Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

Showing Off Our Part of the World

Wednesday, July 29th, 2009

We  had a great week with the Ravenhills. I loved the long conversations, great laughs and getting to know Emily and Amanda better. We stayed up late, talking on the balcony or drinking at a local bar. It was a welcome gift from home.

And of course we had interesting times touring around Innsbruck and area. I remember always enjoying showing off Victoria to guests, and Austria is even more fun, especially when visitors have never been to Europe. The history and buildings and landscape are impressive even before we hit the attractions. As with every visit, there were some successful adventures as well as some duds, but overall I think they left knowing a bit more about our part of the world.

Since I have a zillion photos, thanks to Mike’s obsessive diligent photo taking, I’ll let the pictures (mostly) speak for themselves. Enjoy.

1. Walking up to the Alpenzoo, where springtime was in full swing with lots of animal babies.

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2. Bling-bling tour of the Swarovski museum. It was too modern/kitschy for the Ravenhills’ taste, but oh did we have fun in the gift shop.

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3. Very cool tour of the Red Bull Hanger 7 aviation museum in Salzburg. This testosterone session nicely balanced out  crystal world. Those dudes are marketing geniuses, given that the drink is, well, great if you are totally wasted.

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3. Touring the medieval Hohensalzburg Fortress overlooking this historic city was impressive, even a second time. The view from the tower is magnificent, and shows why this castle was never captured in battle. And a massive pretzel at the end of the day…what could be better?

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4. A challenging hike up the Alps with lots of photo ops and tasty traditional Austrian fare to make it worthwhile.

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Tempted? I’ll be back in Austria in September if you want to make you travel arrangements to visit.

Counting the Days

Thursday, July 9th, 2009

Annie and I are off to Canada in two weeks today. Despite the fact that I have a lot to do before then (including entertaining our friends for a week), despite six weeks without Markus, despite the long flights with a toddler and the jet lag, (not to mention the Manitoba bugs), I’m completely and totally looking forward to the trip. Those of you who are regular readers know that I’ve had some amazing adventures in Europe this year, and I don’t regret making the leap to come here. But it certainly hasn’t been all Alpine hikes and happy yodeling either.

Frankly, I need a break from the stress. The uncertainty of our lives. It has been almost a year since this little family had a steady income (including 8 months with NO income). Markus is daily trying to put together a deal, looking for opportunities, and also shooting off resumes for more regular work. And I’m pursuing about four different bureaucratic  channels right now to try to get permission to work in this country; it seems every day I run into another road block. People, I’ll pay my taxes…just let me find a job. (I’m still hoping that I can work remotely for my friend in Canada, but that won’t be known for a few more months.)

Of course, I could marry Markus, which would hurry things up considerable. And that is still an option. But not my first (or clearly second, third, or fourth) choice. The thought of scurrying off to city hall to hitch up with Markus just so I can get a work permit sounds so, I don’t know, icky. Shady. Desperate. Plus, how sad would that be to get married without a single one of my friends or family around. Not that I have ever in my life dreamt of a princess wedding. But seriously, it is hard to attach even an ounce of romance to that scenario. And I can’t see it being a day to celebrate as a yearly anniversary.

So the thought of  a month and a half away from it all, surrounded by family and friends, four of those weeks spent lounging by a beautiful lake, are pretty appealing. I’m sure doing the single parent thing will be tough, especially once we hit BC and the grandparents are out of the picture, but it will be so worth it for the break. So biblical plague of giant mosquitoes, here we come.

A Long Ovedue Post

Friday, June 12th, 2009

I think you can probably relate. Sometimes life just goes a bit South and there is something you have been meaning to do, want to do, but it just doesn’t happen. There isn’t really any explanation…’no time’ just  doesn’t cut it. But that creative energy that it takes me to write, even a simple blog post, sometimes just seems to seep away. (I really wish it would leave a forwarding address, but no; I just have to wait for it to return from whatever excursion it decided to go on.) I managed to pull it together for Annie’s birthday, but there hasn’t been much action before or since that. I am getting on track again (at least for the time being) and really want to capture a visit from a good friend, so I’m taking you all back, way back, to several weeks ago when I could still take shots of snow.

My lifelong friend, Shannon, and I were best buddies down at West Hawk Lake where our families both had cottages. The summers of my childhood spent in the Canadian Shield were almost idyllic, with constant swimming, water skiing, boating, sailing, visiting with friends and even cliff jumping! Ah, youth.

