Easter weekend is a long weekend in Europe and most people have Friday and Monday off. We would have hated to waste the long weekend sitting at home, so we did what we do most weekends: traveled! At first, we wanted to go back to the Netherlands, to Keukenhof, to see the tulips in full bloom, but hotel prices were through the roof! I couldn't find anything less than about 120 euro per night. And over 3 nights, that can get expensive. Enter plan B: Austria!
We knew Austria has some great diving. Coupled with the fact that we just got new Halcyon back plate and wings, and that it had been about a month since our last dive, we were itching to get back into the water. Some quick Googling led us to Attersee, the third largest lake in Austria, which is nestled cozily in the Alps. Easter diving in an Alpine lake - what could be better? Within 36 hours, we had booked three dives with a local dive shop, reserved a room at a Gasthaus nearby, and were finalizing our plans.
One of the most difficult parts of diving over here is knowing where we can go. Laws differ between countries and even areas within a country, so it can be difficult to figure out where it is legally ok to dive. Thankfully, there are a number of dive shops operating near Attersee that run guided dives. We booked 3 guided dives with Under Pressure in Weyregg am Attersee. After leaving early Friday morning, we got there in the afternoon, just in time to get in one dive with them
The first dive was similar to a check out dive. It was an easy check-out dive with our guide at the Dixi dive site. There is a platform at 5 m (15 feet) and a couple of other things to look at. We did about a 30 minute dive here so that our guide could see our diving abilities. One thing that caught us off guard was the legal requirement to dive with two first stages on a y-valve. This means that instead of 1 first stage regulator that attaches to the tank, there are two. The thinking is that if one of them fails in the cold water (i.e. freezes), that you can isolate that valve and breathe off of the other one. This is very different than what we were used to and took some adjusting on our part. Thankfully, since we were diving our Poseidon Xstream Regulators, so we didn't have to worry about our regulators freezing.
The next day, we met our guide again at the shop for two more dives. The first was at Hinkelsteine. There are large rocks sitting on the lake bed starting at about 17 meters (55 feet) deep and continuing to 30 meters (98 feet). After entering, it's about a 10 minute swim to where the first stone lies, but there is a lot of interesting debris along the way, so it's not a boring swim across the sand. Unfortunately for our guide, his drysuit was leaking, but he managed to tough it out for about 30 minutes before he called the dive. We could tell when he got his suit off how wet, and cold, he must have been. Water that's 41°F is no joke, there's a reason we wear drysuits!
In between dives, we headed back to the shop to switch out tanks, warm up a bit, and grab some lunch. Combined with the dive shop is a guest house and bar/restaurant. Not wanting a heavy lunch, we opted for the goulash, which was an excellent decision. Warm soup between cold water dives is seriously the best thing ever. It's warming, not too filling, and I haven't met a soup I don't like yet.
Our afternoon, and final, dive in Attersee was at Twin Towers. Some time in the past, some trees had slid down the side of the mountain and into the lake. They ended up standing straight up next to each other. Not sure if this was done by people or happened naturally, but in any case, it's a pretty cool site. One thing we have found common in many dive sites is the presence of a garden gnome, and this one was no exception. However, it was giving the middle finger as if it was saying, ''Screw this! It's cold!'' That dive was a nice, long, relaxing dive of about 50 minutes. A couple of weeks ago, I would have been absolutely frigid due to a slow leak in my suit. But after having the neck seal replaced and doing some other work on it, I was nice and dry this time! And it was glorious :) I have to say, a dry suit that actually keeps you dry is kind of nice.
After we were done diving for the day, and changed back into regular street clothing, we grabbed a beer with the guides we had been diving with. I have to say, looking back at the diving, it was pretty awesome to come up and see the Alps. Most people go to the Alps to ski, not dive, but since Aaron doesn't ski, I guess the next best way to experience them is underwater! Later in May, we have another weekend of diving in the Austrian Alps planned, and since we go right past Attersee to get there, we are hoping to make a stop here for a dive or two on our way.
If you're in the area, and looking for a guided dive, we would highly recommend the folks at Under Pressure. The shop was busy, but for good reason. They even have a special ''stay and dive'' package that we might book for later. 36 euro per person, per night for a room, breakfast and air fills. Not a bad deal. And the lake is perfectly set up for diving. There are over 20 different sites on the lake and each one has parking, ample room to get gear set up, and stairs leading into the water. The sites all appeared to be well maintained and made access to the lake easy. Each site also boosted a dive map, showing you what was there and the name of the site. In all, it was very well organized. Go here to learn more about diving in Attersee. I wish I had found this site before we went!
And for those of you back in Michigan, we haven't forgot about you ;) They even let us put a sticker up to show our long distance dive center, Diver's Incorporated in Ann Arbor, Michigan, some love! Gotta represent the mitten!
For more pictures from diving last weekend, click through the gallery below.