Category Archives: Outdoors

TBH, Day 3: Lilienfeld – Türnitz

I started late on day 3. It was raining, and my plan for the day was to get as far as possible. Due to the rain I did not plan for much 🙂

After failing big time trying to find a cache “on the way” (I have no idea if I really passed it or how far away I was at the closest point), I scored thrice:

The first was easy even without the pretty clear hint.

The second was tricky to get from its hiding place, and even trickier to put back. Big fun!

The third was lovely. I have seen hideouts like this before, but here it can still be used as intended 🙂

During the day, the weather kept changing from raining to dry but windy and back to rainy again, including various stages of sleet. Yuck! Also, there was a part just before Türnitz that seems to go on for ages. I swear I saw a sign “Türnitz, 1 hr” and walked for at least 2 hours until I arrived!

Arriving at Türnitz, I immediately checked out the bus schedule – the next one would have left 4 hours later. I got into the next Gasthaus and ordered a beer to think about my next moves. The bar tender also was the receptionist for the Gasthaus, so I asked about rooms and prices – and was taken aback. A single room would go for 39 Euros! “Can we do anything about that price?” – “Yep. Let’s make it 25. Only, you won’t get an official invoice for that.” How I love the black market 🙂

TBH, Day 2: Hainfeld – Lilienfeld

After getting off the bus at Hainfeld train station, I went to the next Gasthaus and asked if they could recommend any accommodation in the village. Some minutes later, I arrived at a nice Hotel where I got a room for the night. The hot shower and one hour-nap immediately after arriving felt incredibly good 🙂

The next day, I started out just after 7 am again. The GPS indicated a Geocache only on the other side of the street, but after searching for some minutes, I gave up on that one. Instead, I headed west towards Lilienfeld, where I had a room booked at the monastery. I was very much looking forward to spending the night there, as I had never slept at a monastery before, and Lilienfeld itself, the monastery and the church were said to be very beautiful places.

After two hours of hiking through the foggy morning, mostly along the river Gölsen, I arrived in St. Veit an der Gölsen, where my GPS again indicated a Geocache nearby. It was the perfect cache in the perfect moment: Steingarten, an open-air display of different types of stone, is a lovely place for a break. There are also different kinds of trees, flowers and bushes with descriptions. And right at the moment when I was looking for the cache, it got backlit by the rising sun … just perfect!

At St. Veit, the route divides in two stages: the valley track, along Gölsen river, and the mountain stage, over Staff. I decided to try the mountain stage. Unfortunately, I did not bring enough to drink, so I had to go thirsty for the better part of an hour, but at least this made me meet some locals and also I had the possibility to see their 690 year old farmhouse from the inside 🙂   Also, by choosing the mountain track, I met a doe rather close-up.

At about 2.30 pm I already arrived at Stift Lilienfeld, thus resulting in 22 km hiked within 7 hours (including breaks).

I washed some of my clothes in the basin in my room, took a shower, had a rather early dinner, and spent a lot of time reading before going to bed while outside it was raining heavily.

TBH, Day 1: Vienna – Maria Raisenmarkt

Looking back, there are already a couple of things I can learn from the first day of The Big Hike:

  • try to get as close to your starting point as possible.
    Getting up at 5 in the morning to go to the starting point by public transport and arriving there, ready to finally really leave, at 7 am, thus being 2 hours awake but not really doing anything but wait, is a bad start.
  • get good maps, have a GPS device with you.
    Losing the route every half hour is not funny. Having a GPS device with hiking/mountain biking maps can at least help you to get where you want, albeit not via the route you wanted.

So yes, I got up at 5 in the morning, just to make sure I had packed everything I needed. I had a bus to catch at Siebenhirten (end station of U6 in the south of Vienna), and I was nervous as can be that I could fall asleep and miss the stop either at Siebenhirten or at the stop where I had to change, or the stopt where I had to eventually get off the bus to start the hike.

The hike was not very exhausting physically, but in a mental way it was very challenging: I kept losing the “right path”, because there were not too many signs around to tell you in which direction to go. I am incredibly happy that I had a GPS device with me, especially since Georg and I had downloaded a hiking/mountainbiking map for Austria the night before. That way, I at least knew which way would lead in which direction and if it would take me to the “right” next village at the least.

I called it a day in Maria Raisenmarkt, after hiking about 22 km, just before reaching the Peilstein area which is supposed to be really beautiful. I felt exhausted already, and was looking desperately at the schedule for the regional bus at the bus stop. Some guy was putting up signs for hiking routes, and he asked me where I wanted to go. Bad news was, I would have to follow the route, as it would be the shortest way to get to the next village. Good news was, he had been through the same mess as me, and in the end even offered me a ride. In the next village, I had a nice late lunch (Radler, soup and cake 😉 ) and then checked for the next bus to leave towards Mariazell. I would skip part of the hike, as I did not feel at all capable of walking on, and I was lucky: a bus towards the right direction would leave only 2 hours later. The 2 hours I spent reading at the bus stop – and I also fell asleep a couple of times.

TBH: Final stage of Preparations

The Big Hike (TBH), taking me from Vienna to Mariazell and on to Graz, will start on September 4th, 2012.

Two rooms have been preordered already. The rest will be arranged on the go.

Things to do:

  • charge the phone
  • charge the camera
  • download information for Geocaches along the route (oh wait, the GPS is still in the US … this will have to wait)
  • make sure the plans and route descriptions will be in my backpack
  • start packing.

I’m getting VERY excited now 🙂

Mission ’24k’ aborted

If I were superstitiuous, I might not even have left the bed: a cramp in my right calve woke me up in the dead of night and could be interpreted as a bad omen.

Missing the bus, then being dropped off at a substitute stop somewhere I’ve never been, could also stop some people from trying to walk 24 km with a 7 kg backpack. But I wanted to do it!

So after our group was finally complete, we set off to hike from Rodaun to Altes Landgut. I didn’t feel good from the start, most likely from the night-time cramp. But also all the muscles down my back, not being used to the weight of the backpack, started to ache. It was really hot, and after one hour, I decided to have a break. Another hour and a bit later, shortly before Altes Landgut, we arrived at a Rastplatz with a fountain and nice picknick tables in the shadow, and settled down for our lunch break. At this point, Ben, who had joined me for a couple of walks already, said something that made my decision for the rest of the day clear: “I’ve never seen you so tired during a hike yet”.

That was the point where I personally decided to skip the second hike that was planned for the day. 12 km with the pack were definitely enough for me – at least that day.

And it turned out to be a good idea: after arriving back home, I put down my pack, sat down on the couch, and slept for 10 minutes. After that, I took off my shoes, and slept for another 20 minutes. After that, I finally made it to my bed to sleep another 3 hours. And only after that did I feel good enough to take a shower.

Next try: Stadtwanderweg 8 at Sofienalpe, about 11 km, which will mean about 3 hours walking time. I will bring my backpack again, this time not as heavy.

I know I can do it.

Hiking around Vienna, with Couchsurfers

Stadtwanderweg 2 seemed to be more interesting for others than 1 and 1a. Or did they like the weatherforecast more? Anyways, a handful of people signed up for the event, and they even showed. Just like before, it was not always easy to find the route due to the strange placing of signs: they’re never where you need them. If there is a crossing of 2 or more routes, and you’re not sure which to take, when you just started, and have no idea in which direction to go, be sure there won’t be a sign. If there is only a joining of routes, or not even a forking anywhere to be seen, there will be a sign. And with any luck, it will point in the right direction, and only in that direction. It won’t point in between two routes, it will be intelligible, and will leave no unasked question unanswered.

Of course, we again took shortcuts (unintended, as always), and once or twice took the long way around. Still, we always managed to keep our walking time under the time stated in the information brochures.

As the last Stadtwanderweg, number 9, runs through Prater, I decided to skip that one. Prater is a great area, and I’m sure the route is nice, but I prefer to go (and also to move around) there by bike. So after Stadtwanderweg 7 (happening today), which will feature also a pre-hike hike from Rodaun to Altes Landgut, and number 8 (next week, at Sofienalpe), I will start to walk parts of the Rundumadum trail that goes all the way around Vienna. After walking 10-14 km every time until now, I want to get closer to the “real thing”, and hike 20-25 km per day.

