Edith Thomas, Perth, WA
Lienz is a small town in East Tyrol, Austria. I love the jagged mountain ranges of the Dolomites that surround this lovely town. I had a short stay there on a trip with my son in 2005 and had not expected to return so soon. But sitting around, recalling old times was not for me. The idea of exploring the numerous trails in and around the town seemed much more exciting.
Hiking around Lienz can be quite leisurely, on paved paths that lead to cute little villages. The forest is very different to the Australian bush, so I had a lot of stops to admire the flowers and bushes, overdosing on wild raspberries along the way.
For the Alps, these tracks are surprisingly flat, yet very pleasant, not to mention the cafes that seem to appear at the right time to offer refreshments.
If you hike further than you mean to, which is easy to do, because every little village in the distance looks so pretty you want to have a closer look, you can always catch the bus or the train that passes through Switzerland, Austria and Slovenia.
The trails that follow the fast flowing Drau and Isel rivers are favorites with cyclists as well as walkers. Cyclists, mainly Italians, cycle into Lienz for lunch, and then return home on the train in the evening. The trains have three or four carriages just for bicycles.
More to my liking were the tracks that zigzag up the mountains, past old castles, through orchards, wildflower covered fields and farms. Occasionally they pass right through farmers’ barns, and at times I had to retrace my steps to make sure that I really was on the right track. I was spoiled along the way with numerous icy cold water fountains bubbling from the ground. (Could do with them on the Bibb!).
More hardy walks are to be had by climbing the rugged mountains. I don't know if I agree totally with the way people hike over there. In the morning the cable cars are full of hikers; young and old alike getting to the top of the mountain, then taking off on the trails cut into the mountain side. No climbing up hills around here, apart from one or two hardy souls.
The views are incredible, as long as you don't suffer from vertigo. Unfortunately my hikes up in the mountains were very short. Serves me right not packing the right gear - it is definitely hiking boots and poles terrain. I met a few odd spotted sheep up on the mountain, and the marmots, a kind of squirrel, keep the hikers amused. Even though one is a thousand or two meters up on the mountain, a plate of schnitzel or a glass of beer is never too far away. Hikers are very spoiled!
Later in my trip I was fortunate enough to revisit the World Heritage listed Plitvice Lakes National Park, in Croatia. The day long hike takes walkers up to the forest covered hills, and then the bush trail winds down beside sixteen lakes, each on a different level. The crystal clear water tumbles down the mountain side, each of the lakes running into the next. At times you are surrounded by waterfalls, and the sound of the rushing water fills the air.
Sometimes it can be disappointing to return to a spot you loved before, but the beauty of this place still took my breath away. There are other tracks in the area, but time was far too short for me to explore them.
A new experience for me was to visit Bled in Slovenia, home to a picturesque little lake surrounded by mountains, with a number of great hikes to enjoy. Here at least you have to make your own way up the hills. And hills there are! I will never complain about the hills on the Bibbulmun Track again. But of course the views are well worth every step.
Via dell’Amore, a relatively short walk along the Cinque Terre in Italy is a must for visitors, so the guide book says. I loved the little fishing villages hugging the rocky shoreline, but I feel our southern coastline on the Bibbulmun track is much prettier. Perhaps I’m a bit biased?
The grass was so green, the mountains were so high and the villages were quaint, but it ain't home. See you on the Bibbulmun Track!