Tremble all ye below my grubby toes (3 images, 1 ramble)
I previously had a post and some words about my time in Austria and the visit to the top of Mt. Hafelekar, but rummaging through my books i found this bunch of words and I felt obliged to throw it up here. Read it maybe, or just look at my right foot (it’s the good one).
The top of the world. I was at the top of the world. The sun emerged from the burgeoning clouds every so often to lay gentle kisses upon my forehead. The three separate cable car trips had only taken us so high, and the group of strangers that we were made the final trek up. Numbers and facts were beyond us at this point.
Over the course of the ride up we’d all exchanged friendly glances and the briefest of introductions. One group of Vienesse men were kitted out like sir Edmund Hillary himself. Climbing boots, large backpacks, and further scaling equipment that i recognized as little more than that. Their preparation intimidated me. Me in my regular gear of flip flops, a t-shirt, slightly baggy jeans, and my backpack with paper and pens waiting inside. I’m sure the Indian family beside me felt simliarly, especially the elderly grandmother who struggled onto the cable car itself.
Where we boarded at ground level was the most spectacular cable car station. I’d read about Zaha Hadid’s architectural exploits in the city before but as i walked in the direction i was pointed, the ivory structure emerged from the wild green arond it and engulfed me in its organic textures and flows preparing me for the journey ahead.
The first stop left us at a similar station on the mountain itself. A packed cafe slightly overflowed onto the aerial patio as people tried to avoid the brisk winds that whipped up on the day. We all made circles about the station, waiting for the next car to pick us up . It arrived and we set off again. Glances were re-exchanged and a group of us clamoured to the back as the view was about to get exciting. We watched as we left the ground even further behind; as we left the cafe further and further below; as we rose higher and higher above Innsbruck. Even the grandmother was coerced off her seat and shuffled over to a side window by her family to take a look. Like jumping in a pool she was in shock at first, pulling way, before looking back and marvelling at the sight below.
The next stop was shorter as our timing was luckier this time. There wasn’t much to see at this station anyway, and now that we had gotten this high, all we could think of was the top.
The Indian family opted to linger and catch the next one up. It was just the Vienesse expedition, a group of Italian suits, and me now. This portion of the ride was the longest, and the shakiest. If the earlier part was like jumping in a pool for grandma, i can only imagine this would’ve been a tidal wave for her. The car swung ever so slightly with every step and we were swiftly asked to stay as still as we could for the rest of it. As before, we had our eyes glued to the increasingly small city and world below us. We saw empty hiking trails covered in snow just beneath us, snaking their way up the mountain.
Closer to the top, everyone in the car turned around almost in unison to get a look at the final station. Had i seen such a shack in the middle of the woods i’d have called it unsafe and sought shelter elsehwere. Here we were about to attempt to lock a swining cable car into a rickety little hut in the middle of the clouds. Without logical reason, my legs felt like they were covered in ants and i put a firm hand upon the railing. Surely that would help. As we approached the station i looked back down and was pushed back by the view. My legs steadied as i once again anticipated docking and getting out on to the rocks. The docking process was a blur in contrast to the eagerness filling the car. I stepped out last and stood still for a solid minute, looking straight down and breathing in the breeze of the heavens.
Up here it was a far cry from the swish cafes and bars below. A few splintered benches, looking as old as the peak itself, furnished the setting. I sat for a while, looking down upon Innsbruck, a quiet city in itself, but from here it was all but a postcard. Ice capped mountains stretched from either side of us and embraced the city. This was the highest i’d ever been. Maybe an elevator had taken me to higher, but i was sure i wasn’t being at the time. This was the highest i’d ever been. It was the middle of May but pools of ice and snow speckled the ground. I stood in one and took a picture of my flip flops covered in slush.
There was still a portion left to scale on foot. Looking at it from where i was i thought for a moment that the Vienesse group had the right idea as i saw no way up for baggy jeans. As i got closer, and the sun once more took a peek, i noticed slabs of rock jutting out of the ground all the way up. “Stairs”, i supposed. Each slanted step carried with it an inherent possibility of slipping and a quick route back to the city below, but it was probably better not to think that at the time. I made my way up and wondered if the expedition felt the slightest bit silly.
The top of the world. I was at the top of the world. On one side was a miniature Innsbruck, on the other was a larger group of alps. Ranges of snow capped and ice-spattered mountains stretched themselves away from the city, jutting into the sky and falling into valleys along the way. A flock of dark clouds gathered above them, creating a sinister character about them. I briefly dreaded the train ride back to Salzburg i’d have to endure. How could i move from from the openness of the sky to a 200km/h tin can? I snapped back to where i was. The clouds had slowly snuck up on us and a drizzle began. Most of the people that were wandering around carefully rushed down the grand staircase and to the shelter by the station.
For a moment i thought only i remained, before noticing another pair of benches at the other end. One bench sat desperately lonely as an elderly couple sat on the other, looking out upon the horizon of rock and snow. I walked towards one edge and sat myself atop a brick wall that lined the perimeter. This time the thought that one strong wind and i’d see innsbruck grow towards me was too obvious to ignore. So i didn’t, i accepted it and looked straight ahead, at the mountains, at the sky, at forever.
I don’t remember leaving.