For those of you that have been wondering where I have been, I was on a six day trip with my austrian family and had no internet. I just got back on friday and have spent the last two days writing this post. So enjoy! :D
Friday July 20th, 2012
Most of friday was spent getting ready for a six day trip into the Styria mountains (part of a family gathering). My austrian father decided to buy new mountain boots for a glacier trip he will have to take in a few weeks. It was somewhat impressive the selection the store had on different mountain boots (and different types of socks to go with them). These are boots made to go up rock, ice, and snow. I looked at the tag of one of the shoes and saw it was made in Italy. It occurred to me as I was watching my austrian father try on shoes that there was a lot of use of goretex. However goretex hasn't been around forever and Austrians have been climbing mountains for a long time. I asked my austrian father if there was a way to waterproof shoes before goretex and he told me they used leather shoes and covered them with fat or lard (which apparently didn't smell very good).
|Part of the mountain shoe selection|
Saturday July 21st, 2012
We started out the day early and drove to pick up my austrian sister and brother (the youngest) at their camp. My austrian mother and grandmother followed in a different car. Apparently my austrian brother and sister had a camp in a castle where they had refurbished rooms. I was showed there rooms and it looked rather neat although my austrian sister told me the camp was boring.
We drove for several hours to reach our hotel in Schladming. Now is probably a good time to explain the region I am in and what I mean by the Styria mountains. Styria is simply a region in Austria (like Carinthia is the region of Austria I usually stay in).
|Regions of Austria (from http://www.austria-trips.com/destinations.htm)|
In terms of mountains, the Alps cover most of Austria so any mountain you see in Austria is an Alpine mountain. Hence the title of this post is that I am in the Styria Alps. Schladming is located in the middle of the Styria mountains and is actually very close to Hallstatt (a very well known austrian city). Most towns in the Styria mountains are well known for skiing although in the summer they are host to many people who climb the mountains and do water sports. I heard that many professional ski sport teams (from various European countries) visit the area for training.
|A terrain view for you. Villach and Salzburg are circled. Schladming is shown by the red marker (courtesy of google maps).|
|A closer terrain look. As you can see Schladming is nestled in to mountains and there are various other snow towns around. Hallein which I have visted before can be seen just below Salzburg in the upper left hand corner (courtesy of google maps).|
The weather for the car drive was terrible and it literally poured the entire drive as well as the entire day we were in Schladming. We checked into Apparthotel Bliem but since we had brought one extra family member and there was no more room in the hotel, I was sent to Thaler Sport-Pension which was just a few minutes walk up the road (I took the car to drop off my luggage). I got a room which actually was more of a double than a single but it was very nice. I had a small little deck and a separate bathroom and toilet (in austria the bathroom refers to the shower and sink, and the toilet is usually kept in a different area). As always there is a closet, some sort of couch, and a t.v. I was somewhat excited because there was an international CNN station in English so I could get some news I could understand.
|Front of my hotel I was staying at|
|The view from my window|
|The little deck outside my room.|
Sunday July 22nd, 2012
The next day I started out early by going over to the Apparthotel Bliem and spending the morning with the kids (swimming, etc.). Around lunch time the family (austrian grandma 1, grandma 2, grandpa, cousin, aunt 1, aunt 2, mother, father, sister brother) drove to a lift station that took us up to Hochwurzenhutte at 1852 m (we probably started out at about 1000 m in Rohrmoos Village). Apparently Hochwurzenhutte has been around since 1920 (http://www.hochwurzen.at/en/hochwurzen-lodge.html) and is quite well known. The weather wasn't very good but we could see some sun peeking through the clouds.
important note: we used 'Sommercards' to greatly reduce the price of lift tickets for the entire week but these are cards that you can only get if you are staying as a guest in the area
|Hochsurzenhutte, on the backside on the deck|
|View from inside window|
As we sat and ordered, the waiter was talking to my austrian family in german. Apparently there had been Americans in the week earlier and they had complained about the menu. The thing to understand about mountain hut food is that you tend to have a very good selection of soups, bread (with cheese, ham, etc.), coffee, and cake but if you expect a hamburger/rib/fancy meal you won't often find it. If that is what you are looking for you are better off in the main town at one of the restaurants.
