You are currently browsing the monthly archive for February 2009.

Here’s the link to the photos on Flickr:

And some puzzles just for fun:

Rothenburg ob der Tauber Jigsaw PuzzleRothenburg ob der Tauber Jigsaw Puzzle

Along the Weiss Ring Jigsaw PuzzleAlong the Weiss Ring Jigsaw Puzzle

We made it back to Ottawa in one piece (no ruptured ear drums this time thankfully), complete with all of our luggage. Frankfurt airport is quite big and has loads more shopping that Ottawa does. It took us a while to find a gas station (thankfully we had Bridget with us) but dropping of the rental car was much easier because the car companies are on site so you don’t have to factor in bus time to get back to the airport.

So here I sit while the clothes are in the washing machine, reflecting on the past two weeks. Here are things I love about Germany:

  1. Beer — there’s loads of it, and it’s cheap. The selection definitely gets better as you head south.
  2. Medieval towns scattered along the romantic road actually have people living in them. They say they only speak “a little English” but if you try some German they’ll usually speak more English than you speak German.
  3. The Autobahns — there are loads of them and they make travel much faster
  4. Scenic routes — we’ve only tried one so far, but next time we’ll try the Clock Route and learn about cuckoo clocks
  5. Efficient safe airports — at Frankfurt am Main International Airport they take security seriously and have efficient processes.
  6. Fußgängerzones — every town and village seems to have them and they bring people to the core
  7. Marktplatzes — again the hub of town living, with food and craft markets
  8. Brauhäuser — brew houses that are now smoke free (great improvement!)
  9. Biergarten — usually attached to brew houses but only for summer use. I still have to go back in the summer/fall to take full advantage.
  10. Lederhosen — there’s nothing sexier than a man in short leather pants and knee-high socks strolling around town with a beer in his hand!

Now here are some things you have to get used to in Germany:

  • traffic, especially on the Autobahns
  • high gas prices
  • no facecloths in hotels

Things I love about Austria:

  1. Skiing — especially at St. Anton, with its interconnected villages. Ischgl was interesting too because it connects to a Swiss resort as well.
  2. Quaint picturesque villages
  3. Tunnels — every time we visit they’re adding a new one or twinning an existing one. Why can’t Ottawa build a 3-km tunnel downtown for transit?
  4. Food — restaurants include tax and tip, so even with the exchange on the Euro, food is good value. Not all restaurants are equal, but we found some good ones.
  5. Glühwein (mulled wine)– it’s what they do with sub-par red Austrian wine, and it’s great after a day on the slopes to warm you up
  6. Beer — being so close to Bavaria, the Tirol and Arlberg regions have lots of choice too. It’s not as cheap, but it still goes down well.
  7. Paprika Pringles — okay, they’re available in most of Western Europe, but I always stock up in Austria.
  8. Spätzle — it’s a cross between pasta and dumplings, and it’s absolutely delicious
  9. Suppe — Austrians have great soups, whether it’s a broth or cream soup. And when I say cream, I mean it comes with a big dollop of whipped cream that you stir in yourself.
  10. It’s like Canada in some ways: it’s beside a more powerful, culturally and economic neighbour that speaks the same language. Austrians are often confused with Germans, just as Canadians are with Americans.

Some things you need to get used to:

  • most car rentals are standards and gutless
  • crowds of people — Europe simply has more people, and they can compress in lines. Don’t be afraid of people touching or crushing you when a bus door opens.
  • thousands of Brits arriving during winter break (usually third week in February).

We’ve run out of Internet at Anna-Luise, so I’m writing this on the computer and will post it later. So it may sound a bit disjointed.

Rob reminded me last  night of a funny incident that I think I forgot to include in the February 14 posting. Can you blame me? That was our long day in the car from Munich. What I forgot to include was the problem of how to get the windshield washer fluid into our Ford rental car. Rob looked for the hood release on his side of the car and couldn’t find anything. So he thought it might be like the Mini and be on the passenger side. But, nope, I couldn’t find anything either. I think he thought I wasn’t looking hard enough, so he looked as well.

So I brought out the owner’s manual, but couldn’t figure out what you call the hood (or do they call it a “bonnet” here). I went back into the hotel and asked the woman at the desk if she could help me figure it out. We kept going through her thick German-English dictionary then looking up words in the index of the owner’s manual, but couldn’t find anything.  We finally found what looked like a diagram of the front of the car and it showed a key to open the compartment. I asked her if she thought that was the bonnet/hood, and she said  that based on what the text said around the diagram, it would appear to be so.

