The Holiday at the Chalet
by Heather Paisley

A Personal Account of a Holiday spent exploring the Tiernsee in Tirol. 
Lots of photos, so you can see the places you have read about in the Chalet Series.
Just one page on Collecting Books & Magazines.
Page finalised 9th October, 2010.
Main Chalet Page
< Gasthaus at Gaisalm

Wednesday 20 May 1998

Here I am at the railway station, waiting for the train to Gatwick, which isn't due for another 20 minutes. Its a really sunny day, but unfortunately, the platform is in shadow. I start to count the tiles on the wall opposite, but get bored quickly and lose count. Instead, I think about my holiday. It seems such a short time since I booked it, but here it is! I can hardly believe that I’m off to the Tiernsee (OK, Achensee then). I feel that I’m following in Elinor’s footsteps. Will it inspire my writing? Read on, dear reader, and judge for yourself.

I looked up at the clock for what must be the fiftieth time - it had moved on a bit, but not much. A high speed train screeched through the station, assaulting ear drums and buffeting me with the wind of its passage. The platform filled up, but another train was due before mine, which was late, not a good sign. I hoped that they didn't change platforms for my train, as my suitcase was too heavy to go anywhere in a hurry. Its so difficult to know what to take. There’s no telling what the weather will decide to do halfway up a mountain in the Austrian Alps!

Inevitably, the train was ten minutes late, but managed to make up the time en route and we arrived at Gatwick on time. The plane wasn't up on the board, but I spotted the Caledonian desk and checked in. My seat’s in the front row! Row 1 - nearly in with the driver! The flight was mercifully short after such a lot of waiting around. After the usual waiting at the carousel, I spotted my suitcase. Is it my imagination, or is it really bigger than all the others?

The next form of transport is a double decker coach. If only these had been available in the Chalet days - imagine the saving! Once on board, we had a wait as two people were missing. Eventually we set off and it soon became apparent that amongst this large group of people, I was the only one going to Achensee. I was a little concerned about this, but consoled myself with the thought that I had fully intended to go off and do my own thing anyway, so what difference did it make! Then I found out that I would shortly be transferring to a taxi. I must admit to feeling very much in sympathy with the Chalet girls coming back to school at this stage. The modes of transport may be different, but I felt that I’d had just as many changes and have been travelling for a very long time. I hoped that the Abbess would order early bed! I mentally checked that my hockey stick, umbrella and travelling rugs were all there, and prepared to disembark.

Actually, the taxi turned out just fine. A very nice young lady drove me up to Achensee and I felt rather like one of the people who arrived separately from the rest of the throng and had to be met by one of the mistresses in the ‘little runabout’.

Although it was well into the evening now - nearly ‘21.00’ local time - it was still light, so I was able to see the scenery as we went along. I began to feel a little shiver of anticipation as I recognised some of the names on the road signs, then at last, my first sight of the lake! It was so still and calm, like glass, ringed round with mountains which were reflected in the water. Then we turned off up side road and arrived at the Hotel Bergland.

Its a typical traditional chalet, with flower boxes on the balconies, although at that time, I didn't get more than a quick glance at it. Inside it looked really nice and as the tour rep miraculously appeared to meet me, a young lady also came to check me in, dressed in what looked remarkably like the kind of dress that Frieda might have worn at home as a girl; an olive green colour, with a very full skirt to mid calf or below, a fitted bodice and very puffed elbow length sleeves. I tried not to stare openly at the dress, but couldn't resist peeping surreptitiously at it as I was escorted upstairs.

My room was super. As my host explained about important things like breakfast and dinner, I sneaked a glance at the bed to see if I had a plumeau - and I did! As well as the single bed I had an easy chair, table and chair, wardrobe and television and a private WC, basin and shower. No useful locker, come dressing table, come chest of drawers, but you can't have everything! But straight ahead of me - the balcony.

It looked out over the lake and I couldn't wait to get out there and look properly, but first I had to go to Abendessen.

When I got back to the room, although it was dark, I went straight out on the balcony and looked out at the lights of Buchau, across the lake. I was thrilled by the fact that I was really there - Briesau am Tiernsee. Then Matey called me for unpacking and early bed, but I managed to find time to write up my journal and begin to plan for the next day’s itinerary. I packed my rucksack ready for the morrow with my camera, lots of film, Swiss army knife - in case I came across any horses which need stones removing from their hooves - and, of course, my first aid kit.

Thursday 21 May

As you can imagine, the first thing I did when I woke up next morning was to open my eyes to their widest extent then immediately sit up in bed, wide awake. No, you’re right, I didn't. However, once I’d woken up in my own rather more pedestrian fashion, I did shoot across to open the curtains and look at the view. It was all that I could wish for. The lake with the sun gleaming off it was so blue, but I can't find a good comparison for the colour of it. Its not a deep, sapphire blue, more of a smoky quality to it. I got dressed and had breakfast, in the dining room which looked out onto the lake, collected my packed lunch and set off eagerly to see Chalet School lands.