Shannon was in Europe at the end of April as she was attending a wedding of a friend from her time working in the U.K. She only spent a few days in London, though, and I was thrilled when she decided to spend the majority of her trip with us in Austria.

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Shannon and me on the balcony

Of course, we talked and talked. I really do miss having long conversations in-person with native English speakers as well as long-time friends. It is just different and fills a place in my soul that nothing else can.  Unless a actually live in an English-speaking country for an extended period, like Markus did, the nuances of the language are just not there for non-native speakers, and makes whatever you are talking about less interesting and more difficult to express. I’m sure the people I interact with here find it to be the same when I am using my mangled German.

It is so fun to show friends the city where you live when you reside in a beautiful part of the world. I always enjoyed that in lovely Victoria as well. We walked around the old town (1o months and counting and still every time I walk amongst those 800-year old buildings I think, “I live here??!!”) and ate at some of the great, simple restaurants, cafes and bakeries.

And of course, life goes on with a busy family of a teenage and a toddler, but Shannon joined right in and even graciously shot some photos.

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No teenagers were hurt in the shooting of this photo

No teenagers were harmed in the shooting of this photo

The inevitable playground time regardless of who is visiting.

The inevitable playground time regardless of who is visiting.

But there were definitely adventures. Shannon, who took full advantage of the mountains when she lived in Europe, did manage to get in a morning of figle skiing (short metal skis used in springtime…no poles) with Markus. I think they had a blast, although there were some nerve wracking moments from all accounts (and facial expressions.)

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Our big adventure together was taking the train to Salzburg. I’ve been there before with friends Ryan and Renata, and managed to, yet again, choose a day that was pouring rain and cold. Oh well. We did see a fairly different side to the city than the first time I was there, so that was great for me. I actually thought that Salzburg was a bit deary, but as we walked along the river this time the buildings we saw were gorgeous. Large and colourful and beautifully designed.

On our walk from the train station into town we checked out the intricate gardens at Schloss Mirabell. Even in the rain they were impressive. I ripped this pic from wikipedia…weird how it looks overcast as well. (It is better larger, so I suggest clicking on the image.)

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Instead of visiting the inner city castle, Hoshensalzburg, we decided to trek out to Helbrunn Palace. And I do mean trek. We were using a small tourist map as navigation, and it looked very walkable from the inner city. Well, not so much. After about half an hour we were looking around us feeling a bit lost when a nice passerby asked if we needed help. I was quite proud that my German was up to asking for and receiving directions, although it was clear that we would be walking for at least another 40 minutes to get there. In the rain. Oh well…we were this far along, so might as well go for it. It actually was an interesting journey down a country lane lined with fields, trees and the occasional turn of the century buildings (the other century.)

Once we arrived at the palace we were told that we needed to join a guided tour to go through the fountains, so we looked in the small palace while we waited. Built in the 1600’s, Hellbrun was strictly a day palace for royalty coming out from the city, therefore no bedrooms. The main attraction of the area is beautiful natural springs that a frisky and obviously humorous Prince-Archbishop Markus Sittikus von Hohenems employed to construct an intricate system of trick fountains. Using detailed architecture, guests would be drawn into an area, grotto or garden, and then the Prince would activate a switch to soak everyone. For example, while dining guest would all of a sudden have a very wet bottom. Oh, those rascally royals.

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One of the most impressive features to me was the mechanical theatre, with 200 water-driven figures depicting the life of a small Baroque city. Unbelievable when you realize there are no computers and all movement of the tiny villagers is driven by the flow of water.

But truly one of the nicest things about being with visitors in this part of the world is just enjoying the beautiful scenery and mountains. Shannon commented that it was like a postcard everywhere you looked. A giant movie set blue-screen follows you around on which is constantly projected images of snow-peaked mountains, wildflowers, roaming cows and hillside chalets.

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The fresh air always wears her out.

The fresh air always wears her out.

Shannon’s visit was wonderful and way too short. Luckily I’ll see her in the summer when Annie and I head back to Manitoba to enjoy a few weeks at the lake.

And we have more Canadian visitors coming in August to keep me sane; I will commit to being a bit more timely about that post.

Home?

