A Travellerspoint blog

More Thrills

By Abby

sunny 24 °C
View Koning/Zemliak Family Europe 2012/2013 on KZFamily's travel map.

Austrian Beauties Near Imst

Austrian Beauties Near Imst

Out of the four of us, my mom has been looking forward to this day the most, because today we would have a second go at a downhill rollercoaster. We planned to drive the forty five minutes there to start off our travel day, and then from there we would take the four hour drive to our new home. It turned out to be a great day for this kind of thing as the weather was glorious, and there wasn't a cloud in the sky. We got to the mountain, bought our tickets, and I put on some sunscreen in an attempt to shield my pale and delicate skin from the harsh effects of summer weather. This being my first experience, this may be a little bit of a repeat of what you have heard before, but I shall explain my point of view anyways.

The chairlift was longer than I thought it would be, taking between ten and fifteen minutes to reach the top. Because we had time to kill we decided to take a little exploration of the mountain on which we were now midway up. The forests and streams reminded us all a little of British Columbia which was a nice change. We had a small snack of pepperoni and cheese and then we were ready for the rollercoaster. We let my mom go first because she was convinced that she would be the one to go the fastest. I think she's forgotten that she has only recently gotten over her fear, and Hannah and I both think that it's a little early for her to be going on about how everyone else is going so slow. But I'm just glad she's enjoying herself. Because this was a new experience for me, and I'm the most scared of roller coasters, I went last. It took me a while to get used to being able to control the speed, and I would continually lurch forward as I applied the brakes too hard. But after a while I got the hang of it and went down the hill with ease. When I got to the bottom, all three of them were waiting there and I was promptly notified that I took twice as long as all of them. It was a great experience, and we even tried to see if our cards would work for a second entrance. Unfortunately, they did not.

Abby at the end of the Imst Alpine Coaster

Abby at the end of the Imst Alpine Coaster

From here we went off to start our real travel day, but this didn't last long as it was past lunch time and we had no food to eat. We stopped at a McDonalds (please don't judge us) for a bite to eat before heading off again. It must seem to you all that we are taking a trip around Europe just for the McDonalds, but we can assure you that it's just a coincidence, no matter how many countries we've visited one this trip (France, Spain, Monaco, Holland, Austria, and probably more that I have forgotten). In related fast food news, did you know that Cuba and North Korea are the only two countries that don't have Coke? Also, you are able to find a McDonalds restaurant in 123 countries of the world. Anyways, enough learning for today.

This was the new beginning of our drive, and we didn't stop until we were at our new place, which is fabulous by the way. The whole top floor is our apartment, so we won't have to deal with neighbours or visitors (which is really good because the wall of our place that you see from the stairs is just a large window). There is a reasonably sized grocery store quite close to our house, which is also a bonus. The only thing that put a damper on my mood was the fact that I had missed half of my back, neck and chest when I put on sunscreen today, so I am bright red and in pain. And I can't even look forward to the fact that I might have a nice tan when it fades, because I'll be pale on my left side, and brown on my right. I guess I'm left with no choice but to curl up and try to cry away my misery...sob.

Posted by KZFamily 13:34 Archived in Austria Tagged austria roller_coaster Comments (5)

Geistal, Kuchen and Grüß Gott

by Ben

semi-overcast 22 °C
View Koning/Zemliak Family Europe 2012/2013 on KZFamily's travel map.

Hiking in Geistal

Hiking in Geistal

Austria has a little over 8 million people who enjoy an average income equivalent to that of Canadians. Although the country is small, it is about three times the size of Vancouver Island, it's natural landscape exudes a feeling of immensity. Its mountainous landscape shares many similarities to the huge natural vistas that are found in British Columbia. Perhaps these similiarities are what makes this area so inviting. Nevertheless there are many differences that I also find attractive. One way in which Austria and British Columbia differ is on the scale and extent of infrastructure available for outdoor recreation. According to one website I read, Austria has 50,000 kilometers of hiking trails. This may not be an accurate figure but there is no doubt from what we have seen the amount of biking and hiking trails are truly staggering. What is just as impressive are the services and facilities available on these paths. It may not be a recipe for getting away from it all, but it certainly makes hiking and walking an attractive and comfortable activity for all when there is a "hut" serving full lunches complete with tasty dessert every hour or two along the trail.