Catholic Church &  left Pertisau

First, I went to peer at the lake from the shore, then I re-traced my steps and, passing the place where you get the chair lift, went down the road into Pertisau. It was actually rather bigger than I expected. I think that I was anticipating one street with sundry houses dotted about, but its actually quite a bit bigger, with several hotels, at least a dozen including the larger gasthauses and of course, all of the houses, being chalets, are so different and pretty. There are several roads to follow and various souvenir shops with the usual range of gifts, from quite decent to tacky. Not as bad as some I've seen though. Surprisingly, the prices seem to be very reasonable, but maybe that’s because I got a good rate of exchange. I resisted the urge to buy lots of souvenirs, as it was my first day, but I did invest in a map (wanderkarte) and a handsome walking stick with a pointy end, which I believe is called a wanderstock. I felt very professional as I set out with my stick, trying not to look as though I just bought it, but I discovered later that you need a degree in origami to refold the map and I seriously doubt that I’ll ever get it back in that little plastic wallet!

Fascinated by the chalets and the meandering streets, I wandered about Pertisau for some time, until I finally realised that I was getting quite a long way from the lake.

So I headed in a generally downhill direction as this seemed logical. On the way I pondered on the fact that it is easy to suffer from excitement overload here - there’s so much to see and to visit that the temptation is to try to cram everything in at once. As I’d promised myself a relaxing holiday, I resolved to take thinks easy, even if that meant not doing all the walks and seeing everything.

Kron Prinz Karl

All the more reason to return! As I came in sight of the lake, I realised that I had inadvertently come out at the landing stage. And there ahead must surely be - yes it is! The Furstenhaus, or as I prefer to think of it (and in fact did, throughout the holiday) the Kron Prinz Karl! It looked like a jolly good hotel with a superb lakeside position. Its in very good condition; Herr Braun would be most gratified.

As I drink in the sight of the good old KPK and imagine Joey and the others seeing it again after being away so long, there’s an ominous rumble of thunder which seems to come from the mountains behind me. "Oh dear" I told myself knowledgeably, "that’ll probably rumble around the lake on and off all day now." As the rain began, I dug out my cagoule, then noticed that a boat was due in soon. This seemed to be a fortuitous time to take a trip on the lake, as the rain got harder and harder, so I bought a ticket (I don’t speak German and the lady in the ticket office didn’t speak English, but we managed in French!) and filled the time to the boat arriving by looking at the souvenir shops along the front. After a short, but rather wet interlude, the boat arrived and we all threw English queuing to the winds and scrambled to get on board, out of the rain!

The Achensee, I discovered, changes colour. Today, I have seen it go from the blue that I still can't describe, to jade green and later on I saw an area which was a real tropical emerald green.

Steaming gently in the warmth, I tucked into my packed lunch (provided free by the hotel) which was surprisingly good. Its a bit difficult to carry on a conversation with very friendly fellow passengers, when what I really want to do is to stand with my nose pressed up against the window, gazing out at the passing shore-line. However, I restrained myself until I had finished my lunch, then made my goodbyes and sought an open place from whence I could take photographs. I elected to do the round trip, calling at Gaisalm, Scholastika, Achenseehof and Gaisalm (again) before going back to Pertisau and there were some wonderful views down the lake. Not for the first time, I wished that I could paint, but I had to make do with a photograph and hope that it did it justice.

Two views of the lake

Achenseehof Hotel

When EBD described the lake as ringed round with mountains, she was spot on. High peaks frame it on all sides, some right up close, some a little way off. What I found fascinating was that the terrain appears to be very flat spaces alternating with sheer mountain slopes. Its as if someone filled in all the valleys with soil, levelling it off and only leaving the tips of the mountains sticking out. Of course, when you’re scrambling about, it doesn't seem nearly so flat!

We arrived back in Pertisau and I poised myself to get a shot of the KPK from the lake.

KPK from the lake

Then its the moment of truth; should I continue with my plan to walk past the Dripping Rock to Gaisalm (Geisalm)? It was only one o’clock and it had stopped raining, so I decided that I would. Feeling very much in line with Jo and the others, I set off to the DR. The first part runs along the lakeside past the KPK and two very old wooden boats up out of the water and I speculated about them being the ones on which the Chalet Girls came to and fro, in Elinor’s imagination, if nothing else. Then the going got a bit steeper and before too long I rounded a bend with a steep drop in the path immediately after it and there before me was the Dripping Rock - or pouring rock as it was at that moment, "simply shooting after all the rain"

Its really a small waterfall, which is to say that it meanders right down the rock face, some ten or twenty feet above, then falls when the rock goes back under a little. It no longer falls directly onto the path (luckily) as a sort of roof made of somewhat rusty metal has been put up which directs the water out past the path to the hillside below. Its an arrangement which owes much more to practicality than the picturesque I’m afraid, but I still felt a thrill of excitement when I saw it - it was, after all, THE DRIPPING ROCK!!!

