The mountains of Austria also beckon in summer. Zell am See Kaprun is a well-known region in Salzburgerland. A region that is perfect for exploring with children. With adventurous mountains and beautiful lakes it is a good place to be.
The traffic jams into the town are almost all day long. A new viaduct and road are under construction to improve access to Zell am See. Two meters difference in height between the bridge and the road due to a small calculation error ensures that it takes a little longer before chug without delay to the popular Zell am See is possible. The lake and the mountains have an unparalleled appeal. Especially for families with children. And Arabs. Kaprun is next to Zell and is a bit more relaxed.
With a circumference of eleven kilometers, a bike ride around the lake is easily accessible. E-bikes have long displaced conventional two-wheelers, allowing you to determine the amount of effort yourself. Yet the vast majority of visitors opt for the relaxed panoramic cruise with the MS Schmittenhöhe who makes a round along the banks in 45 minutes. The views of the area are magnificent. The white top and glacier of the more than 3,000 meters high Kitzsteinhorn is certainly impressive. It is quiet on Lake Zell. Motor boats are prohibited here. Near the jetty in front of the chic-looking Grand Hotel are a number of rental boats equipped with electric motors that still provide some water traffic. Especially on summer days it is great to stay on, along or in Lake Zell. A dip in the clean water of the lake is refreshing. Or in one of three lidos, swimming pools with slides and paddling pools, each located on a different side of the lake.
Gray clouds are steadily gathering. Just after we enter Lido Thumersbach on the quiet side of the lake, the first drops fall. The mustachioed cashier shakes his head and announces that the lido closes when it rains. Just outside Kaprun is the alternative for bad weather. The Tauern Spa has several indoor pools. Including a ‘kids spa’, which turns out to be more of a glorified swimming pool. The search for the changing rooms is in vain. Austrians are not squeamish and don’t look or blush in front of their locker in the swimming outfit. There is one umkleide cabin per row for the insecure bathers. The Spawelt includes all saunas and other wellness baths. In addition, Wasserwelt has two indoor pools, three outdoor pools and hundreds of comfortable sunbeds. With a view of the white top of the imposing Kitzsteinhorn and its glacier.
Into the clouds
Those gray clouds again. It drizzles a bit. It’s Glacier Day. During the summer holidays, the Zell am See Kaprun region organizes an activity for children every day, the so-called kids program. Glacier Day is the literal highlight of the high-altitude adventure week; a visit to the Kitzsteinhorn which is affectionately called ‘the top of Salzburg’. It is a journey up to 3,020 meters where you have to change three times and multiple routes are possible. With three other families we are waiting at the Kitzsteinhorn lift. Burgi welcomes us. For years, she has been taking visitors to the roof of the region every Thursday. It has given her enough knowledge of the Dutch language to make herself understandable. The journey up with the Gletscherjet can begin.
The first part is quite steep where meters are quickly gained and the clouds are quickly approaching. That makes spotting the ibex that live here extra difficult. At 1,400 meters altitude we arrive at the first station, the Langwiedbahn. Red round gondolas slide through the clouds to the Aplincenter at 2,450 meters. The Gipfelbahn is waiting for us there. This aerial tram with driver on board slides through a dense cloud cover towards Gipfelwelt 3000. The ride to the top takes five minutes, the driver routinely informs. He laughs a little awkwardly, knowing that we’re not going to face this mountain today.
Upon arrival, Burgi takes us to National Park Gallery, which is located in a tunnel cut through the mountain. It’s about permafrost, the mountain formations, the gold that was once found here and the animal kingdom at this altitude. At the end of the tunnel lies the proverbial light; the famous viewing platform at 3,029 meters. Here you should have a beautiful view of the peaks of the Austrian alpine giants, including the Grossglockner. Bathed in a sparkling sun against a blue sky. Today it’s just two degrees, we don’t see a hand in front of our eyes and it’s snowing. Meters of snow ensure that the stairs down are closed so that the way back is through the tunnel. The summer snowball fight has to wait a little longer. Signs in the tunnel warn of the low oxygen level at this altitude and the 25% gradient. The Glacier Shuttle is ready and descends in a minute to the Ice Arena on the glacier. This part is open every year from July for summer winter fun. The sunloungers look deserted and the sleds lie untidy in the fresh snow. While the children are sledding, the first bathers probably jump into the clear water of Lake Zell a few thousand meters below in the sunny valley.
Play mountain of Zell am See
Kaprun has the Kiztsteinhorn, Zell am See has with the Schmittenhöhe his own adventure mountain. With ‘only’ 1,956 meters this is one of the smallest. The cityXpress gondola departs from the center of Zell am See to the top. The modern areitXpress gondolas are located further south and end at 1,400 meters next to a motocross track. A row of mainly families stands in front of the entrance of the station. Most children have an orange lanyard around their neck. We meet Schmidolin, the cute dragon who lives on the mountain and needs help from the kids to become a real dragon. To do this, the kids have to complete a course with a choice of three routes. Route black goes past all 15 obstacles. The first trial of Schmidolin’s baptism of fire is a scramble over hot coals. This is followed by a series of various obstacles. The combination of playing, walking and playing works well. Halfway through the route are the Dragon Fire and Fire Castle playgrounds. With beautiful views of the valley. Two hours later we arrive at the fifteenth and last part. The children run across a rope bridge to the tree house with a periscope in the middle. They see the cheerful fire-breathing Schmidolin who has become a real dragon. Mission accomplished.
Water spectacle and campfire
Several times a week, Lake Zell is lit up with the Magic Lake Show on summer evenings. The water shoots up from the fountains, accompanied by light and sound. The water dances to the music for twenty minutes. Kaprun has its own water show with the Mystical night of water that goes on non-stop. Every day a long procession of visitors crosses the wooden bridges Sigmund Thun Klamm. In the summer the gorge is open one evening a week for the Mystical night of water. Accompanied by several guides we walk through the gorge. Spectacular is the natural violence of the swirling water that makes its way at high speed through the gorge with its special rock formations. The bridges become stairs as we go deeper into the gorge. The sun is slowly setting. The water becomes quieter and relaxes. A dam at the end of the gorge provides the water supply. And then suddenly it becomes quiet and a mirror-smooth lake with a turquoise hue appears, flanked by a mountain landscape. The Klammsee is bathed in the last daylight. Candles and torches provide the atmosphere. We continue along the shore of the Klammsee towards the second part of the evening. We see a plume of smoke appearing above the trees. The campfire is crackling nicely. A man in a leather jacket plays campfire songs with a guitar. It stands on the knoll of the funicular. All the classics are reviewed. Baked potato is served as darkness quietly sets in. We must remember this place.
Playing in the woods
The area around the Klammsee is popular because of the beautiful hikes that can be made around the lake. The area is also popular with children. The second family day of the kids program takes place at the Klammsee. This brings us back to the place we had to remember. Veronica accompanies the forest playgroup. Enthusiastically, the children run across the bridge to the forest. Children’s language is universal. They first go in search of the finger dwarf’s treasure chest. It contains the first presents. Each child receives a key ring with the first letter of his or her name. Then it’s time to look for the ingredients for a dough work of art. Twigs, pebbles, flowers start to look like a dwarf. Have a picnic in between. While the children play, Veronica weaves flower wreaths from everything that has been collected. The tired children proudly leave the forest after a beautiful afternoon in nature with wreaths on their heads.