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Hike in the footsteps of the Bible smugglers in Austria – Way of the Book

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Hike in the footsteps of the Bible smugglers in Austria – Way of the Book

Hiking Collection by Tamara

28-65

days

3-6 h

/ day

398 mi

56,500 ft

55,700 ft

On the Weg des Buches (Way of the Book) trail, you embark on a journey through time as you walk in the footsteps of the Bible smugglers and secret Protestants during the post-Reformation period. In the 16th century, the predominant denomination was Catholicism whilst other beliefs were forbidden. Many followers lived out their faith in secret and were persecuted for their religion. These secret Protestants would remain Catholic in outward appearances and practice their Protestant faith in secret.

Reading the Bible in one’s own language was and is the basis of the Protestant faith. Martin Luther’s translation of the Bible and the invention of printing in the 15th century made it possible for the poorer classes to read the Bible for the first time. In the Middle Ages, according to Catholic authorities, this reading was reserved only for the clergy and was usually in Latin. Therefore, traders smuggled German-language Bibles and prayer books into Austria, taking a big risk. Protestant sentiment spread quickly, especially in remote valleys and mountain villages, and its followers were not dissuaded even during a 200-year counter-reformation.

The Way of the Book was created and opened in 2008 by the Protestant Church in Austria. The pilgrimage focuses on the meditative character of walking, self-discovery, and learning about history. You follow the route of the book smugglers along reconstructed paths that pass places that played an important role in the Protestant Resistance and during the counter-reformation. On 32 stages and a total of 640 kilometers (397 miles), you discover the sheer diversity of nature in Austria, climb alpine peaks, cross green valleys and cool off in crystal-clear mountain lakes.

The starting point of the pilgrimage trail is Ortenburg municipality in Bavaria. In the Middle Ages, the market here was a Protestant enclave where Protestant masses were held in secret in the otherwise Catholic area. The town of Schärding was once an important port for the salt trade, attracting many traders and thus Bible smugglers. Here, you cross the border into Austria and follow the Way of the Book through the picturesque Salzkammergut region, over the mighty Dachstein peak. You then hike across the scenic Carinthian Nockberge mountains to Agoritschach village in the border triangle of Austria, Italy and Slovenia.

The entire Way of the Book can be divided into three parts in terms of difficulty. The first twelve stages run through hilly, easy-to-walk terrain. These are followed by some challenging hike days, that may require surefootedness and a head for heights, with more than 1,200 metres (3,937 feet) of elevation gain. In the Carinthian part of the long-distance trail towards the south, the ascents become gentler again as the landscape flattens out. If you don’t want to walk the entire pilgrimage trail in one go, you find several opportunities to hop onto public transport along the way. Follow in the adventurous track of the Bible smugglers and hike through a beautiful part of Austria.

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Weg des Buches

381 mi

54,350 ft

53,850 ft

Last updated: November 10, 2021

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Tours & Highlights

  • Difficult
    06:45
    15.8 mi
    2.3 mph
    775 ft
    1,075 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    The journey of the book starts in Ortenburg, which played an important role in the early Protestant faith: in the 16th and 17th centuries, Ortenburg was an Evangelical imperial county, which was a rarity in the otherwise Catholic area at that time. A visit to the well-preserved castle high above the

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  • Difficult
    07:49
    18.4 mi
    2.4 mph
    1,025 ft
    625 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    The baroque town of Schärding became wealthy through the salt trade and it was precisely these salt traders who often smuggled the Bible across the border. At the beginning of the second stage you leave the banks of the Inn and hike through the hilly landscape of Upper Austria. You walk along the Pram

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  • Difficult
    07:36
    17.4 mi
    2.3 mph
    1,400 ft
    975 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    Today you can expect a brisk 28-kilometer march through an increasingly hilly landscape. From the starting point in Sankt Willibald you hike past fields, meadows and forest areas to Peuerbach, where you can take a first break in one of the many cafés or inns. Then you leave the high onion dome of the

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  • Difficult
    06:36
    14.2 mi
    2.2 mph
    1,450 ft
    2,500 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    On the fourth stage you can look forward to two castle ruins. From Sankt Agatha it goes into the forest, where you can climb the panoramic tower of the Stauf ruins. Your gaze wanders far across Upper Austria to the Alps.

    

    Then you cross the valley of the Aschach and immediately climb up again. The path

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  • Difficult
    06:57
    16.0 mi
    2.3 mph
    1,200 ft
    1,100 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    After a night in Eferding, you set out for the wide plain of the Eferding Basin. A lot of vegetables are grown here and you hike on flat paths to Polsing. Here the path of the book begins to climb and leads you up to beautiful viewpoints.

    

    In Unterscharten it is worth taking a look at the Protestant Tolerance

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  • Intermediate
    03:38
    8.49 mi
    2.3 mph
    500 ft
    450 ft
    Intermediate Hiking Tour. Good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    With less than 14 kilometers, the sixth stage is one of the shortest on the pilgrimage, so at the end of the day there is time to explore the city of Wels. From Wallern an der Trattnach you can stroll south in a relaxed manner. You leave Krenglbach behind you and follow the path along the Passau Railway

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  • Intermediate
    04:17
    10.4 mi
    2.4 mph
    250 ft
    125 ft
    Intermediate Hiking Tour. Good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    From the center in Wels it goes to the banks of the Traun. You always follow their course along the water and in some places you can put your feet in the cold water. The foothills of the city are behind you and the landscape around is greener and greener.

