We arrived here on Saturday after an 800 km car drive. It wasn't too bad, since Nicole can occupy herself pretty well during long rides. Besides, she was very tired, as she had returned from her trip with the daycare the day before, where she apparently didn't get too much sleep! So, once in a while she took a nap. We had a longer break just south of Nuremberg - at the only German Reebok Factory Outlet! I'm a maniac when it comes to shopping on vacations, so of course we had to stop there. I bought new running shoes, which are fashionable enough to wear everyday, new shoes for Nicole, a t-shirt for me and a fleece shirt for Christian. Not a bad start! *lol* We then arrived here late afternoon, just when we crossed the German-Austrian border, the sun came out. That had to be an omen!
We are staying in a small apartment, which is real nice, not directly in the middle of the village, which makes it much quieter. We are overlooking the valley of Filzmoos - it is a breathtaking view! It truly is a wonderful scenery. We have never been in the mountains before, well, I had been as a kid, but I don't remember anything of it. It's different from the vacations we did before - we always stayed at or near the water of any kind. A little creek is running down the hill near us - does that count? Still, there is a small public fun pool down in the village for rainy weather.
Right beneath the house we stay at is a shorter hiking trail which we explored. It runs through the hills and forests and ends down in the village. Nicole enjoyed the hiking, there's so much to see! Lots of little critters and lots of mushrooms! In the afternoon she insisted on going swimming so we went down to the pool. Did I mention that Nicole loves water? *lol*
First of all, we went grocery shopping! I don't plan on cooking everyday, but once in awhile it is ok. We walked around the village and in the afternoon drove a few miles to visit the Bachlalm, an alp not far away. There are wild marmots living there and we even saw one! It then was hiding in its cave, maybe it was too warm and probably it didn't like the tourists around! A group of Austrians (I think!) were talking quite loudly, so the marmot decided to stay in.
Another day of hiking! We went up to yet another alp with a chair lift and hiked down again. We spent the afternoon at the apartment. The owners are renting three apartments and two rooms and they are fully booked. All families. Which means, a lot of playmates for Nicole! The owners have three boys, Jakob is 6 years old, Max is 4 years old and Michael is 1 year old. We have a lot of horses here and she did horsebackriding quite a few times already. The owners also have one pig, a couple chicken (thankfully the cock is locked away during the night so he can't wake us at dawn - his name is Alfred, by the way), a rabbit called Felix and two goats. There's another family from Hanau and one from Mainz.
Today we went up on the glacier! Snow in summer! The glacier is really high, we had to take a toll road up to 1700 meters above sea level (Filzmoos is about 1000 m above sea level) and then take a cable car up to the glacier at 2700 m above sea level! People had been skiing there. It was amazing! Sometimes we were among the clouds, and Nicole was happy because that was the reason she wanted to visit the mountains - touching a cloud. I had imagined it was cold up there but we had about 10°C and even walked around in shorts. It was too dizzy to see a lot of the mountain panorama, but it was a breathtaking sight anyway.
In the evening all renters met for a barbeque, which was really nice. Everyone brought their own meat and the owners made a couple of salads. It is so nice that everyone connects with the others, that no one stays up in their room. We talked a lot and had too much beer!
It was cloudy today. We planned to see the largest ice cavern in the world today, but having arrived there it turned out we had to wait at least 2 hours to go up with the cable car, not even knowing we would be able to get into the cavern in time, so we just skipped that visit. We then just drove around not really knowing what to do and finally decided to go home. I was PMSing anyway and don't feel well at all. Maybe it's also because I had a lousy night. We did go out for dinner though.
We went to see the ice cavern again and we went up very early! It was amazing! It is a huge cave up in the mountains and you can visit just a small part of it, approximately 1 km into the stone. Only this part is mostly covered with ice anyway. It is completely dark in there as the people want to keep it as original as possible. So, you get carbide lamps and the guide burns magnesia wire from time to time to have light. There are only wooden steps to go in and up and down and out. 700 steps!!! 700 in and 700 out. It certainly didn't feel like it though, but somebody must've counted them one day. In the end, the tour is about 70 minutes long, I had really cold fingers, even though we dressed warmly. It felt nice to be out in the sunshine again! But on our way down to the cable car, I slipped and fell and hurt my right knee quite badly. I bled and thankfully Christian always carries a first aid kit, so he bandaged it. It doesn't really hurt anymore.