Hiking around Vienna, alone

To prepare for the long walk to Graz in September, I decided to do some hiking around Vienna. The city’s administration maintains 11 routes called “Stadtwanderwege” (city hiking trails), which are circle routes starting and ending at the same points and can be finished within 3-4 hours each, and 5 routes that consist of multiple stages each. In sum, the city offers about 500 km of hiking trails of easy and medium difficulty.

I did not have any preferences concerning the hiking routes or their areas, so I just decided to check them off according to their numbers, starting of course with number 1 – on the hottest day in June.

Although I had set up a meeting on Couchsurfing, and although I had announced it early enough, nobody joined me – I guess it was because of the weather reports. For once they were completely right …

When I started at 8 am, it was already damn hot. Still, I managed to finish the hike, without taking too many breaks, in under 3 hours. To be completely honest, I took an unintended short-cut somewhere, but only noticed that when I was back on the right track again. I had a great view from Kahlenberg down onto the city, and managed to walk by at least 3 geocache hideouts without remembering to check the app. The way back through the vineyards of Kahlenberg was also nice, but totally exposed to the sun…

The next hike, 3 days later, was number 1a, which shares some parts same with number 1. On this hike too, nobody joined me. One person had signed up for the event, but canceled last-minute – again due to the weather 🙂   I took this opportunity to make up for the shortcut I had taken before and this time took the long way around. The ascent to Leopoldsberg was incredibly exhausting – due to the rain in the morning, and the rapidly raising temperature, I felt like walking in a sauna. For my efforts, I was rewarded with great views on Kahlenbergerdorf and Vienna. With breaks, this hike took me 4 hours.

The Plan

I’ve given this quite some thought: What should I do in September, when I will have at least 2 weeks of holidays? No university, no work. I do want to do SOMETHING.

So I thought about going to Bretagne or Normandie.

I thought about traveling to England.

I thought about visiting Denmark.

And then, without much thinking, an interesting idea popped up in my head: What about a hike? Not just your average one day, 5 hours, hike. A hike with a real start and a real end. Two different cities. Two different regions of Austria, even. At first, I thoght about St. James’ Way. There are two variations of it in Austria: the Western Way, from Vienna via Salzburg to Innsbruck and on towards Spain, and the Southern Way, from Graz via Klagenfurt to Innsbruck and on. This of course posed the question: how would I get to Graz?

I will walk the Via Sacra, from Mödling (just outside the city of Vienna), in Lower Austria, to Mariazell, in Styria. From there, the Mariazeller Weg, on to Graz.

According to the Tourism Associations of the regions, each part will take about 5 days of “not too hard hiking”. So it will be 10 days of walking, plus one day of relaxing in Mariazell, and one or two days in Graz.

I’m SO excited about it!

Big Plans

I have big plans for September. Details will be published regularly here 🙂

As a first “leak”, check out this activity I started on Couchsurfing. Also if you’re not registered on Couchsurfing, you’ll be able to see the content.

If you want to join me on one of these hikes, just send me an email or post a comment here. I will update the meeting available at the posted link with all upcoming dates.

The plan is to just work through the list from 1 to 9, including the variations 1a and 4a. I might not get through with them all because of my plans for September, but we’ll see. Once or twice I will also try to “check off” two at a time, but that will be announced on the meeting page – and I guess, also here.

Critical Mass Vienna

On every 3rd Friday of the month, some hundred people on their bicycles get together at Schwarzenbergplatz in Vienna’s city centre to claim the streets – it’s Vienna’s critical mass!

The starting point always is the same, the destination is announced on the day, and the route – well, you find out about that on the way 🙂

This month’s critical mass was my first, and it was awesome: more than 1,000 people gathered at Schwarzenbergplatz. Although the forecast had warned about the possibility of a small spring thunderstorm, the mood was great. Following announcement on the website, a lot of people had dressed up as vegetables or brought some along.

When the first raindrops fell after 30 minutes, only some people quit the ride. Most still stayed even when the thunder and lightning started. Heavy rainfall and wind in the end made about 70 % of the participants turn around and go home, but according to the website, about 300 people finished the tour. Georg and me rode on until we arrived at Donauinsel, a ride of about 15 km, and therefore enough for one day, at least for me. We left the group there and rode to the next subway station to get back to my place.

Further information on critical masses all over Austria, pictures and press texts can be found on the website.