Petra, one of our hiking guides here at MoaAlm, consistently blows us away with her incredible knowledge of the nature and wildlife in Hohe Tauern National Park. Petra became a certified National Park Ranger 6 years ago when she decided to leave her successful professional career as a technical product manager for an international company. She loved her job, but her love and awe of the mountains encouraged her to apply for a hiking guide certification course offered by National Park Hohe Tauern. Remarkably, of hundreds of applicants, Petra was one of the very few chosen to be trained as senior rangers.
Petra once told us, “Deep in my heart, I had always been a biologist with deep love for the secrets of nature and now advanced in years my dream came true!”. Perhaps because of the unusual path she followed to find her dream career, Petra is truly one of the most passionate and knowledgeable people we know. She’s always teaching us something new and fascinating about the natural wonders that surround us here in the Austrian Alps!
Thinking it selfish to keep Petra all to ourselves, we decided to ask her some of our most asked questions to share some of her knowledge with all our wonderful readers.
Petra, your knowledge of the alpine plant world is so great, and you inspire our guests with it every time. It seems to be the "topic of your heart". What fascinates you so much about it?
I admire the perfect harmony of our unaffected nature, the breathtaking, majestic beauty of our mountains as well as the arrangement of flowers, moss, and lichen. The crystal clear, lively waters, the fresh scents, the sounds of the forest and the gorgeous colours of our alpine flowers energise and rejuvenate anyone lucky enough to set foot in the Austrian alps.
Everything seems to have been created with the one and only purpose to enchant and charm us.
Many of our guests come to MoaAlm in search of the elusive Edelweiss. What makes this flower so special and famous to mountaineers all over the world? What advice would you give to those in search of it?
Edelweiss are extremely rare and distinctive. Even if you’ve never seen one before, you will immediately recognise the Edelweiss. Its woolly, felty hypsophylls make it look unique. Their purpose is to reflect the sunlight to protect the eye-catching blossoms from drying out.
Nevertheless, Edelweiss are quite hard to find. They only grow in high alpine, remote, rocky regions. In fact, in former times, if a young man gifted an Edelweiss to his adored girl, it was to prove his love and courage.
The fame of the Edelweiss is owed to the Austrian Empress Sissi, who was once painted with nine Edelweiss in her hair. It became the symbol of many alpine associations, mountain and hiking guides.
Today, unfortunately, Edelweiss are in danger of extinction. In 1886, it was one of the first plants to be protected by environmental agencies.
We’ve been on many of your guided hikes and been lucky to learn so much from you. Do you have any favourite plant species that you speak to our guests about? What makes them so special?
I talk about interesting species crossing our hiking track. In that moment, every plant, bird, tree, and animal is of great interest in its special habitat and with its individual grace and story.
From experience, we know that National Park Hohe Tauern is beautiful year-round. However, many of our guests would like to know when the best time would be to visit MoaAlm. Can you say anything about the special natural events taking place in the park in the different summer months?
Indeed, it is not possible for me to choose the “best” season to visit the National Park. I simply love the variety and watching the evolution day by day, month by month.
In June, I can’t wait for the first delicate blossoms of pulsatilla, alpine snow bells, bright blue gentians, and crocos that break through snow fields. Ibexes and gams can be seen as they enjoy the first green, lush herbs. Golden Eagles and sometimes bearded vultures circle in the thermal. The weather in June is perfect for hiking.
In July, our alps explode with colours and biodiversity. Alpine roses, orchids, and many other flowers dye our alps pink, yellow and white. Proud marmot mothers show off their babies in front of their bur.
August brings butterflies, blueberries, busy wildlife, hot summer days even in high altitudes, the joy of a cold beer and the pleasure of stretching your feet into a chilly river.
In September, the mountains shine with the Ferrari-red leaves of the blueberry bushes. Nature provides full flower-power before winter begins in October, and all the natural species love to enjoy the pleasant weather.