Together with our Estonian friends, we went for a walk along the trail in Meenikunno bog and forest. It was abominably hot and at times during the bog section I almost regretted ever getting out of the house today. I was quite glad to get into the shade of the forest. Not cool, exactly, but definitely less hot. Plus there is that cool viewing tower there.

For a while there I could enjoy both the walking and the talking. And the blueberries. Unfortunately the last third or so of the trail was full of ants. Anthills everywhere in the forest and ants everywhere on the path, so instead of a leisurely walk we marched straight on, barely talking and rarely stopping, and were relieved to reach the end.

In the afternoon we drove to Värska for lunch and swimming/bathing. I don’t think I’ve ever been there, even though it’s very well known for its mineral waters and healthy mud and whatnot. The café at the sanatorium was so-so; the beach was small and grassy and not at all crowded even on a Saturday.

The water at Kiidjärv the other day was really warm; even I went in without wincing and took a long swim. Pühajärv yesterday was much larger and much chillier. Today’s swim was in a small bay of Estonia’s largest lake, and felt almost as warm as a bathtub.

For our last day here, we took a trip to the Hintertux glacier.

From Hintertux village, a chain of gondolas can take you all the way up to the top, above the clouds. There is enough snow there for year-round skiing. It felt pretty bizarre to arrive in sandals and t-shirt (although we quickly added fleeces and jackets) and meet skiers and snowboarders.

We had no plans to do any skiing, but there were some snowy attractions for kids. They had fun sledding on inflated rubber tubes, but the snow kept getting into Adrian’s sandals.

Gondolas took us partway down, and all of a sudden we were back in summer. Then we walked the last bit down, from Sommerbergalm to Hintertux village.

This was a very picturesque walk, like most of them here – steep rocky mountains, winding paths with wide views, meadows dotted with fir and pine, lovely little brooks and waterfalls.

We do have mountains in Sweden and there are plenty of hiking paths among them, so one might wonder what the point is of travelling so far to hike in yet more mountains. But the Swedish mountains are very different from the Alps. The Scandes are old and worn-down. While they can look quite mountainous from afar, when you get closer, they usually aren’t that impressive. Whereas here in the Alps, it’s all steep, bare rocky walls and narrow valleys. The Alps are also much lusher.

For today, we chose a flat walk. From Bärenau a local bus took us to the Zillergrund dam, and from there we walked along the reservoir lake to Hohenaualm and back.

Hohenaualm has a Tibetan theme, with prayer wheels and flags. It’s a small and rustic hut, very cosy and pretty but unfortunately not at all familiar with vegetarianism. Which I guess is kind of in keeping with the whole Tibetan theme. They served sausages and cheeses of various kinds, and that was that.

We tried a cheese platter with a local “gray cheese”. It had a potent smell and didn’t taste particularly good. At least it came with some bread and pickled cucumbers.

Adrian ordered “sausages and bread” which we all expected to look vaguely like a hot dog, but it was truly sausages and bread – two wiener sausages and two slices of white bread.

We thought that perhaps the bigger huts near the start of the hike would have more choice for us, so we hiked back. They had more choice, but were no more prepared for vegetarians than the cottage at the end of the road. The two options on the menu for us were French fries, or pancakes, so that’s what we had for lunch.

The locals are very, very fond of pancakes. Their version is called Kaiserschmarrn, and it’s to pancakes like scrambled eggs is to an omelette: it’s a scrambled pancake. Quite sweet to begin with, then covered with mounds of icing sugar and served with a large bowl of jam on the side (preferably apple sauce). Tastes quite good when you first try it but when you have to eat a whole large platter of it or go hungry then it’s not quite so appealing any more…

We made a second attempt at an easier, “rest” day and went to see the waterfalls at Krimml. There was plenty of uphill walking today again, and all-in we walked over 6 km, but the path was even and smooth, even accessible to pushchairs, so our legs got some rest.

