As a boy, he would have been in seventh heaven in the Wilder Kaiser region of the Austrian Tyrol, including the villages of Soll, Ellmau, Scheffau and Going, where we recently spent our summer holidays.
The valley is like one enormous outdoor playground, for children of all ages, as the saying goes! It has a very useful free yellow bus, the Kaiserjet, which regularly shuttles holiday guests to the area between Soll and Going. If you buy a summer lift-pass, as we did - you have easy and cost-effective access, via chair-lifts and gondolas - to the mountains, any time in the day you feel like a ride. Alternatively, you can walk up them for free.
On the slopes above each village there is, at the mid-way station, a marvellous children's area. At the Brandstadl, above Scheffau, there is a woodland playground with wonderful swings and tree-houses. At Hexenwasser, above Soll, a fantastic chain of pools and other water features has been constructed. Small children can be seen working hard at damming water in wooden troughs, paddling in streams of mountain water running over pebbles, doing all the things children love to spend hours at, wrapped up in the space that their imaginations have made. If you get there early enough, even middle-aged children like me can have a go (one morning I paddled through all of the pools, played on the ringing-singing bowl, walked along the bridge made of a whole tree-trunk, and felt thoroughly restored and recreated!).
particularly spectacular view of the surrounding mountain peaks (described by
one wit as "the loos with the views").
himself of tuberculosis, and went on to develop his own principles. We walked along paths laid with pebbles, sand, wood-bark; we waded through cold-water pools and peat-bogs; we breathed in air in an outdoor room where salted spring water ran over cut branches of blackthorn and pine; we stuck our heads into a large hole in a giant granite stone and hummed; we lay in a meditation space and looked up at the trees.
local food and drink available. The village church also hosts a weekly concert featuring visiting musicians. The church-yard includes a memorial to the war-dead - a reminder, if one were needed, that every community bears painful losses in military conflicts.
As in every holiday resort, there are trips laid on to sights and cities. When we visited two years ago, we enjoyed the stunning Krimml waterfalls, the salt-mine near Salzburg, and Innsbruck, which are all well-worth seeing. On this occasion, we made just one rainy-day trip to hear the mighty Heldenorgel at nearby Kufstein - an astonishing open-air organ, built in 1931 to commemorate the Austrian and German war dead of the Great War, and now
of course including those of the Second World War, which is played every day at 12pm.
This year we eschewed the trips, feeling powerfully drawn to the hills, walking through meadows where farmers and their families were mowing, drinking from mountain springs, listening to cowbells. After the year's round of constant information overload - the day-job, writing, texting, social networking etc - I found, to my amazement, that I had even temporarily completely lost my appetite for reading books, previously unheard of! I listened to my body, heart and soul - and gratefully took it easy, standing and staring, being fully present in the moment. I can recommend it!
If you would like to see some more photos ...