The Schladming-Dachstein region in Austria

Austria is fascinating. Every time I discover a new piece of it, I feel like I’ve gone far away, to another country. A few constants however: it’s unconditional beauty, my love for the Alps and the food “there”, preparing you for any ascent.

Ramsau am Dachstein, an idyllic resort on the outskirts of Schladming

The taxi that picks us up at the bus stop meanders through the countryside of Schladming, pointing out all the local attractions: here, ski jumping, there… It drops us off at the village of Ramsau am Dachstein, which is mainly made up of a few hotels run by members of the Eisl family. Everything seems to have been there for as long as the mountains have existed: the wooded roofs, the little chickens in the wild, the imposing horses and the geraniums on the balconies.

It is in Ramsau am Dachstein, and more precisely at the Hotel Lindenhof that we will be staying for the next few days to explore the region. The surroundings are bucolic and inviting: the mountains offer a semblance of protection, the animals a quiet companionship, and the meals a welcome comfort.

Excursion to the Dachstein glacier: a cable car with a balcony and a bridge that leads to… nothingness.

Chances are you have never heard of the Schladming-Dachstein region. Just like many other parts of the world with overused names (and worth a detour if only for their spelling) it has a few gems, one of which is the Stairway to Nothingness (Treppe ins Nichts in German, or Stairway to Nothingness in English).

To get there, we jump in a gondola lift that takes us 1000 metres up to the imposing Dachstein Glacier at lightning speed. A good glacier, this one is covered with snow like skiers in the month of May. The gondola lift offers the special feature of an open-air balcony (not even frightening) where you can catch a nice, cool breeze from the mountain while watching the small point at the finish station grow in leaps and bounds.

A short walk is all we need to get to the main attraction, a suspension bridge over the void leading to the famous Dachstein staircase, which is also suspended over the void.

We then cross the “Eispalast Dachstein”, a cave of amusing ice sculptures, before going to help ourselves to a Kleiner Brauner (an espresso that you can season yourself with milk or cream) or a dripping hot chocolate at the ice-cream parlour restaurant, a place without fuss that also offers a superb view.

The Styrian Bodensee, home to magical creatures and delicious trout

A little further south, about 20 kilometres from Ramsau am Dachstein, there is a short, healthy hike around the Bodensee (much smaller than the Bodensee between Switzerland and Germany), well surrounded by the highest peaks in the region: the Hochwildstelle (2747m) and the Höchstein (2543m).

We go around the lake (about an hour) and push to the feet of its majestic waterfall (it climbs a little, but it’s worth it).

We reward ourselves with an exquisite trout as local as possible (fished from the lake) at the Forellenhof restaurant. It is garnished with pumpkin seed breadcrumbs, the emblematic ingredient of Styria.

 

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