Tuesday, May 19th, 2009

I’m sitting in the Calgary airport, enjoying their free Internet access. I had to laugh making my way through the airport security. Canadians really are friendly! It isn’t just a myth.

I had a momentary crisis of consciousness filling out my customs declaration form. (And not just because I couldn’t remember how many litres of wine I brought with me as gifts.) I actually had to think about whether I was a visitor or a resident of Canada for a few seconds. It seemed so strange. I still have a house in Victoria, but I live in Innsbruck. I’m a resident of Austria, but am only legally allowed to work in Canada. Of course I am a visitor, but it did feel very strange to tick off those boxes. And that mixed with the excitement of coming ‘home’ as well as already feeling very far away from Annie and Markus made it all that much harder.

Travelling to Canada, on the other hand, has (so far, please don’t let me jinx my last leg from Calgary to Victoria) been a breeze. When I was rowing we used to do ‘fartlek’ workouts, where we would try to row at 45+ strokes per minute. The concept was that when we then rowed at 37 strokes per minute during a race, it would feel easier, more in control. The last couple of years, I have found that this principle holds true throughout most of life.

Getting less than 6 or 7 hours of sleep used to set me up for a very tired day, until I had a baby and didn’t see a 7-hour stretch of sleep for over 9 months. It felt like I could go days on 7 hours of sleep after that. Parenting on weekends now with Markus seems so much less stressful after this year’s long stretches of single-motherhood (in a foreign country, not speaking the language, with no friends or family). And travelling, even on long-haul flights half way across the world, is a dream after travelling to Europe with a small child. I watched 3 movies, had a short nap and am now easily filling a 3-hour layover in Calgary by emailing, Facebooking and blogging.

And most of all, I can’t tell you how easy it is going to be to arrange things when the people at the other end of the phone speak the same language as I do. Before I set out for even the most mundane errand these past 10 months (going to the dry-cleaners, drugstore, doctors, etc.), I’d try to practice and look up the German words that I might need to make myself understood. A couple of times I caught myself doing that with tasks I have to complete here in Canada. But no need!!!  Movers arranged? Phone lines disconnected? Bank transactions? Easy peasy lemon squeezy compared to trying to do all of those things with my poor German and the other person’s broken English. Of course, all of those tasks are generally irritating, but I just know it will seem easier after this last year’s experience. I guess that is what is meant by the quip that you can’t appreciated the good times without some difficult times. Now if I can just remember this lesson the next time a difficult day hits.

Paris: Part Deux

Monday, April 27th, 2009

Wednesday and Thursday centered around what were my two main desires for our Paris trip, visiting the Musée D’Orsay and the Louvre.

Wednesday I made Markus get up early and head out so that we wouldn’t have to wait too long in line for the D’Orsay. Well, I mixed up the operating hours, so we were there an hour before the doors opened and no one was in sight. But that gave us an opportunity to finish our croissants and drink € 4 coffees in an overpriced (as they all are in the touristy centre of Paris) café.

Once inside, I was stunned by the beauty of the building. Formerly a train station built in late 1800’s, the space was remodeled in the 1980’s (thank goodness it missed the ’70’s!) Markus and I love the Impressionists (not very original, I know, but there is no accounting for taste), so we spent 3 hours getting our fill of Monet, Manet, and Degas. I have this incredible sense of well-being, calm, and inspiration when I am looking at art work that moves me. (Now I just need to figure out how to bottle that for injection during the rest of my life.) It was a perfect morning.

Here is a shot of the gorgeous interior, plus a couple of my favourite paintings (sorry about the quality…a photography class is next!).

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Berthe Morisot

Berthe Morisot

Claude Monet

Claude Monet

Vincent van Gogh

Vincent van Gogh

In the afternoon Markus took a break, as he was battling a cold, and I headed for the shops. I only bought one top, but enjoyed browsing. All I have to say is “What financial crisis?!!” Everywhere was packed with people buying clothes and gifts and toys for their children. I guess that is why I continue to have faith that our little inner city hotel could do well; it has to get really, really, really bad before people give up their vacation plans entirely.

Thursday we headed out early again for the Louvre. There was a line but it snaked in very quickly. (I was actually amazing that, although people poured steadily in all day, the museum is so massive that we would still find ourselves in rooms all alone.) We had a bumpy start since I was getting a bit obstinate about wanting to be in a certain area of the museum, and were having trouble finding it. But eventually we got there, I relaxed, and Markus forgave me.

