Tuesday, March 10, 2020

My Frugal Trip To Vienna, Day Six, My Day Trip to the Alps - Part 1

On my sixth day in Vienna I was able to fulfill a lifelong dream of mine, and check off something from my bucket list- I visited the Alps. I think I've dreamed of going to the Alps since watching the Sound of Music as a kid. Though the Alps cover many countries in Europe, they don't reach Austria itself, so I took a train to a part of the Alps called Raxalpe. This was the most expensive day of my trip so far, but worth every cent.

When deciding where to go to the Alps, I found this very handy website that had information on the three closest Alps to Vienna, and how to get there. Schneeberg wasn't an option because they don't seem to have anything in the winter, so my choices were between Semmering and Raxalpe. What I loved about this website is it had information that Google Maps didn't have, about how to actually get to Raxalpe!

I knew I didn't want to go skiing (not that I didn't want to, but you know, its expensive) because I just went skiing with my kids in December in Bulgaria, but at the same time, I wanted to experience a different winter sport in the Alps. Semmering offers sledding down a long track, and Raxalpe offers snow shoeing.

Originally I had planned to do both, one day in each place, but then I checked prices and saw that sledding down the track at Semmering costs a heck of a lot of money, 34 euros for 4 trips down, 64 for 8 trips down, and 128 euros for 20 trips down. And that's not counting the price to rent a sled. So that became a nope for me.

In the end, I went snow shoeing, and it was delightful. In fact, I think it might become my favorite winter sport. I went snow shoeing one time before, on Mt Rainier in Seattle, about 15 years ago, and I'd forgotten how awesome it was. Snow shoeing with poles gives you the ability to not sink into the snow (at least too much), it has anti slip metal spikes (we rented just these spikes when we hiked down the Grand Canyon in the winter and they were called crampons), and the poles give stability. I fell like five hundred times going skiing, and I only fell once with the snow shoes (and it was entirely my fault).

Snow shoeing and skiing are almost diametrically opposite sports, yet similar too. Because with skiing its all about gliding, and its hard to have control over where you're going (unless you're really good) and with snow shoeing you're very stable and have to make an effort for each step (but not in a bad way). The only way you really fall down is if you try to walk backwards while turning, like I did when I was backing up to get into position for a picture. As someone who has weak ankles and falls a lot, snow shoeing made me feel so safe and supported and not afraid of getting injured. It was an amazing way to experience the beautiful alps.

Me right after getting up from my fall.
If you want to take your kids to see the alps, I highly recommend you take your kids snow shoeing, since it doesn't require any special instructions or lessons and its very intuitive about how to use it, and as there are fewer tumbles and falls, less tears as well. It's also cheaper, but I'll post about costs and such in the next post.

For the most part, it was just hiking on the snow. Some brave people (all Austrian!) hiked without snow shoes, just boots, but I didn't dare that. Anyhow, the snow shoes were fun! The snow shoes and sticks made it easy to go up and down slopes.

And of course, I was singing "The Hills Are Alive with the Sound of Music"

As well as "Climb Every Mountain" from the Sound of Music, as I was trekking across the Alps.

It was very fitting!

But guess what? Austrians have never seen the movie! It's a thing! Its an American movie and Austrians purposely don't see it.

However, there was one part that did freak me out, and I was saying prayers for my safety and taking it slow. There was this snowy cliff and a narrow walk way right along it, with nothing stopping you from taking a tumble down the side.

Additionally, there were two "paths" and the one higher up, further from the cliff, was on a slight angle. As someone prone to falling, I had bad anxiety over there, but just plodded one foot ahead of the other, planted my poles firmly into the snow, and eventually made my way across it.

But these fearless Austrians were taking their little kids on sleds across it! I'm really not sure how they weren't afraid that their kids would take a tumble!

Well, worst comes to worst, I met up with a mountain rescue team who was there getting in their practice hours. It was cool to watch them, they were using what they called mountaineering skis, which allows them to hike up mountains with their skis, that only attach to the front of their feet, with grippy skins and metal crampons to stop it from sliding, and then take off the grippy parts from the skis to go downhill. It looked like such an awesome sport. Maybe one day.

Because I only arrived somewhat later in the day (thanks to a wonky internal clock) I was limited in how much time I could spend on the mountain top (which is more or less a plateau that you hike across) so I only did the shorter hike and did it leisurely, enjoying the view, picnicking on the snow, all that fun stuff.

The weather, in my opinion, was perfect. According to the people there, it was approximately 0 degrees Celcius while I was up there, which for me was actually a bit warm, especially once I started hiking. I wore tights and leggings under my skirt, with a pair of sweat pants to put on in case I get cold, and wore a sweater and a jacket over a thin T shirt, and had another sweater in my backpack, but definitely didn't need the other sweater, and took off the sweater I was wearing at some points and my coat at other points.

It was spectacularly beautiful, especially if you like snow.

This lookout was the highest place I hiked to, and it had an amazing view.

There were so many people there with dogs! I love dogs, and it was so nice to get doggy kisses and hugs while in such a beautiful spot.

And there even were these little shrines all the way up there. They reminded me of similar things I saw in Crete, these "mini churches" people had in their yards.

And just a few more pictures for now...

I'm a little behind on writing my blog posts about my trip, today is officially my second to last day, so hopefully I'll be able to write another post tomorrow, about the details on how you can also go to the alps, costs, and important information, but it depends how much time and energy I'll have after my planned long day.

But for now, one last picture!

Oh, and a coronavirus update- my ticket home with Wizz Air on Thursday got canceled, so I got fully refunded plus a bonus refund for the cancellation, and I rebooked a new flight with another airline, so pray for me or send good vibes that this flight doesn't also get canceled!

Have you ever been to the alps? What part? What season did you go in? How was it? Ever been snow shoeing before? Do you like it? Does this look like someplace you'd want to go?


  1. I love your vacation posts, and thank you for all the photos. Prayers for your safe return -- it's hard right now, with all the flights canceled and borders closed.

    And I'll definitely try snowshoeing next winter! I too have weak ankles and thought there would be no snow-related activities for me besides throwing snowballs.

  2. Hope you make it home! Lovely views - enjoying your pictures.

  3. Snowskiing sounds awsome! I will try it in my next trip in the Alps where I grew up (Tyrol) without ANY contact to "The Sound If Music" (wait- there was a Pop-Song: https://youtu.be/hc7ZiOcM3BI . ) I heard in school at the age of 12 for the first time about the movie, it got never broadcastet in TV. In school we learned "British English", American English was too hard to understand for our foreign student ears. Maybe I watch it these days and see my home mountains :D .

  4. Best wishes for a safe and easy trip home.


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