For some odd reason, Ford took it upon itself to add a lock to the hood of our rental car. You can only find the keyhole if you swing out the Ford emblem on the hood. Then we were able to get in no problemo. After about 45 minutes of complete frustration.

Our original plan was to drive through the Black Forest and check out some cuckoo clocks. The snow was quite heavy this morning and the Arlbergpass was treacherous. Most people were stopping to put chains on their vehicles. We had snow tires, but the going was slow in our gutless rental. After  making it through the pass, I suggested to Rob that we do the Blackforest on our next trip, like we had a taste of the Romantic Road. So we continued on, with one stop in Mannheim at Ikea. I know, you’re thinking what’s up with another visit to Ikea?

We figured it would be a cheap meal. And because of the proximity of the American base, they actually spoke English there.

So now we’re at the Ibis Frankfurt Airport Hotel. Across the street is a strip mall with a Euro store, grocery store, bakery, beer/wine store and something that’s pretty close to a Giant Tiger. We’re having problems with the wireless connection. It seems to only work if I sit behind the door. I feel like a child sent to the corner for a time out. But at least I have a beer close by. Let’s see if this post works.

An hour later, and we’ll see if I can finally post.

Today we headed off to Innsbruck, more to pass the time than anything else. We stayed there on our first ski trip to Austria, so we’re not strangers to the city of about 100,000.

The first thing we noticed on our drive in was the number of jets landing at its airport. We don’t recall ever hearing jets when we stayed near the Altstadt.

Being a Sunday morning there wasn’t much open, except for in the Altstadt. So we wandered around there, pointing out places we’d visited or shopped at in the past.

T

hen we grabbed a coffee at a McDs, and decided to head home. It’s funny how towns don’t look as pretty when it’s cloudy, dull and just above freezing, making it slushy. Snow kept falling or dripping off buildings too.

We tried to find our way to the Ikea in Innsbruck, but Bridget didn’t seem to think there was one. We drove through a small shopping centre (more like big box stores) and stumbled across a small flea market in the parking lot. We only did window shopping from the car, then headed back to St. Anton.

Our only tasks today are to return our ski cards for their deposits and to pick up some last groceries for the trip back. Then we’re heading back to San Antonio for supper, this time with reservations.

While I was posting to the blog yesterday, Rob was checking the weather for Ischgl. Since today’s forecast was better than Sunday’s, we opted to go skiing there today. Being the frugal travelers that we are, we bought the half day ticket right at 11:30 to get full value for money.

Ischgl is the town and Silvretta Arena includes several ski areas, including one that starts from Ischgl. Weskied there, and the connected Swiss ski area of Samnaun Compatsch. Because Switzerland isn’t part of the EU, it also means duty free shopping. We didn’t do any of that, but I did buy Timmy II a little friend while we were in Ischgl. You’ll have to check his blog to find out about that.

Silvretta has an 11 km run that goes from Greitspitz down to Ischgl. The weather was exactly what they had forecast: some sun with snowy  periods. Until I figured out that my prescription sunglasses worked better in the dull light, it was a bit disconcerting skiing down new runs. Your legs really felt like jello and you wondered whether you’d hit an unseen mogul and blow out a knee.

We’re at the new place, Anna Luise Apartments, just one door down from Haus Sarlo. Hani and Susanne are sisters.  Rob has splurged and paid for Internet for our stay. It’s a very good deal compared to what we were paying at the Internet café. He seems to have fallen in love with the place. It’s got a separate bedroom, much bigger eating area and a pull out couch in the living room /kitchen.  If he snores tonight, I know where he’ll be sleeping!  It also has motion sensors for the hall light.

So tomorrow we’ll visit Innsbruck, maybe do the bobsled ride. Guess we’ll play it by ear.

Let’s begin with the end of yesterday. We walked back up to the apartment to get changed and grab the camera to go to the Rodelbahn. I was so happy it was open tonight because it was closed on Tuesday and is only open twice a week.

Part of me was hoping for the same paperwork problem as last year, but this year it was much better organized. The tickets were bilingual (English/German) and we’d missed the main rush when the Rodelbahn opens.

