Travel Tips Part 12: Grunau Im Almtal, Austria

Grunau is a tiny town secluded in the middle of nowhere in Austria. The town was recommended to you by your couch surfing host Anna back in Munich, where she guaranteed that this was the best place to come to soak up some nature and recharge your batteries. Feeling shattered after weeks of travel, this town sounds like a holiday away from your holiday. The train journey is only a mere 3 hours from Salzburg, which gives you time to have a smoke, a glass of wine, and relax on the train. Opting for your iPod as accompaniment, you listen to Florence and the Machine’s new album as you stare out of the window to the white wonderment of a European winter. You had only seen snow a couple of times before now: once you can barely remember as you were 3 years old, and the second time was on a mountain in New Zealand, in which case the snow had been there for a long time and was therefore hard and icy.

You finally arrive in Grunau at a tiny train station with no one else around you. It’s 6pm and pitch dark, but you don’t feel the slightest bit unsafe or unsure of what to do next. You had already organised accommodation at the Treehouse Hostel through Anna, so all you needed to do was call them to pick you up. After a brief conversation on the phone with the owner, you’re left to jump around in the snow for a bit, before a van rocks up to take you to your next hostel. Gerhard is the owner of the quaint establishment, and despite his harshness on the phone, he turns out to be a warm, kind man. You hop into the van and are greeted by his two dogs, who scare the life out of you every time they break the silence with loud barks at other dogs on the road. Once you get to the hostel you instantly relax and feel at home: the hostel is a two-storey building encapsulated by snowy mountains and stark trees. Even in the evening, the hostel is warm and comforting, as you are greeted by Rachael, the kiwi girl who works in the hostel. She shows you to your room where even though you’ve paid for a 6 bed dorm, you have the room al to yourself. You lie on the double bed, throw your clothes about the room (because you can) and head downstairs for dinner.

Dinner is at 6.30 sharp and is an extra fee of 9 Euros, but is completely worth it as the girls have made a real effort to make you a beautiful vegetarian meal. At dinner, you meet one of the other 2 guests staying in the lodge; winter has only begun and business doesn’t pick up until after Christmas. Other than that, the bar is full of locals getting completely pissed and arguing in Bavarian German before getting into their cars and driving home. At dinner, you sit around the table, have a home-cooked meal, then share cigarettes after an ice-cream – this place really feels like home. After dinner you head downstairs to watch a movie on the VCR – seriously old-school. You rug up on the couch with your blankets and watch An Interview With A Vampire, and despite your loathing for Tom Cruise, you enjoy the film. Up to your bed where you happily sleep in your underwear – just because you can.

The next morning you have a delicious breakfast, followed by a 2 and a half hour hike in the snow. You rug up with layers of winter clothing and head off down the icy road, taking pictures and only managing to fall over twice. You are overwhelmed by how beautiful this part of the world is, and feel a sense of relaxation being away from the bustle of capital cities. After your walk you spend the day lying in bed, writing your blogs and smoking your cigs. Come dinner-time you repeat last night by having a wholesome meal, followed by Romeo and Juliet on VCR. You head to bed early in preparation for check out the next morning. You’re sad to say goodbye to this lovely place, but make a pact with yourself to return – you absolutely have to.

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