Downstream to Mayrhofen
For this reason the Zillergrund Valley is often affectionately referred to as "the source of the Ziller Valley" The spring lies at an altitude of around 2,270m between the Rauchkofel and Klockerkarkopf in the Zillertal Alps. The valley is 25 kilometres long and leads from the Austrian-Italian border to Mayrhofen.
My first mountain bike tour!
I am planning a day out mountain biking in the Zillergrund Valley, which is the perfect destination for a novice mountain biker like me (at least so I thought!). I cycle from Mayrhofen in the direction of Brandberg and arrive at the Zillergrund toll station. I continue along the gently ascending asphalt road and am pleased when, after about 5 kilometres, a guest house appears.
I stop at the Alpengasthaus Klaushof and quench my thirst with a large apple juice before cycling onwards to the Alpengasthaus Häusling. However, this time I decide to keep going and instead stop at the restaurant on my way back and visit the interesting little church next to it. My energy levels are running low, I am pedalling slower and I’m short of breath, but the beautiful day encourages me to dig deep and keep cycling.
The Adlerblick, the dam and little Tibet
After around 15km, I reach the Alpengasthaus "In der Au". Thank goodness! I top up my energy reserves with a "Fritattensuppe" (clear broth with pancakes), which is simply delicious. My tour continues to the Bärenbadalm at an altitude of 1,430m. At this point the road inclines steeply and I decide to catch the bus to the top of the dam. After all, I have already climbed around 700 altitude metres on my mountain bike. The journey up to the dam is well worth it! The views of the surrounding mountains are absolutely breath-taking! Just above the dam, clinging to the cliff face is the Adlerblick (Eagle’s View) restaurant. I climb the steps up to the restaurant and really feel like an eagle as I look down on the valley below. I decide to walk along the reservoir and, after a short walk, I arrive at "Little Tibet"! Yes, you read correctly, "Little Tibet" – a hidden treasure in the midst of the Ziller Valley mountains.
Tibetan prayer flags at the end of the Zillergrund Valley
Along the path from the dam, I pass several benches engraved with sayings or slogans such as "S’Bankl nach Klein Tibet" ("bench on the way to Little Tibet"), "Plauener Hütten Blick" (View of the Plauener Hütte) or "letzte Rast vor Klein Tibet" (Last stop until Little Tibet). I actually hadn’t planned to walk to the end of the reservoir, however, I feel compelled by these benches to keep walking. Suddenly, I find myself in "Little Tibet" and it certainly feels as though I have entered a foreign country.
I get chatting with the young landlady, Katharina, and ask her how they came up with the idea of a "Little Tibet" in the Zillergrund Valley. She tells me that her father had often visited Tibet and always brought home some souvenirs from his mountaineering adventures: Tibetan prayer flags, prayer wheels etc. It is definitely a special place with an enchanting atmosphere that makes you want to stay a while longer. However, there’s no getting around it, I have to get back!
I take the bus from the dam back to the Bärenbadalm and jump on my mountain bike, looking forward to kilometres of downhill riding ahead of me. At the Alpengasthaus Häusling I take a short break to go into the little church I saw on the way here. It is really beautiful in its simplicity, with an antique Madonna on the alter. I am curious by nature and so head into the neighbouring Gasthaus Häusling to find out more. I learn that the church is called "Maria Schnee" and the interesting story behind it (but I’ll have to keep that for another time). Services are still held in the church and its saints day is celebrated on the first Sunday in August.
After a delicious Kaiserschmarrn, which I have definitely earnt, I get back in the saddle and pedal the way from Häusling to Gasthaus Au. From there I can just freewheel – no pedalling required. I arrive home absolutely exhausted, run myself a soothing bath and reflect on my day; meadows of flowers, traditional guesthouses, water, mountains, Little Tibet etc. To sum it up: simply breath-taking!
Facts about the Zillergrund Valley:
Altitude: from 630m to 1,850m (Zillergrund reservoir)
Restaurants/ guest houses: 7
End of the valley: Zillergrund Reservoir
Things to see: St. Valentin Chapel above the reservoir; Maria Schnee Church in Häusling
Activities:Cycling with breath-taking views; bouldering in the Sundergrund; Nordic walking on the hiking paths