FLASHBACK 2006: Salzburg, Austria--Gaisberg

In the winter/spring of 2006, I had the amazing opportunity to study abroad in Salzburg, Austria. This was, as many had said it would be, a life-changing experience. My living there was partially responsible for my now obsession with hiking, though as a child I continually told my father I wanted to climb mountains and, at one point, even became upset because I wanted to live in the Alps like Heidi (my father claims I cried, but I will deny this). I didn't really take enough advantage of Austria while I was there, which always seems to be the case. I was 20-25 pounds heavier then than I am now, so I wasn't really up for a lot of hiking either. However, despite the fact that I was eating a lot more in Austria than I was at home, I was losing weight. In Salzburg, I walked everywhere. Even when I took the bus to and from school/town, walking to and from the bus stop was a start. When I would go out at night with friends to the beer gardens, the buses would stop running and a bus taxi would cost too much money, so we would simply walk the few miles back to the house I was staying at with my hose family. The scenery was gorgeous. Walking along the Salzach River or up along the fortress overlooking the city, chances to walk were everywhere.

Sometime in the early spring, I went with a group of my school mates to hike up Gaisberg. To us, it was a mountain, but to the Austrians it was surely little more than a glorified hill compared to the mountains that stand out so sharply in the skyline. It stands about 4,226 ft and seemed a popular spot for paragliding. I was probably far too out of shape to do this hike. As I was overweight, my asthma was worse then than it is now. This was the first thing I had climbed where the landscape actually changed into SNOW halfway up. I managed to stick with my friends for a little bit, but quickly fell behind. I told them to keep going without me, but didn't turn back. I was determined to do this, on my own if I had to, no matter what. It was a hard trek, I won't lie. While a lot of the details are fuzzy from nearly 5 years ago, I remember a lot about how breathtaking the scenery was. I remember being passed up by old Austrians with white hair and walking sticks, and thinking of what a great quality of life these people must live. I remember the ground slowly turning into snow and ice, and how hard it was to see the trail and get traction-- I was wearing terrible shoes that looked like hiking boots, but were clearly either not well fitting or more for fashion than climbing.

I reached the top and felt more accomplished than I had in awhile. The  view of Salzburg and Austria stretching out before me was gorgeous, the mountains in the distance, the paragliders jumping off the edge one by one.  I really do think that what had always been a fascination from afar with hiking had become something else entirely.

Here is my original blog entry for this hike when I wrote it on April 8th, 2006: Livejournal Entry for Gaisberg 2006

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