Hello! Welcome back for part two! Do appreciate you making the second stop.
Because you have been such a good sport to come back for the second part of my blog post, here, have a Austrian Christmas cookie.
It’s a pretty long post. So make sure you’ve taken enough visual bites of the cookies to keep you sustained for the read.
As you may recall, when Kev recovered from his flu, I started getting sick. So leaving Vienna and traveling to Innsbruck was a bit of a mission for me. I had the chills, the sweats, the sore skin, nausea and a bad stomach. Carrying around a big backpack was exhausting and I just was so over packing it. I tell you, when traveling for an extended time with just a backpack, its always a struggle to get the damn zips to meet, no matter how much stuff you send back or throw out. But I managed and we made it to Innsbruck safe and sound. When we arrived in Innsbruck, being in the middle of the mountains and seeing peaks all around us with the clouds being so much closer, I just could not help but smile and feel invigorated. Looking up and seeing such wondrous, ancient giants so close up was the distraction I needed for me to forget about my physical struggle. It also filled me with hopes of a white Christmas.
Innsbruck, is the bridge across the Inn River as explained to us by Mathias, our ski instructor. But I’ll introduce you to him later.
In Innsbruck, we enjoyed the Old Town and enjoyed more of the Christmas Markets that were open. These markets were smaller than the ones in Vienna, however, they had more hand made goods and the atmosphere was a lot more intimate.
One of the big highlights of Innsbruck was learning to ski! I know that for me, I really wanted to get a good grasp of the sport. I wanted to be skilled enough so that one day if I wanted to take up the cool New Zealand ski trip packages on offer in Australia, I could do it. Kev and I decided to see how the skiing went before booking and paying for multiple days of ski hire and booked the ski equipment and lesson for one day. We had such a great time, and had such a wonderful instructor that we ended up booking two extra days.
Our ski routine was to meet our instructor, Mathias, at 8:30 and be at the slope by 9:00am. Mathias would teach us for four hours and then Kev and I would opt to continue skiing until 3:30-4:00pm. Long, long days.
I am in disbelief at how quickly we picked up the sport. First day, Mathias took us to the bottom of Patscherkofel, the base of a blue slope. For the ski noobs out there, there is a grading system for slopes and in Austria the gradings are as follows: green – used for mountain hikers and sledding; blue – easy; red – harder; and black – hardest. I think the interpretation of how hard the slopes are differ depending on where you are, but it appears that universally the colour order are the same, that being green as easiest through to black being the hardest.
We first learned how to snow plough. Mathias explained that we had to make our skis look like a pizza slice. We then learned how to turn and then after that we were taken up a little higher to implement the basics he taught us. He was really clear in instruction and demonstration and it really helped that it was just Kev and I. First day, we were moving. I was pretty chuffed at how I managed to not fall over once and I realised that skiing was quite a natural sport. As in, you can learn how to ski intuitively. Mathias explained that skiing originated as basic means of transportation in the mountains during winter. Back then, they just attached wooden planks to their feet to ski around and transport hay.
Second day, Mathias took us to another blue slope – Seegrube. This time we skied the whole slope. It was longer than what we had skied the day before and it was really fun. I felt like I had time to change the size of the turns I was making, play around with speed and direction. The slope was enjoyable. I couldn’t help but grin all day. Mathias then took us to try out the half pipe. The half pipe had a very very steep beginning and it was perfect for him to teach us how to descend an incline that was challenging for us. After that, using the edges of the half pipe, Mathias showed us how to turn on the edges. It was thrilling for me. Going up the edge for a little bit then turning adds so much extra speed in the descent. It was thrilling in that I had to really concentrate on keeping my skis together when turning up on the edge as a lot of the time, the way down had uneven snow which would throw you off balance.
The third day, Mathias decided to take us back to Patscherkofel and took us up to the very top of the mountain. It took us about 20 minutes using two different chair lifts to get there. When we got to the top, I nearly pee’d myself. We were on top of the world… and man, it was a steep way down. It was windy and I felt as if I was going to get blown off the top of the mountain. However, it was the perfect route to put all of our newly learnt skills into practice. With Mathias leading the way and us following him, it took us over an hour to get down to the bottom. Exhausting! It was the first time in a long time where my legs almost gave way numerous times due to exhaustion. It got to the point that every 10 minutes I would need a break or I would have to start saying out loud to myself ‘legs together’, ‘together’, ‘as one’. For a while they would obey, but near the end they just did what they had to.
