My Favourite Place: Steffi Falkner

Untere Hemerach Alm

The whole world – a utopia? Yes, there still are mythical places. Well hidden, completely untouched, and incredibly beautiful. There is a jewel in the middle of the forest, a never-never land, far away from civilisation. A place that otherwise only appears in fairy tales, with ancient, crooked huts, a wooden trough where fresh spring water gathers, and deer that, if lucky, graze on the un-mown clearing.
But before you can reach this paradise, the gods demand payment in sweat. First, the ascent through the dense coniferous forest is quite steep. Steps were added in the climbing passages, so that the trail can be overcome with some effort, but without any risk. At some point this "sky ladder" comes to an end and merges with a flat trail that leads to the south. You have just long enough to catch your breath, before it is taken away again. This time, not owed to exertion, but to sheer surprise.


A Fata Morgana prompted by longing

You rub your eyes and seem to be facing a mirage. A deception caused by longing. The picture is too perfect, too often have you seen it in your dreams. A clearing opens up ahead, which at first glance suggests that no one has ever entered it. Only a nutcracker bird announces our visit. The Untere Hemerach Alm is about the size of two football pitches and drops gently down. It shines light green in spring, is dabbed with colour in summer, and in autumn shimmers red from heather and discoloured blueberry and cranberry perennials. Along with the colour, the scent of the forest changes as well, especially in late summer, when berries and mushrooms grow almost all the way up to the hiker’s mouth. A shelter of dark beams is open to anyone who wants to rest here or stay overnight to experience a crystal clear morning.

There is wealth in simplicity

Thayen, as alpine huts in Tyrol are called, are also scattered on a clearing below. Shepherds built them a few hundred years ago to find shelter from wind and weather. Now they are used by locals who wish to take a break from everyday life for a few days.
The Falkner family has also rented a hut, which goes to bed with the first light of the stars and wakes up with the early chirping of the birds. "I seek true wealth in simplicity," confesses the host, who originates from the Saarland and has lived in Niederthai since the end of the 1990s. For love's sake. Love for both her husband Peter and the place where she found exactly the feeling of life she had always been looking for.
"I first hiked the trails pregnant, then tied our son Luis to my body to warm him, and later took him along in the carrier. Meanwhile he has developed lots of imagination up there, playing in and with nature." Steffi also takes other children to Untere Hemerach Alm: "The girls tie wreaths of flowers up there, the boys collect beetles, proudly carve out wood mushrooms with their first pocket knives, and build caves with twigs. Skills that are no longer fashionable, even in mountain regions.

Water like Champagne

A stream of water splashes from a mountain creek into a wooden trough in the middle of the clearing. The water tastes like champagne, scooped by hand and drunk with devotion. Under the spring there are a few stones where the overflowing water gathers. We take off our hiking boots and wade through the ice-cold mini pond, enjoying a short Kneipp treatment. After the first hesitation, a thousand small sparks explode in my feet, rise, and fill my entire body. All fatigue is banished.
"I head to the Hemerach Alm when I am well, but also when I am not so well," comments Steffi. "Others may flee to a bar after bad news, or take a break at the gym. I simply hike up to the mountain pasture and already after the first turns of the trail get a different perspective to life in the valley. And when the forest opens to the clearing, my soul opens as well."