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October 14, 2006

"%$#& me, that's high up!"

Untersbergclouds With Claire's phobia of heights, and my hatred of flying, getting a cable car nearly 2km up the side of a mountain probably isn't our combined preferred method of transport, but on Sunday that is exactly what we did.

To get there we had to walk around 1k from Niederalm through St Leonhard's, to the foot of the Untersberg mountain that dominates the skyline where we live. The Untersbergbahn then takes you up to the top.

I've never been in a cable car travelling that distance before, and I was astonished that it only needed two support masts along the way. I guess I'm going to have to get used to this kind of thing in the Alps.

I'd been told that this was probably the last weekend we'd be able to get up there without it being covered in snow and slush, and it turned out to be a lovely day with very clear blue skies. Of course, that only meant you could see further during the journey, and made the cable car ride all the more terrifying. It didn't help that it was packed about as solid as a rush hour London Underground carraige.

However all the discomfort and expense (€18 each return!) of the journey seemed well worth it when we got out at the top. The views out from the mountain were amazing. Untersberg is right at the fringe of the Alps, so to the East, West and the South there was a sea of mountains with tufts of clouds floating between them, and to the North you could see the city of Salzburg, and the plains of Germany stretching out before you.

It was quite bizarre watching aeroplanes taking off from Salzburg airport looking no bigger than toys, yet at the same time you could hear their engines because it was so quiet at the top of the Untersberg.


The mountain attracts lots of local legends, and the information panels are almost Tolkien-like in their detail:

In the hollow inner of the mountain immense treasures are stored, dwarfs and giants, heroes and rulers have their residence there, and also wild women - well-disposed towareds people - live in the mountain

But the most exalted secret the mountain preserves, is the aged Emperor, who sleeps in Untersberg, until his time will come. Only rarely, once in a hundred years, a mortal is lucky enough to see his face...

It was, frankly, a bit rubbish that having taken the easy route up 1800m, we then struggled over the last 53m, but the walk to the top was still quite scary for us. A couple of times one or other of us got a bit stuck on steps or rocks that would have caused no problem if we hadn't already been aware that we were sticking nearly two kilometres into the air.


We made it though, and after posing for pictures, we then came back down and had a coffee, beer and some apple strudel in the cafe at the cable-car station before tackling the descent.


It really was a spectacular experience, and one that made the prospect of ascending the mountains in Crete seem like child's play.

But to be honest...


...never, ever, again.

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