By Lisi Niesner
Usually I am absolutely not a fan of places where a mass of tourists assemble. I hate standing in line, dislike crowded sights, do not endure guides, prefer to eat meals characteristic of the country I’m visiting and I particularly cannot stand how functional tourists dress in their newly bought outdoor clothing – even if it is not necessary at all. That wind and water repellent jacket, those pants with a cooling fiber effect and, of course, the super soft sneaker shoes replacing the aerated sandals.
However, it has become a routine of mine to visit my relatives who live in the Zillertal valley but I had never visited the tourist attractions in the area. The Zillertal valley, located in the western Alps in the Austrian province of Tyrol, is well known for their “hardcore” tourism that has been operating for years.
It has never been easier to reach the top of a mountain or a glacier without shedding a drop of sweat. The expenses amount to around 30 euros and after a 30 minute ride on the cable car you will get access to a stunning view! On clear days you can look infinitely far.
There I was, right next to the cable car station atop the Gefrorene Wand summit at 3288 meters (10787 feet) above sea level, in a crowd of tourists acting like they were at a playground surrounded by this inhospitable glacier area. Children were sliding down a slope on inflatable tires, sportsmen put on their skis and some tourists took off their clothes to get the ultimate vacation snapshot from the glacier which they would likely show off proudly when they returned home. The impression I got was that it was like Disneyland in a winter wonder land. Not that I was surprised, but it still made me feel uncomfortable observing the crowds behavior (and how they were dressed for temperatures below 0°C) on a glacier as they stumbled over the snow as if it was the most normal thing in the world.
I found myself in a guided tour with tourists who were partly dressed in tee shirts, shorts and summer shoes but also wearing helmets. I was truly attracted to the aspect of this unusual combination of clothes that I decided quickly to join the tour.