Archive for the ‘Things to do in/near Innsbruck’ Category

A Bit of This, a Bit of That

Tuesday, November 25th, 2008

Well, the first couple of days ohne Markus have been just fine. Sister-in-law Susi and I took the cousins to play at one of the shopping centers (not as pathetic as it sounds because the play area is skookum) while we had coffee and chatted.

And tonight Rebecca suggested we go skating. Around the corner from us (literally…like 35 seconds away) is an open skating rink that the bank puts up in their plaza each year. Markus’ Dad had skates for all of us, including some old one of Lili’s for Annie. Annie has been on the ice before, but this was her first time actually skating. Rebecca and I mostly hauled her around, but she loved it and wants to go again. Mommy, on the other hand, discovered that although she used to be a fairly proficient skater, now sucks. But hopefully after a winter here that will improve.

Annie misses Dad and asks about him frequently. I’m not helping, as I tend to talk to myself out loud; Annie keeps thinking I am talking to Markus and comes running into the room to see if he is there. My quirkiness will soon make us all insane.

I guess the other big news for those of you following our trials and tribulations of parenthood, is that Annie slept in until 7:00 this morning! (My knees are sore from all the genuflecting in gratitude to the gods above.) Please join me in a collective finger-crossing that this wasn’t an anomaly.

I still love my German classes, but am finding it increasingly difficult, as the pace is very rapid. I had a fun couple of exchanges with people when I posted on Facebook that I was feeling like I would never learn German. Mostly the advice centered around drinking more beer, which certainly isn’t difficult to do here. I’ve actually had a bit too much to drink on a couple of occasions and can verify that this does, in fact, improve one’s ability to speak another language! (Nothing to do with just thinking I am doing better, of course.)

Off to send out some hand-made Christmas cards (this Hausfrau thing sure beats working!)

Tschüss!

Welcome to the Aqua Dome

Sunday, November 2nd, 2008

First, let me say that my friend Sue has inspired me to join the National Blog Posting Month in November (Hi Sue! I admire your intention to have a goal for this…I’ll be lucky if I just remember to post everyday. Lots of content, poor memory.) So hopefully you’ll see a post every day on this site. If not, well, there is always next year. I’m not sure if every day will be something earth shattering, but I’m going to try to put something, hopefully something readable, up daily.

This post will be easy, as yesterday we went to Längenfeld to visit the wondrous swimming complex, the Aqua Dome, as well as to connect with a family of a school acquaintance of mine. We have been a few times to this, well, I would call it a pool but it is oh so much more, and so we knew that we would have a good time. When you have a family, it probably is one of the easiest places to spend the day and keep everyone entertained. There was only the 3 of us, as Rebecca balked at the thought of leaving the house at 9:00 in the morning on a Saturday. As if!

The complex is about 40 minutes drive from Innsbruck. It was All Saints’ Day, where all good Catholics spend the entire day at the cemetery visiting departed relatives. As no one would confuse this family of being practicing Christians of any denomination, we just appreciated the empty roads and easy drive. The Aqua Dome is a series of pools fed by a hot spring. There are adult areas, kids areas, and 3 outdoor pods that each have a wellness theme: light and sound therapy, massage and whirlpool. There is also a restaurant where you can dine in your bathrobe. Everything is accessed and paid for by an electronic wristband, so it is easy to spend way too much money without noticing. Brilliant from a business perspective. Last time we were here, Markus and I also went to the spa, which was very brave of me as those crazy Europeans walk around without any clothes on. Not even a towel around the waist. That sure pushed the limits of my North American puritanism, let me tell you.

But as we were with Annie and only had about 3 hours, we just stayed in the pool areas. The setting is stunning with mountains close enough to touch and the trees showing off their blazing fall fashions. Here are some pictures of the morning.

Annie and Markus enjoy the indoor pools...

Annie and Markus enjoy the indoor pools...

...and the outdoor pools

...and the outdoor pools

One of the swimming pods in a stunning Austrian autumn setting

One of the swimming pods in a stunning Austrian autumn setting

After our morning activities, we headed over to a different kind of adventure: having lunch with someone we had never met. A high school friend of mine, Erla, reconnected with me on Facebook a few months back. When she read that I was moving to Innsbruck, she offered to forward me the email address of her husband’s cousin. I’m up for any opportunity to meet more people at this point, so Drifa and I exchanged notes and agreed that we would come over to her place for lunch after our swim. Längenfeld has about 4,000 people living there full-time (with 10,000 visitors a year for skiing), and so pretty much everyone can see the Aqua Dome from their living room. After a very short drive, we arrived at the apartment of Drifa Radiskovic and her 3 children, Alexander, David and Sara. As you can tell by her name, Drifa has an interesting story. She is Icelandic and her husband, Zoran, is a Bosnian Serb. They met one summer working at a ski resort near Lägenfeld and never moved back. They speak Icelandic and Serbian at home, and the children are learning German and English in school. (That will be a whole other post about the travesty of our mainly uni-lingual existence in N.A.) All 3 children have blond hair and blue eyes, so the Icelandic influences clearly dominated in the gene pool. Zoran’s uncle moved to Canada and settled in Manitoba with the large migration of Icelanders to Gimil, which is where Erla’s and mine connection kicks in. Whew, this is complicated!

But in any case, we had delicious homemade pizza and Annie played a little bit with the kids until she conked out with fatigue from her morning activities. I found it fascinating to hear about their background and how they made the transition to a little dorf in Austria. I guess there is both some historic and more recent stereotyping of Serbians here, so she has experienced some discrimination. But of course has also experienced many wonderful things about living in Austria, and overall I think she is happy to raise her family here.

And so the adventure continues for all of us.

Birthdays and Fingerprints and Angels, Oh My

Saturday, November 1st, 2008

A bit of this and a bit of that in this post today.

Birthday Wishes

On the 28th was Rebecca’s 15th birthday. 15!!!! Who can believe it? We had a family dinner and gift presentation, with Markus cooking Rebecca’s request for a traditional Canadian turkey dinner. Turkey, mashed potatoes, carrots and stuffing.

Rebecca did well in the ski clothes department and we bought her a mountain pass for the winter. All of her friends ski, so this should be an excellent activity. Rebecca had several gifts as well from Canada from all sides of the family . Very nice, but it did make her a bit homesick. Understandable given how far she is from Victoria. My friend from school, Ana, even remembered and gave her a lovely gift of a Russian stacking doll. So sweet.

With my wildly (yet predictably) unruly family, the pictures of them sitting at the table are crap: Rebecca with a napkin over her face, Lili completely ignoring the camera, eyes closed, mouths full…you get the non-postable picture. So here is a slightly better one of Aunt Susi, Oma Renata and Rebecca modeling her new winter vest:

Fingerprints

This week we also crossed off a few more of the long, bureaucratic tasks to finalizing residency for Rebecca, Annie and me. The one interesting event in the whole process was getting my fingerprints taken at the police station. This is a requirement of the Canadian RCMP office in order to issue an official criminal check for me. As almost no Canadians move to Austria (something like 46 North Americans moved to Innsbruck in 2007), the Politzei were a little unsure how the process worked. After we were taken under wing by an officer who was curious how this would all unfold (obviously a slow day in the policing world), we found a detective who could help us.

