Travels with my Dad: Autumn Walks in the Austrian Alps

Autumn Walks in the Austrian Alps

If your life is anything like mine, November is an unexpectedly manic month.

Maybe it’s because everyone’s preparing for the end of the year; maybe the worsening weather makes us simultaneously more lazy and more desperate to get motivated. Whatever it is, I’ve been mired in all kinds of work – from freelance writing projects to typing like a demon for my masters (hello, twenty thousand words to be submitted by early December!) – and I’ve also somehow decided it’s a good idea to participate in NaNoWriMo again.

Any of you who were following me on Facebook or Twitter last November may remember that my 2014 version was a flurry of late nights, obsessive word counting and many near-overdoses on caffeine – but by the first of December, I emerged pale and weak but triumphant, having written a record 50,000 words in thirty days.

If anyone’s looking for a way to get themselves out of a writing rut, then NaNoWriMo may just be your saving grace (although warn your flatmates first, as mine looked a little bit terrified when I told her).

Luckily, I had the perfect autumnal travel escape to prepare myself for November – and now that I’m so busy, it’s a lovely trip to look back on and reminisce about.

October 20th was my dad’s birthday, so in true traveller-daughter fashion, I decided we should go away somewhere to celebrate. Thanks to winning a competition at a travel conference earlier this year, I had a trip to the Austrian Alps at my disposal.

What better way to enjoy a week in a tiny Austrian village than with my birthday-celebrating father?

Father & daughter time in Austria

When Dad and I arrived in Mellau, we didn’t really know what to expect. I purposefully hadn’t done much research, deciding it would be more fun to just turn up and see what happened.

Which meant I had no idea we’d be arriving to scenes like this.

Autumn Walks in the Austrian Alps

Dad and I have travelled to our fair share of touristy cities together. There was religion madness in Florence over Easter week, Berlin in the chills of January, Malta for a week of sunshine and poolside lounging: but this trip to Austria was our first to a part of the world not overrun with national monuments and selfie-stick-wielding tourists.

I quickly decided that it was a damn good idea.

So why visit a tiny village in the Austrian Alps?

Mellau village sits in the Bregenzerwald, a part of Vorarlberg state and in a beautiful region of western Austria. Vorarlberg borders Germany, Switzerland and Lichtenstein, is right next to the northern edge of the Alps, and is best known for its fantastic skiing opportunities – although obviously that’s only possible when there’s snow.

Outside of the ski season, Mellau and the other twenty villages dotted around the Bregenzerwald are calm, quiet, and blissfully relaxed.

Autumn Walks in the Austrian Alps

The Austrians who live here are surrounded by mountains, hillsides covered in forest, and wide open pastures dotted with happily grazing cows, sheep, and the occasional Shetland pony.

It’s a place where Lutheran church spires pierce the low lying clouds, and farmers carry milk pails on the forklifts of their tractors.

Autumn Walks in the Austrian Alps

The alpine streets are quiet and safe enough to allow young children to walk home from school together, clutching hands and wearing high-vis tabards alongside the huge logging trucks that move slowly from one village to the next.

Autumn Walks in the Austrian Alps

And as for visiting Bregenzerwald in the autumn?

I felt like we couldn’t have timed our trip better if we’d tried.

Autumn in Austria: the perfect season

I’ve always loved the combination of a brisk chill in the air and bright streaming sunshine. Fresh out of walking the Camino and being totally in awe of nature, I couldn’t get enough of the way the autumnal weather had seemingly touched every leaf and branch in Austria.

I basically reverted back to the best part of childhood: finding fascination in every single thing I saw. Every ten minutes was punctuated by me tugging on my dad’s fleece sleeve to point out a new discovery.

“Just look at the colour of those trees!”

Autumn Walks in the Austrian Alps

I started getting obsessed with details – which is normally when I know I’m falling in love with a new place.

My camera lens trained itself on the tiny pewter busts holding every window shutter wide open; the burning red of the Virginia creeper leaves; the absurdly neat way people built up the wood piles outside their houses, like every stack was their own personal game of Jenga.

Autumn Walks in the Austrian Alps

Autumn Walks in the Austrian Alps

And with the details came awareness of the architecture. More often than not, my dad turned round to see me standing open-mouthed beneath facades of buildings covered with curved wooden ‘schindeln’ (or ‘shingles’ in English).