    

    You cross tributaries and creeks of the Traun

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  • Difficult
    06:09
    14.8 mi
    2.4 mph
    575 ft
    250 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    Today you will again be accompanied by the element of water: From Lambach with its imposing pen, you will initially head west along the Traun. After a short distance you change to the bank of the Ager. The path of the book flatly follows the river to Schwanenstadt, where a stroll through the colorful

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  • Difficult
    07:38
    17.9 mi
    2.3 mph
    875 ft
    925 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    From the evangelical community of Rutzenmoos we go to the beautiful Traunsee today. After a delicious breakfast, we set off into the initially hilly landscape along the Aurach Valley. A few times you cross the Salzkammergutbahn and then you reach the beautiful city of Gmunden, which is known for its

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  • Difficult
    05:16
    12.4 mi
    2.4 mph
    550 ft
    450 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    We continue through the beautiful Salzkammergut: Stage 10 starts on the south bank of the Traunsee in the village of Ebensee. Before you start hiking, you can make a worthwhile detour up to the Kalvarienberg chapel. The view of the lake from up there is simply fantastic.

    

    Then you follow the Traun on the

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  • Intermediate
    02:48
    6.71 mi
    2.4 mph
    250 ft
    150 ft
    Intermediate Hiking Tour. Good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    On the eleventh stage, the rushing Traun gives you the direction: you leave the enchanting Bad Ischl and follow the river south. You walk through the beautiful Sisipark and pass the valley station of the Katrin cable car. If you want to enjoy a fantastic view over the Salzkammergut, then I recommend

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  • Difficult
    05:01
    11.5 mi
    2.3 mph
    850 ft
    775 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    The twelfth stage, which starts in Bad Goisern, is also impressive in terms of landscape. At the beginning you cross the blue shimmering Traun and walk along its west bank. Parallel to the Salzkammergutbahn, the path of the book winds through the valley, which soon widens and reveals a view of Lake Hallstatt

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  • Difficult
    06:43
    11.9 mi
    1.8 mph
    3,850 ft
    2,525 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    Today it goes into the wonderful mountains on the border between Upper Austria and Salzburg. From the dreamy, but always well-visited Hallstatt you climb up the salt mountain. From the World Heritage view you can enjoy a gigantic view of Lake Hallstatt and you cannot miss a visit to the Salt Mine. The

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  • Difficult
    06:03
    7.78 mi
    1.3 mph
    3,475 ft
    1,000 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Sure-footedness, sturdy shoes and alpine experience required.

    The 14th stage starts with fantastic views of the Vorderen Gosausee. Right at the beginning you have a steep ascent up to the mountain station of the Gosaukammbahn. Once at the top, you can treat yourself to a second breakfast in one of the two huts.

    

    Then you leave Upper Austria and cross the border to

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  • Difficult
    07:23
    12.5 mi
    1.7 mph
    2,200 ft
    4,075 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Sure-footedness, sturdy shoes and alpine experience required.

    After a night in the Hofpürglhütte, you set out to walk the Linzersteig. Accompanied by wonderful views, you hike along the steep flank of the Gosaustein, which requires surefootedness and attention. Initially, the path of the book runs at a constant height until after five kilometers you climb steeply

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  • Difficult
    08:30
    16.9 mi
    2.0 mph
    3,600 ft
    1,875 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    At the beginning of the 16th stage, the path of the book leads you down from Ramsau am Dachstein to Schladming. In the town in the Ennstal, known for skiing, you will find nice alleys, many restaurants and the Protestant Peter and Paul Church. After you have crossed Schladming, you follow the Talbach

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  • Difficult
    07:17
    11.4 mi
    1.6 mph
    2,300 ft
    3,925 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Sure-footedness, sturdy shoes and alpine experience required.

    After a hearty breakfast, you leave the Preintalerhütte and dive into the wonderful nature reserve Klafferkessel. It starts out rocky and steep over the Outer and Inner Lämmerkar towards the summit of the Greifenstein. The first lakes that arose in the last ice age are already appearing in front of you

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  • Difficult
    07:01
    14.6 mi
    2.1 mph
    2,225 ft
    2,500 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    From Lessach-Oberdorf we continue along the Lessach through the wonderful landscape of the Lungau. The valley widens and you reach Tamsweg, where you can refill your supplies in one of the supermarkets. If your legs are fit, then a wonderful detour up to the pilgrimage church of Sankt Leonhard is worthwhile

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  • Difficult
    07:34
    13.6 mi
    1.8 mph
    4,450 ft
    2,425 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    After your very special overnight stay in Finstergrün Castle in the Murtal, it's up again today: On shady forest paths you climb up to an uncultivated alpine pasture from which you can enjoy great views. The surroundings are becoming more and more alpine and at the 2,257 meter high Feldernock you reach

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  • Intermediate
    04:55
    8.25 mi
    1.7 mph
    2,050 ft
    2,175 ft
    Intermediate Hiking Tour. Good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    From the starting point at the quaint Dr. Josef-Mehrl-Hütte in the beautiful Lungauer Schönfeld is a demanding uphill climb to the first peak of the day, the Stubennock. Like the following peaks, it lies on the border between Salzburg and Carinthia. With wonderful views you hike on to the 2,246 meter

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Collection Stats

  • Tours
    32
  • Distance
    398 mi
  • Duration
    195:10 h
  • Elevation
    56,500 ft55,700 ft

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Hike in the footsteps of the Bible smugglers in Austria – Way of the Book

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