We took advantage of another long weekend in May (there are quite a few of them this month!) and headed to Austria for some diving and to check another item off of our bucket list. We booked two day tours with a dive shop out of Vienna, Neptun Diving. On Saturday, we dove at Grüblsee near Vorndernberg, Austria. And what a dive it was! The small lake, more of a pond really, is located at about 800 meters (2600 feet) in elevation, with a small dive shop and school next to it. It is officially the highest dive school in all of Europe! Surrounded on three sides by mountains and looking over a nearby ski area, the scenery is pretty awesome. We were blessed with beautiful weather too - not too hot for dry suit diving, but not too cold so that you couldn't warm up between dives.
We did two dives at this small lake where the main attraction is the fish. They have over 15 different species of fish ranging from trout to koi to sturgeon. The best part is you get to feed them! Each diver is given a small yellow capsule of fish food (the inside of an old, already consumed, Kinder Egg if you know what those are). We descended down the line to a platform located at about 12 feet, Once there and ready, one by one each person cracks open their capsule. As soon as that capsule is open, you are engulfed in a feeding frenzy of fish! I'm not normally a squeemish person, but having that many fish around me all at once, dive bombing my mask, investigating my gloves, and bumping into me left and right had me glad that I was encased in a drysuit, hood, and gloves, leaving very little to actually come into contact with these fish. On our second dive when Aaron was feeding them, one even took a chunk (a small one, but a chunk nonetheless) out of his mitts!
Feeding the fish only takes a few minutes so once we were done, we took a cruise around the rest of the lake. There are a number of statues and things to see underwater, making it a little more interesting than a flat, lifeless bottom. Unfortunately, the visibility was terrible, even by fresh water standards, but the shallow depth (only about 4 meters) meant that the water was the warmest we have dove in in months! Water temperatures were a balmy 50°F which meant my fingers weren't frozen stiff by the end, a welcome change from the numbness that I experience in Iceland.
At the end of the day, we all gathered in the dive shop to fill out log books, eat dinner, and just relax. The owner/manager of Grüblsee, Sabine, is a fantastic chef! On the menu for the day were mussels, trout, zucchini cream soup, and chili con carne, all prepared in the small kitchen adjoining the dive shop. It smelled amazing and tasted even better. Aaron ordered the trout, and I opted for the mussels. I even tried it and like it, despite the fact that I'm not a huge fan of trout. We sat around for a couple of hours just talking, drinking, and relaxing. Austrians are super friendly and even though a lot of the conversation was in German, we were able to follow along. And if we had trouble, they were all kind enough to explain it to us in English. One of the things I miss most about diving in the states are the time spent out of the water with other divers. While our friends in the states can in no way be replaced, it's fun to meet new people and hear about their own dive experiences.