Overseas Walk: Take time to breath and be in the stunning surroundings of Arlberg
Ask an Austrian Arlberg native about mindfulness and they will look at you with amused bewilderment. Being fully present, taking care of your holistic wellbeing, and letting go of anxiety is not something they think about — because in the Arlberg, this happens automatically.
Residents of the Alps don’t have mediation apps on their smartphones, or a fitness tracker that clocks roundtrips to the office coffee maker. Instead they have nature’s breathtaking playground at their feet and a welcoming, easy-going local culture.
Spending time in this simple world is like hitting the reset button on your body, mind, and soul.
Breathing in the Arlberg’s air you immediately notice the difference: it’s fresh, clean, and, most importantly, Alpine. This is the air that centuries ago was already known for its healing powers and still attracts visitors who want to get away from pollutants and allergens.
There is actual science behind the health-benefits of the Arlberg’s highaltitude air. Because it’s thin, your body works harder to transport oxygen through the blood, creating lots of new red blood cells. This decreases your risk for heart disease, stroke, and other common ailments.
The locals’ way to get fresh air is to walk and hike the dazzling mountains. To them this isn’t about exercise, but rather about experiencing nature and spending time with family, friends, and themselves. Each step is meaningful, yet nobody is counting.
A great place to practice the art of hiking for the fun of it is the Formarinsee lake east of the Lech and St. Anton, which was voted Austria’s most beautiful place in 2015. Every spring it fills with crystal-clear melt water from the surrounding peaks, drains into the ground, and fills up again.
If you’re not the hiking type you can get fresh air while sun-bathing in a mountain hut in pristine surroundings. Sitting outside the wooden Alpine huts and letting the sun warm your face is one of the most relaxing experiences you can have in the Arlberg.
It feels like a spa treatment and you’ll come away with new energy and a subtle glow that lingers for days. A great place to do this is the Sennhütte Hut near St Anton, which is accessible by car and a typically Alpine establishment with hearty food.
If nature inspires you to take a few steps after all, there is a gentle walking path that introduces you to local flowers and starts at the Sennhütte. The hut’s claim to fame is the world’s largest Edelweiss - which is made up of 2,000 individual Edelweiss blossoms.
Austrians know that for holistic wellbeing you have to stimulate your brain. What better way to do that than with a group of other curious minds? The Cultural Summer in Lech Zürs puts on a program of festivals that range from medicine to philosophy, classical music, and literature.
The Arlberg’s excellent restaurants make mindful eating the natural thing to do. Most of the produce, dairy products, and meat are sourced locally, and the focus of every meal is pure enjoyment. Austrian food is slow food, and especially in the Alps there is no rushing at the dinner table. You can savor the simple, natural fare in spirited company thanks to the signature Gemütlichkeit and warm hospitality of your hosts.
In Oberlech, Hotel Sonnenburg does great traditional Austrian cooking, but also features a 6-course vegan menu every night for a plant-based alternative. Restaurant Fuxbau in Stuben am Arlberg wants to get back to the Arlberg’s roots with simple but refined local specialties. The team tries to create a homey ambiance in their small restaurant to provide guests with a calm food experience.
What happens after a day of blissful hiking, art and philosophy, joyful eating, and being pampered? The deepest sleep of your life, thanks to nature’s gentle sound machine.
Above: Walking in the clean air. Centre: The mountains around Arlkberg. Below left: A stream wanders its way down from the mountains