This gorgeous (almost Scandinavian looking) boarded church stands at the top of Hohe Salve in the Kitzbuhel Alps, and happens to be the highest church in the whole of Austria at 1829 metres altitude. It might not look all that old, but a church has stood here since the 1500’s. It’s just been rebuilt a few times thanks to lightening strikes – I am not sure that the wooden boarding is such a good idea given its history.
Just beyond the church, and sharing in its gorgeous views is a witch. Although she’s quite hideous looking, she’s friendly, and she doesn’t even mind if you stand on her head to get your picture taken. She was to be our first witch encounter of the day, as we were en route to meet countless others at the very top of the mountain, at the quite brilliant Hexenwasser. Based on the folklore that snow in the mountains was caused by witches shaking out their feather beds, this park (and it’s definitely not a theme park, more of a nature exploration park) is a brilliant way to spend a day out.
Do make sure you try to sit as quietly as possible for at least some of the journey in the last cable car up. The sound of the gentle melodic clanging of the Alpine cow bells (who also don’t mind posing for photographs if you ask nicely) is just lovely. They wear them so that their owners know where to find them when it’s time to come down from the mountains around this time of the year. This sound is proof that the cows wear them for a reason and not just to look pretty!
As you approach the top, you can’t miss a giant smoking cauldron, and this should tell you that you are now in the witch’s domain, and this particular domain happens to be pure alpine heaven for children. I always think that this part of the world does these places so very well, and usually at little cost if you don’t count the cost of the cable car tickets!
And by the time that the afternoon’s heavy black clouds above us had burst, we had admired the mysterious selection of shoes in the lockers where you are encouraged to leave your own footwear. Why? Because there are barefoot paths a plenty to squelch through, magical lakes to paddle in and giant hedgehog trees to navigate your way through, all of which are best done with no shoes on I find. There are also huge magic bowls you can cast a few spells on to see if you can make them sing.
- Do bring towels, spare socks and swimwear on a hot day.
- Don’t worry if you haven’t bought a picnic, the suitably monikered Hexenalm provides a really good lunch and excellent shelter from massive thunderstorms (I also have it on good authority that it’s a brilliant apres ski bar a little later-on in the year!).
- Do take your time and spend as much time as you can here, there’s a lot to do and I bet you won’t have breathed in such clean air or seen such stunning scenery in a long time.
- Don’t confuse a tiny bottle of Aperol Spritz for something you think is called Apple Sprite and then down it in one. My Mother in Law will absolutely kill me for telling you that last bit, but we did laugh about it (especially as she is not usually one to drink!)…
Hexenwasser is open daily from 11-17.30 each day until 19 October when it closes for the ski season. It reopens in May. Cost around €15.50 per adult for the cable car journey, and €7.00 per child.
( This is the last of my posts with pictures from a dying camera – hallelujah!)