Written by Margaret Hume
(One of the runner-up entries in the City, Town or Village Writing Competition.)
Obergurgl! Now there’s a place whose name lingers on the larynx, and in the memory, long after the cases are back on top of the wardrobe. Much loved by friends as the perfect destination for family skiing holidays, we were persuaded that this gem of a village nestling in Austria’s South Tirol would be a great choice for a summer walking holiday.
So off we went, my husband and I, as an anniversary gift to ourselves in celebration of forty years of matrimony, our reasoning being that such a milestone was deserving of something more special than a pair of fancy earrings and a bottle of whisky.
Born townies, we’ve always been drawn to the English Lake District, but fell-walking was proving too much for our ageing joints and we fancied somewhere different, a little less challenging. Obergurgl, we were told, offered stunning scenery, pristine mountain air, and the hope of re-introducing a spring to our step that would enable us to totter through a few more years together.
We were not disappointed. The tranquillity of the place was almost like a sedative; no need to rush here, no madding crowd. It was just what we needed, impossible to feel anything but relaxed in such idyllic surroundings.
We stayed in the Gotthard-Zeit Hotel, enjoying luxury the like of which we’d never afforded during the whole of our working lives but hey! this was our anniversary treat, and knowing our chances of passing this way again were slimmer than a spider’s leg, we were making the most of it. Rooms, facilities, food, staff were all superb, with the spa the icing on the cake; sheer bliss after a long day’s walking.
While it was never our intention to do anything more energetic than explore the gentle inclines of the pasture land within a few miles of the village, picnicking within sight of soaring mountains and the river gurgling its way through the valley, we were not oblivious of the fact that serious hikers and climbers are well catered for, with tracks colour-marked according to degree of difficulty.
On the odd occasion when we misjudged our capabilities, we soon learned to agree, though not always without a threatening glower or two, that there was no shame in having to retrace our steps. Indeed, admitting the need to turn back was the key not just to the preservation of life and limb, but also to continued matrimonial harmony. After all, given the romantic nature of our holiday the last thing we wanted was to arrive back home with a leg in plaster and a divorce pending!
A favourite walk was just along the valley to David’s Hütte, a friendly restaurant with a sun terrace perfect for morning coffee or a steaming bowl of goulash soup. Hungry skiers must love this pace, situated as it is at the end of a ski-run.
Although our leisurely meanderings were quite enough to satisfy us we were more than happy to hear how younger, more adventurous folk were making the most of what lay a little further afield. Glacier walking, cycle rides, white-water rafting, climbing, Aquadome, Fun Park, we listened with interest as all were discussed at length in the hotel bar of an evening, while the serious photographers enthused over precipitous gorges and tumbling waterfalls.
Shoppers too seemed well pleased with what was on offer close by. Jewellery, sportswear, toys, fashion items, you want them Obergurgl’s got them, and for anyone with a liking for a bit of serious sparkle and a willingness to travel further afield there’s the Zwarovski Crystal Worlds museum at Wattens, near Innsbruck. We were entertained for an entire evening by an elderly German couple’s account of their visit there. Although not exactly our cup of tea we had to admit it did sound like a bling lover’s paradise, and those Germans flashed all their purchases to prove it.
All too soon our lovely treat was over, and although different by necessity from previous holidays we enjoyed it immensely. Sadly my husband passed away recently, but I am left with fabulous memories of our time in Obergurgl.
Posted 19th September 2015 by Steve Hanson on behalf of Margaret Hume. The first three photographs were supplied by the author after the Writing Competition had been judged.