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Seeschiff "Alpenperle" in Neusach, Bild: Dietmar-Denger

Alpine Pearls – a gentle holiday in the Alps all year round

Our Austrian adventure begins early in the morning at Augsburg train station. Full of anticipation for a varied week in the mountains, we board the IC of the Deutsche Bahn, which arrives on time. The seat reservation worked wonderfully and so we enjoy a relaxed train ride and admire the diversity of the passing landscape. With a delicious cappuccino from the on-board restaurant, we browse through the websites of our destinations and get an overview of Mallnitz, Weissensee and Werfenweng – all members of the Alpine Pearls network.

Mallnitz railway station
Arrival at Mallnitz train station, Image: Diemar Denger

The train takes us further south to the Alpine republic. There, the exciting places are waiting to be tested and discovered – we are ready! The first “pearl” on our (almost) climate-neutral journey through “Austria” is Mallnitz. The approximately 760 inhabitants in the Carinthian municipality have dedicated themselves to environmentally friendly tourism. “Mallnitz is one of the so-called ‘Alpine Pearls ́’,” explains hiking guide Adi Straner, who likes to take sporty visitors to the Hohe Tauern National Park to high peaks. “This is an association of 19 locations in five countries – in Germany, Austria, Slovenia, Italy and Switzerland. Anyone who joins is committed to enabling holidaymakers to stay without a car without their mobility suffering as a result.” Station transfers, on-demand buses, hiking and ski buses, e-vehicles and much more are all part of the mobility guarantee. The theory is available for those interested around the clock on the homepage www.alpine-pearls.com. We already understand how the concept works in reality at Mallnitz-Obervellach station, from where it continues with a shuttle service. The distance to our Hotel Bergkristall is only one kilometre, so a slightly longer stone’s throw.

The climatic health resort, towered over by steep mountain walls, is manageable: a larger municipal road, a church, shops for daily needs, the village square. Once over the Seebach and the Mallnitzbach, then it goes back to the starting point. The next day, a detour to the visitor centre on the outskirts of the village, which is particularly popular with school classes, beckons. The homepage even offers a virtual tour, we would like to take a closer look at the exhibitions. In the so-called “Ranger Labs”, a variety of experiments on the subject of nature, climate or herbs await. If you want to continue to deal with green content, you will find a number of hiking trails in all directions on the doorstep of the visitor center.

Mallnitz, hiking in summer
Mallnitz is a real pearl for a hiking holiday in summer, Picture: Franz Gerdl

For example, a walk along the Mallnitz valley circular trail to the natural jewel “Stappitzer See” is a good idea. The view over the Hohe Tauern is simply fantastic, and we enjoy the moment. Next to the road, wild horses run back towards the village as if they were human pedestrians. The tour here is flat, so you don’t have to perform any top sporting feats to hike around the “Alpine Pearl”. In the late afternoon, we go back to the hotel refreshed and with great new impressions. From there, too, there is a panoramic view of the three Mallnitz valleys – the Tauern, Seebach and Dösen valleys. In winter, the Ankogel mountain railways take the ski bunnies to an area with 25 kilometres of first-class groomed slopes. Who knows, maybe during our next stay here in Carinthia. After three days, we continue comfortably and gently by train to the next Austrian “pearl”, Weissensee. This time with the ÖBB (Austrian Federal Railways). We leave the station on time and make ourselves comfortable.

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Carinthia is also here, here too there is a fabulous panoramic view to enjoy. This time mainly over the shimmering blue lake of the same name, which stretches below our hostel. Water-related activities are a must in this magical place, if not on the surface, then at least on the surface. So we start on a tourist ship of the Müller family on a trip between Techendorf, Neusach, Naggl to the Dolomitenblick, end of the 11.9 km long Weissensee – and immediately back again. The 1st electric hybrid passenger ship Austria glides gently over Lake Weissensee. Now in winter, nature sets a limit to the driving pleasure, if you want, you can now try your hand at ice skating, ice diving or ice hole fishing, for example. A walk around the water is worthwhile at any time of the year, the view down to the bottom of the lake is always fascinating.

