The hills are alive (Austria)
The fog continued to consume our surroundings after we left Munich in mid-November 2011, but just a few hours later, it lifted as our surroundings became much larger. With dad’s new, trusty Garmin telling us the way, we headed to Ramsau an Dachstein in Austria. The hills weren’t actually alive, but no doubt were we as we took it all in for the first time. The daylight was quickly fleeting, however, so much of our drive was dark, but not before we saw beauty all around on our way. We saw small villages, a castle, snow peaks, the fountain of youth, and more (note: we did not see the fountain of youth).
When we arrived at what was supposed to be our destination, we couldn’t see our destination. It was so dark, and most every area we drove had no supporting lights to help us find our way. The Garmin failed to place us directly at our destination point, and because we had never been there, we didn’t know exactly what we were looking for. After driving around in what we believed to be the approximate location of the bed and breakfast we were seeking, we stopped along a somewhat steep slope on the road. My mother got out of the vehicle, completely confused and nervous. My father, who wisely printed some information about the bed and breakfast, decided he would review the information he had. Sure enough, the website indicated a specific turn to take, and because of that sliver of information, within five minutes we found the place.
Built toward the bottom of the mountains and close to the city Ramsau, this bed and breakfast was quite a treat. Upon arriving, we were greeted by a kind woman who happens to be the caretaker/owner. She and her family own the farm that is operated right on the same land, and they live in the building we stayed in. Much of what we ate at breakfast (including eggs, cheese, milk, and more) was straight from the farm itself, so fresh is easily the best way to describe the delicious mornings we enjoyed.
The caretaker had limited knowledge of the English language, but she spoke German. What was fascinating mostly for Alisa was that the low German spoken by the caretaker was something she noticed nearly immediately. Alisa took over communication as she is by far the most well-versed in German (I can’t even say something other than greetings, it seems!), and with that we were directed to our rooms upstairs. We got upstairs and happily put our suitcases down. At this moment my mother proceeded to give Alisa a big hug and cry. She was so thankful to Alisa for her communication skills that it overtook her emotionally. Dad looked at me, rolled his eyes and laughed. I also thought it was kind of funny. Alisa said it was no big deal, but my mom continued to tell her otherwise.
The top floor of the bed and breakfast has three bedrooms, two of which are very large, and the third is also quite comfortable. There also is a large kitchen with everything one might need to cook any meal. We had three bedrooms because we were expecting some of our Slovak friends later that night. Miro and Mira told us they would be quite late because Miro had a job interview that day (he was hired, by the way!). So, for a little while, it was just the four of us in this large, three-bedroom floor in the bed and breakfast.
We decided to get some groceries for the kitchen, and we also went out to eat. While the grocery shopping was mostly boring, the trip to the restaurant was more of an adventure. First of all, we stopped at a restaurant mentioned by the caretaker at the bed and breakfast. When we walked in, the lady working was talking to only one other person there, and she seemed annoyed at our presence. And, oh boy, did it reek of cigarette smoke! As you might already know, smoking is a bad, regular thing here, and Austria is certainly no exception. After sitting down for maybe a couple minutes, we all agreed it was too much, and we headed out to find another place to eat. We stopped at a bar restaurant, but the parking was hard to figure out. This place had a back parking lot, but it was small, and spots to park were hard to determine. My dad decided to put the car in reverse to get out of the parking lot. There was one big problem with this, though. It turned out that there was not much behind us other than a quite steep shot down the hill into some trees. The car tipped and then bottomed out at the edge of the parking lot. I had suggested I get out to let some weight off the car, and my mother was panicking quite a bit. I thought that if I sat on the hood of the car, the weight would make the car front heavy, and we could drive out of its stuck position. Before I could do that, however, dad told mom to relax, and he then gunned it, peeled out some, and rescued us from doom. Fun times!
We had dinner in the smoke-free room of the restaurant, which I am so thankful that they had, because there were quite a few bar-goers smoking up the place in the bar area. After dinner we headed back to the bed and breakfast where we ate snacks, drank wine, and played cribbage. My mother and I were on a team, and Alisa and my father were playing against us. I think my mother and I won almost every game, and I joked about “my skills” giving us the wins. I suppose that wasn’t the best excuse, because the next day that we played, we got beat a lot.
During our games, dad would say stuff like, “You start, chicken fart,” and, “Your cut, chicken butt.” Alisa thought this was the funniest thing as she laughed away. We all had good laughs that night, and I partially blame the wine.