I ordered a Frittatensuppe and was told it was basically a broth with strips of pancake in it (apparently very austrian).
|Very good. Nice comfort food for a cold day. Don't know what those Americans were complaining about. SOUP IS GOOD!|
|View of back deck of Hochwurzenhutte|
We then walked a bit to the peak of the mountain (Kleine Hochwurzen) behind the hut (very short and easy walk) and the kids played hide and seek in the bushes.
|My austrian charges and the sign.|
Clouds moving, I thought it was cool but it might not be that interesting to you :P
The mountain even has go karts (with no motor) that you can take down the mountain instead of the lift. My austrian siblings and cousins wanted to ride the go karts in the worst way but we ended up taking the lift instead.
|Some people ready to go down with the go karts.|
After we reached the bottom of the mountain via lift we took a path off into the woods to go mushroom hunting. We ran into some wild blueberries and of course my austrian siblings and cousin had to pick some.
|Up in the bushes.|
|Picking mushrooms in the rain|
|Walking back. The places we are staying are somewhere on the hillside to the right.|
The evening was pretty quite since the weather continued to be bad but the kids managed to fit some more swimming in.
Monday July 23rd, 2012
The Apparthotel Bliem has a kids' club where the kids in the hotel can gather and do an activity for the day. So I joined my austrian siblings and cousin in the morning to start out the day painting rocks for each family member (my austrian cousin painted mine purple).
The group then took a short walk to a farm where the kids could ride some miniature (?) horses and play in the park area the farm had.
|View from horse arena|
|Cooking the hot dogs we got for lunch|
|Doing archery during playtime|
|Part of the playground|
|My austrian charges hiding out in a tree|
|My austrian charges, apparently they were the only kids with knives on their person. They are sawing through a fallen limb.|
The other kids were building cute little fortresses of moss and sticks.
|Some liberal use of moss|
|How sweet, a little house|
BUT NOT MY AUSTRIAN CHARGES! THEY BUILT THE BIGGEST AND BADDEST TREE HOUSE OF THEM ALL!!!
|Their careful collection of limbs that they gathered in the area.|
|My austrian brother found some edible mushrooms on his journey for more limbs|
|Me and my austrian charges at the end of the building time.|
We left the farm in the afternoon and although the kids' club had more playroom activities back at Apparthotel Bliem, my austrian charges wanted to go swimming instead so I took them to the pool in the hotel.
|View as leaving the farm.|
My austrian charges also like to watch t.v. and I struggled with them in the evening to do something else. 'Hannah Montana' was a favorite of my austrian sister and cousin. I should also mention how weird it is to watch shows and movies in german dubs. It makes you realize how much an actor's voice is part of their acting and how you associate a character with a certain voice. For example I ran into the fourth Indiana Jones (I'm not particulalry fond of that movie by the way) on t.v. and they had Harrison Ford voiced over in German. HOW CAN I WATCH HARRISON FORD AND NOT HEAR HIS VOICE?! *flips back to the CNN channel*
Tuesday July 24th, 2012
Tuesday morning I spent with the kids but around 11 am we headed out with the family to do a hike through the fall to reach Riesachsee (lake). To reach the waterfall path we had to drive into the park (?) and show our sommercards (otherwise pay). The older people in the group had gone up earlier to take a easier but somewhat slower way to get to the lake.
|Riesachsee is marked with the red marker. Schladming is circled (courtesy of google maps).|
|I think we parked approximately where the red arrow is. Riesachsee is again marked with the red marker (courtesy of google maps).|
To be frank it was a hard hike for me. It was only an hour long but you had to go up steep hillsides and stairs as well as cross some bridges that were over ravines. Some stairs went back down (to get over large rocks) but were so steep you had to turn around and head down them like a ladder.