It did mean that there really wasn’t anyone at the top to take our pic, but it also meant we didn’t have to worry about the drunk Danes trying to take us out.  After I’d taken a video of Rob coming around a corner (likely the same one as last year), I put it into high gear to catch up with him. The rush of speed was exhilarating, especially after taking it easy on the slopes. With each hairpin turn and dark alleyway I could feel the excitement build. The only steering was leaning on your toboggan or using your feet. On the hairpin turns you tried to make it around the corner and not hit anyone who hadn’t. At the bottom, I had so much speed and I knew the end was near.  Last year I ran into some people and I fear the same event might occur this year. Instead, I ran up the hill and quickly got out of the way.

sarah-gluhwein-rodelbahn1Once we had our deposit back we bought some Gluhwein and stood by the outdoor fire pit. It reminded me of what the picketers had started during the bus strike. We were staying only about 100 m from the bottom of the run, and I was happy to get home and peal off some wet under layers.

Today we woke up to more snow. The forecast had said not much accumulation, but the visibility was really horrible at the top of the mountain. I think I’m fighting off a bug too. I was having a hard time balancing when we finally did get skiing (later than usual).  Each time I stopped it took my brain another second or two to realize I was stopped. Thankfully the grooming was pretty good, so we made it down after a very short day of skiing, then headed back to the apartment to read our books. I’m about half way through my second. Rob’s on page 186 of The World is Flat — Innovations and Technologies that Flatten the Earth. Don’t think I’ll be reading that one any time soon.

Tomorrow we change apartments, and will likely visit Innsbruck. We might even do the bobsled ride again. I guess we’ll see how much snow we get …

Not sure if I mentioned how much snow we got two days ago. It was 30 cm, and it takes about two days for them to groom it and make sure the avalanche risk is minimized. It also meant that Hani took another ski day today. We’re fairly tidy and self-sufficient, so as long as she keeps bringing our morning fresh bread we can cut her some slack.

We saw her this morning as we were heading out for the 8:30 bus. She said how cold it was, and we replied this is not cold for Canada. But I have to admit it did feel cold at the top of some mountains.

Today’s route was our local skibus to the Galzig lift, then # 6 to the Tanzboden t-bar, then the black #10 to the #11 to the Arlenmahder lift. From there we took the 17 down to the bus stop and only waited 2 minutes for the bus. This time we were determined to get off at the right stop to start the Weiss Ring. But we overshot by one stop.

It wasn’t for nothing though. Lech has some great carving and beginner runs. We did the 34a, then started on the Weiss Ring (or so we thought).  In fact, we were actually finishing it because we should have gotten off one stop earlier. We took the Kriegerhorn up, then took the 34 to the 43, then took the Steinmahder up.  From there we took the 35 to the Weibermahd, then took the 34 back to the bottom. We stopped for a break along the way and heard from a waiter (who had completely ignored us) that we weren’t allowed to eat the sandwiches at the table. In our defence, we had spent 8 euros for two awful orange juices. They were watered down fizzy beverages, that reminded me of Tang. So I hid the rest of my sandwich and kept munching on the remaining sandwich. The break allowed us to figure out that we needed to get across the Dorf to start the Weiss Ring.

Apart from a few rocks on the downhill part off piste, it wasn’t a far walk to get to the other lift. Once you’re on the Weiss Ring, it’s quite easy to follow. We took the Rufikopf tram up to the top of Stubenbach. There were no lines, and it even included an elevator ride up to the tram. From there we took the 38 to the Schuttboden, then the 38a to the Trittalp. Then we took the 3 back down to Zurs, and took the bus back to Alpe Rauz.

The original plan was to take the 12-4-1 combo back to our usual apres ski drinking establishment. But Rob had discovered cheaper drinks by the Nassereinbahn. So, we first tried to ski from the 1 over to the Nassereinbahn, but ended up taking the Gampen up , then the Kapall to ski from top to bottom on the St. Anton side. We started on the 36, which had become quite mogully. We continued on the 24, then the 24a, finally ending our day at the Fanghausa very chilly b eer (the wind was in our face), followed by a Gluhwein for me and another beer for  Rob.

There are so many Brits here now, many more than when we came for our first visit. One family sitting beside us was rather amusing to listen to, except I did feel bad for the son with the glasses. Mum kept saying things like, “I’m so disappointed in you…”

Tonight is Rodelbahn night. I’m very excited and hope to take some good videos and pics of it. It should be good: 4.3 km of twisty windy trails through the woods.

