Little Escapes: The Best Places to Unwind in Tirol
JANINE FLOCK – THE ENCHANTED FOREST
Skeleton pilot and three-time European champion, lives in Rum by Innsbruck
“I discovered my favourite spot to recharge my batteries by pure chance. It is located on a little hill in the forest behind our house at the foot of the Nordkette mountain but already a little bit above the Inntal valley. From the bottom I could never really guess what exactly I would find up there, although I already knew the forest quite well. When we were children, we used to play there all the time; close by there is even a really charming forest playground. However, during the time of Corona I often went for walks in the woods – and that is when I discovered the plateau amidst the hillside forest. It quickly became my favourite spot. A small level area with several high trees, and the ground covered nearly completely with moss. The perfect place to sit, dwell, reflect, and unwind. Due to the fact that this spot is so private, and nobody can really see it, it is perfect for my Yoga practice. Sometimes I even bring a friend along – my sister for example. Yoga in the woods was our shared morning routine for a while. Sometimes I bring my slackline, which I can attach to the trunks of this old forest. That way I can work on my coordination, balance, and concentration. As soon as the normal training can kick off again, I won’t be able to visit ‘my’ plateau on such a regular basis anymore. But I already know where I’ll be spending my time when the training week is over.”
Janine likes to train her coordination, balance, and concentration with the slackline.
THOMAS GASSNER – THE SOUNDS OF THE NIGHT
Author, actor, and director from Innsbruck
“Just a little bit above Innsbruck, you’ll find the Höttinger Bild: a small area in the forest where there are no trees but a small chapel. Right next to it there is a roofed seating area – that’s where I like to escape to. In the middle of the forest – all you can see are trees. But actually, I don’t come here so much for my eyes as for my heart and my ears. Findings prove that the Höttinger Bild was already renown as a power place before this tiny church was built here. When I come here, I close my eyes, feel the wind and nature. My favourite time to come here is at night, as the listening experience is even more intensive then. I listen to the forest making noises behind me or the raven landing on the roof of the chapel. Actually, I have known the Höttinger Bild since my childhood – I used to come here with my parents and grandparents. When growing up I somehow forgot about it. Then, when I became a father myself, the memories of this place came back. Now, I visit this spot every time I need to unwind or need time to reflect. Or on special days, such as during solstice or spring and autumn equinox.
When I am working on a play or text, I am often absentminded in my everyday life. It is not possible to escape to an island for a month in order to write or think about my directing. So this secret spot is my escape and gives me the opportunity to forget everything around me and to collect myself. This is where I might find new ideas – ideas which might drowned in all the hustle and bustle of everyday life. That’s why I always carry a pen and paper with me. When I come back, I feel relaxed and inspired. And am always happier after returning from my secret escape.”
Thomas listens to the forest making noises behind him.
A little bit above Innsbruck there is a small chapel.
ROMAN HUBER – RELAXING IN URGTAL VALLEY
Photographer and film maker from Zams by Landeck
“Taking pictures of foreign countries and cultures used to fascinate me the most. It took some time for me to realize that there were many things I could explore in my direct surrounding. Nowadays, when I am looking for calmness and want to just unwind, I go to a place – a little gem – which I connect with many childhood memories. It is a mountain hut in the Urgtal valley – quite a high and relatively unknown valley, just five kilometres from our home in Zams. The hut is located on the fringe of the forest; when you are sitting on the bench in front of the hut, you look over a little wooden fence towards a meadow with a small fire pit. During the summer, you can observe the cows grazing. Next to the terrace there is a fountain out of food. When walking up the hill behind the hut, you’ll notice that there are fewer trees and a stonier soil – you’ll even find scree fields and especially some small mountain lakes. The perfect place to unwind and find calmness. It is not that far away from civilisation but still it feels like you’re so far away. However, the mountains are not just a place to unwind for me. There are also moments when I escape into action and adventures. Our local mountain, the Venet, is perfect for this purpose. To be exact: its mountain ridge. I love the view and the landscape from up here. There is a spot from where you have a perfect view of the Lechtaler mountains. And in winter, you can hop on the cable car and reach an incredible freeride Eldorado in just a few minutes. It’s real insider tip – but that’s a completely different topic. And sometimes the escape from everyday life turns into something bigger. If you are looking for a multiple-day tour, the Venet is a bit too small. In this case, I choose the direction of Paznaun. I start at the Zeinisjoch by Galtür and hike to the new Heilbronner mountain lodge, stay there overnight and then enjoy getting up really early to continue up to the Strittkopf summit. From there I can then enjoy – usually all on my own – the breath-taking sunrise. Once you have reached the Strittkopf, you’ll have an amazing view of the Hochtal valley. The softness of this valley always reminds me a little bit of the Sottish Highlands – just with some Alpine mountain peaks around. Afterwards, you can continue your hike to St. Anton – an easy-going two-day hiking tour. Just over 20 kilometres are perfect to get far away from everything for a while.”
