On one of my last European adventures, I found myself at the base of the Alps in a small Austrian town called Pffarwerfen. A roaring river rushed through the valley as steep meadows rose up all around. Meanwhile, massive stone peaks towered above, covered in clouds. Expecting a beautiful three days of hikes through the grass, I lifted my pack and started up the mountain.
The next day, I hit the first Alpine lodge. I also hit the first fork in the trail, and decided to keep going up. Instead of spending the next two days walking through meadows at 1500 meters (about 4, 750 feet, almost a mile) above sea level, I shot up to 2900 meters and the top of the mountain range. As you climb up a mountain, it's always interesting to see how the plants change. First, there are lots of trees, then, more grass, and finally, just rock. The point where the trees stop growing is called the treeline.
When I got to the top of the mountain, I was surprised to find a huge lodge right on the peak. The lodge fit over 30 people, and it had a restaurant as well. Beautiful oak all throughout the interior, as well as electricity, flushing toilets, and a number of solar panels, made me feel right at home. The lodge was called Matrashaus, and it's part of a long tradition of mountain lodges that stretches across central Europe.
Matrashaus was built in 1898. It's open during the warm months of the year, and on weekends, it's often very busy. As it turns out, Matrashaus is only one of several hundred Austrian lodges, some of which are little more than a room with a stove. There is a great tradition of trekking through the mountains, and thanks to the lodges, people don't have to bring their tents and sleeping bags with them – just some clothing, food, and water. However, some of the lodges can be a bit pricey for a student (30 dollars for a night, with breakfast included), so I ended up camping on a glacier, which was an adventure on its own.
Adam De Gree
I am a senior in college, studying philosophy, and am visiting family in the Czech Republic and travelling and studying in Europe and Asia.