Autumn Walks in the Austrian Alps

And clearly I’m a total sucker for the more weather-worn places. Old buildings with their shutters hanging at odd angles, the paint peeling and the wood of each shingle splitting up the grain.

I was mentally planning my move-in date for every property I saw.

Autumn Walks in the Austrian Alps

Autumn Walks in the Austrian Alps

Exploring the Alpine villages of Bregenzerwald

If you’ve ever wondered where I get the exploratory genes from, that guy wandering along an Austrian road is a fair bet.

My dad’s immediate idea for a week in Austria was to go and check out a different village each day – and because they’re all connected by a fleet of little lime green buses which run like clockwork every half hour, it’s wonderfully easy to get around.

Although I wouldn’t have said no to trying out a bit of road skiing…

Autumn Walks in the Austrian Alps

First up: a cable car ride, high above Bezau

On Dad’s birthday we headed to Bezau, the closest village to our home base in Mellau. The sun was shining as we got off the bus a little too early, wandering through the charming streets until we reached the base of Bezau mountain.

Autumn Walks in the Austrian Alps

The village is known for a cable car which stretches up the side of the valley to a panoramic terrace, a viewing platform – and a totally unexpected but stunningly beautiful snowscape.

Which is when we understood why everyone else in the little cable car had been wearing heavy duty hiking boots.

Autumn Walks in the Austrian Alps

Autumn Walks in the Austrian Alps

Together, Dad and I sipped coffees and hot chocolate in the little restaurant, shared a sugar-covered doughnut (while I apologised profusely over the lack of birthday cake), and eventually walked up to the mountain’s crest, crunching on fresh snow.

Dad also inadvertently befriended an old Austrian man. As you do.

Autumn Walks in the Austrian Alps

Exploring a graveyard in Egg

The next village on the agenda was Egg, where Dad and I spent a happy morning making constant puns about the best named place we’d ever heard of and walking through a strangely beautiful cemetery with ornately carved crosses and a stunning view of the valley.

Autumn Walks in the Austrian Alps

My dad also gave into his curiosity and visited the tourist office to find out why the village is called Egg. We’re still not entirely sure…

The architectural bus shelters of Krumbach

Thanks to a heads up from Katrin at Vorarlberg Tourism, we headed to the tiny village of Krumbach purely to see seven bus shelters, all of which have been designed by different architects from all over the world.

Autumn Walks in the Austrian Alps

Dad completely indulged my blogging whims and became my photographer for the day as I posed in each and every shelter, not at all self-consciously. Ok, so various Austrian women were rather confused at our behaviour, but we had a wonderful time nonetheless.

A farmer’s market in Dornbirn

On the Saturday, we braved two different green buses to reach the bi-weekly farmer’s market in Dornbirn. It was a much bigger town than our usual village haunts, filled with well dressed Austrians crowded around restaurant doorways and balancing their glasses of schnapps on high tables.

In just a week, I’d become so accustomed to farmers and fleeces  instead of sunglasses and shiny leather boots that I felt completely out of place – but the Dornbirn buildings were beautiful to look at, and it made me even more appreciative of the village life we’d been experiencing.

Autumn Walks in the Austrian Alps

Autumn Walks in the Austrian Alps

Our pseudo home in Mellau

Despite spending each day exploring a different village, Mellau was still my favourite part of the Bregenzerwald, simply because it felt so familiar so quickly.

Every morning, I awoke to the sound of ringing cow bells as the farmers led their herds down to pasture, and looked out at peaked roofs topped by wisps of cloud.

Autumn Walks in the Austrian Alps

After a buffet breakfast in the restaurant, Dad and I walked out of our snug deer-themed hotel and looked up towards this mountain, which never failed to make us gasp, and smile, and glance happily at each other.

Autumn Walks in the Austrian Alps

We wandered down the winding lane that led to the centre of the village, passing by beautiful houses covered in red Virginia creeper and a field which usually featured a friendly cat who bounded over to say hello – much to the joy of both our cat-loving temperaments.

Autumn Walks in the Austrian Alps

And every evening, after a day of exploring, we were faced with five courses of food, served up by a smiling woman in lederhosen at the hotel restaurant.

