Friday thought #74 Forest tracks and tall trees

There’s something about being in a forest that I really love, I don’t know why, but they are mysterious, always quiet, regardless of the time of year, and almost certainly beautiful. For me a forest walking trail is hard to beat, especially one with gnarled tree roots criss-crossing your path, and flanked by perfectly straight trees, all desperate for their place in the sun…


Spot the horse!
Spot the horse!


Friday thought #73 Discovering the lakes of Tirol

Living in a landlocked country I’m always keen to spend time near water whenever possible. Innsbruck isn’t inundated with nearby lakes, but if you are willing to get in the car there are some stunners within an hour’s drive.

We recently discovered Piburgersee, a small, enclosed and incredibly peaceful lake. Unlike many other such lakes, there are no big grassy areas for people to lounge around on, just tiny, private ‘beach’ areas right next to the water, nestled in between the tree roots and the atmospheric overhanging branches. The lake never gets very busy, and regardless of the other people, the enclosed nature of it always means that you feel like you’re on your own.

A lovely forest path circumnavigates the lake, with further trails leading off it for those who want a longer walk, and it is also possible to rent a boat for a bit of lake time without getting wet! Plus there are 2 lovely restaurants on the far side to eat, drink or simply chill out in the sun! A wonderful discovery!

The water is a lovely temperature, and the fish are very friendly!
The water is a lovely temperature, and the fish are very friendly!
Stunning reflections
Stunning reflections from our ‘private beach’
You can't fail to feel relaxed here
You can’t fail to feel relaxed here


Friday thought #72 A superb via ferrata and an amazing day out

Yesterday dawned beautiful, bright and sunny in Innsbruck, so we made the most of a day off by heading in to the Stubai Valley to do the Schlicker via ferrata, one that had been on our to-do list for a while. We have skied in the Schlick resort, but this was our first time outside of winter, and the stunning rock pillars that tower so majestically over the pistes were, if possible, even more impressive in the summer.

It was a full day out, with a 1.5 hour walk-in, around 3 hours climbing, and about 2.5 hours walk down, but the views were simply breathtaking all day, the climbing superb, and the location second to none. I couldn’t recommend this highly enough, it is described as one of the best via ferratas in the area, and rightly so.

Not a bad lunch spot...
Not a bad lunch spot…
Stunning rock formations along the ridge
Stunning rock formations along the ridge
The view from the top, across to the Axamer Lizum ski area
One of the views from the top, back down in to the Stubai Valley
What a spectacular place to be climbing
What a spectacular place to be climbing
Just one of the incredible rock towers, where did it come from?!
Just one of the incredible rock towers, where did it come from?!


Friday thought #71 Inspirational families (who take their kids climbing!)

Today we headed out for a day climbing above Achensee, a beautiful lake around 40 minutes drive from Innsbruck. There are several climbing areas at the top of this cable car, and the views from the top, across the lake itself and over towards the Karwendel National Park, are just incredible, in my opinion some of the best to be found in Austria.

The climbing was superb; brilliant, slabby limestone, but the real highlight of the day came from the only other team we saw climbing all day. A mum and dad were out climbing with their 2 daughters – aged around 7 and 10. Dad led, mum belayed, and the 2 girls top roped every route, from grade 4 up to 6a! And what topped the whole thing off was that after the girls had climbed, grandpa tied in and climbed the routes too!

We were absolutely amazed, and utterly inspired. 3 generations of the same family out climbing together on a beautiful sunny day. Many people could learn a great deal from people like this, long live families who do stuff outdoors with their kids!

Just a sample of the stunning area
Just a sample of the area with its stunning rock formations
Looking over in to the Karwendel
Looking over in to the Karwendel
The inspirational family - mum, dad, kids and grandpa - all climbing!
The inspirational family – mum, dad, kids and grandpa – all climbing!
Achensee from the cable car station with the Karwendel National Park behind. Wow.
Achensee from the cable car station with the Karwendel National Park behind. Wow


Friday thought #70 Are we ever too old to learn new skills?

