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My favourite place: Untere Hemerach Alm

Steffi Falkner

The perfect world – a utopia? Yes, it does exist. Hidden, completely untouched and incredibly beautiful. A jewel in the middle of the forest, magical home away from civilisation. A place that otherwise only appears in fairy tale books, with ancient crooked huts, a wooden trough into which fresh spring water gushes, and deer that graze in the unmown clearing.

But the gods make you sweat before reaching paradise. The climb through the dense forest is quite steep. Steps have been inserted into the path to help. It takes effort but is not dangerous. Eventually, this “ladder to heaven” comes to an end and leads into a flat path heading south. Giving you time to catch your breath before you gasp again – this time in surprise.

“A mirage formed from longing… “

You rub your eyes and believe it’s a mirage. A deception formed out of longing. The image is too perfect, seen too often in our dreams. A clearing opens up in front of you, seeming at first as if no human has ever set foot on it before. Only the pine Jays warn of our visit. The untere Hemerach Alm is about two football fields in size and slopes gently downwards. It glows light green in spring, is dappled with colour in summer and has a red glow in autumn from heather, blueberry and cranberry bushes. The scent of the forest changes with the colour, particularly in late summer when berries and mushrooms are ripe for picking. A shelter made of dark wooden beams is open for anyone who wishes to rest here or stay overnight to experience a crystal clear morning.

“True richness in simplicity”

“Thayen”, as alpine huts are called in Tyrol, also stand in a clearing below. Shepherds built them a few hundred years ago to find shelter in wind and weather. Now they are used by locals to enjoy a break from everyday life. The Falkner family has also leased a hut, go to sleep with the first stars and wake up with the birds.

“I look for the true richness in Simplicity”, confesses the lady from Saarland, who has lived in Niederthai since the late 90s. For love. For her now husband Peter and for the place where she found the attitude to life that she had been looking for.

“I walked the hiking trail heavily pregnant, then with our son Luis strapped to my body for warmth and then later in the child back pack. He has developed a great imagination up here playing in and with nature.” Steffi also takes other children to the lower Hemerach Alm. The girls enjoy making wreaths of flowers, the boys collect bugs carve mushrooms out of wood with their first pocket knives and build caves out of twigs. Skills that have long gone out of fashion even in the mountain regions.

“Water like champagne…”

A jet of water splashes from a mountain stream, directed into a wooden trough in the middle of the clearing. The water tastes like champagne, drawn with a cupped hand and drunk with devotion. Under the fountain lie a few stones placed to collect the overflowing water. We take off our hiking boots and wade through the ice cold pool. After overcoming the initial shock, a thousand little sparks explode in your feet, rising up and refreshing your whole body.

“ I climb up to the Hemerach Alm when I’m feeling good, but also at times when I’m not doing so well”, says Steffi. “Others may head to the bar, others to the gym on receiving bad news. I take a hike up to the alpine pasture and get a different perspective on life in the valley. And as the forest opens up to the clearing, my soul opens up too.


Peters favourite place
Peters favourite place

As a passionate hunter, Peter is drawn to the best places for observing game – without being observed himself.