Naturally I took a photo or two (I think that passers-by thought that I was crazy) then carried on under the ‘roof’ and on towards Gaisalm. The path got steeper - up and down - and in some places quite narrow and high. Alongside lengthy stretches of it were crowds of lily of the valley, just coming into flower with a few blossoms here and there. I reflected that it would be glorious walking along here in a week or two, with the heady scent of the flowers filling the air. Following the path it lead me through some wooded areas and also across two large beds of scree which were very scrambly. I was very glad of my alpenstock there, I can tell you! Whilst I was walking through the first wooded area, it began to rain, until I had to put my cagoule back on, reluctantly. Then the thunder started again. Walking through a wood is not my ideal place to be during a thunder storm, but there wasn't much in the way of choice. I was in a bit of a race against the clock too, as I wanted to get to Gaisalm before the ferry left so that I could get a ride back! (In hindsight it would have been better to have done it the other way round - ride out, walk back.) The problem was that you just can't see how far off you are and in the event, I made it with plenty of time to spare - enough to get my first stamp in my wanderkarte book. This is a system that enables you to collect stamps on a card from various nominated places on walks around the area, which can be traded at small cost for a badge/medal, bronze, silver or gold, depending on the number and difficulty of the walks undertaken.

If you are interested in such things, I am only a ‘learner’ walker and I don't like heights; I found the path to the DR OK and beyond it rather more demanding, but not too bad. The scree was the worst really. The highish narrow parts before and after the DR were much better with my trusty stick, it really gave me much more confidence. The walk can be more exacting if it is wet though. It really isn’t the stroll mentioned in some of the books - not all the way to Gaisalm, anyway.

Anyway, after I got off the boat at Pertisau, I decided I’d had enough for one day. I really was pretty wet and, as a consequence, cold. I discovered afterwards that even my underwear was wet!

The lake path to Gaisalm

The lake path to Gaisalm

I walked back along the lake path, passing the Hotel Post, which I duly noted. I knew that I must be close to the place that has been identified as the probable site of where EBD placed the chalet from her descriptions, the now deserted Alpenhof Hotel. However, I decided that it must wait for another day as I just wanted to get dry now. A short cut affair runs up to the left of the Hotel Post directly to my hotel which is somewhat behind it, so I took the pathway. I was rewarded, just a few yards along (that’s the same as metres, you younger folk) by coming face to face with the Alpenhof itself, which I never guessed to be so close! It brought a smile to my face and I mentally said hello to the Chalet, promising to come again another day. I trudged on to arrive at the Bergland dripping but happy, and went up to my room, where everything I had on had to be draped over various pieces of furniture to dry out and I got straight in to the shower. It seemed a bit odd to get even more wet, therapeutically, but it worked. I could have done with one of Matey’s hot baths though, I can tell you!

Friday 22 May 1998

Weatherwise, today started out very grey and rainy, I’d been warned that this was the forecast, so my plan for the day was to go by the little train (the Achenseebahn) to Jenbach, or Spartz as I prefer to call it.

This train is over 100 years old, so very probably is the same one that Elinor saw and by which she pictured the girls travelling. I decided to walk to Seespitz along the lake path, which took me half an hour, although to be fair, I strolled along casually and stopped frequently to admire the view. The lake was much more choppy today and the clouds sat right down low, obscuring the mountain tops and appearing to be leaning against them. Somewhere along this route was the place where Jo jumped clean across the path into the lake, but as the road runs alongside for the most part now, I wasn't able to spot it, if indeed it is still there. Just beyond Seespitz is a small sandy beach and I could imagine the girls indulging in various games there during the long hot summer days, although I was to discover later that actually, the lake does rise later in the season. After a rather cold wait, the smoke of the train could be seen rising up the hill, then the engine came puffing into sight - a small, black puffer with two red coaches. One had windows, the other was open sided and I quickly got into the warmer one. Then the engine detached itself and chugged round to the rear, which thus became the front, re-attached itself and we were off.

The train really crept down the mountain at a snail’s pace, with much smoke and steam emanating from the front and blowing backwards. At some places, the angle of descent is fantastic and the need for caution becomes obvious. The train inches its way past small stations and through pine woods. I could see the pathway leading downwards, just below the line and in my mind’s eye, I could see Joey and the others, laden with baskets, making their way town to the little town of Spartz.

Two photos of Spartz

Just before arriving in Jenbach, the train goes past houses, as close as can be. I could just hear them saying "ah, there goes the 12.40!" We arrived finally in Spartz, which is just an ordinary small town. I eagerly scanned the station for refreshment rooms and there were two, one built alongside the Achensee line, the other on the main line platform, No Herr Anserl in either though!

