Showing Off Our Part of the World

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.







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.





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.





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?





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





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

Arrivals and Departures, or How Canada Regains a Resident

Our phone rang at 5:00 Wednesday morning; it was Rebecca letting us know that she arrived home safely back in Canada.

Her last few days in Europe were a bit crazy, but hopefully we sent her off well and with a good feeling about this place she called home for the last year. On Friday a few of her friends came over for a delish BBQ that Markus prepared. I think (not to put words in her mouth) that one of the best parts of this year for Rebecca was meeting new friends. They were absolutely lovely people, and I hope they keep in touch.


On Saturday our friends from Phoenix, the Ravenhills, arrived: parents Cassandra and Mike and their girls Emily (15) and Amanda (13). Rebecca spent countless hours with Emily and Amanda growing up, so they had a blast during this short reunion.


After a stroll around our ancient city center, we all went for a traditional Austrian meal. (There was a LOT of eating this last week.) The adults followed up with a drink on top of the city hall, while the girls took in a free concert by a Russian rock band.



Sunday morning we decided to take the tram up the mountain for a casual brunch at a chalet. Rebecca and Annie weren’t dressed for the cold (bad parents) but the rest of us did the short walk up to the peak, finding some snow on this cool rainy morning. The girls (including Doro, Rebecca’s best friend at school) had a snowball fight in July. Crazy. (Most photos are by Mike…he has a great camera and took maybe a couple of pictures. 1,200 and counting over the first 9 days of their Euro trip.)


Amanda gets to know the locals high above Innsbruck
Amanda gets to know the locals high above Innsbruck
The Doppelgänger of Rebecca is Doro. She speaks English very well and is super sweet.
The Doppelgänger of Rebecca is Doro. She speaks English very well and is super sweet.


Rebecca’s last day was spent packing and shopping. She was given wads of cash from the family, which turned into many, many Euro t-shirts and other clothes. The Ravenhills went with her to get the shoppin’ started. As our present, Markus and I gave her some Austria music (Falco and Austrian folk music) to remember the year. (She requested it…not a bad joke on our part.)

Rebecca was sad to go but also was looking forward to being back in Canada and seeing her mom and Katherine. Markus was clearly down as he loaded the car and drove Rebecca to Munich. Annie and I will catch up with Rebecca in August, but it could be until Christmas or longer until Markus sees her again. Six months is a long time away from your little girl; (she will always be his little girl.) Even though there were some tough moments, I think Rebecca will look back on this year as a positive time in her life.

Counting the Days

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.

Since They Weren’t Tired Enough from the Jetlag

Our friends from Canada, Chris and Arleen and their two girls Alexa and Brittney, came to visit us on Wednesday (a nice Canada Day event). This is the first visit to mainland Europe for everyone but Arleen, so it was pretty exciting.

After a heart-stopping run back to the train for a forgotten bag, (Chris ran ahead of me and I had a minute where I thought the train had taken off again with him on it. That would have been interesting), we took the weary travellers to the hotel.

After a quick freshening up, we went for our first look at the Altstadt (old city center) and had a drink at the top of the city hall. They held up well into early evening, but then after a simple dinner everyone crashed.


Thursday we decided to experience that most traditional of Austrian traditions, a hike up the Alps. I was going to put Annie in daycare, as her legs are still a bit short to do any serious hiking, but she seemed so upset to leave her “friends” that I couldn’t bring myself to do it. So we compromised and choose to go to Mutters, where Annie and I would take the gondola up and wait at the playground for the rest of the crew to have lunch. The best laid plans….

We started on the streetcar, as with Annie we were too many for the car. Alexa and Brit entertained Annie, mostly by “washing” their hair. (I think I used the quotation marks correctly there.)



And then we learned that the gondola was closed until the start of the summer season, which is next week. Darn. I thought it best to take Annie home, but Chris offered to carry her up the hill. Even though this is one fit family — 15-year-old Alexa just finished her first junior marathon, Brit plays basketball and Chris and Arleen both run — it is still a big undertaking to haul a 15 kg squirmy girl up a mountain. But we decided to try. (Rebecca didn’t join us, as she was finishing her art project.)

Annie had a blast after being bribed onto Chris’ shoulders with the promise of a mountain-top playground. And then she fell asleep in Chris’ arms. This is her cranky face as she is trying to sleep a little bit longer.


The steep hike was a little longer than expected — a full hour and a half instead of an hour — so we were all ready for lunch at the top. Radlers (lemonade and beer) and Almdudler (gingerale-type drink) quenched our thirst, hot cheese dumplings and wurst filled us up, and then we hung out with the cows and goats.



Annie took this shot.
Annie took this shot.

Markus took us the long way down, trading off with Chris carrying Annie (what heroes!) so our adventure took around 6 hours. The views were gorgeous, as always, and it was a good introduction to this part of the world. But we did have to promise the girls that they wouldn’t have to do it again. Fair enough.