As everyone who has ever been to the Louvre told me, the place is so incredibly huge there is no chance of seeing everything…even if you had a month. So in the end we wandered a bit, got lost a bit, and saw all kinds of works from various periods.

One of the amazing areas was the artifacts from Ancient Egypt (and a bit from ancient Iran). The tombs, jewellery and stones covered with hieroglyphs made me just want to stand and stare for hours. As for paintings, Rembrandt was a favourite, so we spent a good amount of time viewing his works. We also toured Napoleon’s apartments, which of course were ridiculously, deliciously opulent. Always fun to imagine myself living that life. Perhaps I’d just be bored. Or not.

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Overall the D’Orsay was the more complete experience for me, but I would/will go back to the Louvre without a doubt should I ever find myself back in Paris.

(I didn’t take any pictures of the artworks or artifacts, but here is the official site if you just have to see more.)

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After the Louvre we had fresh sandwiches in a gorgeous park and then in the afternoon walked down the Avenue des Champs-Élysées. What a madhouse. (Again, what financial crisis??) So many beautiful people going in and out of beautiful shops. What an eyeful. Of course we just window shopped, but we did treat ourselves to a couple of € 10 small drafts (ridiculous, but must be done) and people watched. Markus noted that it was easy to discern the tourists in their comfortable shoes from the Parisians who wouldn’t be caught dead without heels. Like all big cities, it would be more fun to live in Paris if you have loads of disposable cash.

I wish I could tell you that our 4 days ended with a bang and big party, but both of us were a bit beat from all the walking and had brain overload from all the amazing sites. So we hopped on the metro, took a stroll through another part of town, ate oh-my-goodness awesome crepes at a street side cafe, and went to an English-language movie. (A real treat for me, as they don’t often play undubbed movies in Innsbruck.)

The weather had been perfect all week despite predictions of rain, so we weren’t too surprised when the skies opened up just as we hopped in the car to make our way back to Innsbruck. We picked a very tired Rebecca up at the Munich airport (she was returning from 2 weeks in Canada for spring break) and had a quiet drive home.

I truly couldn’t have designed a better way to usher in (hopefully at least) the next 40 years of my life. I am blessed.

Paris in the Springtime: Part 1

Thursday, April 23rd, 2009

Last week Markus and I kissed Annie and hugged my mom and Drew goodbye (with lots of instructions and several phone numbers), and headed out in the car for a relaxing (for me, the passenger), very scenic 9-hour drive to Paris. The weather was gorgeous, and the landscape of mountains, farms and rolling hills were soothing and stunning at the same time.

We pushed through with only a couple of coffee breaks until we got to France. We decided to stop for lunch in a town near the highway, as opposed to a road-side restaurant. It being Easter Monday, our first couple of attempts in little French villages were thwarted, as the towns were closed. Not just the shops and restaurants, but everything. Not a person in sight, not a dog on the streets. A bit weird, although we appreciated looking at the charming architecture.

We finally made our way to a bit bigger town, Saverne, where we had a very tasty lunch. We walked around for a bit, and then found a spot with outdoor seating and the look of authentic cuisine. After a little coaching from Markus, I ordered what is apparently a local specialty, Tarte Flambe. I was expecting a tart or quiche-like meal, but instead was served a thin flat bread with three different toppings. The gorgonzola was unbelievable, but it was incredibly rich so I’m glad that there were other tastes as well. The bottom is slightly charred, which usually I wouldn’t like, but the flavours worked well together. With a glass of white wine and the warm sun on my back, it was a delicious way to start the trip. (Only a week later, I’m starting to crave Tarte Flambe and am wondering when I might be able to find this again.)
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With surprising little trouble (given that I am useless at navigating, as my car sickness means I can’t look at a map for more than 2 seconds while the car is moving…not to mention my hopeless sense of direction,) we found our hotel.

I’ll mention here that this Parisian adventure was made possible by Markus’ and my family. (That is one for the ‘Can’t do this in Canada’ category: travel to Paris on birthday cash.) Markus’ parents joined a vacation club about 30 years back, and let us use some of their points for the 4 nights. The deal with this club is that they choose amazing locations, and the rooms are usually apartment style with small kitchen units. You still have to pay a maintenance fee and for parking, but with total of around € 320, we couldn’t have found a decent place for one night in central Paris. And both my sets of parents and Markus’ grandmother chipped in on spending money, so it was all possible. (Thanks everyone!)