Muriel and I went off hiking in the Geistal area, a 15 minute drive from our apartment, while the kids hung out at home. This recreational area consists of two mountain ranges bordering a narrow river valley. The valley has some meadowland and farmland that gives way to soaring peaks on either side. Muriel and I were not out to conquer any mountain peaks we just wanted to walk the valley and venture a few hundred meters up the valley walls. There were several maps for us to consult with various level of details and orientation so it took a while to get oriented. We ended up taking a bit of a detour from our intended route but didn't feel too badly as we were among several other hikers who could not reconcile trail signage with maps.

Delicious Kuchen

Delicious Kuchen

Our difficulties lead us to conference with a German couple and a couple from New Hampshire. We had several maps between us and after some comparisons were able to get reoriented. We spent a while chatting with the American couple. They had just flown in from the US the day before and were already looking to hike some of the lower peaks. They were both retired (she just the week before) and appeared to be avid hikers and travellers. They had hiked in this area of Austria several times and found June a great time of year since it was a low season of sorts. They were surprised to meet other English speakers, since their experience has been that few non German speakers venture into the small towns of Austria. We both expressed enthusiatic agreement that visiting the small towns and villages of Europe has consistently proven to be the most enjoyable travel strategy to avoids tour bus culture and the larger international travel crowds.

As with others we have spoken with, our New Hampshire acquaintances were a little taken aback to learn that we had been on the road for seven months and still had two months left for more travel. As soon as they heard we had teenagers along, they exclaimed that the kids could never learn as much in school as they could on the sort of trip we are taking. They will be transformed! The woman also said our girls were very likely to go off and live halfway around the world, a comment both Muriel and I chose to ignore as best we could not wanting to believe that we are unwittingly preparing our kids to live as far away from us as physically possible. When you think about it for any length of time, forcing two teenage kids to live in close quarters with their parents and denying them a social life is probably a sure fire recipe for driving them away, but I digress.

We have frequently heard the refrain that our kids lives will be radically changed by this travel experience. I am pretty sure they don't me irreversibly scarred, but today Muriel and I made the mental note that it has always been the prognostication of other adults that this crazy travel adventure is paradigm shifting event. Our kids probably have the right to be a bit irritated by this conclusion. Muriel and I think it will take at least ten years before Hannah and Abby will be able to report and reflect whether this adult wisdom is indeed true. They are enjoying the trip but are not going to be yelling anytime soon from the mountain tops that their lives, values and beliefs have been radically transformed by the experience. That sounds more like the talk of parents who are looking for ways to justify taking their kids out of school and away from their friends and all their creature comforts. We would like to think we are doing nothing but good for our kids, but Hannah and Abby are really the only ones who can say for sure and likely only sometime in the distant future.

Hiking in Geistal

Hiking in Geistal

We bade farewell to our New Hampshire friends; leaving with quite a few things to ponder. In addition to thinking about the legacy this trip will ultimately have for us and our kids, we reflected on what we need to do to be in shape for future trekking over the mountainsides like the two 65 year olds we had just talked to were doing. The latter thought about physical fitness was further underlined when we saw a very elderly nun trekking up the mountainside in a pair of sturdy boots with two hiking poles and a pack while still sporting a traditional grey dress, black stockings and white headscarf.

I am embarrassed to report that Muriel and I can be attention deficit when it comes to the topic of health and nutrition. When we arrived at the Geistailalm trail hut (hut in this case is a large apline lodge complete with full service restaurant) our thoughts immediately switched to the recommendation we were given to order kuchen at this very location. We sat down at a very comfortable bench and table that was on an outdoor patio overlooking the valley and the mountain range on the opposite side. In no time a waitress had taken our order and returned with two extraordinarily large pieces of cake. One slice was carrot and the other was traditional German chocolate cake. We now had one more thing to ruminate about. How to stay in hiking form and still have dessert. We definitely wanted our kuchen and eat it too!

After our delicious snack we committed to a couple more hours of trail walking to compensate for any ill effects. Along the way we met many hikers coming from the opposite direction. Traditional Austrian garb like trousers, knickers, long wool socks and hats complete with a jaunty feather were interspersed with the latest in trail fashion. All these hikers would greet us on the trail. Gutten tag was the only greeting we knew and began to feel self conscious because we never heard those words in return. The words were always the same but they were said so quickly that we weren't quite sure we had heard it correctly. We finely figured out that everyone was saying Grüß Gott, which literally translated means God bless. It is the common casual greeting of southern Germany and Austria. We figured this out because Edith, one our blog readers used this very phrase in a blog comment about a week ago.

