>>>Natural psychoanalysis in the Austrian Alps
Photo: © Röbl, OÖ Tourismus

Natural psychoanalysis in the Austrian Alps

Contact with nature combats depression. It has just been scientifically proven. But Austrians have spent years applying their own variety of Freudian psychological therapy, between the couch and the trees.
W
hen the first line of your national anthem is “land of mountains”, it’s easy to become addicted to the great outdoors. The required dose of lakes, green meadows and snowy peaks is not difficult to come by in Austria. Here, a love of nature manifests itself as much through outdoor sports like climbing, skiing and mountain biking, as it does through the habit of getting out of the city to drink a beer thousands of metres above sea level. Living among the Alps could be the reason for this healthy addiction, or an easy way of getting your required dose.
A 15-minute walk takes you to the viewpoint at Grawa falls, the widest waterfall in the Eastern Alps.
Photo: © Heinz Zak, TVB Stubai Tirol

Scientists prescribe a walk in the woods

Researchers from Stanford University say that a stroll far from the noise of traffic and crowds does more than help the immune system and lower blood pressure. The aromas of the trees calm our worries, allowing us to think more clearly and solve our problems.

In 1895, three friends founded Naturfreunde International (Friends of Nature), in Vienna, which would become a true pioneer of rural tourism and ecotourism. Their intention was to make nature accessible to as many people as possible by creating recreational facilities in natural spots, and building cabins and chalets. True to their social-democratic ideology, they wanted the masses to have the chance to go into the wilderness to hide away from rigid protocol and obligations, just like kings. The spa city of Bad Ischl, near the Salzkammergut lake district, and Schloss Hof, a hunting refuge and favourite of Francisco José, were some of the places frequented by the royal family to get away from their Viennese palaces.
 
The area surrounding Steinberg am Rofan is a popular summer and winter destination.
Photo: © Laurin Moser, Tirol Werbung

The biggest ice caves in the world

A frozen dose of natural medicine can be found in the ice caves hidden under the Tennengebirge mountains, near the town of Werfen. From May to October, you can wrap up warm and visit this icy landscape spanning more than 40km, including ice walls, stalagmites and stalactites.

Nowadays, when they want to get away from stress, Austrians are particularly fond of the peaks of Nationalpark Hohe Tauern, and of visiting the idyllic wooden farmhouses and towns of Bregenzerwald. These tourist areas in the Austrian Alps, adjoining Italy, Switzerland and south Germany, can be found in the states of Tyrol and Vorarlberg. On Eagle Walk, aka Adlerweg, the more adventurous can hike the green meadows and lakes of Tyrol, in 33 stages, each requiring between three and nine hours of walking. For less expert mountaineers, a walk or two-day route through Karwendel Nature Reserve will give you a more manageable dose of alpine wilderness. The Nordkettenbahnen cable cars allow easy access from the centre of Innsbruck—the capital of Tyrol—to Hafelekarspitze mountain. From the station, it is just a 20-minute walk to the summit—2,250 m above sea level—, which affords a panoramic view of the town and nature reserve.
The guided tours inside the Werfen ice caves last an hour and a quarter.
Photo: © Österreich Werbung
The inhabitants of Salzburg prefer water therapy at Hohe Tauern park, under the summit of the highest peak in Austria, Grossglockner. This is home to the cavernous gorges of Kitzlochklamm and Liechtensteinklamm, with its photogenic waterfall. Those seeking to combine a wander in the forest with a beer and some cheese, traverse the 12 hiking trails connecting the 13 towns of Bregenzerwald, a region known for its carpentry – because what is good for the body is also good for the mind.

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