I followed the main road into town, past the Alte Toleranz, or the Toleranz Hotel as it is now, which is no longer just a whitewashed building, but quite a decent looking hotel.

The "Alte Toleranz  Jenbach


Not sure about the location right outside the station though! Following the spire over the rooftops, I made my way to the church. It is quite an old looking, attractive building, but it has large stained glass windows along the side. The church is surrounded by an ornate graveyard and at the back is a low, vaulted building, almost a roofed corridor, with more monuments and two shrines, dedicated to Mary and Jesus on the Cross, respectively. Walking through this strange building, I looked down and there were old grills set in the floor, through which one can see a deep underground structure, such as a crypt. Could this be the escape route, I wondered?

It was not possible to go into the church as it was being renovated and had been (from what I could see) completely gutted inside. Around to the left I discovered a small garden with a statue of a crucifix and also one of a fellow dressed rather like a monk, brandishing a large key. The sun had come out by now, so I sat on the bench to eat my packed lunch, speculating on who the fellow was. I eventually decided that he must be St Peter, with the key to heaven.

Lunch finished, I went for another wander around the outside of the church. I was a little dissatisfied as to whether this was the ‘right’ church, as the windows did not fit EBD’s description. The main doors were indeed huge, but made of some sort of metal, although this could easily be a latter day replacement. On the far side, just by the gate, I finally found the one thing that I was missing - windows that were "small and heavily barred". A whole section, round the back as it were, had very small windows and yes, they were barred. Satisfied at last that I definitely had the right place, it was time to move on. I wandered through Spartz, generally looking round. Most of the shops were closed as it was lunchtime. It wasn't an especially inspiring place, yet it was quite a decent little town. A river (the Inn, I presume) runs through the town with a series of old looking plank bridges crossing it and a bizarre system of mechanics which seemed to be used to dam the water, rather like a cross between a weir and a lock.

I made my way back to the bahnhof and enjoyed a drink and a welcome visit to the loo in the cafe called the Achenseebahn, then boarded the train when it arrived. I can't say that it was a particularly comfortable journey; the engine was coupled at the back of the train and pushed us up the hill. We proceeded by a series of jerks, which was rather tedious, all the way to Eben. There, the engine chugged round to the front again and the rest of the journey was smoother, albeit slow. The sun had come out and was blazing through the windows. I was too cramped to take off my coat, but in the end I had to make the attempt. The guard, incidentally, walks round the outside of the train - on the running board - and either gets in at each compartment, leaning across as far as he can reach, or if its crowded, leans through the window to check your tickets.

Two views of Maurach

At Maurach we were delayed again whilst the engine had a drink (I was rather ridiculously reminded of the old fashioned stopping to water the horses) then we eventually chugged into Seespitz. The boat departs exactly to time, thus had not waited, so I set off to walk. In fact, I later discovered that whilst the water is low and the large boat is sole operator, especially at the beginning of the season, the ferry can't actually make it to the Seespitz landing stage because there isn't enough depth of water. However, the walk back round the lake was rather pleasant and to keep me company, I put on my walkman and listened to Jo of the Chalet School on tape. It seemed so appropriate in that setting!

Finally, as I trudged up the side road that lead to my hotel, listening to the cow bells from the hillside above, I fixed my eye on the Hotel Post and tried to work out where the Alpenhof was from this angle. It was behind some trees, but once I knew where to look, it wasn't difficult to see it. With some amazement, I realised that it was straight across the road from my hotel and looking round, I concluded that it was actually the nearest building to the hotel. Much cheered by this information, I went in to relax. Before I settled down however, I just had to check - could I see ‘the Chalet’ from my balcony? I leaned out at a perilous angle, but I couldn’t quite see it. I could see the Post and the trees which are in front of the Alpenhof, screening it, but not the distinctive orange painted building. (Sorry, but it is!) I consoled myself with the thought that I would be able to see it if the trees were bare.

Saturday 23 May 1998

As soon as I set out today I had a proper look at the Alpenhof Hotel from all angles.

There are several small outbuildings close by, which could have served almost any purpose in its heyday, as well as a properly roofed passageway connecting the main building to a smaller one. Was this where EBD got her idea for Le Petit Chalet and similar walkways, I wondered? Whilst the Alpenhof obviously isn't a chalet, it does have several balconies around the front and all of its windows have shutters. I felt that the building was growing on me and I began to like it very much, despite the fact that its painted a strange shade of burnt orange. It seemed to have so much character. Around the periphery, it is possible to see parts of what were obviously once walls and also other edifices which I could only guess at. These included something which looked for all the world like a cricket net! Although the house is obviously past its sell by date, I noticed that there were distinct signs of habitation around and about. For instance, the wood pile at one of the out buildings was quite large and obviously of newly cut wood. There were several pots of flowers around the ‘back’ door and some bowls to feed some sort of animal. All new. Then, all of the bottom floor shutters at the back and the side were open, with curtains, and on one of my passings-by, I actually saw someone at one of the windows, washing up! The windows - even the ground floor - are set quite high up, so it isn't possible to peer in, even if one should. An absurd idea began to grow in my mind. Why not take it over and re-open as an hotel again, with special tours for CS lovers? The rooms could have names: Madge, Joey, Robin, Juliet, instead of numbers … and so on. A pipe dream, but it would be fun, wouldn't it!