We were very happy with our small suite (one bedroom and main eating/living area). And being able to pop down to the bakery and bring back Pain aux Chocolat with fresh juice and coffee in the room was a perfect way to start the day.

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And they  weren’t kidding about the location. We were able to walk everywhere: Eiffel Tower, Louvre, Champs-Elysees. We took the metro a couple of times only because we had worn out our poor feet from hours and hours of strolling through the city and museums.

We were both pretty tired after the long drive, so after a short stroll around our ‘hood, a few pics, and a quick dinner, we went back to the hotel for a relaxing and refreshing sleep.

Saint-Eustache and adjacent gardens just down the street from our hotel

Saint-Eustache and adjacent gardens just down the street from our hotel

In the couryard in front of Saint-Eustache

In the couryard in front of Saint-Eustache

The next morning our first stop at the local Patisserie was a real conundrum. We just couldn’t decide what to order, as it all looked delicious. I had a Pain aux Chocolat every day, and then one other treat to round things out. (Good thing we walked everywhere, as I’ve already gained weight sitting in bed with my broken elbow.)

Our first trek took us over the Pont-Neuf bridge to the Ile de la Cité, an island of land in the middle of the Seine. (Clearly I was quite taken with this river and the architecture surrounding it, as many of my photos are of this historic waterway.) We walked by the 18th century buildings and made our way to Notre Dame. The legendary church is massive and epic, and the details of the art work are a bit overwhelming. But I don’t know if it is just that we have been to so many churches and so many castles in the last 6 months (I know, poor us), but neither of us were moved to spend hours looking around. It is, however, still an impressive memory.

Pont-Neuf and the tip of the island on a hazy spring morning

Pont-Neuf and the tip of the island on a hazy spring morning

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Maybe some good Catholic could tell me the deal with the guy holding his head.

Maybe some good Catholic could tell me the deal with the guy holding his head.

Our plan for our first day in Paris was to visit the Musée d’Orsay. However, the Louvre was closed that day so the line up was ridiculous. As neither Markus or I do long lineups unless absolutely unavoidable, we shifted plans and headed along the river to the Eiffel Tower.

Neither of us really wanted to go up the tower, even before we saw the massive line ups, so that was an easy decision. The park around the towers was beautiful, and we found a little cafe with street side tables for lunch.

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After lunch we decided to hit the Paris Museum of Modern Art. We enjoyed looking at some of the sculptures as well as art deco furniture and glass work, and expressed our opinions about the paintings. Markus and I have similar tastes in historical paintings and sculptures, but different things move us with modern art. Interesting opinions ensue. We saw one artist that really reminded us of our friend Lucie Marlo’s work, but unfortunately his/her name escapes me.

One thing I was really struck with throughout our trip was how much green space has been retained in the heart of Paris. Large parks and gardens are impressive, but also areas with just grass and trees are plentiful. It made strolling through the city a real treat.

After a rest/nap, we found a very French bistro with a very French waiter, and quenched our cravings for Steak Frites. That was fine, but it was the appy that really got me. Raw vegetables with a goat cheese fondue that was seriously spectacular, served in a little, scalding hot, cast iron pot. After the veggies were gone I dipped bread, and when I was starting to get worrisomely full, I took my spoon and just ate the melted cheese. YeeeUuuuMmmm!

A memorable first day.

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Taken strolling along the Seine. Too bad it was too early for a beer.

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Our Italian Adventure

Wednesday, January 7th, 2009

Only a couple of days, and I already am missing Ryan and Renata like a limb. I can’t properly describe how great it was to be able to chat with friends who I have known for so many years (Ren and I met about 20 years ago) and can have easy, free flowing conversations in English. And yet, interestingly, their visit made me feel like Innsbruck was really my home, at least right now. I enjoyed showing them the city and area, and felt proud I could get by in the language, at least in shops and restaurants.

Markus and I are also going to miss the laughs. With all of our incredible life stresses these days, we are experiencing a real dearth of humour here. And Ryan and Ren are just hilarious, with Renata’s filterless tales and Ryan’s dry, quite comments…or unexpected poses, as seen here. Ah, I’ll miss those laughs.

