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Dienstag, 9. Juni 2020

Maria Alm - another place where the Gods are living

Around 26 degrees Celsius today, a wonderful day. 
Fairy-tale weather on a post-card landscape. 
As often happens I left home pretty late shortly before 2 p.m. As the mountain bike has a flat tire (pretty strange, last time I used it was perfectly OK!) I decided to go by road bike, my old Lexa for Women :-) I often feel grateful I still have it and I always feel blessed I still can ride it!
The parish church of Maria Alm is for sure the most distinctive 
mans' hands made mark of this place
I had no particular plan, as usual. I needed to decide if I go for a walk, for a run or for a ride actually. Suffering tremendous pains for the last week by a suddenly occurred LBP (low back pain - lumbago) I wasn't sure the bike would be a clever decision. But it was. I was about six hours out and I don't remember any kind of pains along that time!

I rode along the lake to the opposite side (5 km) and feeling so good I decided 
to extend the journey, so I took the bike route to Maishofen via Prielau Castle.

The bike route from Zell am See to Maria Alm is about 15-20 km only.

"Alm" means "alpine hut", but the original old meaning is actually that ancestral kind of small hut (stână) as you can see in Heidi movie. Nowadays the Alms in Austria are very various, from the small wooden huts uphill on the mountains up to huge, extended and modernised lodges mostly with a luxury comfort which has nothing in common with the traditional flair, spirit and old spirit somehow.
Maria Alm is situated at 802 m altitudes in the Salzburg Pinzgau region, in the valley of the Urslau creek, a tributary of the Saalach river, running between the Steinernes Meer mountain range with the Hochkönig massif (part of the Berchtesgaden Alpsin the north and the Salzburg Slate Alps in the south. The municipal area is located about 5 kilometres (3.1 mi) east of Saalfelden on the road to BischofshofenIt comprises the cadastral communities of Aberg, Alm, Hinterthal, and Winkl.
Foto above: as all over the place in Maria Alm these are the private lodges, apartment houses and hotels, so tourism is the main income here too. Now only a few guests, so everything is empty. What a strange feeling for the inhabitants, for owners and workers - I can imagine as we have the same situation is in Zell am See, Kaprun etc. for the last three months now.
just another "ordinary" private house close to the end of the road. Then the forest road starts
Population: about 2.200 inhabitants.
Settled by Bavarian tribes in the 6th and 7th century AD, a knightly dynasty von der Almb is documented from about 1160 onwards. The parish church of Maria in der Almb was first mentioned in 1374 when the area was part of the Archbishopric of Salzburg
Under the rule of Prince-Archbishop Count Leopold Anton von Firmian
it was rebuilt in the present Baroque style around 1730 and received its characteristic spire. 
At the same time, numerous Protestant subjects were expelled from Salzburg 
and found a new home in the faraway lands around Gumbinnen in East Prussia
where they settled at the invitation of King Frederick William I.
solar pans are quite usual to be seen all over the places in rural areas
Up to today, Maria Alm is the starting point of the Almer Wallfahrt pilgrimage 
across the Steinernes Meer mountain range to St. Bartholomew's Church on the Königssee lake. Dating back to the 17th century, it is annually held on 
Bartholomew's Day August 24.
Ancestral tools used in the past in agriculture are design pieces 
and can be seen all over Austria
 A very old oven as an idyllic design element .....
 An ancestral grain grinding stone - another piece of design all over Austria. In the window box over the stone, there is an LCD monitor serving marketing interests at the gate of the rural pension for the tourists. Almost every single local house and farm developed over the years being extended, highly modernised and becoming a traditional place to spend a marvellous holiday. The natural potential is exploited at the most minuscule details anyway and the communities are supportive, working like a well-oiled chain and a team, which is pretty amazing nowadays, but otherwise, the country would economically collapse.
 A very old custom: memorial sign made from wood and manually inscribed with information about the deceased person. In this way, the memory stayed very visible and present.
 An example of how an old farm is developing and growing: a huge, absolutely huge barn 
made from beautiful new wood (probably stolen from the Romanian forests, who knows?!)
Anyway a masterpiece. There are countries - like Austria - where the farmers are 
the richest in the country and there are countries - like Romania - where the gipsies 
are the richest in the country! While the farmers are working hard the day long 
(but not so hard anymore as 20 years ago as almost everything was automatised 
and in name of a high level of wealth and profit even the landscape - with the meaning of healthy life provider - is slowly compromised if you pay attention and if you have insider's information!), we cannot confirm the same about the gipsies.
The asphalted road led me here. From here the forest road starts 
and then the paths leading to the higher mountains of the Rocky Sea Range.
At this point, I knew from memory that I wanted to take a different road, but 
I missed the right direction probably. So, from here I returned back to the centre.

