Spring had fully and suddenly arrived in Austria when Martin and I, a friend from the London area who I had met while studying in Graz, Austria, took off on a train east for the Alps. We had decided to make a daring adventure into eastern Austria, where we would hike to the Werdenberger See in Switzerland through Liechtenstein; 3 countries and a view of a 4th, Germany, in 5 days.
We stepped off of the train in Feldkirch after an 8-hour journey, and walked out of the city into the darkness until we found a suitable place to lay our backpacks down and set up our pink tent, which we had bought for 10 euros on the Austrian form of Craigslist, Willhaben; we laid down in a field of long grass, unsure whether we were in Austria or the tiny country of Liechtenstein, as we fell asleep to soft rain hitting the pink tent, surrounded by the glory of the Alps, still unseen.
When we awoke, the mountains gave us energy. We hiked into Liechtenstein, only 40 feet or so away, and began climbing die Drei Schwestern, three towering summits located in Liechtenstein and Switzerland. We wound through the mountains with our apples and onions and bread until we came to the other side, Vaduz, the capital of Liechtenstein.
Knowing that the roaring river Rhein lay only a mile away, separating us from Switzerland, we decided to venture there and find a place to set up camp. We found a quaint farm that seemed to be abandoned and set up camp, then walking to the Rhein where we strolled back and forth from Switzerland to Liechtenstein until it was no longer amusing.
The next day we ventured into Buchs, Switzerland; we had walked along the river the entire day and said almost nothing, only taking in the majesty of the river and its towering curtains of snow-capped mountains, until we arrived at the village and asked a pedestrian where a good trail was. With his Swiss German, I hadn’t a clue what he was saying other than catching the words “Werdenberger See.” We went to Werdenberger See and experienced one of the most scenic, bucolic hikes I have ever taken.
We reached the highest point, almost too high to believe that we had hiked it in only three or four hours. We stayed at that point for an hour or so, sitting at the bar atop the mountain, looking at the alpine farmhouses and imagining ourselves there at the age of 60, tending to the cows and harvesting our garden, keeping watch over the base of The Alps. On our way down we noticed a car coming down the mountain, which we hadn’t seen yet. I stuck my thumb up to see if it would pick us up. A friendly lady stopped and let us hop in her electric sedan. She took us down the mountain and told us stories about her summer job up in the mountains taking care of an old farmer’s goats.
Later that night we laid our sleeping bags near a trail close to the Rhein. We heard some commotion about 100 feet away; too interested in the company of Swiss people our age to pass it up, we walked over and introduced ourselves, bringing offerings of beer and potatoes. They were glad we came, and we grilled and drank with the friendly Swiss until the early morning when we stumbled back to our sleeping bags and fell asleep under the clear sky, with stars that looked purple and able to touch.
The next day we began our hike back. Our objective was to cover 20 miles in a day, hiking back through a historic trail used by Napoleon and his men. We visited the castle of the old King of Liechtenstein, and stopped at an Austrian Stüberl, a small mountain pub with a wooden interior, before we finished the hike back. It was hot that day and we were sore from covering over 60 miles in 5 days. But with a cold Gösser down, we found the energy to finish our journey, and ended up at the station with 30 minutes before the next train to Graz. Nothing compared to the feelings that the alpine setting, quaint rural atmosphere, and satisfaction of covering the entire area and three borders on foot. The trip is still imprinted in my mind, in Fraktur.
Guest Author: Keegan Roembke
I am a student and writer from Indiana currently living in Ghent, Belgium, working on a Master’s in Global Studies. My passion for writing and poetry stems from travels and constant curiosity about the world. I write poetry, social commentary, and travel pieces on Medium and Vocal, and recently graduated from the University of Southern Indiana, where I studied German and International Studies. I have travelled to 22 countries throughout Europe and Africa by train, bus, and foot. Read poetry and commentary at https://vocal.media/authors/keegan-roembk