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But now that they have returned to Canada, I have a few moments to post about one of our last adventures together, a trip to Trento in Italy. Our original plan was to visit Schloß Tirol again, but it was closed over the holidays. Markus suggested Trento, as we have gone to Sudtirol a few times, which is very much like Austria (having been part of Austria until relatively recently). He thought we would like a taste of a more traditional Italian province and we certainly did.

The architecture of Trento has a very different feel. The area has been inhabited for thousands of years, and many of the buildings were clearly several hundred years old. Here is a shot of the city square, where you can see the buildings with the ubiquitous shutters as well as a part of the old cathedral.

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Trento city center

After a tasty pasta lunch and a stroll through the city to get our bearings, we decided to tour the Castellodel Buonconsiglio , which is a 13th Century castle erected next to the city walls. It was an interesting tour including a temporary exhibit of Rembrandt’s sketches (not our cup of tea in terms of art, but still an experience to see).

My favourite part was a multiple room exhibit of the maps through the centuries, particularly those related to routes to the Orient. The progress of how civilization viewed the world is fascinating. The exhibit displayed the sailors’ tools (compasses, ship logs) as well as a sample of the treasures that were brought back from China.

We also slipped into the wine cellar, and looked at the beautiful barrels among the ancient arches.

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After a quick slice of pizza (tasty, but a bit doughier than anticipated), we made our way home. This sounds easy, doesn’t it? Well, we had decided to take the car again, so this was officially my second driving trip in Europe. Unfortunately, the GPS wasn’t available, so we were on our own with a map and a prayer. We made it to the city following Markus’ directions with only a few missteps, but getting home was another story. The chaotic Italian bureaucracy is legendary, and this was proved in point by the incredibly unclear or simply missing signage for how to get back on the highway. It took us about an hour to find our way out, including several stops at gas stations and stores to ask directions. The worst part was trying to merge onto a 2-lane thoroughfare at night, with the lights coming at me very fast and the cars behind me very impatient. Or maybe the worst was the speedy Italian drivers, who completely ignore the 130 km speed limit, so between the trucks and the sports cars there was at least a 100 km difference in speed which needed to be accounted for when passing another vehicle. Or maybe the worst is that the drivers weave between lanes for no apparent reason. (This was later confirmed by Markus as a common driving practice in that part of the world. Super.) I got a few more grey hairs but we did, finally, arrive home unscathed.

It was a great day overall, and an amazing holiday season. I think that Ryan and Renata were sent away with lots of European stories to tell. Now I just need you (yes you!) to come visit me here so we can have more adventures together.

City of Salt

Tuesday, December 30th, 2008

Markus ‘agreed’ to watch Annie on Saturday (I feel I am owed a few since he was gone for 4 weeks) while Ryan, Renata and I took the train to Salzburg for the day. It is a very comfortable 2-hour trip that took us close to the center of town. It was a cold day but we had dressed appropriately and, after finding a city map, made our way into the Alt Stadt. (Thank goodness for Ryan, because Renata and I have the same disability; not only do we have a terrible sense of direction, but we are quite pushy and adamant that we are correct.)

The city is interesting, but we all agreed Innsbruck is a prettier city (I guess being a smaller city helps.) It was also quite overcast, so that may have affected our opinion.

We walked around the large old town, watching the efficient city workers tear down the last of the Christmas markets. I’m sad to see them go, and the Glüwine with it. We also stopped into 3 churches, one that was quite ordinary, one was small but very elaborate, and the other one was the Domplatz, which was the stunning catherdral in the heart of the city. Here is a shot of the interior and one of the upper dome:

We then poked our heads into a few restaurants for lunch, but decided on an Italian place, which was a great little find (I had tagliatelle with shrimp and veggies in a saffron cream sauce. Yum!)

Our main adventure was going up to Schloß Monschsberg (Hohensalzburg Fortress). It is a medieval castle, which started being built over 1000 years ago. I really enjoy touring medieval castles, and am fascinated by the history of each place. The castle is located at one of the highest points of the city to maximize the security. We took the funicular up from the city center, but probably could have walked it. Here is a shot of the castle from Salzburg city center:

The fortress was reinforced many times over the centuries, and was never captured. It only reverted from the ruling Archbishop’s control when it was peacefully handed over to Napoleon.

As we walked around, I was especially impressed with the doors. Very intricate. I was less interested in the several rooms with WWI memorabilia, but I’m sure that was well done also for those interested in that. Here is a shot of one of the more intricate doors as well as one of the exterior archways:

Ryan and Renata arching in an arch. Ha ha.

