You’ll feel just like a child on Christmas Eve sitting on the bus as it winds its way up to the Dachstein cable car at an agonisingly slow pace. You can hardly wait to see the Ice Palace and the Skywalk with your own eyes. The mountains towering over the bus become higher and higher and with every metre your anticipation grows as you look forward to a leisurely ride in the cable car, and to start your grand adventure. But then as they say, there’s no pleasure like anticipation - just like Christmas.
The hikers are smiling as they jostle into the cable car, which rises into the air with a little jerk. The ground recedes and the valley station becomes smaller and smaller too. Even if you’re not afraid of heights, you might feel slightly uneasy as the green beneath your feet slowly gives way to grey scree slopes. The rough face of the mountain comes closer and closer and the cable car passes by with just a few metres to spare. You’re beginning to get an inkling of the fantastic view that awaits once you reach the summit.
The wind whistles on the Skywalk, playing its mischievous tricks as you move forward to the railings of the observation platform. You don’t get to see the world from this perspective very often. Rising from the horizon, you can see the magnificent mountain peaks: From the Großglockner - at 3,798 m the highest mountain in Austria – to the Hochkönig (2,941 m) and the Großvenediger (3,666 m), they’re all there. Linger a while as you take in the sheer vastness of the landscape and the sensation of infinite freedom, before moving on to the next attraction.
Love is in the air. At least the love padlocks on the iron railings of the suspension bridge would suggest the funny feeling inside might be due to butterflies in your stomach. But it could also be the vertiginous heights when you walk the couple of hundred metres across the metal lattice bridge over the abyss to the Hoher Dachstein. And with every step you take on the suspension bridge an overwhelming feeling of happiness gurgles up inside. Yes, it’s almost as if you were falling in love - with this magnificent view.
Sometimes a small queue forms before you can descend the 14 steps – on the Stairway to Nothingness. Beneath you juts the jagged edges of the Dachstein ridge. It will perhaps cost you something of an effort to stand on the transparent glass platform and so you might feel the fantastic view is all the more richly deserved. Sometimes the clouds wrap themselves around the mountain like candy floss. If you were one of those children who always wanted to know what clouds felt like, now you’re standing in the middle of them you know they feel fantastic.
In the Ice Palace, deep inside the glacier, the “green heart of Austria” has been recreated in crystal-clear ice. The silence in the cold ice caves is broken only by the occasional drip-drop of melting ice and an awed “ah” from the other visitors. The atmosphere is simply magical. A gorgeous sea of light, with slowly changing colours, bathes the sculptures. Thus the icy Graz Clock Tower glows once in a bright green while from another cranny shines a rich blue. You’ll be transfixed when you reach the gigantic “mountain crystal” and see how the warm light fragments on the edges of the ice. A real riot of colour.
As you take a final stroll, you’ll arrive back at the Skywalk. Sometimes the view will have changed completely and where just a short while ago the rugged face of the mountain could be seen, everything is now wrapped in a thick blanket of cloud. If you have a funny feeling inside that is caused by neither the high altitude nor butterflies, then you’re probably hungry. The best thing is to take the cable car back down to the valley station to feel the firm ground beneath your feet again. At the Gasthaus Türlwand you can tuck into a platter of Styrian cheese, yeast dumplings and a hearty bowl of Ramsauer stockpot. Alternatively, you might prefer the Dachstein toast - as a tribute to this magnificent mountain.
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