In this pearl, too, hiking trails entice you to head away from the valley to the surrounding peaks. In summer, for example, hiking guide Franz Lackner offers a joint hike from the Paterzipf, over the Lakasteig to the Hermagorer Bodenalm. After 2.5 sweaty hours, the mountaineer is rewarded with a snack and award-winning cheese from the hotel’s own cheese dairy on the Bodenalm. In the cold months, Weissensee can be tested as a fairly undiscovered ski area for the whole family. The fjord-like landscape also offers numerous hours of sunshine in winter, which can be enjoyed on two boards. In any case, hiking guide Lackner is convinced that “everyone will find fun and variety here on holiday. We are also happy to help visitors get the most out of their holiday.” We like to take him at his word. After two more nights in Carinthia , we get back on the train, which this time takes us to Werfenweng in Salzburger Land. This time we get to enjoy the ÖBB Railjet. As soon as it enters the station, the train impresses with its modern design. Excellent Wi-Fi and an on-board restaurant with surprisingly good snacks round off the offer perfectly. The W3 shuttle is already waiting for us at Bischofshofen train station and takes us directly to the hotel.

Hohe Tauern National Park, Säuleck
The Hohe Tauern National Park, Image: Franz Gerdl

And you can also rely on E-Lois. Punctually at the agreed time, the municipality’s own taxi, which operates in the local area, is in front of the accommodation. In Werfenweng, no tourist with a guilty conscience has to get into his own car – more than a handful of holidaymakers fit into the shared taxi. E-Lois is only one part of the extensive green offer with which the municipality in Pongau is particularly distinguished. “A large, climate-neutral fleet of pedelecs, e-mountain bikes, e-cars and much more awaits you – free of charge!”, it says on the homepage of the “Alpine Pearls”.

Those in need of relaxation are spoilt for choice: over 80 environmentally friendly vehicles are available on call. Guests will receive the key for use immediately upon arrival. On request, the W3 shuttle will pick them up directly at the train stations in Bischofshofen, Werfen or Pfarrwerfen. Anyone who has arrived on the high plateau in this way in a climate-friendly way and stays overnight in a partner business is entitled to the discounted Werfenweng Card. The small magic card is handed over to the arrivals at the tourist office. Now guests can take part in an extensive range of activities that also benefit the environment – there is a choice of hikes and excursions in summer and romantic tours by carriage in winter. All free of charge.

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A climate-friendly vehicle fleet, Image: TVB-Werfenweng, Christian-Schartner

First of all, we decide on the well-maintained range of wheeled vehicles in Werfenweng. First we go on green scooters, which promise a lot of fun and do not overwhelm even the inexperienced. In the rental station on the village square we secure the two highly sought-after jet flyers. The employee of the tourism association patiently explains how the mini runabout works. “After a short time, everyone gets it,” he promises, and he is right. First we jet beyond the end of the village to the “Barbarahof”, a large hotel complex in the middle of the mountains. On the way we roll past a meadow, the landing site of the daring paragliders. The paragliders usually take off from one of the suitable places on the Bischling and then sail down in wide orbits. A few skilful lunges on the lawn, and they are back on the territory of the small, fine community. Impressed, we stare up at the cloud of paragliding umbrellas in front of the mighty mountain backdrop before we return our green hops to the local rental shop. Because here many more environmentally friendly two- and four-wheelers are waiting to be tested extensively: For example, the red vehicles called “Biga”, which resemble gladiator cars. In addition, several Segways, a velotaxi or even a sporty mini car, which we decide on after a short consideration. At 45 km/h, it goes leisurely up to the Wengerau Alm restaurant, where visitors seem to embrace three nearby walls of the Tennengebirge.

If you like it a little faster, you can also opt for a BMW i3 in Werfenweng. At night, the electric vehicle – like a whole series of “colleagues” – is plugged into the socket in the immediate vicinity of the village square. With the small car, longer distances of 200 kilometers are no problem, for example to neighboring St. Johann im Pongau. In the evening, you can enjoy the panorama of the Salzburger Land at night on a ride on the Rosnerköpfl village railway. The next day, unfortunately, the W3 shuttle is already at the door of the accommodation, and the return trip by train is on the agenda.

Result:

Travelling to the Alps by train is easier than you think. Without traffic jams, without stress – simply travel and arrive in a relaxed manner. And: Thanks to the wide range of mobility offers in the Alpine Pearls holiday resorts, we were able to pursue all activities as desired and thus discover the places excellently! By train to the Alpine Pearls: highly recommended!

 

This trip took place with the support of DB and ÖBB.

 

Impressions