Miro and Mira arrived late in the night. My father was up when they arrived because he’s a light sleeper and he had too much wine earlier. With Miro and Mira was another good Slovak friend of ours, Radka. She surprised my parents with her presence, which was really nice.
We sat down to a lovely breakfast the next morning before heading out to do some hiking. Given how Austria is full of beautiful mountains, the amount of picturesque views to take in was overwhelming. Within the first few minutes of the hike we were taking pictures. But don’t let that fool you; the hike sometimes was quite steep. While we started out wearing jackets, we all did take off some layers on our way up the mountain. While little snow was to be found during our hike, it was neat to see the areas covered with frost because direct sunlight rarely did hit them.
Further into our hike we came across a lodge/restaurant that was closed temporarily (perhaps not in season). Close by was a lake with a thin layer of ice on portions, and the mountains behind it made for a beautiful site (see the photo at the top of this entry). The cool air coming off the lake chilled our skin again, and we put our jackets back on. Apparently some of us thought of bringing snacks to eat, so lucky me, I got to eat a mix of goodies from the others!
There were bathrooms at the lodge, but they were locked, so each one of us who had to go to the bathroom had to do it somewhere out in the open. How exciting! I think I found a good spot, but I still looked over my shoulder a couple of times. But it was worth it! :)
We continued the trail by the lake, and more interesting things came into our view. Perhaps the most interesting were the trees on the top of a mountain being hit by the sun behind them. They appeared to be transparent like glass, and they shone bright. I have never witnessed anything like that before, and what a pretty, unusual site it was. I believe they look this way because of the fine details of the trees themselves. The sunlight passes directly through and around the areas between thin branches and leaves (the gaps), and it passes through other areas (the thin branches and needles and leaves), filtering them into what appears to be a more neutral, gray-like color, which would then, with the pairing of the sunlight breaking through open areas, create what appears to be a glass-like visual. I suppose, though, that the colors of the sky and of the trees themselves probably add to the mixture, which makes it more transparent and glass-like. It’s truly something to admire.
I can see why anyone would want to spend a majority of their time in a place like this, because it is fresh, beautiful, and peaceful. While I certainly enjoy my time inside and in a place where many things are accessible, an escape such as this one stands out as one of the finer moments in life, and I am so grateful to have spent it with my wife, Alisa, and my parents, and our friends from Slovakia.
That night we headed into town to find some local food. We first went to a restaurant which was rather empty. The restaurant apparently had recently opened for business, but all tables were reserved. We arrived sometime after 5 p.m., and the host said that the reservations they had booked were all for 7 p.m. Still, he indicated that because we didn’t make a reservation, we might not be able to be seated. Of course we thought to ourselves that we would not spend a near two hours eating dinner, but things are just a little different here. You see, a lot of restaurants recommend reserving a table. Also, people tend to eat dinner for longer periods of time, and at later hours. We Americans are more accustomed to eating at all hours of the day, and reservations are only necessary at certain places rather than most. Still, we have to get used to this way of eating out, and it was not a big deal.
The host said that he in fact could sit us, so long as we were out by seven. We decided on going elsewhere. The seven of us found a local, charming place near downtown. The staff and guests were lively, and we could tell that this place greatly appreciated our stopping by. While the food was just okay to me, I did enjoy dinner, and the company and service was great.
That night we played some more cribbage and had fun visiting with our friends. We played till rather late, then retired and awoke the next morning to another delicious breakfast. On another floor of the bed and breakfast was a group of young students who were soon heading out to snowboard on the mountain. We in fact were planning to head to the same location, so we asked if we could drive behind them as we were not completely certain of how to get there. They were kind enough to let us tail them.
When we arrived at Dachstein, it was also overwhelming. At one of its peaks was a ski hill, which is part of a glacier. We were interested only in visiting the peak that day, no skiing. The ride to the top was rather quick, but if you are afraid of heights or confined spaces, you probably would sit this one out. At the top was a platform overlooking the mountain. There even is a clear platform one can stand on and look directly beneath at the mountain’s foot below. Many great views of the landscape are to be had while atop Dachstein, so please view my Flickr set to see more.
This was our last activity in Austria before we headed out to drive to Prague. We said goodbye to our Slovak friends, then descended the mountain. We picked up our stuff (and a pair of Miro’s shoes, oops!) from the bed and breakfast and got back on the road again. Austria was a real treat, and Alisa and I thank my parents for such a wonderful opportunity. What fun we had!Blog, Family and Friends. Bookmark the permalink.