Valley Life: Zemmtal

Last updated 12.10.2020IreneIrene
Oesterreich Austria, Tirol Tyrol, Zillertal, Olperer, Besteigung mit Bergfuehrer mountain guide Bernhard Neumann 07/2016

This summer, I wrote about the various Tirolean valleys and told stories of so much life in so little space in the series “Valley Life“. I want to introduce visitors from all over the world to Tirol and open local people’s eyes to the very special aspects of their otherwise familiar environment. This time: The Zemmtal.

If you think you have seen everything that makes the Zillertal Valley special after visiting Mayrhofen, you’re seriously mistaken. Right at the end of the Zillertal Valley – right there where the wide valley ramifies into several smaller side valleyes, which again ramify into even narrower side valleyes – you’ll find some exciting place.

©Jannis Braun

Zillergrund, Tuxter Tal, Zemmtal, Stilluptal, … There are many valleys to choose from. And there are so many possibilities – no matter if you are looking for a place to meditate or a place to do sports. This time round, we’ll just drive past the famous Tuxer Tal Valley – where winter sports fans can ride down the slopes of the glacier even at the height of summer – to the Stilluptal Valley and the Grüne Wand Hütte mountain hut.

©Jannis Braun

Or we could just politely queue in front of the single-lane Harpfnerwand tunnel. If you are impatient and do not want to wait up to 20 minutes for a green light, or if you feel claustrophobic between dark, rough-hewed walls of rock, this won’t be the best place for you. You should choose the two-lane enlarged gorge road to Ginzling-Dornauberg.

©Jannis Braun

The place at the entrance to the Zemmtal Valley was one of the first mountaineering villages of the Austrian Alpine Association and there is a self-explaining reason. At a first glance, you won’t notice, so let’s take a closer look: The two parts of the village have their own mutual postcode and one head of village – a kind of mini mayor – but the two parts of the village belong to two different municipalities, namely Mayrhofen (Ginzling) and Finkenberg (Dornauberg) with two real mayors.

Embedded between giants: the mountaineering village Ginzling. © A. Kirchmer

On top of that: The Zemmbach stream is the border between the dioceses Innsbruck and the Tirolean areas which belong to the archdioceses Salzburg. Adepts will recognise at first sight that a red church steeple belongs to the dioceses Innsbruck, and a green church steeple to the archdioceses Salzburg. However, there are of course always exceptions that prove the rule. In the parochial everyday life, it is secondary which bishop the priest has to justify himself to.

The Schrammacher mountain– the neighbour of the Olperer mountain. ©Jannis Braun

In the middle of nowhere: the Berliner Hütte mountain hut. ©Jannis Braun

Since 1970, the Zemmtal Valley has been characterised by the Schlegeis impounding reservoir. And for thousands of years, the striking Olperer pyramid mountain has coined this valley. Climbing up to the 3,500-metre-high Olperer summit is one of the most famous and challenging hiking tours in the Zilltertal Alps. If you prefer a less challenging thrill, you should try out the via ferrata and Flying Foxalong the 131-metre-high wall of the impounding reservoir.

Left: Olperer mountain, Below: Schlegeis impound reservoir ©Jannis Braun


Witty and sharp-tongued, Irene Heisz is a journalist and author who writes blog posts about Tirol, Tiroleans and their peculiarities—and there are many of them!

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