When I woke up and looked out of the window I could see nothing, just thick cloud. I had arranged to do a guided walk on the Schmittenhohe. Would they still do it?
I got to the arranged meeting point at the Schmittenhohebahn cable car station and recognised the guide, Resi. She had been the leader when I did the walk two years ago. There were four other walkers, three Germans and a Russian lady. WE rode up the 1000 metres to the summit in the Porsche designed cable car. As we rode up we could not see anything and then suddenly we came out into bright sunshine. Below us was a sea of cloud.
At the summit we paused at the viewing platform to take in the view of the snow capped peaks of the High Tauern sticking out above the cloud.
We set off downhill at a leisurely pace but soon the Germans were racing ahead, walking poles clicking. We would not see them again.
At the first lake Resi stopped to pick some blueberries. I tried some as well, they were delicious. Resi was very knowledgeable about medicinal herbs and pointed several species out to me. It is also one of my interests and I wanted to photograph them. This first reservoir, Speicher-see is quite small but looked idyllic set against the backdrop of mountains.
I spotted some type of cotton grass and wandered off to take a photo.
The cloud was now breaking up and we could see down to the valley.
Resi called to me to point out some yellow flowers. She said they were good for depression. They are called ‘St Johann Wort.
I recognised it as St John’s Wort, Hypericum perforatum. In medieval times it was believed to drive away evil spirits and protect against witchcraft. In modern day it is used as a herbal supplement to treat depression and anxiety.
Resi pointed out many more herbs and encouraged me to taste some. The only one I recognised was Thyme due to its characteristic taste. As well as being a culinary herb it is used in cough preparations and for digestive disorders and is a popular ingredient of mouthwashes.
We were approaching the second reservoir where there are exhibits from the Art on the Hill Project. One of my favourites is Isola Felix.
I think it is supposed to represent the moment of cell division. The booklet explains :- Zell am See speaks to a fundament of the human being, and to a source of the origins of life on the water. Like a prologue for the future, the Cell is portrayed in the instant of its division. Through its placement in the reservoir, the scripture addresses itself to the running problems of the present, e.g. the inequality of water distribution across the earthy. Apart from its formal aesthetics, it is also a call to be more careful and sensitive to our dealings with natural resources.
As we continued slowly downhill, Resi pointed out a small white flower and tried to explain it was good for the eyes. I recognised it as Eyebright, Euphrasia officinalis. Its use in Herbal Medicine was probably due to the Doctrine of Signatures. Plants that resembled parts of the human body were thought to be capable of treating those areas. Looking closely inside the small white flower are black lines which are said to resemble eyelashes. Hence the flowers were used to treat eye infections and refresh tired eyes. Think of it as natures ‘Optrex’
We were soon approaching the third reservoir, Plettsaukopf and Mittelstation. I wanted to walk round the reservoir again but this time I followed route 53. It went through the woods and was slightly rougher than route 55.
All that remained now was to ride down on the City XPress. But first I headed for Gasthof Mittelstation for a well earned pint.