We found Dorfgastein quite by accident and over the years it has become somewhere that holds a special place in our hearts. The guidebooks say that Dorfgastein is a village in the Gasteinertal Valley south of Salzburg, Austria. A popular place for winter sports with plenty of spas and thermal pools; here body, mind and soul are all well catered for. We have faced a few challenges in getting to know the place, but somehow despite them, we are always drawn back to this restful valley.
Our first visit would gave no clue as to the power of the little village to draw us back time and again. It started when Chris decided he wanted to drive the Grossglockner High Alpine road and went looking for somewhere to stay close by. This is when we stumbled upon the little gem that is the Landhotel Hauserbauer. This family run, friendly hotel became our ‘other home’ in Austria. The staff politely encouraged our faltering attempts at German by deliberately speaking slightly more slowly, so that the minutes of mental translation – German to English and then English back to German response – could take place. The food was amazing too. We were once served ananas soup. That’s pineapple in English. Try it. It is simply gorgeous!
That first visit, one late May, was dominated by the weather! We arrived in glorious sunshine, which lulled us into a false sense of security. As weather obsessed English persons, we carry the mentality that the weather is always better in other places. I think that is why so many of us English head to Spain. It is that English desire to see the sun consistently for more that a day at a time. So we sat rather smugly that first afternoon, drinking crisp, white, wine on the hotel terrace, breathing in the fresh mountain air and looking forward to more sunshine. The following morning, we awoke to torrential rain. Torrential rain that kept going for the rest of our stay. Now torrential rain in high alpine regions means that rain turns to snow on the mountains. Having arrived to fresh green sun drenched vistas; we left to snow covered peaks. The Grossglockner Road trip was postponed for later in the summer.
On another trip we attempted snowboarding. Here again the weather played a key factor. The anticipated fresh falls of snow had become elusive and on the nursery slopes, where I would be spending my time, what snow was on the ground had become too wet. As a complete novice, I was to learn quickly and painfully the importance of the right type of snow. For my first afternoon, I was booked into a lesson. Mr Day headed off up the mountain and left me in the capable hands of an instructor. During the session, I got the basics of snowboarding, but, because the snow was so soft, I had to physically work hard to get the board to glide freely. I was also lulled into a false sense of security; falling over was like landing on a feather pillow. When Mr Day arrived at the end of the session, we managed a joint snowboard down the small slope. I was confident that I was ready for more!
Therefore on the second day we headed to a ski field further up the Gastein Valley. We had been promised better quality snow. In my imagination, I saw myself gliding with grace and ease down the mountain. Reality was far less romantic and a good deal more painful. The snow at the second ski field was compacted ice and I spend most of the morning clinging onto Chris’s arm, as he patiently walked me down the most basic of slopes. I watched with admiration and a dose of envy as a three-year-old child on miniature skis, snowploughed past me with consummate ease. The final straw come, when I fell backwards hitting the icy snow so hard that the impact vibrated every bone in my body. Hot Chocolate and Chris’s soothing words were not enough to ease my misery. The following morning the snow fell. Large, fluffy white flakes fell silently, as if to sooth away my bruised aspirations. The valley was covered in a white blanket, wood smoke drifted gently into the thin, crisp mountain air and all was once more right with the world.
Despite these disappointments, this place has come to mean an awful lot to us. I have had the opportunity to paraglide off one of the mountains, followed paths through meadows full of summer flowers, enjoyed apple strudel in one of the mountain huts coming down and hot chocolate in one when we got to the top. It has become our go to place when we went good food, relaxation, home comforts and the joy of watching clouds dance at our feet.