Day 26 Villach

We survived our night in the primitive Schultzhutte without any ill effects despite the interesting smell of mouse droppings on my pillow. The view from the window was stunning, a lovely clear night with a distinct view of the Milky Way above and the lights from Villach at the bottom of the valley below.

In the morning Rudi, who owns the hutte, talked about the short summer season for the Alm. The cattle are up here for just three months but gain huge amounts of weight from the lush grass and the sun. At the end of September everything is shut down for the winter. Last year, on the 4th October they had 40 centimetres of snow and in the middle of winter the snow here is metres deep.

Staying at the Schultzhutte reminded me of some of my E4 experiences. Some of the best times are found when you least expect it, away from the more popular routes.

We settled our bills (Rudi didn't charge anything for the multiple shots of schnapps) and set off on the last day's walk. It was hard work sustaining your enthusiasm when your attention inevitably starts to focus on home.

It was a lovely day but most of the six hour walk was through trees with a surprising amount of climbing. Much of it stuck rigidly to the border between Italy and Austria marked by those little stone posts we had first seen a week ago.
The final climb up to Kaplin
The final descent down to Thorl Maglern was steep and long, nearly a 1,000 metres of descent. Crashing down we completely lost Paul. We waited for 10 minutes or so, blew our whistles but no Paul. We didn't even have his phone number to give him a ring.

I hadn't met Paul face to face before he joined us on this trip at Montguelfo and it was a bit of a risk for all of us. Fortunately it worked really well, Paul is very easy to get on with, and we all enjoyed each other's company. He is also a very patient bridge teacher and over the evenings in huttes completely revitalised our interest in the game.

John and Paul
It would, however, have been a bit careless to loose him on the last day. After heading down hill for a few hundred metres we saw his familiar yellow hat and were happily able to complete the last bit of the walk into Thorl Maglern together.
Starting the final descent
As a destination Thorl Maglern is frankly a bit of a dump, particularly on a Sunday when nothing is running. We did find somewhere to eat and I consumed what I think will be my last ever Cordon Bleu. Cordon Bleu is an Austrian standard. A slice of white meat (veal, pork or turkey) folded, filled with cheese, ham and occasionally a slice of tomato, covered in breadcrumbs, and deep fried. It's as good as it sounds.

Took us a while to work it out but our best option was to walk to Arnoldstein, three kilometres down the road, and catch the train to Villach. After a route march along a busy road full of weekend cars and bikers we got to the station with five minutes to spare and were at Villach. The departure board, even on a Sunday, presented us with an array of destinations all over Europe and just for a few minutes we thought about the four hour trip to Munich. Instead we opted for a relaxed evening in Villach itself. We said our goodbyes to Paul who decided to press on to Venice, and had a lovely evening in what was supposed to be the town's best hotel.

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  1. John, good to catch up with your latest walk blogs for the Via Alpina. Looks good with lots of variety of scenery. Always enjoy your wife's contributions to put things into perspective - no offense to you.
    Alpine huts can be a pain but I think I'm getting to old for them!
    The best bit was the 'cure' for a dicky stomach - I've taken serious note of the three blueberries every ten minutes and six tea spoons of warm black tea over same period. Can't wait to try it!!
    I've just returned from a very hot trip to the Lot Valley in France, managed a few walks and cycle rides but mainly enjoying the deep red Cahor's wines.
    Your next trip will be on the GEA which I did last year and enjoyed immensely. The Italians are so friendly and the food will be far better than what you experienced in Austria.
    Be warned that the times and particularly the ascent details in the Gillian Price's Cicerone guide are optimistic [but we hit a heat wave]
    The bus from Sansepolcro [a lovely town] to the start at Bocca Trabaria only runs on a Monday and Friday which caught us out and the local taxi is not too reliable!! And that's just for starters - if there is any more information about the rest of the route you are not sure about please get back to me. It will be a great adventure.

    1. Hi John

      Nice to hear from you and good advice on the GEA - I'm walking with my cousin and we are starting on a Saturday so clearly we shouldn't waste too much time looking for a bus. I'm going to walk as far as Abertone, about 12 days worth which hopefully will give me a bit of an idea what its like. Must admit I'm not expecting a heat wave and we may be pushing our luck a bit in October.

      Keep in touch.


  2. John, Shame you are finishing at Abertone as there is brilliant walking after there!
    But realise it's a good place to get out of and there are quite a few refuges on the next few days. A few comments on accommodation ----

    SANSEPOLCRO lovely town B&B SARA in an old house was a good start, can be booked on the net before you go. As we were late setting off and no bus we got taxi up to Montecasale and followed a variant [?6A] straight to Piana della Capannie {no water there]which shortened the day. All paths were well signed and numbered.
    PASSO di VIAMAGGIO Hotel Imperatore was good.
    CHIUSA LA VERNA Consider walking for the hour up to the Sanctuary which is an atmospheric place with good food.
    BADIA PRATAGLIA Stayed at Albergo Giardino which was excellent despite what the book says. It is also at the start of the next stage and central for shops etc.
    CAMPIGNA [Missed out Camaldoli]There are buse down from the Passo d Calla but hitching easy, early morning bus back up. Stayed at the friendly Albergo Scoiattolo
    COLLI DI CASAGLIA Locanda Della Colla good.
    direct route to Passo del Giorgo now marked as main route.
    Small hotel at Passo della Fruta
    MONTEPIANO Hotel Margherita good.
    PRACCHIA Hotel Melini fine and they gave us a useful morning lift up to Orsigna. It is a long mountainous trip to Abetone. We split it at Ref.Lago Scaffaiolo
    ABETONE Ski town. We stayed 1K down the road at the delightful Hotel Primula in Boscolungo, but that was on our way for the next day.
    Let me know if you decide to continue.
    Fingers crossed for good weather - the forests should be beautiful in autumn.
    John Proud

    1. Hi John

      This has proved very useful. Chances are I will be doing another three days or so after Abetone (all goes well will get there a week next Tuesday) so any more advice would be really helpful. A few places are shut in October (both places in Campigna) so having to shuffle the cards a bit.

      Many thanks


    2. After Abetone there is an open hut at Lago Nero, there is a spring 150m past it on the track. From Foce a Giovo, if misty, take easy variant to L S M but the ascent of M. Rondinaio was good.
      At LAGO SANTO MODENESE there are three small hotels as detailed in book. Stayed at the quaint Giovo. I think Marchetti is open all year. Have noted another - Ref. Cacciatore 0536 71252
      SAN PELLIGRINO Two hotels as listed. [Also B&B Taverna 0583 68556]
      Hotel Lunardi at next road pass should be open.
      After Bocca di Massa path is waymarked over Monte Prado and onwards by- passing R. Battisti
      Ref. Battisti has winter room.
      PASSO PRADARENA Large hotel Carpe Diem.
      PASSO DEL CERRETO B&B Giannarelli 0522 898146
      RIGOSO Found small appartment Ostello rigoso ?0521 896052 ask at bar. Ref.Prato Spilla seemed closed 0521 890128

  3. I would like to thank you for the efforts that you have made in writing this article. This is exactly what I need, Thanks a lot. Keep blogging.

  4. Trying to put together probable weather and hut/hotel closings for a month walk starting in Oberstdorf Sept 1st. Lovely blog but no dates. Would help a lot to to know your starting date

    1. Good point Jack - weather wise you should be fine, a lot a people say the weather is more settled in the Alps in September than any other month. You will need to be careful with the huts as they start to close after the third week. I started my trip (29 days) in the third week of August.