After completing the descent, Mathias said that if we wanted, he could take us to a local cabin for lunch instead of the usual ski restaurant that we had gone to. He said that the cabin served the typical, local Tyrolean dishes and its a place for locals to go, the only thing was that we had to ski there. We were really game for that opportunity, so we took the ski lift up the mountain again. When we got off the ski lift, Mathias effortlessly glided down the mountain, off the ski track and onto a unmarked, narrow path with trees on either side, thinning snow, and a rocky, muddy path before us. It wasn’t too far off the ski slope but it was a bit of a walk when we took our skis off to get there. Once we arrived, I was so happy that we made the trip! It was the sweetest place I’ve seen. First thing I marvelled at was the view of the Alps. Mathias showed us where the glacier was and the way to Italy. The second thing was the cabins themselves. They were made of wood and had a ski rack for skiers and boarders to rest their gear on. There was this wooden trough which had running water pouring out of it and at the edge of the trough, thick icicles had grown from the trough down to the earth. The Trough had an iconic squirrel on it carved out of wood. It was beautiful.
The cabin inside was very, very small. You could probably only squish in 15 people. Once we got a seat, Mathias ordered for us. I had a knodel made out of potato and cheese and in a soup broth (Mathias ordered the same), and Kev had wurst and noodles in a soup broth. We all drank shandy which is a popular drink amongst Austrians to drink after sports. The meal was simple but really nice. It gave us the rest and energy that we needed for the ride down.
After lunch, Mathias took us back to the ski slope. He stopped and waited for us to catch up to him. Once we were ready he said ‘Ok. So I meet you at the bottom.’ In my mind I was like ‘Woah?! at the bottom?’ Mathias must have seen our surprise and he assured us saying ‘You’ll be fine, you are half way down already’ (If you scroll back up to the last map, you can see Patscher Alm. That’s where he left us). After a big smile and a wave he skied down and Kev and I were left with each other. Nervously laughing Kev said ‘ok, so you first?’ I agreed and turned my skis downwards for the ride home. The ride was exhilarating, and just as tiring as the first. The only difference was that we could set our own pace. We took the breaks that we needed and we were able to navigate our way down the slope fine. Being able to do this gave me a sense of achievement because I never imagined myself being able to ski down a mountain slope by myself without skiing off a cliff.
When we reached the bottom, Mathias was there smiling and waiting for our arrival. I thanked him for pushing us into the deep end because I knew that if we didn’t go down the slope by ourselves this time, we would not be able to go down ourselves the next time. The run gave us the confidence we needed.
An unexpected Ice Hockey game
After our exhausting day, Kev and I realised that we needed to go shopping for food supplies. It was a struggle. We were ‘forced’ out of our room because house keeping needed to get in to clean it. I was a little annoyed as they should have cleaned it a little earlier than 5pm.
When we walked out, I saw that the lights were on at the stadium across the road. I also saw a scoreboard with a count down. ‘No way…’ I said. Kev asked what I was going on about and I replied with ‘Is… is… is that an ice hockey game?’. We crossed the road to have a look and indeed it was! It was Innsbruck v Linz.
Goodbye hunger! We got all excited that we forgot about dinner, and forgot about how sore and tired we were. The atmosphere was contagious! Families attended the games and the kids where donned in the team uniform and with vuvuzelas. The away team, Linz had a very strong support group who were cheering, chanting and antagonising the Innsbruck supporters in passionate, friendly manner. And the game. Oh the drama, the speed, the tumbles, the slams into the barricades.
Christmas in Innsbruck was a quiet one. The forecast for the week said that it was to rain for Christmas. So my expectations for a white Christmas was low, however, I still hoped and hoped with all my might that it would unexpectedly snow. Unfortunately, this was not so. So we had a dry Christmas, but it was still a lot of fun!
So that wraps up our time in Innsbruck, Austria!
We are currently in Copenhagen, Denmark and preparing to fly to London tomorrow night. Copenhagen has been wonderful so far! Will post about it soon!