Some of the photos I have taken but a lot are from my austrian father since his camera was more waterproof then mine (I was also afraid of dropping my camera off into the falls).
|Starting out at the base|
|Probably a little less then halfway through the hike? You see the hill that climbs up to the right? Yes we had to go up it and there was a large bridge over a even larger ravine we had to cross.|
|I think the angle of this camera represents the angle of the stairs we went up and down.|
|Courtesy of my austrian father|
|Courtesy of my austrian father|
|Big bridge over ravine (Courtesy of my austrian father).|
|climbing the stairs to get to the bridge (Courtesy of my austrian father).|
|Crossing the bridge, I'm in the center (Courtesy of my austrian father).|
|I'm at the end on the left (Courtesy of my austrian father).|
|Coming down some stairs (Courtesy of my austrian father),|
|Courtesy of my austrian father|
Finally we reached the top! I was also very happy when I was told we would be taking another path down (because the older people in the group would be with us). Immediately following that remark though my austrian aunt mentioned how she had taken her daughter when she was five years old on that exact same path and how that was an easy hike. She also talked about when she (my austrian aunt) was younger she had a summer camp in the area and would spend weeks and weeks just climbing the mountains.
This talk seems to highlight the differences between home (U.S.) and Austria. Austrians seem born to climb all sorts of hills and mountains. It is very engrained in their culture. While this may change in the future, currently Austrians seem to enjoy a very active lifestyle. It also underlines that an Austrian's version of easy is not necessarily a U.S. version of easy.
|View of the lake.|
|Eek! More waterfalls! This one is much smaller then the ones we weaved around to get up to the lake.|
And of course, at the top of every mountain there is always someplace you can eat (which was a good thing because my appetite had awoken like a hungry beast). There is a hut immediately at the end of the pathway from the falls that sits above the lake, however we were told that there was better food at a hut a little further down the path around the lake (probably another 10-15 min walk).
|I believe the name is Kaltenbachalm.|
|Inside of the hut. You can see the kitchen straight across. Obviously not very big.|
Of course, there was a selection of soups and I decided to go with Backerbsensuppe.
|The little round pieces of bread (?) you see sitting in the broth were kind of like the cereal Kix.|
And of course after lunch there is always some dessert.
|I think this is Linzertorte. I might need to check the name on that. It is basically a cake with nuts and marmalade.|
We got ready to go back down the mountain but we discovered that there was some bunnies and guinea pigs next to the hut so we were delayed for a little bit.
|Water from the lake. You will often see this sort of setup next to an alpine lake. You just stick your water bottle into the water and you have some fresh alpine water to drink.|
|So cute! A guinea pig.|
|The bunnies hid from the kids. But if you peered in the corner of their house you could see them.|
|Leaving the hut|
|The view on the way down|
|The kids talking to the film crew|
|The helicopter that was flying around.|
We got back to the Apparthotel Bliem in the afternoon and then at about 6 pm sat down for a barbecue that had been cooked at the hotel. There were various salads, meats, and vegetables and you could pick what you wanted to eat.
|View from inside the 'breakfast' room|
Me: "Can I have one sausage?"
*man hands me two sausages*
Me: "Wait! I only wanted one sausage!"
Man: "But that sausage is small so its okay."
Me: "Errr.... okay..."
|My meal for the night|
The kids later went swimming and then I crawled into bed later the night and slept very well.
|My austrian charges in the shower at the pool.|
Wednesday July 25th, 2012
Wednesday was pretty quiet as it was another day of not such good weather. For lunch we drove to Ramsau am Dachstein (town) and ate at a restaurant called Gasthof Pehab Kirchenwirt (I think there are guest rooms upstairs).
|Map with Ramsau am Dachstein marked and Schladming circleed (courtesy of google maps).|
I ordered something called Zander-Forellenstreifen (In dillrahmsauce mit Tagliatelle und gemischten Blattsalatar). It is basically a dish with some fish in a cream sauce with noodles on the side. I don't think it was really traditional austrian food but it was good and it was nice to try some fish.
|My palatschinke with marmalade. Basically a pancake (crepe) filled with marmalade. Very sweet and always a kid favorite.|
|Front of the restaurant|
We then walked around the town since my austrian grandmother had grown up in the area. Apparently the area is predominantly Protestant and it was one of the places during the counter-reformation that was not discovered. Hence the protestant community has grown to be very active over the years. My austrian grandmother said that when she lived there it was very difficult to marry into the Protestant community.
