Sunday July the 31st Salzburg to Faistenau

Today feels like the beginning of the pen-ultimate stage of my E4 marathon. In two and a half weeks if all goes to plan Christine, who joined me yesterday in Salzburg, will be on her way to Vienna, the Alpine walking will be over, and I'll be walking across flatlands to Budapest.

My itinerary is a bit messier than a straight forward walk across the eastern Austrian Alps and I have come up with my own version of the E4 to avoid a long walk to and from Vienna. Since Bregenz and Lake Constance I have been following the northern variant of the E4 which essentially follows the Weitwanderweg 04 (and the Maximillianweg which finishes just to the east of Salzburg). The 04 clings to the northern edge of the Alps and I'll stick with that route until it gets to Klauser See which should be in four or five days time. I'm then going to switch variants and join the higher Alpine variant at Spital am Pyhrn walking along that until it descends from the mountains at the Wax Riegal Haus. Then instead of walking to Vienna and back I'm going to cut across country and rejoin the E4 as it enters Hungary.

We knocked off the first day of the penultimate stage today. Said goodbye to my cousin Chris Dickinson this morning and got straight onto the E4 as it leaves Salzburg on the eastern side. Weather was cloudy this morning and gradually got better throughout the day. Looks like Christine's arrival may have signalled a break in the run of poor weather I have suffered for the last fortnight or so.

Although today was a bit dull it was the right length for Christine's first day and by the time we got to Faistenau we had walked 23 kilometres and climbed 1200 metres. After all the rain Christine opted to wear proper walking boots and her feet were getting sore by the middle of the day.

The first target was Gaisberg which was today's highest point. We broke the climb at Zistelalm and had coffee and strudel. It was only 10.30 but beer was already being consumed and the restaurant was gearing up for some serious music making. Half expecting Julie Andrews to burst in; it was hard to distinguish between restaurant staff, musicians and customers as everyone, apart from us, was in national costume. ( note from Christine: the men were particularly fine in elaborate 3 ply hand knitted hose, leather shorts and tailored felt jackets; one sported an impeccable heavily waxed handlebar moustache).

Still a bit misty but on a clear day the views of Salzburg from the top of Gaisberg would have been amazing. Some nice walking through birch trees on the way to the top.

From Gaisberg looking back to Salzburg

Through trees to the east of Gaisberg

The long walk down hammered Christine's feet and by the time she got to the bottom she was having to apply her patent anti-blister treatment which involves removing socks and boots and standing in ice cold water, provided there's a convenient stream.

Down to Ebanau

The walk to Ebanau and the final stretch to Faistenau was just a bit dull and involved a lot of walking on hard surfaces. After booking a hotel so close to the E4 leaving Salzburg Christine's second gasthof was not so well placed, in fact it was 10 kilometres to the north. No harm done as local alternatives were plentiful, so we cancelled and dug in at a nice old gasthaus in the main square.

Christine adds
John is looking like the mad monk with wild longish curly grey hair and a hungry resigned look on his face. It was very good to see him after all this time. He is incredibly strong and fit and has the stamina of an ox. Am regretting bringing my big heavy boots and need to toughen my feet up before we hit John's special 40k a day routine. The landscape here is a bit too twee and manicured. Looking forward to getting into the Alps proper.

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