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Austria’s huts are outposts of Germany

How the German Alpine Association (DAV) dominates high-level hiking in the Austrian Alps.

We get a lot of hits on this website about hut-hiking. For those that are not familiar with the idea, it is a form of high-level hiking in the Alps, with accommodation in so-called ‘huts’, often considerable establishments with accommodation for 100-plus hikers, mostly around 2,000 metres above sea-level, and inaccessible by wheeled traffic. They open when the snows have melted, usually around June time, and close again about now – at the beginning of October.

Their function is primarily to save serious hikers the need to carry heavy camping equipment up hill and down dale, or to go plunging down into the valleys at the end of every day to find hot food and somewhere warm and dry to stay. But they are also great communal gathering places of like-minded people, very convivial, partly thanks to all the beer being consumed, for despite being away from a road end, huts stay well supplied (sometimes even by helicopter) and there are no shortages. Some of the ‘huts’ even have wifi.

Anyway, why this blog, when we already have a perfectly good post on the subject? Well, I’ve just been hut-hiking in Austria’s Lech mountains, and I was surprised to find that it is almost entirely a German affair. Germany of course has its own huts in the German Alps, but the German Alpine Association (DAV) dominates the Austrian Alps, too.

In total there are around a thousand huts in the Austrian mountains, and a majority are run by individual regional branches of the DAV. I stayed, for example, in Hanauer Hütte and in Anhalter Hütte, the first run by the Hanau branch of the DAV, and the second by the Ober Neckar branch, which is in the Black Forest. And these places were like outposts of their region, with photos of back home on the walls, and with a significant percentage of walkers from their own home town come to savour their own bit of paradise. It was like regional embassies in the mountains.

While I commend the organisation for the effort it must take to run what is in fact Austria’s biggest holiday accommodation sector – more bed-nights than hotels or campgrounds – I am not so keen on the Germanification. It’s a bit like the instinct to unroll one’s beach towel on the best of the sun-loungers by the pool, to stake a claim to ownership when ownership doesn’t really exist.

But then I can’t really bring myself to criticise. Alpine huts are undeniably a Very Good Thing, and there are plenty of British bars in Benidorm. It doesn’t really matter who runs the huts, as long as somebody does. And Germany’s DAV probably does it better than anyone else.

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