|The protestant church|
|The protestant cemetery|
|A farm. It is very typical for the area with the dark paneling and flowers. They also rent out rooms to guests so a very good way to travel with a small child who would enjoy seeing farm animals.|
|The garden for the farm. My austrian family was very impress with this garden and said it was one of the best they had seen. This garden is not a show garden but one strictly for eating which is why it is so impressive how nice it is.|
|This is the summer training ramp for ski jumpers and teams from all over europe come here to train. When a skier goes down the ramp you can hear the sound of the skis sliding on the special turf from across the valley.|
When we got back we also sat down for our daily serving of dessert. My austrian grandmother handed me some raspberries covered with sugar and then proceeded to whip some cream to top it. She also handed me the sugar bowl in case I needed to sweeten it some more (O_O).
As I finished my bowl of berries my austrian aunt asked me I wanted some cake. How could I say no?!
My austrian aunt: "We are on vacation. So basically it's like Christmas."
I suppose I should explain a bit about the cake. Almost everyday of the vacation some family members would go to a local bakery and pick up an array of different slices of cake (cream, apple strudel, tiramisu, carrot, chocolate, etc.). Hence this wasn't my first time eating a slice of cake. I loved the cream cake even though it was very heavy and pretty much pure cream.
We ended the day with some more palatschinke that my austrian grandmother made and then filled with marmalade.
Thursday July 26th, 2012
The family decided we would drive to a lake calle Vorderer Gosausee. My austrian grandfather had gone to camp there in 1948 and wanted to visit it. My austrian father told me we would swing by Hallstatt afterwards (I had mentioned to him a few weeks ago that I would like to see Hallstatt and he had said that maybe we would do it with the family). It was at least an hour and a half drive but we managed to get there around noon.
|Map with Schladming and Hallstatt circled. Vorderer Gosausee is shown by the red marker (courtesy of google maps).|
The parking lot was fairly close to the lake so we just walked up and went around the lake. The paths were very good although we ran into a couple cows on the paths. There are a few diverging paths that go up into the mountains but we stayed on the path that circled the lake. There was a little tourism trade at the lake which could be seen by the souvenir shop and the penny stamping machine (I actually have a penny stamping collection so I was quite excited to stamp a penny).
Below I have some pretty photos of the area:
|The kids always get distracted by wild blueberries and they have to pick some. They often get left behind and have to run to catch up.|
|Waterfalls that go into the lake|
|Around this part of the path my austrian aunt asked my austrian grandfather if they ever swam in the lake. He replied that is was always too cold.|
|Me next to the waterfalls|
|As with every alpine lake, somewhere to fill up you water bottle|
|A place in the path where rock overhangs and there is water dripping through the rock.|
After walking around the lake we walked up to a hut (Seeklaus-Klackl Alm) that was sitting on the lake. Out of all the places we visited this was truly more like a hut. The inside was very small and the food selection was sparse with mostly only different breads as an offering.
|The Seeklaus-Klackl Alm|
|Inside the Seeklaus-Klackl Alm|
I ordered speckbrot. 'Brot' means bread in german and 'speck' means bacon. Hence I got bread with bacon.
|My speckbrot. The bacon was uncooked and topped with paprika (?)|
|As I eat my speckbrot I realized that the only reason I had a cutting board and everyone else had plates was because my cutting board was in the shape of a pig. Kind of cute, I have bacon bread, so I get pig cutting board. :D|
|Leaving the Seeklaus-Klackl Alm|
We got back in the car and drove to Hallstatt. If you have heard of Hallstatt it is either because you are familiar with Austria's popular tourists destinations or you heard the news story of China building a real-life sized replica of Hallstatt in the south of China.
Typically when one hears of travel to Austria, there are a triad of places to travel: Vienna, Salzburg, and Hallstatt.
