salt in your sweat, of standing by a mountain-stream and listening to it rushing along, are profound. There is something joyful about hiking – human beings aren’t built to sit at computer screens in stuffy rooms all day!
When we finally got to the top of the Hochfelln we were intrigued to see Alpine Choughs for the first time, patrolling the café tables like so many Trafalgar Square pigeons!
The majority of local folk we encountered were charming and friendly. Some of our fellow British guests at the hotel expressed surprise at how warm, amiable and humorous they found the Germans they met. Well, they say travel broadens the mind – another national stereotype happily disproved!
Wherever we venture, I always like to search out any local war memorials. We found one halfway up the hill to St Georg’s Church, which apparently had recently been renovated after some years of neglect. There was a beautiful pieta inside the chapel, and a mural on the wall showing a young soldier taking his leave of his family – a reminder, if one was needed, that in all the countries involved in the two World Wars, there were homes in places like this where sons, husbands and fathers would never again be returning home to help bring in the harvest. In the Heimatmuseum there are two more panels remembering the war-dead, and these feature enamelled photographs, as do so many graves in mainland Europe.