The Great Wall of Austria

And you thought the only great wall was in China, didn't you? Well, technically, you are right, because this is a different kind of wall. Located an hour outside of Vienna, the Hohe Wand (High Wall), a 1132 meter (3714 foot) wall of rock awaits, luring in intrepid and underprepared hikers. 

The High Wall

But I will come back to that, because I know you have a pressing question on your mind: 

What is happening with the apartment?! 

Well, that's a complicated story, filled with more surprise twists than a cheap mystery novel. We waited for a week to hear a response regarding our offer - an unusually long time to wait, and a situation that has been driving our real estate agent nuts. First the landlord was on holiday in Tuscany, then he was out hunting, then he asked for an extension to consider our offer (because he had used up all the time being a man of leisure). Then he accepted our offer, but since the building is co-owned by a board, he needed to get approval from the co-owners as well. That all was going great until one lady got the bright idea to suggest turning the apartment into a penthouse next year, severely restricting our rental period. SO - we will have final word on the board's decision today, at which point we will decide whether we still want the apartment. 

I will keep you posted, but in the meantime, thank you for your prayers as the saga continues!

Back to the Great Wall. 

On Saturday morning Jacob and I thought to ourselves, "Gee, a hike sounds nice," and shared our idea with Klaus, our host. Rather than receiving directions on the best hike to take and means to get there, Klaus thought for a minute and said, "Ok, we leave in an hour." Bear in mind that Klaus is not only an inveterate hiker, but also an Austrian - the mountains are in his blood. Klaus has hiked Mt. Kilimanjaro, and likes to go on 12 hour hikes and 2 hour runs on a regular basis. I questioned whether my definition of a "hike" was more in keeping with his definition of a pleasant stroll. 

We would find out soon enough. 

We left the city and soon found ourselves in the foothills of the mountains, driving through picturesque villages dotting the folds of the valleys. 

Village

We parked near a trailhead, pulled on our gear, and set out on our hike. 

That lasted all of five minutes. Klaus self-admittedly tends to get confused in the Hohe Wand area, and we had started on the wrong trail. The maps and GPS were consulted, after which it was decided that if we just went straight up the mountain, there was no way we could miss the trail that ran horizontal. We bushwhacked our way uphill for about 30 minutes, stopping to snack on boysenberries and pick our way through patches of thorns.

As Klaus predicted, we eventually ran into the proper trail. After a brief respite of walking on flat ground, the trail turned sharply upwards once more and we began to ascend the wall.

It is not a good place for those who are afraid of heights.

hikeweb2.jpg

And it was steep. That rocky outcropping on the right side? That was what we were ascending. At this point a heavy fog was fast rolling in and beginning to obscure our view. 

The last 1/3 of the trail was so steep that walking was no longer an option. Metal ladders had been bolted into rock face to literally pull yourself up the wall. In other areas cables were bolted into the cliff to hang on to as you walked. Losing your balance here would mean a good roll down the mountain. 

Ladder

We crested the summit of the cliff just as the fog hit us in full force and the rain began. 

Fog

That divot to the right of the tree? That was our trail. On the top of the mountain was a restaurant where we stopped for well deserved mushroom and potato soup. 

Mountain Restaurant

Thankfully Klaus had outfitted us with rain jackets, but with the trail down growing more slippery by the moment, my Converse shoes (not hiking shoes by any means) didn't stand a chance. The way down, though less steep, was just as harrowing as the way up. Thankfully I only slipped and fell twice - and both times in a nice squishy spot of mud. 

In the end we hiked for over 6 hours, but Jacob and I were proud of ourselves for a job well done. Truth be told, weather and danger included, that hike would have to join the ranks of my top two favorite hikes to date. (The other one being in Switzerland when Jacob and I did a "snow hike" down a mountain with a view of the Matterhorn.) Given the fact that we weren't even in the proper Alps for this hike however, I would imagine there are many more to come.