Before I forget, here are some thoughts on what’s different here:

  • Skiers leaving their skis outside the grocery store then shopping and carrying the skis and groceries home
  • minivans as school buses going up the hill each weekday morning
  • tweens skiing down streets and sidewalks in Zurs

Today’s pics:

Before I begin with today, I need to finish off yesterday. After we left the Internet café, we started walking back to the apartment. Then we decided to take a detour to the Wellness Centre.

It meant climbing up a bit of a hill and back tracking halfway back into to town, but it was worth it just to see them clearing all the snow from the outdoor skating rink. I couldn’t imagine anyone using it, but I guess you need to keep removing the snow so that it doesn’t pile up too high. From there, we walked back up the hill to our temporary home and killed some time watching snowflakes mound up on the balcony, reading our books and watching a bit of TV. It seems to me that there are more English channels available now. The Jetsons movie was even on in English today, and Rob was excited to see international rugby. Then we got ready to head back to the Wellness centre for an evening swim. It was packed full of energetic loud British children and a few quieter Austrian ones. The indoor pool leads to an outdoor section that doubles as a whirlpool. It’s on a 15-minute cycle where the bubbles are small and gentle, up to a complete forceful whirlpool that takes you around its circular perimeter. A separate outdoor pool is available for laps (and cannonballs as some children discovered). With only my head sticking it, I was soon starting to look like a swimming snowman. Once we’d started to look like prunes, we showered and dried off and set off for a pizza supper. The one that we had eaten at last year was packed and disorganized, so we continued back to the apartment, stopping at San Antonio Pizza, just a few turns and down the hill from us. It was actually bigger than we had thought, and the prices were actually better than the pizzeria at the bottom of the hill. We spoke German to our server the whole time, making them wonder who we really were. For starters we both had soup: beef broth with shredded pancakes for Rob and potato leek for me. I love the way they add a big dollop of real whipped cream on top of creamy soups. You get to stir it in knowing that while it may add flavour and texture, it still is artery clogging.

For the main course, Rob had the Giganti pizza (ham, mushrooms, cheese, tomatoes, olives and onions) and I had the Cappriciola (ham, mushroom, cheese, artichoke and olives). It was thin crust pizza, and a bit difficult to eat with a knife and fork, and surprisingly filling. We were both starting to overheat while we ate because we were still wearing our snow pants. The snow fell all day today , and even though the snow plow had passed several times, it was still difficult walking, especially uphill. We had seen Hani shoveling the snow from around the cars visiting her apartments, and she cleared enough for a person to pass through at the top of her driveway (it slopes down to her garage). If I remember what happened last year, she pushes the snow out into the road and the snow removal crew removes it all. She really doesn’t have anywhere to put her snow. I woke up this morning to the booms of avalanche control. In a way it reminded me of the booms we woke up to in Martinborough, New Zealand. Except those booms were to scare away the birds from the grapevines. Skiing in THAT MUCH SNOW takes some adjustment. It means spreading your weight equally on both skis at all times (right Rob) and learning how to enjoy powder. That’s a hard think to do when you’ve grown up in the eastern part of Canada (actually anything east of the Rockies and you’ve probably never experienced powder).

Even though we experienced some tumbles, and some “almosts” today was still a good day of skiing. We were almost crushed at some of the lifts early in the day as all the powder hounds sought out fresh tracks. And with avalanche control going on well into lunch time, it meant that not all the lifts were open. Today we skied a couple of runs from Nasserein, then headed over to Rendl, where the worst crowds were. It was strange though because as soon as you actually got up to where the main runs were there were no line ups. Interesting things happened when a delivery truck showed up and tried to weave its way through the crowd. And then two ski buses arrived just to make it interesting. All in all a good day of skiing. Can’t wait for tomorrow when EVERYTHING is open.

And pics of today:

Yesterday the forecast for today was lots of snow. And they weren’t wrong. We woke up this morning and visibility got worse as the morning progressed. Given our aching muscles we opted not to ski today. Who wants to get run over by a groomer because you can’t see it and it can’t see you. Tomorrow’s weather is supposed to be sunny, as is the next day. So lots of time for great skiing. The snow will make conditions “perfect” as they say on the St. Anton am Arlberg web site.

Instead, today we’ll take a walk trying to find a post box, maybe build a snowman (someone has to show all these Brits how it’s done!) and maybe take in a movie or go to the Schwimmbad.

