Sunday, August 28, 2011
Wednesday, August 17, 2011
Thursday, August 11, 2011
Part of the reason I choose this particular resort, is that it has a program where you can drop off the kids 3 times a week. Although 3 times seems too much for a weeklong vacation, it’s nice to have the option of doing things that can only be done without them, like mountain biking. We just happen to be staying in the perfect mountains for mountain biking trails. Some trees, not too rocky, and of course a beautiful view.
It took a while to get ready, and just as Joe and I were picking out bikes and saying to each other how much Winter would enjoy going with us, the kids’ adventure land called to say Sterling was soaking wet. This presented the perfect opportunity to fetch Winter for our ride.
Not having a map, we just started climbing on a road from town. The incline was about 45 degrees, and very challenging. Winter was a trooper, but had to be pushed up most of the way (by Joe). After about an hour of climbing, we met some hikers who let us look at their map. Turns out, we were only halfway up the mountain, and no biking trails were anywhere near. Defeated, we headed down the hill, and towards the biking trail.
Now don’t get me wrong; we did have fun. All the whining, sweat, and doubt aside, we really enjoyed the scenery, company, and mere fact that we were riding mountain bikes in mountains.
So Winter and I headed back, and Joe moved on. We spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing by the pool and enjoying the sunshine. I wonder if I’ll be able to walk tomorrow….
After dinner we treated the kids to movie night, and all piled on our bed to watch Megamind. Quite a good movie! It was fun to eat popcorn and snuggle on the bed together.
Wednesday, August 10, 2011
We’ve been blasting through all these tourist attractions! The money keeps flying out of our wallets, but I really enjoy seeing all the different things. It’s not every day that we’re in Austria, and can visit Europe’s oldest Salt Mine! Salt has been mined in Hallstatt since 600 BC. I can’t even imagine how different things must have been then.
The last part of the drive there reminded me a little bit of the road trip to Oregon we made in 2007. Just driving through beautiful woods down towards the water. Hallstatt is located right a lake and a steep mountain, so in order to keep the traffic out, they have carved a tunnel right behind the city. Somehow this caused us to miss the entire town (we weren’t smart enough to leave our car in the parking lot and just walk into town)
You take a slide down deeper into the mountain, where they have a light show over an underground lake.
After taking another tunnel down even deeper, and seeing a 3000 year old mineshaft
You finally get on a tiny little train that takes you back out of the mountain
All together very well put together. Not too cheesy, and a smidge dangerous; which always add a plus point. Speaking of dangerous; Betsy had seen a rock face with ladders on the way up, and wanted to check it out. This trail was way too dangerous of the kids, so Joe stayed behind while Betsy and I explored. A cable was secured into trees and rocks, for an extra safeguard on the small trail right next to a death drop.
It was a great adrenaline rush, and I was a little bummed out when we had to turn back in lou of time, and mortal danger. On the way back we saw a little memorial for a guy who had died on this trail. Serious business!
Tuesday, August 9, 2011
I had read about the world’s longest Alpine slide, and we figured the kids would really enjoy that. While we were driving there, we saw another alpine slide that was about 30 minutes closer, and decided that the kids would probably enjoy this one just as much.
This alpine slide was set up different than any other one I’ve been on. It was almost set up like a roller coaster. Very safe carts that couldn’t possibly careen out of a track. It made going faster even more enjoyable!
Monday, August 8, 2011
So far we’ve been very lucky with the weather, in that the sun has been out while we have been out, and it has been raining while we were driving. Today was the first day that we specifically had to plan around the rain. Not a problem perse, but it did limit our options of activities. As we all wanted to spend as little time as possible actually getting rained on, we decided visiting the ice caves was the perfect option.
As soon as we took the exit towards the Eiswiesenwelt, or the biggest ice cave in the world, it became apparent that all the other tourists had the exact same feeling about the rain. We were told the parking lot up higher was full, and to park at the bottom of the mountain and take a bus up. Sure, no problem. We go get our tickets, and I almost faint when the lady tells me that the ticket will be $20, which is just for the bus. The actual tickets for the gondola and ice cave will be sold at a higher point. We didn’t come to Austria to be scared off by $20, so we just cough up the money, and enjoy the bus ride. That was a steep ride up the mountain! And as we are passing full parking lots and keep going higher, I am just a smidge grateful that we won’t have to do all that walking. After all, we climbed a mountain just yesterday, and my glutes can sure feel it.