For Roman, the mountains are not only a place to relax, but also to experience adventure.
JANINA KUHNLE – AFTER-WORK MOUNTAIN BIKING
Researcher at the University of Innsbruck
“After a long day at work, there is nothing better than hopping on my mountain bike and escaping into the mountains. The best thing about Innsbruck is that as soon as you get on your bike, the routes go uphill. For some of you this might sound deterring, but for a mountain biker like me it’s perfect because I don’t have to cycle for long before starting the climb. My favourite destination during the week is the Lanser Alm mountain hut at about 1,700 metres above sea level. It doesn’t take me long to get there – just about one hour. After working ten hours, I do not need a climb that is too challenging. From the top, I gaze down to the city where everything continues as usual. The spot up here is perfect if you want to reflect and unwind. Moments like these provide peace of mind. When I have this feeling, I think: this is my home. Even though I was not born here but in Stuttgart.
When I spend time with my friends, we are usually in the mountains. I want to share this place with them. Being in the mountains is all about community. You can visit the most amazing place in the world, but it will only be half as beautiful if you cannot share it with anyone. That’s why we often combine mountain biking with having a cup of coffee and a piece of cake with friends. And that’s why the Lanser Alm mountain hut is so perfect. Another thing I really appreciate there every time: the warmness of the hosts. The Nordkette mountain range offers a variety of routes for mountain bikes, but one of my favourite trails is also one of the longest single trails in Tirol – and it is located in the Kitzbühel Alps. When I have got a little bit more time, then I cycle eastwards from Innsbruck. From the Fleckalm mountain hut just above Kitzbühel, there is a trail that leads about 1,100 metres in altitude and 7,1 kilometres down into the valley. Jumps, bends, passages with roots, short climbs, fast trail sections – a demanding Endro trail but incredible fun.”
For Janina, there's nothing better than riding a bike after a long day at work.
In the mountains, Janina reflects on her everyday life and finds peace of mind.
BENEDIKT SONNLEITNER – SUNDOWNER AT THE PLATEAU
Wind instrument maker from Götzens
“My little workshop is just about 40 square metres large and is located in the backyard in the middle of the city centre of Innsbruck. To be perfectly honest: if you do not know the workshop, you won’t find it. At first, I thought it was a pity that it was so hidden, but actually it has its advantages. The customers consciously choose to come to me; it isn’t a window-shopping place. Everything I need to make, repair or restore wind instruments is within reach in this small space. I am on my own here and can concentrate on my work. That’s my work place every day – unspectacular nine-to-six (or seven) job. And afterwards I have to often escape from this daily routine of course. So, I get an after-work beer and often take a relaxing walk with friends to the plateau between Natters and Götzens. Especially during the Corona crisis, we did this on a daily basis. From my flat it only takes about half an hour to walk to the Natterer Lake. One thing I really appreciate about this spot is that it is so spacious. The plateau extends over a large area of grass and pastures. The spot is close to the city and still it seems far away. In contrast to the city, I can gaze into the distance. Often it is quite windy, which is sometimes annoying, but it definitely always clears my mind. And: Over there, to the south-west of Innsbruck, that’s the spot the last rays of sun reach, while down in the city the sun has already disappeared.”
Benedikt enjoys his time at the plateau between Natters and Götzens.