Alpine Diary


A walk from Vienna to Venice

ebook published December 2011
11 Chapters 12 Maps 166 Pages


This book should be an inspiration to all those who, as the years mount up, think they may as well begin to draw the curtains and put out some of the upstairs lights.

Bob Johnson, with the companionship of his wife Elaine for the first part, waves a temporary goodbye to his eldest daughter and grandchildren and walks from Vienna to Venice across mountains that have witnessed the ebb and flow of peoples and polities over millennia.

For anyone who enjoys the challenge of travelling through a magnificent but unforgiving landscape, finding the oddities of history in one place and the oddities of human behaviour in another, the ‘The Alpine Diary’ is a good read.

To some, it might be the first step of a journey. What happens next? Buy the maps, squeeze just what is needed into a pack (and not a teabag more), pull on the boots, open the curtains, turn on those lights and set off.

Vienna to Venice – 440 kilometres as the crow flies or the tortuous 550 kilometres I tramped and the 480 kilometres travelled by wheeled transport – there was more to the distance separating the two cities than a long walk over the Alps. The Graben and the Grand Canal separate two halves of Europe.

It is sometimes tough country between the two cities: the rain of the Wienerwald, the exposure of the Windy Heights, the desolation of the Nieder Tauern. Then there was the Karnische Hohenweg, the Iceman, the Dolomites and the Veneto. And what of the journey itself? What were the ‘secret destinations of which the traveller is unaware’. And what of Brother Killian’s observation in Stift Heiligenkreuse that: ‘he who stops travelling has arrived’?

Synopsis of Alpine Diary

A long-distance walk across the Austrian Alps to Venice. Vienna: Café Hawelka in a heat wave/ Sobieskigasse and trams/ Polish cavalry to the rescue. Alpine Austria: lost in Vienna woods/ rain in the trees/ Father Ted and Brother Killian’s koan/ a Danube diver and Haus Neptune/ mist and the Durre Wand/ snow and the Schneeberg/ kind Freda and the Gasthof/ men of Seewiesen/ Watten in lederhosen/ the ‘killer zone’ and ‘Mein Gott’/ the Nameless Ones/ the hundred dead climbers of Johnsbach/ despair on the Tauern Hohenweg/ the alm fuhrer of Jakober/ Elke’s warning/ ghost on the Hohe Tauern/ no room at Malta/ the rock trenches of Carinthia/ mirror lake on the frontier. Alpine Italy: Piave and Caporetto/ Otzi, the ice man/ Cortina and the Dolomites/ Tom, Dick and Harry/ flowers, flies and wasps under the Torre Venezia/ dessication and a dearth of streams/ Uli and the Grade 5/Serious C. Veneto Venice: the downs of the Col Visentin/ Munchen-Venidig and Valdi/ a bunch of Edelweiss! /the flat plain and another small kindness/ Gondole tariff at the old port of the most Serene Republic/ the embrace of Venice. Venice: Renaissance rules/ real estate in San Marco/ crisp boat handling/ ‘he who stops travelling has arrived’?/ days, dates, distances, deadweight/ backpacking equipment/ Bibliography.