We get off the bus, and quickly see the massive line up to the ticket office. Joe hurries inside the giftshop while I wait in the rain in line. By the time I get inside, I am ready to pay whatever price they want for their umbrella in the giftshop. This is also when I see that the line at the gondola will be another 30-45 minutes, there is a 20 minute walk to the gondola, and another 20 minutes from the gondola to the cave. By now Joe is ready to abandon ship. But not me. I’m stubborn like that. Once I have my mind set to something, I will get it done.
Armed with the umbrella, I take the backpack with drinks and cameras, and stroll leisurely up the mountain while Joe and the older kids walk “normal speed” to secure a spot in line. Somehow this day off from hiking has turned into a day of more hiking than I’d ever planned on doing. But alas, at least I’m getting some exercise right?
The gondola is amazing. It must be going at least on a 70 degree incline, and we’re shooting up into the air like birds. It’s a cloudy day, so we can’t see very far, but it’s fun to go through, and then above the clouds. The final 20 minutes up to the mouth of the cave are difficult. Winter and Ginger are both complaining about wet and cold feet. Somehow we managed to let them take off with shoes that have holes in the soles. There’s something to be said against $7 walmart shoes…..
With the large number of tourists, we get our very own English speaking tour by Lucas. Each 4th person is handed an old-time miners lantern with a single flame, and the door to the cave is open. It’s like stepping into a freezer. At this point I’m really starting to worry about those wet and cold feet, especially after we are told the tour is 60-70 minutes long. What was I thinking when I planned for this trip? We all had jackets and (semi)closed shoes, but the only person smart enough to bring a hat was Joe. There was one consolation: we would have to climb 700 steps. This should keep us somewhat warm.
The cave was amazing. The waterfalls, and columns of ice were breathtaking. The downward slope of ice made me want to jump onto it, and slide it all the way down. The ambiance felt almost haunted or surreal with dozens of little lanterns floating in the air. We were walking right behind Lucas, and his slow and steady pace really impressed me. Yet again photography was strickly forbidden, which of course means I just HAD to get at least on shot. This is the best I could come up with.
About half way up Ginger and Winter seemed to be in serious pain. Joe manned up, took Ginger’s wet socks and shoes off, and carried her up the rest of the way, while holding her feet in his pockets. Unfortunately Winter is such a big girl, that carrying her up 500 steps, and down 700 just wasn’t an option. This really made me feel for her, and made me think about the Pioneers, and how helpless those mothers would have felt. All I could do is whisper encouraging words to her, and try to distract her with the amazing sights in the cave. The most impressive part was when we were heading down through a fairly thin tunnel made completely out of ice.
Once we reached the mouth of the cave, we assessed everyone’s feet. Winter’s feet were cold, but luckily not even close to frost bite. Joe gave her his socks. I gave Ginger mine. And we set off with Joe carrying Winter, and me Ginger. For a while that worked pretty good. But by the time we got to the gondola, were not only my arms on fire, but my legs were shaking from exhaustion too.Even with all the climbing, rain, wet feet, more climbing, and waiting in line, we had a wonderful time. It sure will be a great memory to look back on.
A little update on the laundry situation: We washed whites in the shower yesterday. It was pretty fun, and 24 hours later most items are dry. Tonight we washed darks, and it quickly became apparent that without a spin cycle in a washing machine, cold weather, and high altitude ; it might take all week to dry the jeans and shirts. Even though the hotel staff has repeatedly told us the nearest washing machine is 2 towns over, we have found a laundry room in the basement of our very own building. We have kept an eye on the status of the laundry in the machines, and have concluded that no laundry has been done whatsoever in the past 24 hours. With a quick burst of adrenaline, and a small pang of guilt, I swooped down the stairs, and threw our soaking laundry in the dryer. Even if it can only get half dry… we’ll actually have clothes to wear the rest of the week.