Family catch ups, long overdue

Of course, the ultimate reason I loved Mellau – and Austria in general – was because I had the chance to have a week of one-on-one time with my dad.

We spent hours wandering along rivers, through forests and up mountains, but in amongst the reading of maps and the occasional missed direction, we settled back into an old familiar groove too.

Resurrecting half-forgotten family jokes, doing accents and impressions, talking fondly about my mum; we spent the week re-bonding, something I don’t do enough of – but I’m really glad we did.

Autumn Walks in the Austrian Alps

Do you ever go on holiday with your family? What countries are best for autumn around the world?

About Flora

Flora Baker is the founder and editor of Flora the Explorer, where she writes about her travels around the world, her volunteering exploits and her ongoing attempt to become fluent in Spanish by talking to anyone who'll listen. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus.

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17 Responses to Travels with my Dad: Autumn Walks in the Austrian Alps

  1. Amy (Two Drifters) November 12, 2015 at 1:52 am #

    Such gorgeous photos, ahhh. Austria is stunning, and I haven’t seen enough of it. You really do have such an eye for detail; I never would have noticed those cute little silver gnome-like things holding the windows open. Glad you had a memorable time in a beautiful place. Good luck with the rest of November! xx

    • Flora November 20, 2015 at 10:11 am #

      Thanks Amy 🙂 I don’t know why but I couldn’t stop with the details in Austria!

  2. Rosemary November 12, 2015 at 11:32 am #

    Alpine autumn looks stunning. And yes Pork Belly and I used to take my parents with us to France once a year – there’s something deeply satisfying about being able to show your parents the world the way they showed you when you were a child.

    • Flora November 20, 2015 at 10:13 am #

      What a lovely way of putting it, Rosemary! Every time I travel with my dad I really relish the experience, too.

  3. Megan Hogarth (@PegsontheLine) November 14, 2015 at 10:47 pm #

    Egg is now firmly on my ‘to visit’ list.
    I might be able to top the best named place though – there is an Eggs and Bacon Bay in Tasmania. Everything is better with bacon!

    • Flora November 20, 2015 at 10:13 am #

      Right, definitely going there!! Although I’m still confused that no Austrian we met seemed to find the name ‘Egg’ amusing…

  4. Caroline Eubanks November 17, 2015 at 3:49 am #

    Aww you and your dad are adorable! I love the Austrian Alps. I spent a few days in a town north of Innsbruck right under the mountain back in 2012. It was surreal.

    • Flora November 20, 2015 at 10:14 am #

      Haha I’d love to think we’re adorable (he most definitely is)! Clearly I have to visit Innsbruck at some point – Amy loved it too!

  5. Kanchan November 17, 2015 at 12:16 pm #

    Austria is really a beautiful place to visit. It is a perfect place for holiday travel.
    The pictures you captured are so good.

    • Flora November 20, 2015 at 10:14 am #

      Thanks Kanchan, glad you enjoyed the article!

  6. Leigh November 19, 2015 at 7:57 pm #

    I love the mountains in autumn – crisp nights and warm days. This trip sounds amazing, especially when you mentioned shuttle buses from town to town. Not driving is my idea of a good vacation!

    • Flora November 20, 2015 at 10:16 am #

      We were so surprised when the buses were that well organised! It made planning our days a whole lot easier – not to mention a huge sense of pride when other tourists got a bit confused with the scheduling and Dad and I could help them out :p

  7. Jenna November 19, 2015 at 8:30 pm #

    These pictures are stunning! Autumn is my favorite time of year, especially in the mountains. I love it when the high peaks are frosted with snow and the valleys are still colorful and sunny.

    • Flora November 20, 2015 at 10:17 am #

      I’m definitely going to plan more autumn-specific trips I think – particularly in Europe. It’s just too beautiful!!

  8. Jessi P (2Feet1World) November 20, 2015 at 4:31 pm #

    Loved following this week on Snapchat and love this post too! It looks like the perfect week escape for you and your Dad. I really love autumn in Europe – it feels so much prettier than back home, with more of the leaves changing over here. I’d love to visit these villages!

  9. Kate Bolger December 15, 2015 at 8:50 pm #

    I love your blog! The posts are so thorough and have such a voice! I’m new to the travel blog sphere so this is very inspirational. I would love for you to check out my little adventures at:



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