It has been said that, ‘Continuing to learn well into adulthood is beneficial to health and happiness.’ But despite the obvious benefits of continued learning, the vast majority of people will never have the opportunity to experience this enhanced health and happiness,  because once you finish your formal education, learning becomes optional rather than compulsory. For most people, learning is what you do at school, and once all that necessity is behind them they are quite happy to potter on through life enjoying what they already have. And of course there is nothing wrong with that, but the positive effects of continued learning are difficult to ignore.

To start with there are clear health benefits, indeed it has been found that adults who keep both body and brain active are far less likely to develop illnesses such as dementia in later life. And anyone who has committed to taking up a new skill as an adult can surely attest to the positive effects on wellbeing and attitude. These could be things as small as taking a cookery class, joining a yoga group, or learning a new language, and it doesn’t have to be just for those who have recently retired! For some, formal education finishes at 16, and there is a great deal of life still ahead to simply sit and stagnate!

Of course learning a new skill or taking up a new hobby requires time, effort, motivation and the determination to succeed, or at least to give it your best shot. It’s too easy to just sit back and carry on with what you already know. After all, how many people need another language? What’s the point of taking a painting class? What is there to be gained from learning how to play the guitar? But it isn’t all about the end result, why does there always need to be a logical reason? Why not just “because I want to”?, or “because you’re never too old to keep learning”?

Having recently moved to Austria with absolutely zero German abilities, I have started learning a new language from scratch. At the same time I decided that after many many years of wishing I could play the piano, I am also now taking lessons, as a complete beginner! At first both were very difficult, and many times I considered giving up. After all, nobody needs to play an instrument, or speak more than one language, and being an adult you have many more pressing things to do than practice piano. But perseverance is the key, and from the simple act of learning, and ultimately improving, comes such a wonderful feeling of achievement and a great sense of wellbeing. It makes you realise that you haven’t really learnt anything for such a long time, and I mean really learnt, from not being able to say a word, to making yourself understood and forming whole sentences. Or from being able to cobble together chopsticks on a keyboard, to reading music, playing chords and putting together proper tunes.

It’s a wonderful feeling, and I am so glad that I finally got round to doing these things. With all the pressures and stresses of life it is so easy to continually put it off. “Maybe next year”, “I don’t have time at the minute”… etc etc. I can speak from personal experience here that we should never stop learning. To plateau is to get bored, and as they say, variety is the spice of life. Don’t just think about it, do it!

Top Reasons to Learn a Language Abroad


Friday thought #69 A via ferrata with an unexpected bonus!

Via ferratas, or klettersteigs as they are called in German, are much more popular in Austria than in many other European countries, and we are very lucky to have several great routes within just a stone’s throw of Innsbruck. Now that the warm weather has returned we have got back out on the rocks, climbing and klettersteig-ing, and are loving it. Klettersteig is basically assisted rock climbing. You climb up and across enormous rock faces with the aid of metal staples and steps in the rock, all the time following a metal rail that you are permanently attached to, so there’s no chance of getting lost!

Most peaks in Austria have the standard summit cross to signal the top, and often there is a ‘summit book’ tucked inside for each climber to sign and date. It’s a lovely tradition, and the fantastic klettersteig in St Jodok, around 40 minutes drive from Innsbruck, is no exception. It’s a thoroughly enjoyable route, the view from the top is beautiful, and the solitude just marvellous. Hard to find any room for improvement!

So imagine our delight when we looked around and saw a large wooden chest sitting in the forest at the top of the climb, and opened it to discover a huge ‘outdoor fridge’ full of cold beer, water and soft drinks! The sign reads ‘Voluntary donations to the St Jodok mountain rescue fund.

A fantastic cause and a superb bonus after a sweaty climb on a hot day. What a wonderful idea!

Voluntary donations for the St Jodok Mountain Rescue
Voluntary donations for the St Jodok Mountain Rescue
What a sight to behold!
What a sight to behold!
What a view, not a bad spot to drink a beer
What a view, not a bad spot to drink a beer!