After checking the requirements, they determined that we would have to actually take old-school ink fingerprints instead of the digital scans I was expecting. So I was brought into this very stark white back room complete with a chair set up to take mug shots with the prisoner number. Excellent. The detective had to keep asking me to keep my hand relaxed so the prints would work properly. Not sure how someone being arrested would stay relaxed, but oh well. Here are the results, just like on Columbo:

Angels

Staying on the detective theme…On Saturday when I was at the wedding, Markus took the girls to Arzler Alm. On the gondola on the way up I guess they had a Charlie’s Angels moment. Markus didn’t have the camera so snapped this one with the cell phone. I had to include it…can’t believe that this worked out with an often camera-resistant teenager, an energetic 7 year old and a ‘not-quite-sure-what-is-going-on-but-it-looks-like-fun’ toddler. Apparently they had a fantastic time hanging out together. That makes me so happy to know that the family connections are strengthening.

Does that make Markus Bosley?

Does that make Markus Bosley?

Hilarious!

Love, Schmuv. All You Need is Friends.

Friday, October 17th, 2008

I love my friends. Really, really adore them. I must have done something very lovely in a past life, because I’m pretty sure I’m not deserving in this go around to have such amazing people in my world.

You know what else I love? The Internet. Here I was at 6:00 in the evening after a tough day and my beautiful friend, Stacey (see picture below), pops up a chat on gmail to say hi. Amazing and magical thing, that Internet. During our chat Stacey reminded me that I need to appreciate whatever comes to me this year, and not expect it to be a Perfectly Charming Year in Europe with no problems or rough patches. She also reminded me that when I was pregnant, my attitude was basically: I have no idea what this is going to be like, so I’ll just take it as it comes and appreciate all facets of motherhood, good and bad. Good advice for this year as well. I guess I’ve talked myself into the myth of, “How can a year (or two) in Europe not be amazing?” Well, I think it can be amazing, just not Pollyanna-perfect every second. And there are incredible things to be learned from the tough times, as we all know.

Here is a picture from the summer of Stacey and Annie feeding the ducks in Government House in Victoria.

Overall, I feel like I’m on the upswing again. I have done an excellent job of getting out of shape in the last decade (hard to believe I used to be an elite athlete), and have vowed to try to recapture a little of my lung capacity while in the Alps. I made the first start with a 2-hour walk on Wednesday along the river and then up to Hungerburg, a residential area in Innsbruck. It was fairly steep and it certainly got me breathing.

Then today Markus and I biked to Shloß Ambras for lunch. Those royals sure knew how to live (no camera with me, so I swiped this from a tourist page.) You can actually see the table we sat at for lunch at the bottom of the picture.

Hopefully after a relaxing weekend, I’ll be feeling even more like myself. Thanks for all the support, my friends.

Annie and the Wild Animals

Monday, September 29th, 2008

One of our favourite things to do in Innsbruck is to go to the Alpenzoo. The trip starts with a short walk and then a tram ride up the mountain. (You can also hike up. It takes about an hour and you will have to be in much better shape than I am to make it pushing a toddler-filled stroller.) I didn’t get a great picture of the ride; but you can get the idea here:

Our ride home from the Alpenzoo

Our ride home from the Alpenzoo

The first main attraction (after the playground, which we always visit) is the bears. You can see them from a couple of different viewpoints. Here are some shots of these cuddly creature.

From the bear area you switchback up the mountain with animal cages lining the trails. There is a good range of animals and birds. The smaller playground up the hill a bit is somewhat creepy as two enormous vultures stare down at you. There is also none of the N.A. shielding of reality for children; dead half-eaten carcasses are clearly on display in the carnivore areas. (I find that reality is presented a lot more graphically to children here. For example, Annie’s book, Die Kuh, starts with a picture of cow dung being eaten by flies and ends with images of cow products, including meat and leather shoes as well as the dairy.)

There is a goat petting area at the end, but we tend to be hungry by this time (and Annie spent lots of time petting goats at Beacon Hill), so we usually head to one of the 2 restaurants.

Here are a couple more pictures of the animals, and one of the view from the Alpenzoo. Beautiful!

To remind us of home.

To remind us of home.

View from the Alpenzoo.

View from the Alpenzoo.

