Austria is an alpine nation. Even in some of the country’s biggest cities people are never far from the Alps. You see them on the horizons, with a dusting of snow even in summer, and feel them in the climates, with the warm sunny days and crisp cool nights. But more significantly Austrians are never far from the Alps because, wherever it is they might be physically, a part of their soul lives in the mountains. Skiing in the winter, hiking in the summer. As tourists to the country we hiked up mountainsides, traipsed around the hilltops, caught cable cars, and ate Knödel and Käsespätzle on the sunny decks of small mountaintop cafes, washed down with Bier and Radler. But even though it was late summer and the tail end of the high tourist season, more often than not we were surrounded in our mountain travels by locals. Most of them were over 40 and would disembark the cable cars or pass us on the hiking trails, with their hiking poles and backpacks, often filled with a beer or two to be enjoyed in quiet scenic spot overlooking the green valleys and snowy peaks beyond. We would exchange a nod and a smile and the typical Austrian greeting, ‘Grüss Gott’, and remark to ourself that these mountain-loving Austrians really know what life is all about.
Looking through the tightly packed and silhouetted crowd out to forest and snow dusted mountains in the Nordkettenbahn, a series of cable cars which takes travellers from downtown Innsbruck 1696 meters (5564 feet) up to the rugged mountain peaks.
Bright blue sky and grey rocky mountains dusted with fresh white snow, despite the sunny summer day, at the small Nordkette ski resort which sits just above Innsbruck; A couple sit on the grass at Nordkette and look down at Innsbruck in the valley, with the River Inn and the snow covered mountains across the other side.
A sign greeting you and at top of the mountain shows the way to all the various and very popular hikes starting here at Nordkette and making their way through the mountains, with the valley and snowy mountains behind.
In this nation of hikers and mountain people, a red and white Austrian flag painted on a rock signals a hiking trail; A steep snowy mountainside at Nordkette with the big blue sky above and small green valley below, the Seegrube cable car station and restaurant is visible at the base of the slope and the upper Hafelekar cable car station and restaurant is a tiny speck on the mountain peak above.
A black afghan hound sits on the grass in the shade with a view of the snowy mountain peaks, escaping the summer sun which is especially warm at in the mountains such as Nordkette with its 1905 (6250 feet) meter altitude.
A close up of the rocky mountain top at Nordkette, bright orange lichen growing on the rocks; A hiking couple rest on the seat of a monument adorned with red and white ribbons, the colours of the Austrian flag, admiring the view of the mountains from Nordkette and enjoying the warmth of the sunshine.
From higher up, at the 2256m (7401 feet) Hafelekar peak, looking over the other side of the mountains away from the city you see a dramatic rocky grey mountain range covered with fresh snow, a small wooden fence keeping you safe.
Outside the Seegrube cable car station and restaurant at Nordkette, mountain bikes lean waiting for their riders against a wooden fence with fresh white snow on the grey mountain peaks behind them; Empty coffee cups on a table in the sun on the deck of Seegrube, looking out over the valley with Innsbruck and snowy mountains peaks on the other side.
At Hafelekar, the top of Nordkette, a man stands on the rocky mountaintop with fresh white snow and blue skies, looking out at more mountains beyond.
People eat and drink at the Hafelekar tables in the snow right on the edge of the mountain, with Innsbruck and the River Inn beneath the clouds in the valley below.
People sit at well placed benches on Nordkette’s Hafelekar mountaintop and admire the view of the spectacular rocky mountain ranges that are the Alps.
The steep rocky mountain peaks of the Alps with fresh snow and a small research hut which was established at Hafelekar by Victor Franz Hess to measure cosmic radiation.
At the very top of the 2443 meter Hafelekar peak a happy nun in her habit, with a backpack and hiking poles, chats to a hiking woman with the summit cross behind her and clouds rolling in.
A wooden bench seat perched on the rocky mountain edge at Nordkette, with Innsbruck in the valley far below, beneath the clouds that have started rolling in.