Regretfully, I left the Alpenhof behind and headed on towards the village. It looked as if it was going to be a fine day. At the back of my mind, I was sure that I'd heard that there was a plaque to EBD somewhere in Pertisau. Unfortunately, I couldn't remember where. I asked at the tourist office and they told me it was at the church, so off I went to visit it. Its quite a quaint church outside, fairly typical tyrolean, white with a black pointed spire. The inside is quite modern and relatively bare, but worth seeing. However, I went over every inch of it and there was no plaque! From there I went back down to the lake to catch the boat to Buchau.

After a jolly good view of Pertisau, the Alpenhof and my hotel from the lake, we swung round to Buchau in a large circle, missing Seespitz. Buchau is a very scattered hamlet; its quite difficult to decide where it begins and ends. Unlike Pertisau, there are no chalets close to the lake, but there is a very decent lake walk (‘see promenade’) to follow. In fact, you can follow the lake path right to Maurach, which is what I did, past the camp site and the play ground then straight on to Maurach. The sun was shining very brightly by now. Maurach is a lovely little hamlet, full of interesting looking chalets and fascinating to walk through. I took the "feltweg" to the kirche which is St Notburga’s in Eben, used in ‘Visitors’ for Joey’s hike. The walk is splendid, with fantastic views of the Inn valley, lots of older chalets to look at and real Sound of Music type pastures. The route is pretty well marked, although more than once, I felt like I was going through someone’s property. Just as I spied the spire of the church over some rooftops not far off, a dog suddenly jumped out through a hedge that I was passing and gave me such a fright! I’m sure that he was laughing to himself and thinking "ha! Got another one!" He wanted to play rather too boisterously for my liking, yet when I tried to move on, he didn't seem to want me too. Eventually, a man appeared and caught him and took him back to the garden whence he came.

I carried on, heart beating a little faster, to the church. It was well worth the visit. From the outside it just looks like a fairly ordinary Tyrolean church. But inside it is anything but ordinary, being highly decorated with frescoes across the ceiling - which looked like the life (and death) of the saint - and around the walls were pictures of the stations of the cross.

Throughout the plasterwork decorations were of pink and coffee colour and put me rather in mind of an elaborately iced wedding cake. The altar was massive, in three levels, the top statue I guess was God, or Jesus, the middle one was a figure with rays emanating from its head and was wearing a (real) dress. As I got closer, I realised that this figure was in a glass case and was bigger than I had first thought. The main thing I noticed however was that the face was in fact a skull! I supposed this to be St Notburga herself, permanently displayed, poor dear. I couldn't help but think that I’d prefer it if she were decently laid to rest!

Leaving the church I came out into the hamlet of Eben, which is just as picturesque as Maurach. I decided to go back a different way to the way I came - bet you can't guess why - so I followed the road instead. This wasn't the main road, which is to the right and much higher (like a kind of by-pass) so the walk was very pleasant even by road. Actually it seemed a lot quicker by the road and in no time I was back in Maurach. The achenseebahn came up the hill, going past me above my head, making me realise that there must be a considerable slope to contend with when building here. Both routes from Maurach to St Notburga’s are very flat though. I bought a few provisions in the village, then followed the ‘see promenade’ back across the meadows to Buchau. All told, I think the trip lasted about three hours from and to the landing stage, which included various stops for photos and to eat my packed lunch. It was very easy going and there were plenty of benches along the way.

Three views of Buchau

I spent a little time speculating about a possible site for St Scholastika, later Joey’s home Die Blumen. We are told by EBD that:

(Sybil from the school) "we used to have a summer home across there, at Buchau … that big chalet over to the right"

"a big new chalet that had risen at the Buchau side of the lake, just opposite the CS"

and Mlle LePattre refers to it as a house, rather than a chalet in Rivals. It must have been close to the lake as Roger clambers out right by the gate in Joey and Co.

There is a house right by the lake, the only one that fits the bill really, and it stands out as you look across from the Chalet area, as EBD must have. It has its own lake front with small jetty and boat house and although decorated with frescos and a rather interestingly shaped roof, it is definitely a house, not a chalet. It is five minutes walk from the ferry landing stage - far enough away from the ferries to make it perfectly safe for bathing or boating. At a guess, I’d say that it had been there for long enough for Elinor to have seen it, which together with bits and pieces from Future decided me. So far as I am concerned, I had found St Scholastika’s.