Enjoying the Last Days of Summer

Saturday, September 13th, 2008

The last few days we have spent lots of time outdoors, as it is predicted to get cold and rainy for the next week. Aunt Suzi, cousin Lili, Annie and I went to this amazing outdoor pool complex. It is very close to the city center so we biked. I had my first bike ride with Annie in the child carrier on the back; she loves it but Mom was a bit nervous at first. We spent hours there enjoying the different pools, water slides, and grassy areas.

Fun at the outdoor pool.

Here is a cute one of Lili…she and Annie get along well. Usually.

Cousin Lili in the sun.

Cousin Lili in the sun.

The next day Markus, Annie and I took a gondola up the mountain to Mutterer Alm. In the summer there is an extensive trail system and in the winter, skiing of course. Annie’s favourite part was the grazing cows. She was intrigued from the moment we heard the cow bells and saw them from the gondola. And let me tell you, these things are big; this ain’t no petting zoo.

We walked for about half an hour then had lunch at a chalet (pretty much anywhere you hike in the mountains ends in somewhere to get a beer and a plateful of hearty food.) Annie and I shared pasta with sausage and Markus had Krautfleckeln…a very healthy and low-cal mix of saurerkraut, noodles, ham and cheese. Delish! Markus had a drink called a Radler, which is a mix of beer and lemonade (I guess like a shanty); very refreshing. Clearly Annie has some serious Austrian genes, as her current favourite food is cabbage, either cooked or in a salad.

Here are some pics from the day.

The beginning of the hike. Annie pulled at Markus' hair almost the whole way. Delightful.

The beginning of the hike. Annie pulled at Markus' hair almost the whole way. Delightful.

Annie patting the cow.

Annie patting the cow.

Our mid-hike chalet stop.

Our mid-hike chalet stop.

Bridge over the River Inn

Saturday, September 6th, 2008

Markus, Annie and I went for a bike ride yesterday (Annie was in a seat on the back of the bike). We biked for about half an hour, stopped for coffee and treat at a small rural hotel, and came home. Innsbruck is an amazing place for commuter bikers. There are hundreds of kilometers of bike paths, especially along the Inn River on both sides. And of course hard-core mountain bikers (hi Mandy and Geoff) can get their fill in the Alps. On our trip we crossed a wooden bridge to make our way out of town. Very soon we were in farm country with corn and sunflowers and goats.

The views are intense and amazing here. I know some Prairie folk feel boxed in by the mountains, but I never think that. In fact, I find it somewhat cozy to be snuggled in the valley surrounded by these endless peaks.

Annie loved the ride, of course; anything with speed and outdoors mixed together is a good thing in her books. Innsbruck also has about a million little playgrounds for kids. We must have passed one every 10 minutes or so along the riverside. I’m sure we will have fun getting to know them better and find out which ones are Annie’s favourites.

On the ride home Annie fell asleep and we did the delicate transfer from bike seat to stroller; poor dear hasn’t had a nap in her bed since we got here. We seem to be much more on the move with things to see and errands to run. And like her dear Mom, she can’t stay awake for long traveling in any type of vehicle.

I loved feeling like I had done some real exercise. I’m looking forward to letting ‘athletic Hillary’ out of her soft shell this year. (I’m sure she is in there somewhere!) Between the biking and constant walking, it shouldn’t take too long. There are just unlimited experiences here for people who have endurance for long distance walks and bikes. And the rewards of the views (not to mention the alpine restaurants) make it worthwhile.

Here is a picture of the River Inn on our first day and one of Annie walking on the river path (once she woke up, as she fell asleep in the stroller :))

Innsbruck means "Bridge over the River Inn" in old German

View of the River Inn. Innsbruck means "Bridge over the River Inn" in old German

Annie strolling along the river walk

Annie strolling along the river walk

Daycare, wherfore art thou?

Sunday, August 31st, 2008

Ugh! Annie was driving me crazy yesterday morning. Gleaming at me with mischeif in her eyes as she poured her juice on the table, splashing outside the bath, not wanting to get dressed. Typical toddler stuff, but my resistence is down with the travel and change. I had to give myself a time-out to calm down.

