One of the most beautiful moments for hut keeper Anton Herrmann Kraft is very early in the morning, when everything is still peaceful and quiet. Standing on the terrace and watching the sun rise over the mountains gives him strength and encouragement for the long and busy day ahead of him. By the way, ‘breathtaking’ does not begin to describe the view at Bayreuther Hut.
Naturally, Tirol’s mountain lodges and cabins deliver nothing short of commanding views, thus raving about stunning vistas here might seem like ‘carrying coals to Newcastle’. However, standing on the sun-drenched terrace of Bayreuther Hut at an elevation of 1,600 meters will make you catch your breath—not from climbing but from watching a continuous reel of premiere showings starring emerald ridges carpeted in a mosaic of brilliant wildflowers, glistening white glaciers, lofty peaks and rugged summits. If that’s not enough to slack your jaw, the views over Inntal, Alpbachtal and Zillertal Valleys will most certainly captivate you when you sit here at the end of a wonderful day spent hiking or mountain biking. When you aren’t looking at the mouth-watering cheese dumplings that Anton Herrmann served you, the vistas are truly outstanding.
Cheese dumplings are definitely the hut’s signature dish. When Anton, who was born in the German town of Tübingen, took over Bayreuther Hut eleven years ago, he was faced with the same problem as his German guests today: The Swabia-native did not know this staple dish of Tirol, Salzburg and Vorarlberg. As a Tirol mountain hut without this icon of local cuisine on the menu is simply unthinkable, Anton began to experiment with existing dumpling recipes. After three years of refining the formula, it delivered the result he wanted: “People say that our cheese dumplings are the best.” The secret? Well, Anton won’t reveal all the details, naturally, but maybe it’s because “we use four different types of cheese.”
But let’s get back to the views. Those who have enjoyed their dose of gorgeous vistas before resting their weary bodies in one of the hut’s rooms or dormitories are strongly recommended to look out of their windows in the next morning. The valleys below are cloaked in a blanket of fog in the morning, with the jagged peaks and summits of Wilder Kaiser Range popping up in surprising places. With the rising sun, patchy fog gives way to an amazing panorama, with gorgeous Alpine views stretching out in all directions. This is as well one of the most beautiful moments for hut keeper Anton Herrmann, one that gives him strength and encouragement for the long and busy day ahead of him: “Standing on the terrace early in the morning and watching the sun rise over the mountains I know: Today is going to be a good day!” One thing is sure for Anton: “I could never work in a restaurant or hotel down in the valley. Never. Ever!”
Self-encouragement is key to running a hut like this. Anton has only one employee, thus 16 to 18-hour working days are pretty normal between Whitsun and the second weekend in October. On weekends and during school holidays, Anton gets further support from his girlfriend, a teacher. Before and after the hut season they live together in the German resort of Garmisch, where Anton works as a ski instructor in the winter.
Anton is a trained non-medical practitioner and had his own surgery. However, he has always been dreaming about living the life of a hut caretaker. “When I was a child, my parents always took me to the mountains,” says Anton. “I didn’t like the walking. But I did like the huts. They were a welcome respite to relax and refuel over hearty food and drink.” He planned to make his dream come true before the age of 40, “as it is too late to start over at the age of 50.” Eventually, Anton started working on a hut in Garmisch and took over Bayreuther Hut at the age of 39.
In the meantime, Anton Herrmann has turned 50. Summing up, he says: “I really love working up here. But running a hut is as well taxing work. And I keep asking myself how long can it go on like this. How long will I be able to lug barrels around? ”
By now, however, his most eminent problem is that the closing of old Sonnwendjoch chair lift in Kramsach in 2015 resulted in drastically reducing visitor numbers. “The weekends are still busy and we have many overnighters. However, day visitors have become very rare, as walking three hours for coffee and cake doesn’t sound appealing to many people. Once the domain of day trippers, the surroundings of Bayreuther Hut now host intrepid hikers and solitude seekers. You can expect to have very few encounters on these trails so if you enjoy solitude this area is for you.”
And although the owner of the hut, the Bayreuth Section of the German Alpinist Association, has reduced the rent for their tenant, the financial situation remains tense. Anton is rather sceptical than optimistic: “But I am still hoping that they resume the operation of the lift or build a new one sometime soon.”
Despite his worries, Anton Herrmann has the reputation of being friendly and in a good mood all the time. “Sometimes it’s hard but I try my best,” he says. “Although certain people make me feel completely insane.” What annoys him most are guests who leave their rubbish behind instead of adhering to the ‘leave no trace’ outdoor ethics. Or those who consider it appropriate to put their mountaineering boots on the table and their wet undies on the tiled stove in the parlour.
Drawing on his years of experience as a hut caretaker, Anton has noticed a shift in visitors’ habits—which is mostly pretty pleasing. “Nowadays, we have very few cancellations because of bad weather,” he tells us. “Real mountaineers are out here in all weathers.” The popularity of walking and climbing has drastically increased. Anton thinks that this recent trend can be explained by the unstable security situation in classic holiday destinations like Turkey—that’s why many residents of the Alps would rather stay at home and go exploring the mountains. In fact, mountaineering has taken on an increasingly commercial angle with some strange results: “The number of inexperienced climbers who often carry insufficient equipment and underestimate the difficulty and risks of a high-altitude mountain environment is growing, too. They arrive with a plastic bag instead of a rucksack and ask for an ensuite bathroom. They are looking for a place to spend the night on the Internet but have no idea of how an overnight on a mountain hut works.”
Hope comes from the younger generation who seems to have discovered the allure of a mountain hut adventure. The number of people in their mid-20s, such as University students for example, has grown massively over the last few years. They come in groups to spend a weekend or even a few days at Bayreuther Hut or embark on hut-to-hut trekking tours. Which makes the hut caretaker happy: “Those young people are always having a good time, enjoying themselves. They are great!”
Bayreuther Hut can be reached by a walk of about 3 hours from Münster and from Kramsach. Learn More about Bayreuther Hut: www.tyrol.com
From Stüdl Hut on foot of Großglockner Mountain to Berliner Hut in the Zillertal Alps to Pfeis Hut in Karwendel Mountain Range: This summer, we will be telling the stories of Alpinist Association refuges and shelters in Tirol and the people who operate them. The new “Mountain Huts Close Up” series starts here on the Blog Tirol in July 2019.