After that, all that remained was to catch the coat back across the lake and make my way to the hotel. I must say that I am envious of the blasé way Jo and the others hike around the lake thinking nothing of it - it would be the best part of an hour’s walk to Pertisau from Buchau!

Sunday 24 May 1998

I had intended to go up the Barenbadalm today, but when I got up, although quite a decent day, the tops of the mountains were shrouded in mist - or is it cloud? - so there didn't seem to be much point. Therefore, switching to plan B, I strolled along to the landing stage at the KPK and caught the 10.15 ferry to Scholastika. I must admit that I wasn't especially impressed. Its not as nice as Maurach but I can't tell you why, I just didn't like it as much. From the books, I had inferred that there was a church at Scholastika as well as at Achenkirche, but if there was, I didn't find it. Achenkirche (or Tiernkirche if you prefer) is mostly one long - very long - road with chalets and gasthauser on either side of it. As I looked at the map, it was clear that if I just followed this street, I would get to the church which was all I really wanted to see.

Anything else would have been a bonus. Anyway, I walked for almost an hour. The houses petered out and still no sign of a church spire to be seen. It wasn't very inspiring (sorry about the pun there) walking either. Rather boring plodding along. I concluded that I must have made a mistake somewhere and decided to re-trace my steps. When I got back to the info point, I discovered that I hadn't gone nearly far enough. The kirche was at least as far again as I had gone! The only bright spot on the trip was a family of goats in a small pasture next to the road, three adults and two kids, all curled up together asleep. In the same garden was a set of ‘gnomes’; Snow White and the seven dwarfs!

I gave it all up as a bad job at that point and marched back to Scholastika. I did look for the other church shown on the map, but it definitely wasn't there. Perhaps the map pre-dates the caravan park. After all this fruitless searching, I had to make a choice, as I could see the ferry tootling down the lake. I could either ignore it, walk to Seehof (Achenseehof) and spend two more hours in the area (until the next ferry) or I could catch this one and leave Achenseehof out. Not staying in Scholastika won and I abandoned Seehof, although I scrutinised it carefully as we passed and, so far as I could see, there was only a teeny church, a couple of chalets and the Seehof hotel, so I didn't regret my decision. Back in Pertisau, I had a purpose. I had discovered that there was a second, smaller church, so I intended to seek the plaque there. First though I waited the necessary 10 minutes for the tourist office to open because I wanted to buy a poster or two of the Achensee. That done, I set off to the second church. It was actually in the same road as the Catholic church, which I had already visited, but further along back towards my hotel. That fitted in quite well with my plans as the gondola/cable car thingy was also in that area and I wanted to find out what times it ran.

As I neared the first church, I noticed - not for the first time - that the building immediately before it had a sign announcing "bucherei". This time, however, I noticed that it had opening times (few and far between) and that an arrow pointed downwards. I went into the church entrance yard to peer at it, because it did look rather like someone’s home, and I could see steps going down and yes there was some sort of plaque! I began to get excited and ventured down there. At last I had found it! It was, of course, in German, but it unmistakably gave EBD’s name and dates, as well as proclaiming CHALET SCHOOL. I took several photos of it then came away beaming after taking careful note of the opening times. Later in the hotel, I asked the meaning of the word "bucherei" and of course, you’ve guessed it, it means library. I shall visit it tomorrow.

In the meantime, I made my way to the Karwendel Bergbahnen to check out the times. I completely forgot to look for the other church on the way. When I got to the terminus, indecision gripped me. It was 2.30, sorry 14.30, too early to go back to the hotel. The mist had cleared off quite a lot and I contemplated going up the Zwolferkopf (to reach the Barenbadalm) now, rather than tomorrow. What put me off was that I hadn't brought my alpenstock, not expecting to need it, but more to the point, the ascent up the hill looked practically vertical from here and I quailed at the sight. I’m afraid of heights, you remember. However, it really was too early to go back and moreover, I knew in my heart that if I didn't go now, having seen it, I might not pluck up the courage to come again. So, nothing ventured, I bought my ticket and in I got. We waited a few minutes and then set off. I’m afraid I panicked most of the way and had to resort to deep breathing, especially when the car swayed as we went over the several junction things en route. I tried to tell myself that it was a marvellous view, which it was, but I’m afraid that didn't work either. As we got higher I confess that I just closed my eyes. I've found that this has worked before and it certainly helped. Before long (although it seemed like hours to me) we reached the top and I clambered gratefully out. The Barenbadalm is signposted to the left, half an hour, and I dutifully set off that way. I must say that I think that all the paraphernalia left over from the ski-ing really spoilt it; there’s all sorts of machinery and ski jumps all over the place and a chair lift disappearing over the side of the mountain (ugh!) I disdainfully averted my gaze and went over to the side of the grassy area (not too close to the edge) to look out over the Achensee. The view really was spectacular even though a touch too hazy. It wasn't completely obvious where to go next, as there seemed to be a grassy knoll with nowhere else to go. Still, now I was here I wasn't giving up that easily so up the knoll I went. It transpired that there was a clearly marked path over the brow, quite easy. It was very quiet, virtually no sound to be heard, just a few birds. There were next to no other people around. I followed the path until the Gasthaus came into view and was delighted to find gentians all around me in the grass, just coming into flower.