We did attend a wine festival down in the village and met the family from Mainz. The girls (they have two, 7 and 10 years old) goofed around and we got to taste a wonderful red wine.
Just a short way from Filzmoos is an alp which is considered the most beautiful there. So we went there using a toll road and went hiking. Well, it sure is nice, but also quite touristy. But high mountains surround it, it looks absolutely gorgeous! On our way back to the alp we met an elderly couple picking mushrooms - when we talked, we said we don't know a single bit about mushrooms, so they showed us where we can find them. So we picked a few and had them for dinner tonight. It was an animal day, as in the woods a butterfly came to sit on Nicole's hair and it didn't want to leave! She carried it around, naming it Otto, but after about 15 minutes it decided to leave. We then had a snack in that restaurant. An elderly man sat at the table next to us, accompanied by a huge St. Bernard dog! It was really huge, being only 15 months old. Nicole was fascinated and petted him for a while.
We went hiking again, up to an alp, which celebrated its 50th birthday. It was cloudy and cool when we left, but sunny and warm when we were up there! I was dressed wrong L. We met the other family from Mainz and when we came back we had a very relaxing afternoon with playing cards and just talking. They are leaving tomorrow.
Today we went to Salzburg finally. We visited the fortress Hohensalzburg that was very interesting. Afterwards we strolled through the Old Town and I couldn't believe how crowded it was! I had imagined it differently and was a little disappointed. I didn't think Salzburg was such a tourist trap! One souvenir shop after the other and millions of people. How nice it could've been without them… The Old Town is nice though, narrow streets, but it wasn't fun just to be shoved through. So, we didn't stay too long.
It was already very cool and cloudy so we decided to make it a lazy day. We went by car to another small town called Schladming. We did some shopping in the pedestrian zone, had a sweet dumpling for lunch (Nicole just loves those sweet dumplings - they're filled with plums and are served with vanilla sauce) and wanted to go home. On our way back we passed tipis - yes, tipis! We thought it was just an exhibition about Native Americans, but it turned out that there are Native Americans *living* in Austria! Though they haven't decided yet if they are going to stay or not. They are on the "Power of Earth-Tour 2002" until October. We talked to one of the originators and he told us that they will settle as soon as they will have found the right place. After entering we thought we would just have a look and leave again, but it was such an interesting and inspiring afternoon! They had big tents with exhibitions, from traditions to paintings, Christian and Nicole tried archery and we saw Native American dances. The first part was with a family from the Lakota or Sioux, then two brothers from Mexico performed some of their traditional dances. Nicole got autographs of the Lakotas, and we decided to buy a wonderful Native American painting. I fell in love with it as soon as I saw it and after thinking a lot we finally bought it. We will find a special spot for it at home! We also bought a book about the Power of Earth-Tour and I think we can learn a lot from the Natives. It made me think about how we treat each other and the planet we live on. Especially just during the past few weeks we have had too much rain and a lot of floodings in Middle Europe and it makes me wonder if Mother Nature just strikes back.
It is raining. Not very far from us people are flooded! Sometimes it feels good to "just" have heavy rain. We joined the Mainz people for the public pool, but it was crowded of course due to the weather and it the pool is quite small. It was so noisy! When we returned we played cards again for a while.
Still cool and rainy, so we drove and visited another cavern. This one is a water cavern, still active, which means that the water is still moulding parts of it. The creepy thing was that the tunnels were flooded the day before as a result of the heavy rainfalls. We could see the line of some kind of foam above our heads - that is the carbon dioxide that is pressed out of the stone from the waters pounding through. That really was an eerie feeling. Afterwards we stopped at a little picturesque town at the Hallstätter Lake and believe it or not, the sun came out. We did some strolling and then headed home.
The last day already! We packed almost everything. Today we visited another fortress, which isn't too far away from here. The tour was very interesting and then we watched a bird-show with falcons, an owl, some eagles and vultures. Huge birds!
Nicole wanted to ride one of the horses for the last time - it jumped and she fell off. She hit her head quite hard and has some scratches, but otherwise she seems to be ok. The girl who helps here during the summer just dropped by and asked how she is doing. It wasn't her fault. I guess it was nobody's fault. Nicole went already down to the horses again.
So, later we will pack the remaining stuff and tomorrow after breakfast we'll be on our way home. It certainly doesn't feel like having been here two weeks. I wish we had a few more days, but on the other hand I think I will be happy to be home again as well.