Escapism: Karwendelgebirge

© Julia Zierer

“We must simply experience the sunrise and sunset every day, that way we bind ourselves to a universal occurrence and that will keep us healthy forever”. 


Even though my hike through the Karwendelgebirge wasn’t that universal of an occurrence, it did leave me feeling a bit “healthier” and “closer to finding myself”. That might be due to the fact that I set out to wander the path to the Austrian Pleisenspitze, which is located 2.569 meters above sea level, alone. I confined myself to the essentials. Without any distractions or coaxers. Without any “I can’t go on but I have to otherwise I’ll fall behind” moments. Stopping, lingering, and taking a lunch break whenever, and however, often I want. Stomping my feet because I’m disappointed with how long it’s taking me. I took back sovereignty over my own time. At least for two days. I capture the most beautiful moments with an analog AE1 camera by Canon, just like the digital city exodus that is so close to my heart. I feel at peace, alone for my travels.

The woman that I met halfway to the Pleisenspitze, by a small cottage where I’ll be spending the night, is 70 years old. She grew up in Mittenwald, just shy of the Austrian border, and has lived here her entire life. She never felt the urge to leave, she tells me. They say that you’re at home, where you feel happy. I think I might just be a bit Austrian yet. Today she cycled to the bank on her mountain bike and walked the stony path to the cottage. She briefly chats with the proprietress, orders a shandy, and takes a break on the small stool that sits underneath the geranium-planted balcony. Every time I sneak a peek at her I’m rewarded with the image of a very content looking elderly lady who, at heart, is barely older than I am. Her positive aura and basic contendenness are admirable. I’m sure that her beloved Karwendelgebirge massively contributes to this feeling.

On the sunny terrace the innkeeper Siggi brings me a cool Gosser shandy, along with a hearty Austrian call: “Enjoy!”. I accompany it with a smoked sausage, mustard, a pickle, and a slice of bread. After that I eat a homemade pea soup with a Wienerl sausage. Of course, this is the best sausage and most delicious pea soup I’ve ever eaten, as tends to be the case when consumed in a cottage after a day of physical exertion. In addition, each ingredient stems from Scharnitz, which is located at the foot of the mountain, and tastes wonderfully fresh. The breathtaking view onto the surrounding mountain tops, gleaming in the evening light, do the rest.

© Julia Zierer

The short night in the dorm, surrounded by strange, snoring people, requires some getting used to. Or just try to get it done with as quickly as possible. I get up at 6am, eat breakfast, and begin walking, so that I can be the very first person at the peak. In fact, I don’t run into another soul on my hike. It’s an incredibly freeing feeling, being so far away from everything. Up here the air is clearer and that seems to transfer to the people who breathe it. Quite contrary to my usual custom, I’m able to articulate clear thoughts while I huff and puff my way uphill. Changes regarding my career path come to me effortlessly and I’m able to make new plans.

Incidentally, my cellphone stays buried in the depths of my backpack and I don’t miss it for a second. Until I reach the top. There I feel so overwhelmed by this gigantic panorama and my aching heels that I shed one, two tears before I dig for my phone to shoot a selfie video of the amazing panoramic view and my flushed face. I can barely wait to share my impressions with someone on the way done, and excitedly call my mom to tell her about the incredibly fascination that the Pleisenspitze has left me with. And in that moment I realise, no matter how high the mountain or big the emotions, nothing is worth anything if you can’t share them with a beloved person. Which means: next time we’ll be at least two people!


Mountain Hike “Pleisenspitze”
Pleisenhütte – reservations and information via +43/664/9158792
Translation: Liv Fleischhacker