Cemetery in Geistal

Cemetery in Geistal

The sentiment of Grüß Gott seems to be central to Austrian culture in this region. Along alpine trails, in front of houses, and along road sides are numerous well maintained shrines and chapels of which many are very recent creations. We stopped by a country church on our way back to our apartment and were stunned by the cemetery surrounding it. Each plot was immaculately maintained and ornately decorated. Each grave was a mini garden and all of it seemed to invite God's blessing on the souls of those who had departed this world. The plain but smart exterior of the church was starkly contrasted by a baroque interior that once again earnestly pleaded for God's blessing.

I take to heart the greetings of my fellow Austrian trail walkers. I am reminded how fortunate we are to be able to take such long and beautiful journey. I would like to extend this same greeting to you as well. It need not be taken as a Christian or religious greeting but as a wish that life go well with you and your families. Grüß Gott.

Posted by KZFamily 12:55 Archived in Austria Tagged austria leutasch Comments (5)

First Steps in Austria

By Hannah

semi-overcast 15 °C
View Koning/Zemliak Family Europe 2012/2013 on KZFamily's travel map.

Leutasch Spirit Gorge

Leutasch Spirit Gorge

Abby is having more trouble fighting off her cold than the rest of us, so she elected to have a do-everything-but-anything day and bowed out of whatever the rest of us were doing (except for the watching of a West Wing episode in the evening, of course). The three of us hiked through the Leutasch Spirit Gorge, a rugged and beautiful ravine with a sea-green river at the bottom. The weather was a little gloomy, but I didn’t mind as it was probably the only thing preventing swarms of tourists from filling the gorge like they had in Germany. We strode along a walkway secured to the edge of the cliffs, and could see the sheer drop through the crisscrossing metalwork we stood upon. A bridge crosses the gorge, and we stared over the edge into the depths which lay 47 metres below.

The emphasis put on the magic of the place was strong, and every so often we’d come across a sign or device to help us understand and interact with the fairies and goblins and the Old Spirit himself. They were a little kitschy, but cute as well. The Austrians also have the same fondness for trailside restaurants as the Germans do, so we came across two or three of these as we hiked the circuit that looped out of the ravine. The sun made a brief appearance as we neared the end of the trail, so Dad felt he needed to take all of the pictures again in the new and improved lighting.

We came back to find Abby in roughly the same state we left her in. After lunch, we took a walk around the small town of Weidach. It seems to me to be almost solely comprised of hotels and restaurants. Everything is beautifully quaint and kept up. Flowerboxes and murals decorate many of the buildings. Towering, snow-capped mountains surround the village. We barely saw anyone out and about as we walked. The high season appears to start in July, and most of the people visiting now are probably out enjoying the great Austrian outdoors.

One of the perks of where we’re staying is that there is a recreation centre just a couple kilometres away. We enjoyed the heated pools here much more than the frigid one at our place in Turkey. As it was late, we pretty much had the whole place to ourselves.

Of all the countries we’ve visited so far, Austria seems the most like Canada, specifically British Columbia, at least in the outdoor sense. After seven months on the road, the mountains and forests reminiscent of home have a comforting feel to them.

Posted by KZFamily 12:20 Archived in Austria Tagged austria old gorge spirit leutasch Comments (1)

Shopping in Innsbruck

By Abby

rain 11 °C
View Koning/Zemliak Family Europe 2012/2013 on KZFamily's travel map.

Today was a travel day from Germany to Austria. We woke up to rain, after having a thunder and lightning storm the night before, also with a heavy downpour. It would only take a few hours to drive to our place, so our plan was to stop at a town called Innsbruck and go to a shopping centre to pass the time. We got to the mall a little after lunch time so we bought some pizza and had a little sit down. After lunch we split up to do a little clothes shopping, I went with my dad and my mom headed off with my sister. We recognized a couple of the stores in the mall, such as H&M and Jack Wolfskin, but most of them had German names that we hadn’t ever seen before. In the couple of hours that we spent looking around, both Hannah and my dad were successful in finding a couple new shirts. Unfortunately, my new shoes that I bought in Blackpool have already split in the sole, but I was unable to find a replacement. Once our clothes needs were fulfilled we stopped at the grocery store inside the mall to get some supplies for our dinner, as well as breakfasts and lunches for the following days. This ended our shopping day and we finished the rest of our drive to our new house for the next three days.

Our new apartment is really nice, and we even have free access to a pool only 2 km away. My mom was also quite excited about another downhill rollercoaster that is fairly close as well. Our host is also very kind and helpful, and speaks English fluently as she is originally from Britain, so that always scores points with me.

Posted by KZFamily 12:19 Archived in Austria Tagged shopping austria innsbruck Comments (1)

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