Top times in terrific Tirol
WHEN I was six, my parents went on a European jaunt. Two traditional Austrian dresses were among the booty brought home: my dirndl was pink; my sister’s was green, and both came with puff-sleeved white blouses and matching aprons. Years later, my own daughter wore my much-loved dirndl, which was so beautifully crafted, it looked as new and pretty as it had decades earlier.
And now, here we were, my daughter and I, in Austria, where the traditional dress is still worn with pride, and considerable panache. Phoebe now lives abroad; we had chosen Austria as a convenient rendezvous spot for a few days together.
Lermoos, our alpine destination, is a picturesque village in the Zugspitz Arena area of the Austrian Tirol; it’s a ski-lovers paradise in winter, but perfect for hiking and cycling in autumn. It’s easy to get to from several airports, but at this time of year, Munich is handiest, and suited both of us as a meet-up point. Good old Aer Lingus got me there on time to meet Phoebe’s incoming flight from Brussels, and from there we hopped on a Deutsche Bahn train, changing once, and sat back to savour the chocolate-box scenery en route.
Our base for the duration was the perfectly located Haus Montana, a delightful chalet-style edifice comprising 10 self-catering units, owned and run by the ebullient, ultra-stylish Erika Mott, whose warm welcome made us feel instantly at home. Haus Montana is self-catering, but thoughtful Erika provides a freshbread service from Gurgltalbrot, a local bakery. We settled on a handsemmel (a white bread roll) and a luscious schokocroissant each. (They were waiting for us in a cute felt bag, hung on our door handle next morning; Erika has all orders bagged and delivered by 7am. The perfectly appointed units all have Nespresso machines, so it’s not even necessary to shop for breakfast!) Having settled into our gorgeous accommodation, we made our way, on Erika’s recommendation, to nearly Golfino Restaurant, where, on the terrace, before a panorama of peaks, we lunched on delicious salads, and caught up on all the news. On our leisurely stroll back, we popped into the village’s Baroque church of St Catherine, the humble exterior of which belies the rococo gorgeousness within. We lit candles and lingered awhile, lost in our own thoughts and prayers.
Back at Haus Montana, so called because of its splendid aspect in the shadow of the mighty Zugspitze, Germany’s highest mountain, it was time to get party-ready, as Eri- ka had organised tickets for us to a summer soiree being thrown by 180° restaurant (it has a 180-degree alpine view), part of Pure Apart-hotel, a new venture in the village.
The 180° Sommerfest was held in the open-walled basement of the Pure Apart-hotel building. It was dotted with braziers burning aromatic beechwood, and the gaily dressed Bounties were belting out Walking On Sunshine as we arrived. There were food and drink stalls galore, and we indulged in veggie noodles (for me) and ribs (for Phoebe) washed down with gorgeous gruner veltliner (for both of us). Refreshed and renewed by the quality grape
‘We sat in the outdoor Jacuzzi; it was the A-list life’
and grub, we bopped the night away to the Bounties’ Euro-pop beat.
Next morning, we shook off the cobwebs with a trip up the nearby Grubigstein. You can walk, but feeling lazy, we decided to ascend by cable car and descend on foot. Erika had provided us with a Z-ticket, a superb value summer-activities pass, which entitles the holder to discounted or free use of utilities in the region, including the fab outdoor pool, various cable cars, buses, roller bikes, museums, rafting, boat trips, golf, and tennis courts. A return trip up the Zugspitze costs €43.50 (or €41.50 with the local guest card) so even if you just use it for that and a couple of other things, you’re quids in.
Our 15-minute cable car journey up the mountain skirted over rock pines, and larch trees on the turn to golden. At the summit, we popped into Gipfelhaus Grubigstein for an Almdudler, the second most popular soft drink in Austria, which tastes a bit like herbal tea. Quite delicious. At the mountain’s peak, as at all of Austria’s summits, is a cross, and a box containing a book in which you can write your name and the date of your ascent. We’d cheated, so we didn’t, and set off on shank’s mare down the winding alpine track to lovely Lermoos, passing, on our way, a house belonging to one of the Swarovski family; Swarovski Crystal World is in nearby Innsbruck.
Kaffe und kuchen (coffee and cake) is a tradition in this part of Europe, and in 180°, we followed a light lunch of pancake soup with punchkugeln, a pink-sprinkle-covered chocolate ball; and Mozart cake, a choc and pistachio confection. Neither dainty registered high on the sweet scale; methinks Austrians have the sugar-moderation thing sussed.
The weather had turned wet, but Lermoos is not short on things to do, rain or shine. On Erika’s advice,
Gemma in Lermoos, Austria, in the shadow of the mighty Zugspitze, one of the spectacular peaks in the Zugspitz Arena, which is a vast grassy plateau carved out of the glacial valley