St Anton am Arlberg to Wald am Arlberg, 26Km
Hotel Sonnblick, 61 euros
I won’t complain about the Camino signage out of St Anton. It was probably fine if you were sleeping on one of the town’s benches but they weren’t expecting pilgrims to be staying at the Hotel Rundeck, even at the exceptionally low rates on offer in this lowest of low seasons. “Help yourself to a picnic from the breakfast buffet”, they said, “otherwise it’s only going to waste”. I loaded up a roll with every type of Alpine cheese and grabbed a few Werthers sweets from the desk. And an apple.
I eventually found Jakobsweg and the climb up the Arlberg massif started immediately. It was a superb walk through typical Alpine scenery. Several little chapels and stations of the cross kept me company and there was lots of information about the flora around me. No mention of Edelweiss but perhaps that’s more Switzerland. I’ve seen Edelweiss in flower in Switzerland but it’s quite difficult to find and of course it’s protected. Death to anyone who picks it.
I’ve got some pressed Edelweiss at home. My grandmother gave it to me. She was born just up the road in Bregenz so it makes me a little bit Austrian although she was actually Swiss. Back in those days, a boy would give Edelweiss to a girl to declare his love but now a bunch of tulips from Spar has to do.
I climbed the Arlberg Pass. In addition to the flora and fauna information boards there were some interesting old folklore notices to stir the imagination. A particularly poignant one depicted a young single mum whose baby was snatched by a witch and crushed in a rock. You can see the rock and apparently it always holds water which is said to represent the blood of this poor infant. They have made a big effort with witches broom sticks etc. to dramatise the location but there is probably some sad truth in the legend. Regardless of your views on the solution to this age old problem, it’s a sad place and I was keen to move on.
I climbed on dirt tracks. The sun was shining and eventually I reached the highest point, of the Austrian Camino at 1860m. From then on, it was downhill all the way to Wald am Arlberg. It’s so exciting, Switzerland is coming soon.