Gasthaus at Barenbadalm

The Achensee from Barenbadalm

Gentians growing wild

Then came the tricky bit. There was a clear downwards route - well, several actually - but quite steep and not very easy to traverse. Still, I wasn't going to be put off now! I got down eventually, but it wasn't very clever. I desperately wished I had my alpenstock and my footwear was most unsuitable. I was wearing sandals, albeit with a very thick sole not ordinary ones, which were the only things I could wear having acquired a rather serious blister (well, more of a wound than a blister, it having no skin over it) the size of a 50 pence piece on my left heel, earlier in the week. Although I had managed to do the things I wanted to do, thanks to the sandals and the foresight of bringing a decent first aid kit, it meant that there was no way I could wear the boots.

Anyway, back at the alm, I managed to get down in one piece. I got my wandercarte stamp and I downed a drink practically in one go. Then I had to get back up that slope. If I had thought going down was dodgy, going back up was worse! I went a different route, which may have been a mistake, but it probably didn't make much difference. I struggled up, often bent double to catch a hold of something. Of course, I tried to rush up it all in one go, feeling that I must get to the top. But you just can't get away with that sort of thing at that altitude, where the air is so much thinner. Before long, I was gasping for breath, but stupidly I didn't stop until I was absolutely heaving for breath. I’ve decided that I have never had enough sympathy for asthmatics. Anyway, I made it in the end (obviously) and set off on the ‘easy’ part. By this time, however, I was thoroughly ‘spooked’ and began to panic again, this time because there was absolutely no-one else around at all and I speculated that they might close the cable car early - it had another hour to go officially - and the route to Pertisau was back down that slope. Consequently, I practically ran up the final slope, which was not steep enough to be difficult, but was much too steep for the pace at which I took it, in the rarefied atmosphere and not quite recovered from my previous escapade! A gondola was waiting in the upper terminus as I got there and I sank gratefully into it, absolutely finished. I must have looked it, because the man came all the way out of his office and into the car to check my ticket - I was supposed to go to him!

Funnily enough, I didn't find going down nearly so bad as going up. I got out thankfully at the bottom. I’m glad I did it and saw the Barenbadalm, but I confess that I wasn't all that impressed and nothing would induce me to do it again!

Monday 25 May 1998

Today I caught the "Dorf Express" to the Falthurnalm. It sounds grand, but although its got up to look like a train, its really a tractor pulling a couple of open "coaches". Still, it was something a bit different. The journey - at a walking pace - was uneventful. We passed some pastures with cows, their bells ringing, a sound that could be heard all over this area. At the head of the Falthurnalm, there is a cluster of huts and chalets, no more than half a dozen fairly rude, old fashioned affairs in a dark wood. There is a Gasthaus though, which is excellent. This hamlet is thought from her descriptions to be the one - or at least the first one - that EBD named Lauterbach.

EBD's Lauterbach (Falzthurnalm)

View from Falzthurnalm

View on walk back to Pertisau

After a drink, I walked back to Pertisau, a very easy walk which took about 45 minutes. It was very pleasant strolling through the trees and pastures with spectacular views of the mountains. It brought back to me two hymns which we regularly sang at school; "For the beauty of the Earth" and "Hills of the North Rejoice", so I sang these (quietly!) as they seemed appropriate. Its OK, I stopped when anyone passed by! Then, looking up at the marvellous scenery, I seemed to hear in my head Christopher Plummer’s voice saying "we’ll go over those mountains on foot". Well, I’m afraid that did it, so for the rest of the walk back I sang a selection of the songs from the "Sound of Music". They just seemed fitting, that’s all I’m saying!

As I arrived back in Pertisau, it was just on midday, so I was treated to a local phenomenon. At the stroke of twelve, the church bells ring out, followed by ‘Ave Maria’ played over loudspeakers so that it swells out over the whole village. The effect is startling. I felt very peaceful as I made my way back to the lake side.

I decided to do my souvenir shopping, so I spent a pleasant hour or so wandering round and choosing, ending up with a slice of Apfelstrudel. I didn't have it just because it was a cake, you understand, I thought that it must be what every proper visitor to Austria must do. After that, I met up with a lady from the hotel, a fellow Chalet ‘seeker’, and we set off to look for Wald Villa which was the only place I had so far not found. Once I’d checked the map properly it was quite easy. Its a pleasant chalet/villa, quite big, so the P’s must have been quite prosperous! It has now been turned into apartments.