The reason why Hallstatt is so famous is that not only is a beautiful town but it also has been known for salt from pre-historic times and there is actually an Iron Age time period for Europe named after it (Hallstatt culture; they have found things dating back to 5500 B.C.). It is UNESCO protected and info from wiki will give you more background:
"There are to date no recorded notable events that took place in Hallstatt during Roman rule or the early Middle Ages. In 1311, Hallstatt became a market town. Today, apart from salt production, which since 1595 is transported for 40 kilometres from Hallstatt to Ebensee via a brine pipeline, tourism plays a major factor in the town's economic life. Tourists are told that Hallstatt is the site of "the world's oldest pipeline", which was constructed 400 years ago from 13,000 hollowed out trees. There is so little place for cemeteries that every ten years bones used to be exhumed and removed into an ossuary, to make room for new burials. A collection of elaborately decorated skulls with the owners' names, professions, death dates inscribed on them is on display at the local chapel.
Until the late 19th century, it was only possible to reach Hallstatt by boat or via narrow trails. The land between the lake and mountains was sparse, and the town itself exhausted every free patch of it. Access between houses on the river bank was by boat or over the upper path, a small corridor passing through attics. The first road to Hallstatt was only built in 1890, along the west shore, partially by rock blasting.
However this secluded and inhospitable landscape nevertheless counts as one of the first places of human settlement because of the rich sources of natural salt, which have been mined for thousands of years, originally in the shape of hearts owing to the use of an antler pick. Active trade and thus wealth allowed for the development of a highly developed culture, which, after findings in the Salzberghochtal, was named the Hallstatt culture. This lasted from approximately 800 to 400 BC."
Possibly the only thing I have to add to that history is that Hallstatt struggled during the counter-reformation. I read in town that the town resisted the counter-reformation by removing the bridges in 1601 and closed down their barges. However the Archbishop of Salzburg used troops to stop the rebellion and "the leaders were condemned to death and their houses burned." Hallstatt lost some of its town privileges for some years after that and soldiers in 1734 came into Hallstatt to make 300 Protestant men emigrate elsewhere. It wasn't until Emperor Joseph II gave a 'Toleranz Patent" to the town were protestants able to practice their religion (kind of). In 1861 a Protestant church was finished being built and was given a "Protestant Patent" from Emperor Franz Joseph I to make it equal in status to the Catholic church.
The town Hallstatt seems to enjoy a healthy tourism trade today and still provides tours of their salt mines. My austrian family only stopped though for about an hour so we didn't really do anything except walk the streets and do some shopping. The amount of tourists was overwhelming (imagine all the tourists that visit Salzburg and Vienna trying to cram into a small town like Hallstatt) and my austrian family told me while it was nice to visit Hallstatt you didn't really want to stay there too long. I actually saw someone take a photo of a calendar photo of Hallstatt O_o
|Lift to the salt mine|
|Some houses. Notice how closely they are stacked against each other. Hallstatt is right on the water and is immediately backed by a mountain so they only room they have is to go up.|
|The main city|
|The streets. Very narrow streets although cars still insisted on driving up and down them.|
We also ran into a wood carver and it was nice to watch him work.
|Some wood pigs|
|Up in the attic roof area of the wood shop|
|Some wooden toys|
The woodcarver at work
|The Protestant Church|
|The main square|
|The catholic church is the building above the other houses. Very close to the protestant church but then Hallstatt isn't that big to begin with.|
|Me eating some poppyseed (?) ice cream|
|Leaving Hallstatt but have to walk to the parking lot to get out|
It took two hours to get back to Schladming and the kids went into the pool. Later when they were out and running around the kids' club my austrian father pulled me over and said he was going upstairs (the grandparents room) and that I should come.
my austrian father whispering: "we have wine"
Apparently not only did they have wine, THEY ALSO HAD CHEESE FONDUE!
|Last night celebration I think. The fondue pot is from Switzerland.|
|This is a small little glass but it still looks dangerous.|
The owner of the hotel visited us in the midst of our schnapps drinking and my austrian family made her take a glass.
|Dear lord, does that say 43% vol.? No wonder I couldn't handle it. It is a Kirsch Vieux (morand).|
And of course with any party you have cake.
|I took a half of a simple cake layered with fruit on top.|
|Here are the other cakes left. To the right is carrot cake and to the left is the famed creme cake.|
The hotel owner left briefly and came back with her own bottle of schnapps. She leaned over and told me it was a drink for the ladies because it was sweeter. So of course, everyone was poured another glass.
|The bottle. I think it is a Lagler brand with the type being Weichsellikor. I didn't see a % on it....|
I managed to walk back to my hotel and packed my things to leave for the next day (didn't take to long, I was never really in my room enough to truly unpack everything).
