We heard about this mountain trail from the good old Lonely Planet and were intreged to drive our little VW Polo down to see what it was all about. Promises of epic senery meant we put off the adventure for a few days until the weather was on our side. Being engulfed by little fluffy clouds is no fun if you can’t see anything but mist!
The Glossglockner is an Alpine road in Austria initially completed in 1935 which leads to the heart of the Hohe Tauern National Park and the highest mountain in Austria, the Grossglockner (3,798m) and its glacier, the Pasterze. The pass leads you on 48 kilometres of high alpine road with 36 twists, turns and hairpin bends. Originally intended to open up the mountains to motorised traffic the road is now purely a tourist attraction with a fee payable on entry.
The view, was undoubtedly breathtaking. From the first kilometer the mountains rose majestically in front of us, shrouded in clouds at their summit and topped with icy glaciers. We were joined on the road by an array of vehicles, from middle aged gents in Ferrari’s and Aston Martin’s to Moterbike gangs and increadibly fit cyclists. I was in awe of the laters level of fitness. Our little 1.2 engined Polo was huffing and puffing on her way up, whilst we passed numerous dedicated adventurers slowly and steadily peddling onwards and upwards. Coming across 2 a-breast on a hairpin bend was slightly terrifying when the road was really only big enough for 2 cars with rock on one side and a sheer drop to certain doom on the other.
At the highest drivable point a viewing platform and restaurant gives an opportunity to sit back with a beer and wurst to take in the magestic quality of the mountains with a 360 degree view. There is also a walking route to the viewpoint which we took and its reccomended as there was quite a traffic jam at the top and stretching your legs is no bad thing after sitting in the car for hours.
As the road started to descend John felt an F1 moment coming on so we cranked up ‘The Chain’ by Fleetwood Mac and he put the little car through her paces. They both managed well and it was certainly fun but there was a lot of smoke and smell of burn rubber coming off the brakepads afterwards and when we arrived at the Glossglockner mountain carpark the smell from a number of the cars was distinctly similar! She recovered well after a day or 2 so no major harm done hopefully!
The mountain and glacier are exquisite and an ideal photo spot ( amonst the myriad others along the trail). For the intrepid, a walk down to the melted glacial river is possible as is a bit of Marmot spotting. Funny little beaver like creatures,the alpine marmots are excellent diggers, penetrating the earth where a pickaxe cannot. The oil from their fur is said to be excellent for Rhumetism if rubbed on the skin, or so the tourist tat sellers would have you believe.
If your in the Salzburg or Heiligenblut this experience is 100% recommended. Be safe when your driving though, this is a potentially dangerous road but huge fun.
The Grossglockner High Alpine Road is normally open from the beginning of May to the end of October.
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