A father mother and two young children scaled what to the youngsters must have appeared to be a giant mountain in the warmth of a summer’s day in the Austrian Alps.
But this craggy rock construction they were scrambling over was born out of a harsh icy cold disaster in the winter of 1999 that swept away homes and lives of such people who were today enjoying the alpine summer sun.
In February 15 years ago after one of the largest snowfalls in the region a deep snow white blanket covered the Tirol and it turned into a killer of some 31 people in the town of Galtür.
As a huge avalanche sped down the slopes there was nothing to halt the 50 metre high tsunami of snow as it drove into the heart of the town like some monster digger pushing all before it burying and killing in the process.
Fast forward and now protecting the town is a colossal 345-metre long 19-metre high avalanche barrier. Not only is it functioning a saviour for the town residents but the designers also created a lasting practical memorial to those that died.
The delightful museum and exhibition space, plus a café, fabulous rooftop viewing area of the valley is a place where families can learn the alpine art of mountain climbing outside on the giant boulders that make up the defensive wall.
Just recently the exhibition was changed and ‘Life in The Mountains’ – The Fascination of Snow – The Legend of the Avalanche” was born. A fascinating contemporary exhibition awaits its visitors with for instance a 32 tonne mobile of rocks strung on giant wire cables. These can be pushed around with just one finger as they greet you in the foyer.
Or you could lose yourself in a room of wall to wall and floor to ceiling mirrors called ‘Spherical Coordinates’, then see one exhibit that appears to float in the air made up entirely of a knitted items that show a complete alpine scene complete with cable cars buildings and mythical monsters called ‘Orbital’. Then stimulate your audio senses with music as you discover where its premier and longest hotel the Fluchthorn came into being in one called ‘Atmostphere’. But perhaps a little more bazaar you could find yourself ‘Calling a Glacier’!
The town has an interesting history first put on the map back in the 19th century, in fact it was physically not on some maps at all. In its time it has had much more benign visitors such as Albert Einstein and author Ernest Hemmingway.
There are certainly two very different times to enjoy Galtür, its summer one and its winter one but which ever time you decide to come, do make sure you visit the Alpinarium and wonder at its displays and also spare some time to remember those that died in what has been described as the worst avalanche in the Alps in the last 40 years.