At lunch the other day, the man sitting next to me mentioned Austria and how beautiful a country it was. Meeting Brits who appreciate just how stunning Austria is seems to be a rarity. I can remember a woman I worked with a couple of decades ago who gushed about Austria, and that’s about it. Whenever I mention it to anyone when we’re talking about destinations we’ve particularly enjoyed, I can see most losing interest before the second A of Austria leaves my mouth. It’s just not considered sexy. And yet, when I think of views that have embedded themselves deeply in my mind, Zweiselalm above Gosausee is one which automatically bustles its way into one of the top places.
Many of my favourite viewpoints involve relatively serious hiking to reach them. It’s partly that exclusivity which makes them so appealing. In this case, anyone who doesn’t have a fear of heights can enjoy the dramatic vistas from Zweiselalm as a cable car zips people from lakeside to mountaintop in minutes. The scenery around Vorderer Gosausee itself is such that it can be difficult to drag yourself away from gazing across the jade, mirror-glass surface of the lake to the hard limestone crags of the Dachstein Mountains towering above its southern shore. But the views from above are even more impressive, with high pastures thrown into the mix of lakes and mountain peaks to add even more contrast.
Adding comfort and bookending the cable car are mountain hüttes serving hearty Austrian specialities. Lakeside, we enjoyed apple strudel and custard, while at one the mountain hüttes on high, we replenished expended energy by tucking into post-hike jausenbrettl (cheese, meat, and pickles – a bit like an Austrian ploughman’s lunch) serenaded by the musical clanging of cowbells.
It is gasp-inducing beautiful. Breath-taking is overused when describing scenery, casually thrown about even for the ‘well, it’s okay’ variety. But sometimes it is truly justified, as is the case with Zweiselalm above Gosausee.
However, Zweiselalm and Vorderer Gosausee do attract crowds at certain times of the year. But here’s another good thing. Like many natural tourist hotspots, the majority of people stick to the most accessible areas. Once you’re high in the mountains, there are many tracks leading away from the masses and to spots where you can have that glorious Austrian countryside all to yourself, and maybe a few bell-ringing bovines.