Yes the variables are not part of the data model of QlikView or Qlik Sense.
And yes there is a way of getting hold of the variables by reading them from the QVW-file. The QVW-file has an XML-section where the variables are accessible.
You will have to read the QVW-file from a load script with a LOAD statement using XML as the file format. Then you will get all the variables into a table. The table can be parsed with a simple FOR loop afterwards to recreate each and every variable.
Furthermore there are applications being made as "open-source" to do the job: