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Just as gold lasts forever, the mighty Alps will rise for eternity. Having said that, environmental contamination and mass tourism have taken their toll over the past century. Alpine Treasures is a three-coin series that highlights the rare species of plants and animals that are native to the Austrian Alps and shows off the multifaceted nature of the country’s spectacular mountain landscape. In doing so, it provides a gorgeous golden glimpse of the monumental peaks of the Hohe Tauern National Park, of the lush green valleys of the Kalkalpen and of the wild waters of Gesäuse National Park. Only the Alps themselves are more beautiful.
The dramatic beauty of the Alps stems not only from the vertiginous peaks themselves but also from the rivers that traverse them. Nowhere is this truer than in Austria’s Gesäuse National Park, where the River Enns has cut its way through the Northern Limestone Alps, leaving steep, rugged summits towering over its banks. The small but perfectly formed national park features on Wild Waters, the third and final coin in the Alpine Treasures series, which showcases the multifaceted nature of the Austria’s alpine landscape.
Founded in 2002, Gesäuse is the most recent of Austria’s six national parks to be established. Here nature has been left to its own devices, creating a true spectacle for the visitor. Some 195 endemic animal species dwell in this wonderful winding valley. Of particular interest is the alpine salamander, a non-aquatic reptile recognisable by the intense yellow stripes on its back. In Austria it is considered an endangered species and placed under strict protection.
As well as its varied animal life, Gesäuse is also home to 30 endemic plant varieties – a record for Austria. Most notable is the pink, whose wonderful blooms are native to Gesäuse, thanks to the national park’s unique combination of well-watered scree, calcareous grass and dolomite rock. The plant features on the coin’s obverse, its Latin name, Dianthus plumarius blandus, inscribed on the lower right-hand side. The reverse depicts the gateway to the Gesäuse: an immense natural panorama framed by forest with the River Enns flowing beneath the imposing 2,335 metres of the Großer Ödstein. In the foreground, an alpine salamander crawls across the coin.
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