AUSTRIA

Road Trip Part III - Half remembered dream.

By Chad Gerber

Road Trip Part III - Half remembered dream.

Having spent the last few months "on the rails," we were itching for a little freedom, and the easiest way to get that was with a set of wheels of our own. Welcome to my six-part road trip series, in which I'll be narrating our photography trip through part of Central Europe, where there's a man-made or natural marvel around every bend and almost always a black cloud on the horizon.

After we fled Lake Bled in Slovenia, we took the road to Austria, a country I'd been itching to see for years. Scrolling social feeds, flipping through magazines, and even seeing photos of it on my Window's login screen, I'd almost made a memory of Österreich (Austria) without ever having visited. The reality? Well, it was greater than all of those images combined, including the ones swimming in my head.

Hallstatt, a town on the edge of Hallstätter See (Lake Hallstatt), was our first stop after crossing the border. Here, white swans drifted on the quiet water and waddled through the tiered bankside streets, enjoying the tranquillity alongside tourists and locals alike. Wandering through town, for a while I was concerned that I was still indeed walking through a memory. I could not place it, but there lingered throughout it a dreamlike serenity, a calm in almost direct contrast to the hot chaos of Asia and Africa we'd experienced earlier in the year. Perhaps it was the flower-dressed balconies or the coloured timber shutters. Perhaps it was the stone stairs and steep alleys, the mottled charcoal tiles, the bloated, blackening grain of the gable timbers. Whatever it was, it was special, and I didn't wake up from the dream.

When you're up in the Austrian Alps and you've been lugging around hiking boots in a space-limited backpack since February, you've got to whip them out; after a hot tip about a suspension bridge overlooking the immensity of Schlegeisspeicher, we knew we'd found just the occasion. On our arrival at the bridge, the clouds broke open and unleashed upon us (and a random herd of unsuspecting sheep) a hailstorm. But that wasn't enough to send us running. We stayed a while, hours maybe, coming to terms with the fact that the landscape before us was not of memory nor of dream, but of the world in which we live.

Setting off on road trips, you naturally begin to plot out routes to the more well-known destinations, then learn, very quickly, that it's not about the destination, but the journey and the memories made along the way. Motoring through Austria, we stumbled upon countless wonders, from a timber boat shed under wicked-witch forest, to cloudlike waterfalls, to a walkway over an inland abyss.

There was definitely a shift in the atmosphere once we got to Austria. After the pastel sunsets and mirror-perfect lakes of both Italy and Slovenia, we were now entering more mysterious and primal territory, and, to be honest, I was beginning to enter my element. Next up, Germany!

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Written by Chad Gerber, Edited by Nick Petrou