Friday July 27th, 2012
We woke up early and packed the cars. It was only my austrian mother, father, grandmother 1, cousin, brother, and sister. The others stayed behind to check out later in the day.
We started out in the market in downtown Schladming.
|A maypole?! All the maypoles look like this in Austria.|
|Some beautiful bouquets. I was tempted to buy one but I don't know how i would get it home intact.|
After going to the market we drove to the bottom of Rittisberg and then took a lift to the top and walked around.
|Schladming is circled. Rittisberg is shown by the red marker and Dachstein is shown by the green arrow. I will talk about Dachstein later (courtesy of google maps).|
|On the lift up the mountain. I'm on the far right (courtesy of my austrian father).|
|Lift station at top of mountain.|
The next series of photos will attempt to show the lift station on Dachstein mountain. Dachstein mountain has the highest peak (Dachstein Hohe) in all of Styria and it is where we were going later in the day (in the morning it is too busy with tourists and you can wait as much as two hours for a lift ride).
|See what looks like the little house? That is the lift station. And where we were headed next.|
|Can you still see it?|
|Can you see it now?|
|Cross on the top of Rittisberg|
|On the balcony|
|My austrian mother ordered speckbrot (remember, bacon bread) and out came a very impressive piece of bread.|
We took a lift down the mountain and at the base took one of the rides that were in the 'park'. It was a type of ride where you sat down and were taken up the hill on a track where you were sent downhill with your only control being the brake. You were not allowed to completely stop on the track though so you had to control your speed carefully not to run into the person in front of you (if they were slow).
|Lift ride down the mountain|
|(courtesy of my austrian father)|
|Can you see the track for the ride?|
We got back into the car and drove over to the lower lift station for Dachstein. There are only two lifts on the line but they can fit about 30-50 people each and we only had to wait about ten minutes for lift to arrive. The lower lift station is at about 1700 meters altitude while the upper lift station you arrive at on Dachstein is about 2700 meters altitude.
|View from lift|
|Arrived at the top of the mountain|
|Me on the viewing platform|
|People could sit on the viewing platform in these little beach chairs.|
|The highest peak in this photo is the Dachstein Hohe (on the right side of photo)|
You could also walk out onto the glacier on top of the mountain although if you wanted to do more extensive hiking more gear would be required then just a good pair of shoes and a jacket.
|Walking out on the glacier|
|More glacier. I think this might be the Hallstatter glacier?|
|Me on the glacier|
|you can see that some parts of the glacier surface are ice.|
|Coming back up the hill (courtesy of my austrian father).|
|Walking back to the lift station|
|You can see some people in more intensive gear. They were coming back from a hike somewhere on the glacier.|
|Heading back down the glacier via lift!|
After Dachstein we drove back to Schladming and stopped to eat. We went to the bakery where the austrian family often got cake because it also doubles as a restaurant (Konditorei). I ordered some anti-pasta.
|My anti-pasta. Some bread and ham, and vegetables with TONS of olive oil. Afterwards I got some apple ice cream.|
After eating we got back in the car to head back to Sattendorf. Apparently the main road we would of taken was closed at our exit so we took mountain roads back to Sattendorf. It was an interesting experience with lots of switchbacks and cows. We stopped briefly on a random mountain to stretch.
Why, hello cows?!
|Chapel on random mountain|
|View from stop area|
|Chapel from other side.|
We got back in Sattendorf late friday and unpacked the cars. We were all pretty tired and crawled into bed with the knowledge that massive amounts of laundry would need to be done the next day.