Located a short distance off the shores of Lake Traunsee in the lovely Austrian town of Ebensee is the hiking region of the Feuerkogel. Accessed either on foot or via cable car, the Feurerkogel is one of Austria’s sunniest high altitude plateaus with astounding panoramic views of the Salzkammergut lake region and the Austrian Alps. For those hiking enthusiasts, the Feurerkogel has a variety of traditional Austrian lodges where you can grab a delightful bit to eat or spend the night hiking hut to hut along the many high alpine trails. For us, it was yet another fabulous area for us to hike that was not far from our farm stay at the Landgut Wagnerfeld in Altmünster.
We left for Ebensee shortly after breakfast, following Hauptstraße/B145 south for about thirteen kilometers as it swerved around the edge of Lake Traunsee and finally turned inland towards the mountains. We passed through a lovely residential area that was built around the Traun river as we headed towards the cable car station. As I looked around at our surroundings, it was hard to fathom that such a beautiful town was once home to one of the most horrific Nazi concentration camps of all time. Today a memorial is all that remains of the Ebensee Concentration Camp. The barracks and camp were destroyed after the Liberation in 1945.
When we arrived at the cable car station in Ebensee am Traunsee, we found out there are two ways to reach the top. We could either pay to ride the cable car up or hike it. Not thinking too clearly, I agreed with my dad to give option two a try. My kids weren’t too convinced that this was the best thing to do nor was I. However, we thought it would be worth the views to attempt the two hour walk up to the top following the Feuerkogel über Kalvarienbergstraße trail. It was listed as red which means “easy” in Austrian terms and we did see a few people running the trail. It couldn’t be all that bad, could it?
It was finally a relatively clear day for which we were utterly grateful. After two days of heavy rain, the air was thick with humidity and heat. As we began walking up the trail, sweat began to pour down our faces and the grumbling of complaints from an already “hiked out” daughter began to set in. I had a feeling that this hike was not going to go too well. Even I was beginning to loose steam. After all, we were approaching the end of our three-week trip in Europe and after weeks of traveling and moving around even I was becoming a little bit restless.
We continued up the muddy, humid path and were dismayed to find the clouds moving in. It had been perfectly clear and sunny when we parked the car less than a half an hour ago but as I came to soon remember, the weather is unpredictable and changes often in the mountains.
After about an hour going up, drenched in sweat and grumpy, we decided that it just wasn’t worth the additional hour of climbing up when there were no decent views and the kids were getting worn out. We succeeded in convincing my sometimes stubborn dad (who never wants to quit a hike) that it was best to turn around and take the cable car up. That way we could hike up on top and we would have all the splendid views in the world.
The helpful cashier at the ticket counter informed us that we could save a bit of money by purchasing the “family pack”. I am so used to traveling with my husband and not my father with the kids that I completely forgot we could use the discounted rate. It was well worth the roughly 60 Euros for the short ride up and down versus the three-four hours of hiking we would have done. Our only regret is that we didn’t do it sooner.
Once we arrived on top of the mountain, the clouds began to slowly roll in. It was still quite nice for lunch on the terrace and we chose to eat lunch at the family-run Berggasthof Edelweiss, one of many delightful Austrian restaurants and lodges up on top.
The food as always was delicious. Before coming on the trip, I had been so concerned about Austrian and German food as I didn’t have the fondest memories of it from previous trips. I also don’t eat a lot of meat. But how this last trip proved me wrong! I loved the food so much that I even purchased an Austrian cookbook to make my own chicken schnitzel and dumplings. I also grew a deep fondness for the white and red Austrian wines which thankfully I’ve found at my local wine store at home. Grüner Veltliner has become one of my favorite whites.
While we were eating lunch out of nowhere a giant blanket of fog rolled in and covered the entire mountain. My kids got a real kick out of being in the clouds but our hopes of hiking on top of the plateau and getting some magnificent views was over. I can never stand to not get the view. I guess I’m a bit like my dad in that way. It also means that we will have to come back someday.
As we glided down within the whiteness of the clouds, suddenly we burst through and saw civilization again. It sure was beautiful. Beautiful enough to make me want to plan another trip to Austria, a place I fell in love with.
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If you go:
The Feuerkogel Seilbahn Ebensee is located in Ebensee Austria. There is free parking for cars and buses right next to the station. There are also endless hiking trails and places to eat and stay on top. For more details visit www.feuerkogel.info