The Krimml waterfalls lie well outside the Zillertal valley covered by our maps, and we probably wouldn’t have found out about them if it hadn’t been for a couple of friendly hikers that we struck up a conversation with during an earlier walk. Now I realize that they’re one of the top 10 sights in Austria and marketed as the largest in Europe (according to some unclear measure).

Largest or not, the waterfalls are beautiful and impressive. They are actually a series of waterfalls, one after another, quite close together. A path winds up the mountain right next to the waterfalls, with plenty of viewing platforms along the way. Of course there is a Hütte partway up for lunch. And at the bottom, where the waterfalls land in a rocky expanse, there’s plenty of opportunity to scramble up close and get drenched by the spray.

After yesterday’s demanding walk, we thought we’d rest the “uphill walking muscles” and do something different today: rent bikes, take the Penkenbahn gondola up to the top of the mountain right next to Mayrhofen, and then bike down back to the village.

Renting bikes took a fair bit of time, because it wasn’t easy to find a bike with back-pedal brakes for Adrian. But we found them in the end.

The gondola ride to the top was fast and smooth and we had nice views of Mayrhofen. The gondola was very spacious and we had no trouble at all fitting the bikes in there.

At the top, the bicycle path first went uphill for a while, to the ever-present huts at the top. The slope was quite gentle but on gravel roads it was too much for the kids, so we ended up walking the bikes up.

After lunch at one of the huts we were finally ready to start cycling down. Unfortunately Adrian took a bad fall already at the first descent, bloodying half his face and breaking off half of his new front tooth. So that was the end of that. After cleaning and bandaging his face, we walked the bikes back up and came down by gondola again.

All in all, not a great day.

Yesterday was warm-up day; today we were ready for a bigger hike. We picked one of the suggested walks from the Wanderkarte we got from the tourist information: a circular walk (the Neumarkter Runde) from the Schlegeis dam up to the Olperer Hütte and back again. 8.8 km and 675 metres of ascent.

The weather report promised clearer skies, and down in the valley it looked like the weather might actually clear up, but higher up in the mountains it was almost as foggy and cloudy as yesterday. We weren’t constantly wrapped in clouds, but the views were generally quite limited, except for the occasional moment when the clouds shifted away and we suddenly got a wide open view.

This was a beautiful walk despite the clouds. Or perhaps it was beautiful in part thanks to the clouds: because of the moisture, the mountains were lush and green. The lower slopes were thickly covered in pine and juniper. Rhododendrons flowered abundantly between the junipers as well as higher up above the tree line. There were plenty of little streams and waterfalls.

Higher up it got colder and we got some rain and wind. In places we even crossed some small patches of snow. We were quite glad to have packed fleece jackets and woolly hats (and in Adrian’s case, his beloved fingerless gloves).

The first half of the walk was basically all uphill, and by the end of it we were getting a bit fed up with the monotony of always going up. At the highest point we celebrated with a chilly lunch, perched on and between rocks, in the lee of yet more rocks. Another hour or so of walking got us to the Olperer Hütte for a late and well-deserved hot meal.

The path was very well marked, with red-white-red paint, and easy to walk. Well, the path was all uphill, but it was well built and stable. The steepest parts were almost staircases of large slabs of stone, no scrambling required. I had many occasions to wonder who had built these, and how – given the size of the stairs, it must have required a lot of lifting.

The kids enjoyed the stone cairns dotted along the path.

The way down was quite similar to the way up, but condensed and less varied. Downhill, gently at first and then more steeply, ziggy-zaggying alongside the same little stream almost all the way. Had we started out on this side (which I’m glad we didn’t, because of the steepness) then I would probably have found it beautiful, but after the first half of the walk the second didn’t impress quite so much. Our tiredness probably also played a part.

So apparently hiking here in Austria is all based on huts. You pick a hut you want to walk to, then find a suitable starting point, and walk from the starting point along a marked trail to the hut and back. Or maybe you do a circular walk, in which case the way back is not the same as the way there, but you will certainly have a hut somewhere on your route. In fact the starting point is quite likely to also be a hut.