Markus, sensing my short, short rope, took Annie and Rebecca to a pool and let me nap and read for the afternoon. He is really the best husband anyone could ask for, as well as an amazing father. A couple of days ago we were sitting in the park watching Annie play on the swing and he said that Annie had had a perfect first 2 years of her life. If someone let him do it all over again, he wouldn’t change a thing for her. Now that is the kind of statement that melts my heart and just makes me love him even more. I’m so lucky.

I’ll have to go check out this outdoor pool. Apparently it is amazing with 6 pools of different sizes and depths, several slides, playground, sandbox, table tennis, grassy area to lounge, etc. Annie loved it. Hopefully the beautiful weather we are having will hold for a few more weeks so that we can enjoy it. I have to say that for a city the size of Greater Victoria, there are way more things for kids and families to do together. It really is geared around that. I often had to think hard of activities to keep us busy in Victoria, especially on rainy days, but don’t anticipate having the same problem here.

We’ll be moving into my in-laws old apartment (at the hotel) today. It will be good to have a bit more space to roam around in as well as to get Annie into her own room! And as for daycare, we check out one option at 3:00 today. Hopefully all will go well.

Blissed Out in My New Home

Saturday, August 30th, 2008

It was so strange to arrive at the Innsbruck airport and think “I live here.” Weird. And wonderful.

The trip was both worse and better than expected. The flights themselves were awesome, with Annie sleeping 6 hours on the long haul over the ocean. I think having her car seat really helped her to be comfortable. And Mom was pretty comfortable too, as we had Executive Class seats (three cheers for aeroplan). The leg-room was amazing and I could almost lie flat in the seat. The transfers in each of the airports (Chicago and Frankfurt) was hideous with too many bags, said car seat (blessing and a curse) giving me bruises on my arms as I hauled it through umpteen security checks, being sent to wrong terminals, lost stroller, too many poorly marked elevators, and on and on. But we made it with all of our luggage and some of our sanity, so I count the trip an overall success.

Our first day here was fantastic. After a midnight wake up time for Annie and I (Annie ate 2 eggs and 3 pieces of bread as her midnight snack…she is an eating machine right now), Markus let us sleep in until 10:30. After breakfast we packed a knapsack and spent the day at a local lake. We took the bus (no car, which I don’t think is going to be a problem here) and after a short walk were at a lovely man-made lake with playground, food stand, and a toddler waterslide that Annie went down about 150 times. She had a rockin’ time with cousin Lilli, who is 8. I think that Annie would be perfectly happy if she had a dozen siblings…the more people the better for her. Not a likely wish to be fulfilled by Markus and I, but there is always daycare to meet friends.

Day 2 (after a bit better sleep) was also spent at a lake. This one was mainly docks but there was a shallow area for Annie and another slide to keep her happy. She played for a long time in the sandbox with the other children, so Dad and I were able to relax, read and nap. Lovely.

There certainly is a lot more exposed skin here than in NA. I think I was the only woman under 70 in a one-piece bathing suit rather than a bikini. (Maybe next summer after a LOT of Alpine hikes I’ll make the transition.) The babes and toddlers also pretty much ran around naked, while I had Annie covered up in a long-sleeved, long-legged SPF bathing outfit. Poor kid. But I’m not ready to expose her Nicole Kidman skin to the elements just yet.

Dad has Annie all day today so that I can catch up on my online communications as well as go shopping for necessities. I’m going to wait until some of those afore mentioned Alpine hikes kick in before clothes shopping, but that sure is going to be fun! Mmmmm, European clothes. Lovin’ it!

Hopefully I’ll have some pictures downloaded from the camera in the next couple of days to start sharing. Now, if I could only get the hang of this German keyboard so I can stop spelling my name “Hillarz”. Sigh.