One of the things I’ve enjoyed the most about being in Europe for the past seven months is how easy it is to walk. There are trails, seemingly everywhere, and you can hike mountains, go past beautiful lakes, cross towns and keep walking. The many ancient trade routes made by the Celts and later by the Romans are still here for you to explore.
This Valentine’s Day weekend, with Michael, we walked from our apartment in Füssen, in southern Germany to Höffen, in Austria. It was not the largest of hikes, Höffen being four hours away walking (and about half an hour driving), but it was the perfect way to explore, be in nature and see new places.
On our way there, we followed the Via Claudia Augusta, a long Roman trail that goes all the way from Bavaria to the Adriatic Sea. It is funny to think romans were using these trails through the Alps. Most people bicycle along the Via, and there were parts we had to walk along the highway with cars rushing past us, in which we were confused and angered at how unsafe it was.
This happened on our way from Pinswang to Pflach, in Austria. Pinswang is a small farming town with outstanding views of the Säuling, one of the tallest mountains in the region. After walking along the highway for about ten minutes, we soon discovered a new path, that did not follow the Via Claudia, but went through the woods.
We were soon walking on the Lech Weg, which follows the river Lech for about 125km, and finally arrived to Pflach and then kept going to the bigger town Reutte.
Reutte is a town perfectly located for many things to do on a weekend. It is surrounded by the Alps, with the Ehrenberg ruins, the remnant of great kingdoms, and the world record longest Hanging Bridge, the Highline 179, very close.
We arrived at Reutte at 4 p.m., with about an hour of daylight left. After having a Weisswurst with a pretzel at a pub, we inquired at the Tourist Information Office about places we could still walk to. We wanted to reach the lake Plansee. In the end we decided to stay at a Pension and call it a day, we would continue exploring the next day.
We stayed at the Haus Lechner in Höffen, and we couldn’t have been more pleased with it. When you stay at a hotel in this region, you get the Aktiv Card which gives you amazing discounts and perks like free entrance to the bridge and museums at the ruins.
Our second day started with daybreak. We had a nice breakfast, watched the sun rise like fire from behind the snowy Alps and even caught some deer coming out of the forest behind the house.
The owner of the house was kind enough to drive us to the Highline 179 Bridge and we climbed the mountain up to the entrance, where the Ehrenberg Castle Ruins lay. The trail was frozen and it was quite a challenge to get to the top. But the floor at the ruins was also frozen or completely covered in snow, which made it impossible to see all of it. The views, however, are beautiful as you find yourself surrounded by towering snow covered mountains and the valleys with little towns are right under your feet.
The Bridge was quite the experience by itself. It does not move with the wind and it actually feels safe, with the thick cables that support it, but knowing that you are at 114.6 meters above the ground, taking steps in a man made construction that could fail, makes you lose your breath. However, I stopped in the middle to take in the view, reminding myself that I might not have this chance again, and that was what really took my breath. If you go, don’t be paralyzed by fear. Feel the power from being so high up and marvel at human engineering and the nature around you.
We crossed the bridge and then crossed it again once we decided we’d rather go down the way we came. By the time we got back, groups of tourists were arriving. We were lucky to have arrived at about 8 in the morning, a time in which we had the ruins and bridge all to ourselves.
The walk began once more, but this time we knew better to follow the Lech Weg and it was the best decision we could’ve made. We came back to Pflech and followed it through the moutains, going so deep into the forest where it was all silent, where all creatures seemed to have hidden from us, not used to seeing humans. It is not hard to understand how legends were created, since every inch of the forest seems so magical. The trail takes you up through mossy meadows, fallen trees, old ruins, hidden farms, creeks and finally to the grand Alpen See, in Germany, and towards the castles of Hochenshwangau and King Ludwig’s famous Neuschwanstein.
The border between Austria and Germany was my favorite discovery here. An old rock dated 1844, with a T on one side and a B on the other, which marked the division of the old county of Tyrol and Bavaria. (The first had become part of the Kingdom of Bavaria in 1805).
So we crossed, like many others had done for centuries and we arrived back home. Hiking has become one of our favorite pastimes, and when you slow travel, it is a great way of exploring the new countries and meeting its people.