Ryan and Hillary arching in an arch. Ha ha.

We walked around the exterior and interior for a while, and then took a 30 minute audio tour which included the torture chamber, artifact room and tower. The views of the city were stunning, and definitely the highlight of the trip. I wish it had been a bit sunnier…and a bit warmer!…but it was still an amazing view.

We managed to catch the 4:30 train home so we could have dinner with Markus and Annie. A great day all around! Here are just some of the many, many pictures Renata, Ryan and I took of the view:

Looking down over Salzburg

Looking down over Salzburg

The hills are alive...wouldn't want to have to climb those mountains to get out of town!

The hills are alive...wouldn't want to have to climb those mountains to get out of town!

Renata on the tower

Renata on the tower

Just Shut Up and Drive

Tuesday, December 23rd, 2008

I have been avoiding driving in Europe. It is quite intimidating for me, as people drive faster, the rules are a bit different and also people pass you with only an inch to spare, which really freaks me out. But Markus was loaded down with bags coming from Canada and Franz couldn’t pick him up as he had to work, so my in-laws convinced me to give it a try. I felt I was very brave driving all the way to München, which is about a 2 1/2 hour trip. It ended up being really easy, despite driving in a fairly heavy snowfall. Franz set me up with his GPS, which worked like a charm. It even tells you what lane to be in! And it took me literally to the parking lot for Terminal 2 arrivals. Incredibly specific.

Annie slept the whole way there and Markus flight was only 20 minutes late, so we didn’t have a long time to kill at the airport. It was really great to see Markus after a month away. Annie had this huge smile on her face.

Once we made it back to Innsbruck (I drove home as well), Rebecca was, of course, so excited to see her dad. She is very happy with Markus coming home and then was over the moon when her mom, Catherine, arrived with her partner, Katherine, on Saturday. A real family reunion.

And with my friend Renata and Ryan coming today as well, we are going to have a fun-filled Christmas. Unfortunately, Annie has the flu the last couple of days, so we are hoping she perks up for the festivities tomorrow.

Killing time at Munich airport

Killing time at Munich airport

Dad's home!!

Dad's home!!

Seeing Seefeld

Wednesday, December 10th, 2008

Well, Annie and I successfully survived a 3-day weekend without Markus. Actually, it went quite well. Friday and Monday were pretty low-key, and then Sunday we went to visit my friend, Ana, in Seefeld (pronounced Zey-feld).

Annie and I met another woman from class, Anna (with 2 n’s) and her 7 year old daughter, Dasha. (They are from Russia and do not really speak English, so it was an all German speaking day pretty much.) We met at the downtown train station and caught the train to Seefeld, which is a little tourist town about 1/2 and hour from Innsbruck.

Annie, of course, loved the train as well as the chance to hang out with another child. Here are pics from our trip there:

Dasha and Annie

Dasha and Annie

Anna

Anna

Ana, our host (1 ‘n’), was quite sad that it wasn’t a sunny day, as we missed seeing the spectacular mountains surrounding the town. But I thought the village was very pretty and really enjoyed spending the time out of the house. I’m sure we’ll be back to check out the view another time.

After a short walk in the core we headed straight to the kiddy hill. Annie and I went tobogganing and Anna pulled Dasha up so she could go skiing. It was really fun, although it was certainly a workout.

After about an hour we returned to Ana’s for lunch and chats. I can now carry on a basic conversation in German, and we were helping each other out when we didn’t understand. Ana speaks Russian and English, so she was the translator when required, although we usually try to figure what everyone is saying using just German.

Annie decided that life was too exciting to have a nap, so she conked out for a bit on the train ride home and then went to bed early. A wonderful day all around.

Here are some more pictures. (Oh yeah, Annie won’t ride on the sled unless it is barreling down a mountain, so I had to push the green strolled through the snow. Poor little stroller will never be the same again!)

The gang in the village

The gang in the village

In front of a pretty building

In front of a pretty building. Apparently Annie isn't into looking at the camera much these days

Mom and Annie enjoying the ride

Mom and Annie enjoying the ride

Hard work pulling your not-so-wee one up the hill

Hard work pulling your not-so-wee one up the hill

Big hugs all around

Ana and Annie (too many An(n)a's here!) Big hugs all around