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.