Sunday, August 7, 2011
Being Sunday, but not wanting to get back into the car to drive to church, we felt it appropriate to spend the day as a family. Building relationships. First on our list of must-do’s is hiking. Hiking in the mountains beats just about any activity in my book. The hotel receptionist tried to sell us a map of the area hiking trails for $7, but after a quick glance, we quickly saw that we could drive up pretty much any little mountain road and we would find a hiking trail. We started from the hotel. Only a few hundred meter up the road, we got tired of walking on pavement and decided to drive the car up as far as possible. That turned out to be the best decision of the day.
Our car joined 5 or 6 other car on the side of the road, where a few signs steered hikers into the woods up the mountain. We took our sweet time, looking for elk horns, at huge mushrooms, and picking berries. At first we just saw raspberries, and they were hard to get to, and few and far between. But it seemed that the higher we went, the bigger the bushes and the better the berries. The blueberry bushes also started getting more plentiful and big. Luckily we had brought a little bag of grapes, so after we’d all had our fill, we started collecting them. It’s amazing just how many berries need to be picked to make up any substantial amount. We kept making our way up the mountain, getting passed by a few other families, and genuinely enjoyed our time together. There was hardly any bickering (with the few exceptions when one child found an especially good bush and another tried to join in picking it)
We were all pretty exhausted by the time we got back to the apartment, but somehow the kids mustered enough energy to play some Uno and go swimming. Joe was sweet enough to guide them in these activities and let me take a nap. We have a little kitchen, so we can save a substantial amount of money by cooking our own food. Of course it’s all very basic, so we’ve had to improvise a bit on a few things.
There’s no washing machine anywhere in this resort, town, until the next town over. So we are doing our laundry like the “olden days”, in a tub of water. Which just happens to be the shower. We all take turns agitating it.
Dishwasher. This might not be considered improvisation, but my kids have never had to do dishes. We’ve always had a dishwasher, even on vacation. So we are doing dishes like the “olden days”, although I explained that this is the way it was done by most people when I was a kid, and still by most people all around the world today. They thought it was pretty cool. The first day….
And finally, the internet. This is the hardest and best thing not to have. I love my internet, and don’t think I can live without it for extended periods of time, but it’s nice to spend time doing other things. Things that easily go by the waste side. Like playing games. Reading books. Telling stories. And building club houses. At first I was a bit apprehensive about the lack of internet, and wii, and TV, but after a few days without it, I can already see the benefits for my kids. They still argue, but we’re there more to catch it early, and to help them correct behavior in the early stages. They actually complain about boredom less. And they are learning to play WITH each other, and keep each other company.
I’ve always enjoyed playing games, and grew up in a family where game playing was a regular occurance. But Joe came from a family that either hates games, and they just never played them. So Joe’s not a big fan. But I’m starting to see him enjoying himself while playing with our little family. And that makes me happy. It teaches the kids sportsmanship, and stimulates their brains.
Saturday, August 6, 2011
Germany has many concentration camps that were used in WW2 to exterminate millions of Jews, political prisoners, and other opponents of Hitler and his regime. Since we were driving past Dachau, one of the first concentration camps, I felt it would be a good teaching opportunity for the kids. We have been discussing the second world war quite a bit recently, starting with a visit to the Anne Frank house in Amsterdam last week. I can see the curiousity and interest in Winter, similar to that which I had as a child. It’s important for kids to learn these difficult and sad histories, to build character and understanding.
After Dachau, we had just a few more hours of driving to our vacation apartment. Instead of taking the scenic route, I couldn’t wait to get out of the car. A VW golf is not the ideal roadtrip car, with a huge lack of room to spread out. But it amazes me that somehow we have enough space to bring stuff for 5 people without a problem. Especially considering the fact that we use to could barely fit everything in our Suburban.
Friday, August 5, 2011
Saw the most amazing Christmas shop EVER. I don't get impressed very easily, especially not by Christmas decorations, but this place just .... took words out of my mouth. The quality of Christmas decorations and amount and variety was unfathomable. (Again, I guess we weren't supposed to take pictures, but REALLY.. what harm can it do?)