I stayed a while enjoying the emptiness of this very crowded village along the high seasons.
I was here in winter by bike twice and every summer, again and again, 
avoiding the centre and choosing hidden paths, roads and meadows. 
The picture above: a bike station with everything you need 
in case you have mechanical troubles with your bike!
I couldn't resist the temptation and I spoiled myself with ice-cream observing how the sales lady took the money and took the waffles and took the money and took the waffles ....... 
and I thought: "WTF?" - especially because of this pandemic, my Gosh! I waited to speak with her alone and suggested her to use the paper napkins in front of her, for God's sake! Take the napkin and then take the waffle into it and serve the client - for me the obvious way to do the job. She was alone for the entire shop, poor lady! She thanked me as she didn't think about this solution (she said to me: "I cannot go wash my hands every time I touch the money or every time I have to serve a client.") and about the risks involved. And for me observing her and hearing her explanation ..... it was just incredible. 
The fact is: most of the people working here are from different countries and many of them don't speak well German and have totally different professions. They accept to work here whatever it takes so that the original quality of the services suffers in many cases (of course it depends on individual views, what kind of quality and services and quality services expects!). In such a case, the owner can lose the licence and she loses her job anyway if anybody reports the situation to the officials.

Maria Alm belongs to the Hochkönig ("The High King") Holiday Resort and of course, 

there are plenty of activities you can do. Just imagine you have over 300 km 
of hiking paths in summer and about 120 km of alpine ski routes on the mountains!
The new arranged cable cabins due to the official new laws made because of
the Corona Virus Pandemic (started March 2020 in Austria)
The mountain bike downhill trail seen from the cabin - pretty technical
In summer, the "Königsweg" connects the three towns of Maria Alm, Dienten, and Mühlbach. This long-distance hiking trail leads along 74 km over rugged rocks and through pristine nature and idyllic hill country with alpine huts. king.
"Tom's Almhütte" 
We just can‘t be reached by car – and that’s a good thing.
Herb lovers can look forward to a hike to one of the 16 herb hill farms, and bike enthusiasts also have a reason to get excited. Hochkönig is the world's first e-bike region 
with charging stations at the hill farms!
Another additional service for our guests is the Hochkönig Card, with which you can use our lifts and hiking buses for free in the summer, and you can enjoy numerous discounts in the region in every season. Culinary treats, which are served in rustic ski and alpine huts 
as well as gourmet restaurants, are always in season in the Hochkönig region.
In addition, the Hochkönig is the world's 1st certified vegan region with many vegan offers 
at numerous select huts. "Those who come to the Hochkönig will truly feel like a king!" - 
yes, the Austrians are probably the best in matters of marketing when is about selling their brands, products and services. The reality from inside is really not so glamourous, 
but they like to be pretty "delicate-aggressive" in their marketing strategies.
We just can‘t be reached by car – and that’s a good thing.
Yes, indeed a good thing :-) Like most of the easily reachable cabs in the touristic areas 
you find here ideal facilities for children. That is a trampoline over a hole and 
one of the main attraction points for the small guests, for sure :-)
When I decided to go up with the cable on the Natrun Mountain it was 4:30 p.m. 
and the last descent was 5 p.m. I asked how long would take me to descent by foot 
and I was told that this would be about 45 minutes. Great! So, I bought the ticket 
only for the ascent (11,80 Euro as a local resident in the region instead of 14,70).
I started my descent at 4:50 and at 5:20 I already reached the village back. The trail 
is really short as in these 30 minutes I also stopped for taking pictures and filming. 
But I mostly had a running tempo so far my injured knee allowed me.
Here the first slide through the forest which I am not tempted to try whatever as I know how damaging for the spine can be. And the idea of going in the darkness and so steep doesn't amuse me at all, but it is for sure a funny experience for most of the tourists.
A slide segment seen from the cable cabin.
This (picture below) is the path for hikers and the trail for mountain bikers 
runs parallel on the right side when you descent.
The starting point for the downhill through the forest - an extreme sport 
which developed sensational well in Austria along the last few years!

After a few minutes descending through open meadows I entered the forest.

Nettles and mint plants. The mint doesn't have the aroma yet,
I already tried to make tea from it, but the taste is too weak.
The wind started and it seemed to come a short, but strong summer rain as we
often have here for over one month now. But the wind finally pushed the rain away, 
so I reached home in dry conditions (three hours later however!)
"Music Home" is very popular in Austrian villages as many locals
are playing instruments or vocal for various occasions.

I entered the sports shop at the cable base (everywhere you have a cable base you will find at least one shop of Intersport!!), I am looking for a wind&rain running skirt for summer. 

Looking back to the Natrun Mountain
The young sales lady was a very open spirit, so we started to talk. 
After about 40 minutes we changed phone numbers (the idea is to go hiking together if we meet the right timing) and I took my bike starting to hit the road back home for the next 20-25 km (I took a different route until a certain point in Maishofen).
The route I took for the return was the same I did in winter.
The signs for a storm were pretty obvious but I stopped plenty of times 
to take pictures and I even change a bit the route for staying longer on the trail :-)
And I could ride around "one of the most glorious golf course of the Alpes.", 
the Urslautal Golf Club.
"The golf club Urslautal, located on a high platform between Saalfelden and Maria Alm, insert perfect and harmonic into the natural landscape."

it will follow with the rest of the route

Zell am See, 7th of June 2020

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