My friend Julie once experimented with “The Year of Trying New Things.” Whenever she encountered something she hadn’t tried or didn’t want to try before (activities, food, routes, ways of thinking), rather than say no to it, she opted to try it…just for kicks. When Rick and I are faced with the choice of doing something that takes more energy or focus than we feel like we can give at the time, we look at each other, muster up the energy, and say, “We’ll never regret it.” And we never do. And in his son Andy’s new guidebook (Andy Steves Europe: City Hopping on a Budget), it’s all about “Just say yes!” to seizing the moment.
That’s what 28 of us decided to do on our My Way Alpine Tour. With time on our side and a bus at the ready, Rick took us to one of his favorite places in Austria: Reutte. There we met up with his architect friend Armin, who also happens to be the man who runs one of the most amazing ruined castles anywhere. Armin has dedicated himself to preserving and promoting the culture of his region by excavating the centuries-old castles (yes, plural) perched high above his hometown.
After guiding us through the Ehrenburg Castle museum, we hiked a steep switchback to a precipice near the base of the castle that, until about two years ago, was simply a viewpoint across the valley to another high ridge hiding another castle. Now, after lots of support from the European Union and plenty of Swiss engineering, it serves as the entry point for Highline 179, the longest suspension footbridge in all of Europe. And it’s really high up. If you dare to walk across its 1300 feet, you’ll be doing it at more than 370 feet above the ground. And some in our group weren’t too sure about that. You could see the perspiration forming on furrowed brows and practically hear the thumpthumpthumpthump of their racing hearts.
But how often do you get to tightrope over the valley floor that used to be one of the most well-used routes for the Romans? Despite lots of trepidation from some of our travelers (some getting a helping hand and many words of encouragement from their travel buddies), we made our way across the sturdy suspension bridge and over the Via Claudia to the other ridge. Every step was a thrill. And to see Ehrenburg castle from a vantage point I had never seen on my previous visits made me a giddy shutterbug, not only of the views natural and architectural views but of the happy faces who just conquered their fears, overjoyed at what they had accomplished.
Well if you cross this bridge to one side, you have to make the return trip. Those who had previously clung to the rails now confidently strode across the metal path, pausing only for selfies and pictures to post on Facebook. Back on the other side, we hiked five more minutes to a clearing within the castle walls. Rick and I had packed our backpacks with bottles of beer, soda, and water and surprised our fellow travelers with a liquid refreshment reward for their efforts. With energy restored, we summoned our inner Indiana Jones and scaled the castle steps to the heart of Ehrenburg Castle.
There is something so cool about a ruined castle. It allows your imagination to run wild with images of dedicated soldiers standing guard, epic battles, harsh winters, and (at least for me) Game of Thrones and Jon Snow. We climbed everywhere in, around, through, and on the remnants of this once mighty fortification. We were all kids again, and our memories of this day will be etched into our minds for a long time to come. We all said yes to trying something new, and we’ll never regret it.
Check out some more images below of our Austrian adventure, or check out both The Travelphile and the Rick Steves Facebook pages for more insights, photos, and videos as we continue our My Way Alpine journey. Several of our Rick Steves’ Europe tours spend time in Reutte and the environs. To learn more, please visit our tours page, and you’ll be conquering your own castles in no time!