A couple walk down a path across the grassy mountain top on the Hafelekar peak at Nordkette, with patches of fresh white snow and the rocky mountain peaks of the Alps.
At Nordkette, the Austrian nun in her habit, with hiking boots and hiking poles, walks across the rocky mountaintop surrounded by the stunning Alps; An old bent metal handrail on the rocky edge of the mountain with fresh patches of white snow and blue skies.
From Hafelekar looking along the ridge line, on one side are the sharp rocky peaks of the Alps, covered in fresh snow, and on the other is the green valley that is home to Innsbruck, with more snowy peaks in the distance.
Tourists stand on the Hafelekar peak and take photos of the valley as the clouds roll in.
A nun in her habit sits on the rocky edge of the mountain at Nordkette with binoculars, looking out at the spectacular grey peaks of the Alps.
Now on the other side of the valley at Patscherkofel, looking out over the grassy valley and Innsbruck to the mountain peaks of Nordkette.
Though Patscherkofel is a ski resort in winter, covered in white, in summer it is filled with many rich colours from the rocks, trees, grasses, shrubs and the shadows of clouds across the mountains; Sunny tables on the deck of a small wood and stone alpine restaurant at Patscherkofel, with leather bound menus and sheepskin rugs on the bench seats.
A rocky hiking path through the grass and up a hill at Patscherkofel, with the mountains from the other side of the valley in the distance.
A bench seat in a summery Alps landscape at Patscherkofel looking out to the mountains on the other side of the valley, with a faded Austria flag painted on a rock indicating a hiking trail.
A dirt hiking path around the mountain at Patscherkofel, with small trees and shrubbery sloping down towards the long green valley below and more mountains beyond that.
A small bushy pine tree in long pale dry summery grass on the mountain top at Patscherkofel.
Looking across the thick green grass to the small Zillertal village of Mayrhofen with its church steeple, nestled against forest-covered mountains.
A man stands on the mountain edge at Ahorn with long green and yellow summer grasses, and looks out at the sheer mountain peaks of the Alps; A ski resort in the summertime, at Ahorn a couple walk along a dirt road beneath a sleeping chairlift with large mountains looming above them.
Looking out from Ahorn, dry summer grass that in winter would be a ski run, with a pine forest and the huge mountain peaks of the Alps; Enjoying the summer sun at Ahorn, four people hike up the grassy ski run with dirt tracks.
Rocky outcrop on the mountainside at Ahorn, with grasses, scrubby plants, pine trees and snow dusted mountain peaks.
Ducks under a wooden table and bench seats at Ahorn, right on the mountain edge with a narrow valley and glaciers in the mountains behind, the perfect place for a beer or coffee in the summer sun; A rough stone wall in the dry summery grass on the mountainside at Ahorn leading to a small centuries-old wooden hut which sells drinks and snacks, the narrow valley and glacier in the distance.
A rough stone wall at Ahorn in the dry yellow grass of summer with the big mountains of the Alps lightly dusted with snow.
Goats with big bells around their necks lie on rocks in the shade beside a centuries-old rough wooden hut at Ahorn which presumably was once a shepherds hut but now sells drinks and snacks in the summertime.
A man walks up the big stone steps of a path leading up the green grassy mountainside at Ahorn with snowy mountains and a glacier in the distance; Outside the old hut with the goats and ducks at Ahorn, water pours into a trough made from a hollowed log beside an old stone wall with the huge mountain peaks of the Alps behind.
At Ahorn a rough old stone wall winds its ways of the hilltops whilst below the green valley of the Zillertal is filled with villages like Mayrhofen built around the Ziller River winding its way down the length of the valley.
Dry summer grass at Ahorn with a rough stone wall and mountain peaks covered with a light dusting of snow; Looking down from the mountain at Ahorn, over the pine, forest, to the green Zillertal valley with its river and villages.