Knowing that we weren’t going to be on planks for most of the day meant that we could start our day a bit differently. We decided to open the bottle of sparkling wine that Hani had left us for Valentine’s Day. Mixed with orange juice it makes a great start to a snowy day.

Last night we walked up the hill for supper at Robi’s Rodelstall. Although the toboggan run wasn’t open last night, we did see an open air trolley bus taking people up the toboggan run. Maybe they were dining at the other hut?

We “opened” the restaurant, which is a bit better than closing the beer hall. Rob had the Tyrolean grill, which came with so much meat I’m not sure how he ate it all. I had the veal Cordon Bleu. Both meals came with a trip to the salad bar. I don’t usually eat from salad bars, but when you’re first …

And pics of dinner last night:

So now we’re at the Internet cafe, along with half of St. Anton. We saw a few people get on the bus with their skis and they were covered in snow.

Now I know why some people wear neon orange snow pants. At least that way the groomer might be able to see you today. By the time we left the apartment you couldn’t see the Nassereinbahn at all.

I just checked the weather forecast:

On Wednesday, the deep winter weather will be interrupted by sunny spells. Despite the sun, the cold will continue to determine our weather. Particularly in the mountains, we should not forget our warm clothes, a continuously strong northerly wind, blowing at the mountains, will massively strengthen the cold. On Thursday and on Friday, the frost will only slightly weaken. A detailed weather forecast cannot be given yet. As we can say today, the sun will probably get more chances on Thursday, than on Friday. Saturday promises a significant brief improvement, before on Sunday, the next disturbance will approach from north-west.

And we will not forget our warm clothes tomorrow. At least it will be sunny.

In my rush to upload pics to the blog yesterday I forgot to mention last night’s supper. We ate at the Grieswirt near the fussgangerzone. It’s a strange little place that we always visit usually having the menu eins and menu zwei.

On this visit  our dinner companions were a German couple from  Berlin. He spoke English and she did not. She did, however, understand English. I got to try out my German. It’s pretty bad I’ve decided. I was able to say that we’re from Canada. That I’m learning German, but that was about as far as I got. He had returned from a recent trip to Toronto, where he visited the Muskokas  to buy a plane. Apparently it’s a well known area around the world.

So, back to dinner. Mine was tomattensoupe with cream, followed by  pork medallions with tartar sauce and French fries, and an appelstrudel for dessert. Rob had the brackelbsuppe, followed by pork schnitzel with fries, and an appelstrudel for dessert.

Today’s weather wasn’t as nice as yesterday’s and we didn’t catch the 8:30 bus this morning. Instead we were on a much more crowded 9:15 bus. The sun poked through the clouds, or tried to, quite a few times, and we were able to enjoy a bit of sunlight until some snow rolled in.

If you want to ski vicariously through us,  here is where we went. We took the Nassereinbahn up first, then took the Kappall chair up to the top of Kapall (2330 m), then we went down #37 and took the Scongraben t-bar up. It stopped a few times on the way up, which is never a fun thing since it can sometimes jar your back on start up.  From there we took the 36 to Gampen (1850), then the 24 over to the 25.  Then we took the Fang lift up, went down the 24 to the 23 to the 22.  Then we took the Gampen lift back up to Gampen and took the 20a to the 1 over to the Zammermoos lift. We took a quick run down the 5, took the Osthang lift back up, then headed down the 8 to St. Christoph. It’s one of my favourite runs because the view of St. Christoph below is always picture perfect.

We stopped to have lunch there, paying 5 euros for two orange juices, then eating our lunch we had brought with us. It wasn’t as nice sitting outside today.  The sun was trying to break through, but never really seemed to make it. It meant that it felt a lot colder than yesterday.  From St. Christoph we took the 4 seater chair up back to Galzig.  Then we took the 9 to the 11 and took the Arlenmahder back up.  This brought us to the 12, then we took the 17 to the Alpe Rauz and took the Valfagehr back up. Then it was the 12, 4 and 1 to get back to St. Anton. Although we started later and finished earlier, today seemed like more skiing. Definitely less bus riding. Definitely some leg burn. Did I mention I sneaked some A535 on my legs this morning? Oh, and Rob snuck a Robaxicet for his neck (from yesterday’s tumble).

So we’ve survived day 2 and are looking forward to another 4 days at St. Anton, followed by one day at a neighbouring resort Ischgl.

a

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