Sunrise hike with breakfast on Grießenkareck mountain in Flachau
The sun on my face, a hot cup of coffee in my hand and just one thought in my mind: isn't it wonderful! Mountain breakfast on Grießenkareck in Flachau.
The day starts early. Too early for the holidays, I think as the alarm on my mobile goes off at 3:45 am. Roll over and go back to sleep, I tell myself, snuggling into my duvet on the hotel bed. Only for a nagging voice in my head to pipe up: you said yes, so you're going through with it. All right, all right!
A quick and refreshing shower later and I'm standing in front of Flachau's sports and outdoor activities centre, waiting for the taxi shuttle service with a small group of like-minded people. A delicate glimmer appears on the horizon behind the mighty peaks of the Dachstein Mountains. No sign of the sunrise as yet. In a few minutes, we will start our hike almost a thousand metres higher. Our companion on this adventure is the cook and walking guide Jakob Kaml, known in Flachau simply as "Jaggi". He has a pan and firewood in his rucksack – I'll find out later what he needs them for.
Our shuttle takes us over narrow mountain roads to Kogelalm. In winter, this is where skiers sweep down the slopes into the valley, but in the summer, Kogelalm is a beautiful alpine pasture. Silence apart from the odd cowbell and a gentle breeze – and Jaggi's laughter as he jokes with the other early risers and starts herding us up the hill. After all, the sunrise won't wait! I can see my breath in the light of my headlamp. I pull the zip of my jacket right up to my chin. And I'm ready to go.
Magical mood in the morning sun
After a twenty-minute hike across alpine meadows wet with dew, the path gets narrower and narrower.
The final stretch is a steep climb up to the summit of Grießenkareck, Flachau's "local" mountain with its distinctive peak. This is a beautiful place at any time of day. But on this morning, there is something magical about the mountain.
We did it! I scramble up the last few metres of rock to the summit cross and look out into the distance. The grey light of dawn is slowly turning into an orange glow. The clouds on the horizon look like they're on fire. For Jaggi, this is where the real work begins. On a small, sooty campfire, he gets woodchips burning and adds logs to the blaze. I listen to the crackle and pop of the campfire as Jaggi hands me a cup of hot coffee. What a morning!
"Muas" for breakfast
A few minutes later, the large cast-iron frying pan is placed on the fire and Jaggi sets about preparing breakfast. There is muas, a traditional local dish that was once prepared by alpine dairy farmers and woodcutters. It's not hard to see why: the mixture of flour, salt, water and clarified butter is quick to prepare, tastes good and provides a lot of energy for the day. Just what hikers need, I reckon. "Energy food", Jaggi tells us with a grin. Nostalgia hits for some of my fellow climbers. "The last time I ate this was at my granny's", says Elisabeth, a born-and-bred native of Flachau. Jaggi's final touch to the muas is fresh bilberries. I take a plate, make myself comfortable between two rocks and tuck in. Delicious!
There are times that are so special, you can't capture them on a screen.
After breakfast, it's time just to sit back and enjoy the view. The sun emerges from behind the peaks of Dachstein and Lackenkogel. Thank goodness I made myself get up so early this morning – or I would have missed this spectacular scene. Everyone around me is busy taking pictures. I think about getting my mobile out of my backpack too, but decide I'd rather simply savour the moment. There are times that are so special, you can't capture them on a screen.
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The mountain is the place I'm longing for
I sit back and suddenly think of that old song by the Austrian pop group S.T.S. "And someday I'll stay there" (Und irgendwann bleib i’ dann dort) sings Gert Steinbäcker as he watches the sun set from the beach of a Greek island. I know exactly what he means, except that my magical place is right here, at an altitude of 1991 metres. Who knows, maybe I will actually stay here some day. Until that day comes, I will be back as often as I can.