I’ve got a stone planted in my garden. It says, “Life is not measured in moments, but in moments that take your breath away…”
Though the rock is a bit kitschy, I like the sentiment. The measure of my life won’t be status or wealth, but I’m pretty sure it’s going to measure in friendships and moments…exquisite moments where I find myself somewhere I never thought I’d be, seeing things I never thought I’d see, or simply appreciating the every day nature around me. My personal goal is to stack these moments up one after the other, no matter what I have to do to find, or create, them.
In that way, my recent visit to western Austria did not disappoint. On this trip, I was able to enjoy casual time in nature with a bunch of like-minded writers and editors, who’d been gathered to test out new binoculars. In contrast to serious birding trips, which I’m more used to, I was able to sleep past 7 am, enjoy great coffee and a slow breakfast, and take my own sweet time on nature hikes. Traveling without goals and objectives was rather freeing. Best of all, it allowed me to pause and appreciate great views while drinking in soul-satisfying moments.
1. Seeing the Alps for the first time
From Washington Dulles, I few the red-eye on Austrian Airlines to Vienna, then a quick morning flight to Innsbruck’s small and very manageable regional airport. As we flew west, snow-covered Alpine peaks came into view and disappeared much too quickly. This was my first view of the Alps and I didn’t want it to end. I may have looked like a geek to the other, well-dressed passengers on the flight, but I flattened my nose against the windowpane trying to catch the peaks as they whizzed by.
The staggering magnitude of the range blew my mind. Massive, jagged peaks sprawled in every direction as far as I could see. They looked impossible. All I could think was, how did humans EVER conquer this mountains range? How did we traverse peaks and cut roads and erect chapels? Perhaps it was the promise of the king’s approval and a loaf of bread for his success, or the threat of execution if he failed, but still…these were some bad-ass men working with limited gear, lousy shoes, and incompetent clothing. How did they do it?
Seeing the Alps from the plane, however, was no match for…well, you’ll see. Read on a few more pages.
TIP: If possible, make sure your first descent into any Alpine territory happens in daylight hours. Call ahead to order sunlight (don’t ask me for the number). It’s worth it.
TIP: Try Austrian Airlines if the price works for you. The stewards are classy and professional. You’ll receive the kind of classy treatment that rarely exists on American carriers.
Next: Sipping a glass of wine at a street café in Old Town was pretty nice …