Visiting the Alps has for a long time been on my bucket list. When I hear ‘The Alps’ I imagine an ocean of rocks, snow covered peaks to the horizon, the birthplace of mountain sports. After having seen a small part of the Austrian Alps now, I’m really impressed by the mountains themselves as well as by the man made structures. I’m not saying it’s necessarily a positive thing, but there are ski lifts, huts and hotels everywhere- very different from Scandinavia.
The whole concept of hiking seems to be so integrated in the culture. Walking up a mountains is not a recent, modern invention, which suits the purpose of excercising – all the local people, shepherds and farmers have been living with the mountains for centuries. My first observation when driving into the Alps from the direction of Munich was, how densely populated the area is and how the infrastructure is so developed. There are farms, hotels, stores, ski resorts, housing complexes and restaurants in every valley, national roads connecting all the valleys. Almost every mountain has a ski lift and some slopes on it, every bit of space is modified by humans.
It’s so different in Scandinavia, or even Portugal, where you often wonder how or where you could hike up a mountain – while in the Alps there are most probably several. very well marked, trails to the top, a gondola lift that can bring you up comfortably and a hut on top that serves hot meals and cold drinks. I usually don’t consider myself a purist, who only enjoys nature when it’s free from any human intervention, but in the Alps I felt how much I enjoy the Scandinavian mountain landscapes, where I can look around and see nothing but nature.
Hiking through the mountains and trying to spot the hut where I will maybe spend the night (or at least spend an hour indoors, away from the mosquitos), just sitting down and prepare lunch on my gas stove, meeting so few other hikers that you actually start a conversation with everyone I meet- those are parts of the outdoors experience that I really enjoy and that seem rather impossible in the Alps. On the other hand, it is of course a pleasure to easily access a spectacular peak or have a crispy schnitzel and a cold beer on top, sitting in front of a busy mountain restaurant.
Of course, I have only spent a very brief time in the Alps and I have no right to judge the mountain range in it’s whole. The conclusion of my little trip is that I really enjoyed the views (and of course my company) and I can’t wait to come back and walk some more trails. At the same time I’m happy though that I will spend the summer hiking in Sweden and Norway, where there is so much space, emptyness and equally mesmerizing landscapes.