The Encounter

    Recently I set off for one of my favourite hikes – the Myrafälle in Lower Austria. I like this area very much and it can be reached quite quickly from Vienna. You can go there either by car or public transport. Although the falls themselves are very crowded as an attraction and you sometimes have to bring some patience – I take the chance to use it as an exercise to remain centred – it’s just nice to experience them.

    As soon as you are leaving the falls by turning left and climbing up to Hausstein, it gets quieter. From there one enjoys a great view of the surrounding hills and mountains. I continue along a street that turns into a forest road after 5 minutes.

    At the latest there you are alone again with yourself and nature. The pines exude their aromatic, resinous scent, butterflies flutter around and everything in me comes to rest.

    At some point I have left the forest behind me and reach a plain with extensive meadows and fantastic views all the way to the Schneeberg. If you are lucky, you can also see a few cows in the distance – it could hardly be more idyllic.

    Pure country life, just an hour’s drive from Vienna!

      Rituals and surprises

      After a shady, steep descent along a forest road I approach the actual highlight of my tour, the Steinwandklamm. At the entrance I have a chat with Franz, the operator of the gorge, and enjoy a schnapps with him – already a cherished ritual.

      The gorge is very romantic and is rarely visited by other walkers. There it is always a few degrees cooler, the rocks are impressively high and moss-covered. Over wooden ladders one walks through the gorge, it goes steadily uphill and at the end there is a small cave, the “Türkenloch”. Once you reach the top, you will be rewarded with great views again. This hike is also great fun for kids.

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      Now to my encounter: at the beginning of the ravine, just before the wooden ladders begin, I met an elderly couple. We greeted each other, paused for a moment and exchanged a few words.

      I learned that they had always enjoyed hiking – they told me about their excursions and tours. They also mentioned that due to health problems hiking nowadays would only be possible to a very limited extent anymore. One of them was no longer able to climb the steps of the wooden ladders. They could only see the gorge from below.

      I was very much touched by the humility of these two people. To realise that nothing is self-evident and everything has an end. One day I won’t be able to walk up the stairs either. It made me sad to think about it. At the same time I felt deep gratitude for still being able to do just that. After some time we said goodbye.

      The meeting has left me thoughtful and fulfilled. It is painful and at the same time healing to remember the transience. This gives life more depth and appreciation. I’m getting more grateful and humbler.

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      Experiences like these are what I appreciate so much about hiking – whether encounters with people, animals or plants – they always contain a gift.

      Still, grateful and fulfilled I return to the city from my excursions into nature.