Friday thought #68 Lovely mountain quotes

I’ve always been a fan of a good quote, and although some run the risk of being either cheesy or clichéd, some get it just right.

Simple and thoughtful, that’s the key. I found these ones on the windows at the Seegrubbe lift station in Innsbruck, set against the stunning backdrop of the city and the mountains which overlook it.





Friday thought #67 Spring has arrived and everyone is smiling

I hate to say it in April, but winter in the Alps is well and truly over, and has been for a while. The last few weeks in Innsbruck have seen temperatures as high as 25 degrees C, the cows and horses are back in the meadows, and rock climbing, via ferratas, hiking and running are very much back on the agenda.

Despite the fact that it feels like summer, this is my first Spring in Austria and I love the feel of the city as the seasons start to change. Being a university city, it’s no surprise to see the students out in force as the weather becomes warmer, but the sight of the neverending line of people sitting along the banks on the river Inn next to the university still made me stop, get off my bike and marvel at the power of the sunshine.

The mere presence of the sun means that everyone is happy and relaxed. Stress is forgotten, people suddenly have more free time and want to be outside; having barbecues, playing frisbee, or simply socialising out in the sun.

Here’s to a long summer of enjoying the outdoors x

A river and sunshine, an unbeatable combination
A river, mountains and sunshine, an unbeatable combination


An alpine meadow with cows grazing. It's amazing how happy it can make you feel...
A simple alpine meadow with cows aimlessly grazing. It’s amazing how happy it can make you feel…


Friday thought #66 Innsbruck Alpenzoo

I’m not a big zoo visitor, in fact the last time I went to a zoo was probably when I was a child, however having visitors is a great opportunity to go and see some of your local tourist attractions; often places that you would never ordinarily choose to visit.

The Innsbruck Alpenzoo is one such place. It’s walking distance from the city centre and boasts quite a wide variety of animals for such a small place, including lynx, wolves, bison, chamois and even a brown bear! It most certainly raises questions about the humanity of keeping such magnificent animals in captivity, but whatever your opinion, it’s an interesting place and fascinating to be so close to a bear!




Friday thought #65 Beautiful Bangor and an Irish pub – in Ireland!

I love Ireland, have done ever since I was a child, and as an adult I love it more and more every time I visit. I am lucky enough to have family in Ireland so have opportunity to visit more often than most, and each time I leave wishing I could stay longer. The people are incredibly friendly, the landscape is lush, green and beautiful, and the whole country just makes you feel so welcome from the moment you arrive.

This time we managed to fit in a morning 5km parkrun round Ward Park in Bangor, an afternoon in Belfast looking round the brilliantly done Titanic Quarter, and even a visit to Stormont, the seat of the Northern Irish parliament.

However the highlight of the trip was the evening we spent in a traditional Irish pub in the Bangor Marina. Feeling the need for at least 1 taste of Guiness whilst there, we wandered down to the waterfront one evening and happened to walk past a bar with lovely music floating out of it. Popping our heads round the door it looked like just what we were looking for. A few locals leaning on the bar, a guitarist/singer strumming away in the corner with the occasional play of a harmonica, a roaring open fire and an ancient bar decorated with old  framed photos and battered leather armchairs.

We passed several happy hours in here, particularly loving the quotes that covered the walls. I’ll include a few in here. It seems that when in Ireland, North or South, time slows down, people chill out and with no agenda at all, just want to have fun.

What a wonderful place…

The iconic Harland and Wolff cranes, also know as Samson and Goliath, which dominate the Belfast skyline
The iconic Harland and Wolff cranes, also know as Samson and Goliath, which dominate the Belfast skyline
Beautiful Ballyholme beach, on a rare sunny day!
Beautiful Ballyholme beach, on a rare sunny day!
The Long Hole, Bangor, where my dad famously fell in as a child!
The Long Hole, Bangor, where my dad famously fell in as a child!
Bangor Marina in the sunshine
Bangor Marina in the sunshine
Stormont, hard to imagine a more majestic setting for a parliament
Stormont, hard to imagine a more majestic setting for a parliament