Semmering has long been an alpine resort, famed for its clean air.
Many Viennese come there, to skiing in the winter, or to walking in the summer.
Overlooking Semmering to the south is the Hirschenkogel (1340m), where a modern cable car whisks walkers or skiers up to the top.
Alpengarten at Rax was my favorite place to be because it was there where I saw my first real Edelweiss in the free nature and it was not only a single one, but hundreds of them togeather with lots of other alpine flowers!
When hiking you hardly ever see Edelweiss, simply because animals like chamois / Gemse love to eat it for desert, but at Alpengarten they obviously cant jump across the fence and so these lovely flowers can survive.
Edelweiss are under strict protection and picking them as a souvenir is a serious crime. I am quite sure 98% of all customs-officers in the world know them and might fine you and take away the Edelweiss anyway, so leave it where it is and take just photographs home with you !
Panhans is the leading hotel of Semmering, a giant 4-star-hotel of the traditional kind, and the only one of the old Semmering - Grand hotels, that is still open for the public. It was recently restored and adapted to the modern times, with a spa and wellness-area, a large covered garage for the hotel-guests and a big part of the old building was also transfered into a school for Hotel-managment.
Take a look inside the Grandhotel Panhans in order to see the lovely interior, take your afternoon-tea and enjoy the view from their terrace.
Take a look inside the lovely, small church of the village of Semmering, it is just a few meters from the end of Hotel Panhans, when walking along Hochstrasse. You can enter the small church freely and without restrictions during the day, outside it reminds me a bit of Art-Nouveau-style, inside it is somehow mixed between different styles and the best are the windows of colorfull glass and the fact that you can see them from a very short distance.
Dont miss the scenic house of the priest, next to the church, see my next tip !
Elisabeth / Sissi-Kircheis the small chapel next to the upper station of Schneeberg-Bahn. You can visit this small church freely and without restrictions during the day. Sissi, the wife of the Austrian emperor Kaiser Franz Josef was killed by an early terrorist and this church was built in order to commemorate her early death.
This small church dates back to the year 1901 and it has a simple but nice Art-nouveau interior : a nice altar, a lovely chandelier and an excellent mosaique at the ceiling.
This lovely Art-Nouveau / Jugenstil-Villa is one of my favorite buildings of Semmering: it dates back to the year 1900 and it is privately owned, you even can buy 2 appartments inside of there at the moment (Aug2007). This building is a good excemple of a typical building of Semmering, unfortnately a lot of houses of that time are in a bad condition and obviously given up by their owners after the times of the "booming" tourism at the end of the 19th century.
Carl Ritter von Ghega (1802-1860) from Venice made the plans for of the trainline between Vienna and Triest (that used to be part of Austria then) over the Semmering. It was quite an adventure and the Semmering-Bahn used to be very first regular trainline over a pass-road in the world at that time, built between 1848 and 1854. The direct way from Gloggnitz to Muerzzuschlag is just 21 km, but the train needs 42 km over several viaducts and lots of tunnels and on the highest point it is 898 meters above sea-level,while the diffrence in hight is 439 meters.
Dont miss that lovely wooden house with ornate decorations, it could easily be overseen, because the biggest part of it is hidden behind some trees. It belongs to the church, so it could be the house of the priest maybe.
Take a closer look, the ground around of it is not fenced in and there is a street passing by leading to a public hall, so you can take pics from a short distance as well. Unfortunately the best decorations are under the roof and you can take pics only from the street, in quite a distance and with some buses in between...
Zauberberg (Magic mountain) is the name of a peak in the village of Semmering, where you can go up in a cablecar in summer and in winter. the skiing-slopes are rather for good skiers, beeing able to race down over steep and narrow slopes. There is a seperate track for tobaggoning as well and at certain times the slopes will be lighted in wintertime, so you can go skiing also at night.
Snow-cannons make sure you will have enough snow for skiing, even when the rest of the mountain is without any snow !
In summertime plenty of people go up there for the view or for a hike downwards. You can also rent a "Monster"-scooter in order to drive down or take the mountainbike - track downwards.
Holders of the NÖ-Card can go this cablecar
up and down 1x free of charge each year !
In my personal opinion you dont miss a lot, when you skip this mountain and the cablecar in summer !
My personal oppinion (as a patriot of course) is that Austria is not offering a lot compared to Romania when it comes to mountains.
But when we speak about ski, things are different. You have miles of very well prepared slopes, overwhelming lifting capacity (I did not queue more than 30 seconds even in weekend !) and everithing elso you need for a good ski vacation.
This is a glorious trail that runs from Gloggnitz to Semmering, never far from the train tracks themselves. You get a upclose look at the tracks and a good impression of the difficulty that must have been overcome in building this line back in the early 1850's. The historical value of the site is recognized with the status of a UNESCO Heritage site. Remember the forests you walk through were all stripped at one time to provide wood for the line. Old pictures at some of the stations show barren hillsides which are now once more cloaked with forests.
The train station at Payerbach has many photos displayed of the last Hapsburg emperor, Karl, his wife, Zita, and their children. A couple of km from the train station was the grand old house that the family loved to stay in before he became emperor in 1916. It was at this house, he recieved word of the death of the old emperor, Franz Josef.
A good walking map can take you to several nice off trail stopping points for food as well. The trail extends for many kilometers, but can be shortened by hopping on and off passing passenger trains on the busy line from Wien to southern Austria and Italy.
Walking along the Hochstrasse gives one wide views out across the Adlitzgraben - the canyon above which the Semmering railway was built back in 1854 - over the long slopes of the Kreuzberg towards the limestone massifs of the Rax and the Wiener Schneeberg - the most eastward lying 2000m Alpine peak in Austria; the 'Home Mountains' for the Viennese.
The forests are thick along the Hochstrasse and the slopes are steep. You pass hotels, small and huge; past glorious houses. Here is the past sleeping quietly in the forest.
The picture is towards the Hochstrasse. The Hochstrasse can be seen with the occasional building emerging in the distance through the forests.
The Rax is a huge raised limestone mountain ringed on the south side by 1000 meter cliffs. Atop, there are many miles of trails with several mountain huts in which one can stay or get food/drink from. Most of the woods on top of the plateau is krummholz - lowlying, bushy-looking trees. Gemsbok thrive. The area has many visitors on the weekend, so choose a quiet weekday for the best experience.
The tourists reach comfortably on the mountain and again back into the valley, with the new cubicle railway.
Beautiful stroll and footpaths lead back again, from the mountain station, along the Hirschenkogels into the valley.
If you are into hiking in the mountains, Semmering is the place to be. They have some beautiful tracks giving you the alternative of either walking up the mountain or taking the chair-lift, which is relatively expensive though.