Over­seas Walk: Take time to breath and be in the stun­ning sur­round­ings of Arl­berg

Walking New Zealand - - Contents -

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

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