Ask a Local: Wildschönau
Christine Silberberger from Auffach – the Wildschönau native truly loves her home region.
Local’s Guide Tip #1: Großer Beil
Legends of Devils, a Fountain Full of Beer and Award-Winning Cheese
One of my favorite mountains is the summit of „Großer Beil“ in my hometown Auffach. The 2,309-meter peak is the tallest mountain of Wildschönau, yet most hikers will have no problem making the journey. First, drive your car to Schönangeralm Alpine Pasture Hut, which is located at the end of the valley. The inn is accessible by car all year long and you can as well ride the Wildschönau Bummelbahn slow train to get there.
First a gentle and convenient ride by car or slow train, passing along „Kundl Alm“.
From Schönangeralm Alpine Pasture Hut, continue on foot toward Kundl Alm. Soon, the route continues along Kasten-Steig Path, a quite demanding section through forest. Be careful as it might be slippery here!
As you near the end of the forest, listen for the loud roaring sound that indicates Gressenstein Waterfall. A trail to the left takes you to this hidden gem.
Until today, Wildschönau is an area where many places have been associated with spirits, magic and strange phenomenon. The natural features of these places may create a spooky and foreboding feeling that reinforces the local legends of the places being cursed, evil or enchanted. Pretty soon on this walk, you will reach one of those „legendary“ places, called Glockhaus Stone. Legend has it that the Devil himself threw the stone into the ground.
The Devil himself is said to have thrown this stone into the ground: Glockhaus Stone.
The route continues across the wide open Alpine pastures of Gressensteinalm, an unusual place for Wildschönau as it dotted by stones and rocks. You will reach a weathered cabin, which provides a perfect rest stop for weary hikers.
The rustic log cabin is not serviced, but you can help yourself from the basin of the fountain, where beer and lemonade are cooled. If you opt for one of these, it goes without saying that it is only natural to pay a little contribution.
A quaint rest stop for weary hikers: Gressensteinalm.
Help yourself from the „natural fridge“ and pay a little contribution.
At this point you are directly under the towering spire of Großer Beil, the mountain that divides Wildschönau Valley from Alpbachtal Valley in the west. Bagging this peak is definitely all worth it. From Gessensteinalm, the trail branches off to the right and climbs a rocky section.
Once you reach level terrain, you will pass through a marsh and bushes of bilberry. Another climb brings you to the next upland plateau, which is dotted by tiny tarns and ponds. From there, it’s a steep and final push to the cross on the summit at an elevation of 2,309 meters.
Ponds and tarns en route to the summit of Großer Beil.
The cross atop the 2,309-meter summit of Großer Beil Mountain.
If you are feeling more energetic, you can return via Sonnjoch Col. Destination end of the walk is Schönangeralm Alpine Inn. They serve hearty, local staples and amazing homemade cakes.
Plus, you are strongly recommended to visit their cheese dairy. Join artisan cheesemaker Johann for a tour of his cheese making facility and taste a platter of his sensational and award-winning regional cheeses.
Artisan cheesemaker Johann Schönauer handcrafts sensational and award-winning regional cheeses.
Schönangeralm is trailhead and destination end for a rich variety of wonderful walks and hikes in Inner Wildschönau Valley.
Local’s Guide Tip #2: Kragenjoch Col
Krautinger Schnapps, “Schmalznudeln” and the Perfect Family Walk
My second tip is Kragenjoch Col, which makes the perfect family walk. From the village center of Oberau, walk to “Boarstadl” Farm. A fine forest path takes you to Achentalalm Alpine Pasture Hut. This quaint and tiny Alpine pasture hut is popular for their mouth-watering, local staples.
During the Alpine pasture summer season, a tasty specialty is served each Wednesday: In Wildschönau, Kiachl are called “Schmalznudeln” and either come with applesauce or with bean soup, which is a local peculiarity. Be sure to come early as these specialties are high in demand and are bound to sell out soon.
Rustic Achentalalm Alpine Pasture Hut is only open during the warm summer months.
A ring of fresh, deep-fried dough circling a thin, almost transparent dough film; “Schmalznudel” is kind of like a large, flat doughnut—traditionally served with bean soup in Wildschönau.
And just in case you have had too much of their delicious “Schmalznudeln”, try the famous, local „cure-for-all“ Krautinger Schnapps . This extraordinary schnapps has been uniquely distilled in Wildschönau from locally grown White Beet from the mid-18th century to today.
The quality of the Krautinger has increased during the last few years and I personally like it more than a traditional eau de vie. Krautinger is a cure-all, elixir and well-loved after dinner drink all rolled into one – and visiting Wildschönau means tasting a Krautinger.
A must-try if you are in Wildschönau: Krautinger Schnapps, distilled from locally grown White Beet called Krautinger (also known as May turnip or autumn turnip).
Once replete and replenished, climb over meadows to reach the 1,390-meter summit of Kragenjoch Col. From there, enjoy expansive views over Inntal Valley and glorious mountain scenery. Even Kufstein Fortress can be seen on clear days. Kragenjoch Col is a popular hike tour for locals who want to get their after-work fix.
The cross on the summit of Kragenjoch Col.
Photo Credits & Tips by Christine Silberberger, Wildschönau