The tourist information point here in Mayrhofen was staffed by a friendly lady who circled a bunch of suitable huts for us on a hiking map, and today we tried out the first of these – Steinerkogl, which lies basically straight above Mayrhofen, and on good days probably has beautiful views.

Today was not one of those days.

Today was foggy and wet. It was drizzling already when we got up, and continued that way all day. The valley was filled by a cloud that looked like it was touching the rooftops, and blocked all views.

We went out anyway, because the prospect of spending all day indoors was way worse than getting a bit wet. And while we did get a bit wet, because the wether didn’t get better, it didn’t get any worse either – it hovered in that strange no-mans-land between fog, cloud and light rain.

The views were absolutely non-existent when we got out of the forested lower slopes and onto the meadows. If we hadn’t had a clear path to follow, I would have been seriously worried about getting lost, or losing sight of each other.

It might not sound like fun but this was actually a pleasant hike, memorable rather than miserable. The fog was cool, and the endlessly ziggy-zaggy forest path was like nothing we’ve walked before. Would definitely do again.

The Midsummer weekend contained too much eating and lounging around and not enough moving. I was itching to get out and walk, so here I am. Sörmlandsleden, stage 5:2. I like the stages that are easy to reach using public transport, and it doesn’t get much more convenient than this one: it effectively goes from Ösmo station to Hemfosa station.

Well, that’s what it does on paper. In reality the start is about a kilometre from the station, and the end likewise, so the 15 km becomes more like 17 and some. And then there’s the extra detour you can make to a hill with an ancient fort. That one is described as “might be worth making a detour for” and indeed I’m sure there are people for whom that is the case, but honestly I wouldn’t recommend it. I couldn’t see any signs of the fort itself, just a rocky hill with a view barely worth looking at, because whichever direction you look, it’s all the same forest. Or perhaps I was just getting too tired to appreciate it.

This part of Sormlandsleden itself was more varied than most. There were lakeside views, the usual Sörmland pine and blueberry forests, rough spruce forest with plenty of rocks and roots, and even a golf course with its manicured lawns and well-tended shrubberies.

Day two of scout camp. A half day – we packed up and went home just after lunch.

Everybody was happy with the kitchen team – we cooked good food, in sufficient amounts, and served it on time. However it was very hectic. And the run-up to the camp, with all the planning and preparation, was not much better. I feel I reinvented not just a wheel but a whole truck’s worth of wheels, in a few short and stressful weeks. I feel no desire to ever do this again, and I suspect the rest of the kitchen team might feel the same way.

Instead I’m thinking of how to make use of this experience so that other people won’t have to reinvent yet more wheels for future scout camps. There has got to be a better way to plan and prepare this kind of thing.

I always sleep like crap in tents. When I am constricted by a sleeping bag, I wake up every single time I want to turn the other side, or switch from my back to my side. But it’s also because I don’t sleep well on bad mattresses – I always end up stiff and achy. Eric even got me an inflatable camp mattress, which was better than others I’ve tried, but still nothing like sleeping in a proper bed.

This weekend I tried sleeping in a hammock for the first time. I bought it last autumn already, but this was my first chance to try it out.

I wish I could say that I slept like a baby. Or a log. Unfortunately I still kept waking to turn. But the hammock was great for my back – I was not the least bit sore in the morning. I’ll definitely be using it again. Now I wonder what alternatives might exist for the standard sleeping bag.

Yesterday was all full of knowledge. Today was a teambuilding day, with social activities and a nice dinner at the end. There were multiple activities to choose from. I opted for kayaking, and got to see the parks around the canal again, from a different angle.

We started out in the Daugava river itself, among waves and big boats. This part was quite challenging, especially when it came to steering – the waves and wind and the flowing river seemed to always be conspiring to push us off course. The canal by comparison was placid and easy.