To round off that part of the afternoon, we went into the KPK’s café. I had a cup of chocolate with a "positive featherbed" of cream on top (I never understood quite what that meant) because I felt that this was the appropriate thing to have, at least once whilst in Austria. The KPK was lovely, well worth a visit. Its slightly more expensive, but not much and has the famed cakes-to-choose display. The chocolate is very filling though.

After a detour to the hotel, the last item on the agenda for the day was to be a visit to the "bucherei" for one of its rare openings. (Mon & Fri, 17.00 - 18.30) There are only a few English books, but there on the shelf were three EBD hardbacks, Jo, Princess and HG, all presented by an EBD fan. It was nice to see them there in that setting.

Tuesday 26 May 1998

I fully intended to go to Gernalm and the Pletzachalm today (possible site for the ‘Tiernpass’) but it was raining when I got up so I hurriedly changed my plans and joined the excursion to Innsbruck. The driver was English (speaking fluent German) which was a bonus and we sped down the mountain and along the autobahn (motorway) to the capital of the Tirol, passing Hall on the way. In contrast to the higher Achensee, where it rained on and off all day and evening too, it was hot and sunny in Innsbruck. First, we stopped on a hill above the town, which gave wonderful views of Innsbruck, which we were told was where the battles were fought between Andreas Hofer’s army and Napoleon. There is a huge statue there of Hofer to mark the event. At the top of the slope is the Olympic ski jump. Then we visited a very picturesque church at Wilten before going down into Innsbruck itself. We had plenty of time to look around and I visited the Hofkirche (shades of ‘Jo of’ at Christmas) walked through the old town with its gay little shops, looked at where the Golden Roof should have been and ended up at the river Inn to stand on one of the bridges which give this town its name. (Innsbruck means the bridge over the Inn.)

Incidentally, when I say where the Golden Roof should have been, this famous landmark, is where one of the Kings, Maximillian I think, roofed the balcony of his accommodation with gold coins to celebrate a miraculous escape from death in an accident. It is one of the most famous sights of Innsbruck, but this season it has been completely covered for renovation and will remain so until October 98. The king, whoever he was, used that same accommodation for his wedding to an Italian princess and visiting royalty was always feted there. It is now the registry office, so it retains a little of its previous grandeur.

After lunch in a little café, we spent the last hour in the Hofgarten, a park near the imperial palace, where if you choose, you can watch players in a game of chess played on a board about 10 feet square and with chessmen a foot high.

Our day rounded off with a local singer in the bar after dinner, but I find that I can only stand just so much of yodelling, and of course, I had to pack. My holiday was over and tomorrow I had to fly home, but of one thing I was sure, I would come back.

Tips For Travellers

  1. Do buy or take a stick with a pointy end. It gives you so much more confidence as you walk, particularly over paths that are not very wide or scrambly bits.
  2. Do try to plan ahead for what you want to see and remember that you just can't fit everything in!
  3. A few words of German will be extremely useful, even though the people of the Achensee go out of their way to accommodate your needs and wishes.
  4. Do take a first aid kit which is well stocked. I particularly recommend decent sized adhesive wound dressings, as blisters are seldom plaster sized. I couldn't have managed without the ones I took.
  5. A cagoule is a must because the weather is very changeable and when it rains here it really rains!
  6. If you go in before May or after September, be careful that you’re not out of season because the boats on the lake/trains (Achenseebahn) don't run all the year round. Even if they are running, some months, May for example, its a reduced service.
  7. If you intend to travel on the last train up from Jenbach to Seespitz, make sure you arrive before it comes in. I boarded at 20 minutes before the departure time - immediately it came into the station - and I was very glad I did so. The train, even at this time of year at the very start of the season, was packed full and some had to stand, which was very uncomfortable for them in the cramped space.
  8. Take comfortable, decent shoes for walking in, with thick soles and a good grip. More support, ie boots, will be useful if you intend to do a lot of hiking, but normal (decent) walking shoes will be adequate for the trips I have done. Don't, above all, wear new boots! Blisters severely curtail your enjoyment.
  9. If you don't like beer, don't worry because other drinks are available, but they are often dearer. However, beer is easy to get and easy to order, so it you can acquire a taste for it, do. Its like our lager, not the bitter.
  10. Remember my experience on the high parts and moderate your activity accordingly. If you have trouble with your breathing, or asthma, I would suggest that you avoid the mountain tops. There are plenty of places to visit that are fairly flat, that is to say on more or less the same level as Pertisau, which, incidentally is 952 metres above sea level.
  11. If you intend to do some serious walking off the beaten track, let someone know (eg your hotel) where you are going, so that they know where to start looking if you don't turn up on time. After all the CS exploits, you know how these things can happen!
  12. As well as your cagoule, take at least one decent jumper. My suitcase was very heavy, but I took all weather clothes and I was glad that I did. I’ve seen all types except snow, but I’ve been able to dress appropriately. Lots of people weren’t prepared and only brought summer clothes.

Heather Paisley

Back to Collecting Books & Magazines home page