Well here we are, the end of day 3 in beautiful Austria. Since I’m still awaiting some pics from one of my cousins, I’m gonna start my travelog from yesterday, but perhaps mentioning that our arrival in Vienna after a near 11 hour flight was sight for sore eyes. A beautiful city indeed, and I was quickly reminded of this on our drive from the airport to one of other cousins’ home and taking a pass around the main ring of the city.
Leaving the rest of that day aside for now, and putting the air flight of our voyage behind us, Lil’ Pinot and I embarked for the next leg of our voyage, 5.5 hr train ride from the Westbanhoff (West Train Station) in Vienna to Zell Am See, in the Tirol area of Austria (Austrian Alps). We were taking the 7:34am (Central Europe Time, 9 hours ahead of Pacific Time)…yikes!…as this was the only direct train there on Sunday. While I focused on some reading, Lil’ Pinot was having a tougher time of it given the combo of jet lag, being in private smoking cabin that reaked from previous lost bouts with the cancer sticks, and the understandable cabin fever feeling that this unruly symphony brings. She managed to pull a shift of solid sleep which helped, and the views of the alps once we hit Salzburg made for a more enjoyable last hour.
The whole trip took us through one area after another blanketed with a sheet of beatiful white snow chasing us all the way. I’ve only been to Vienna in the summer, and though I have experienced a week in January in Kitzbuhel back some 10 yrs ago, seeing so much snow every where we looked somehow warmed my heart. But when we got to the mountains, it really took on a new sense of urgency since I knew what would await us on the mountains. After finally arriving at Zell Am See, a town 20 mins from Saalbach-Hinterglemm, our ultimate destination, we hopped a cab as we couldn’t get ourselves motivated to take a bus with all of our gear after what we had already endured to get this far. So off we were with a super friendly local cabbie who was telling us about the mountain ranges, the 7km ski run (longest in this area), how one could hike to Kitzbuhel in the summer by going over the mountain range at the end of Hinterglemm, past the dead-end, for just a day trip.
We arrived at our hotel (Hotel Theresa) in Hinterglemm, which is the second of two small ski towns (the first being Saalbach), where their runs are joined for what is an unspeakably huge amount of terrain. Overwhelms the senses just to look around with runs and lifts on both sides of the valley. As we checked in we were welcomed by the glowing smiles of my goddaughter’s Mom and sister, Case. Case was holding a couple of cards that they were bringing to the reception desk so that these would welcome Lil’ Pinot’s and my arrival to our home for the week. We pre-empted their plan, so Case, with her adorable and mischievous grin handed us the goods. It was later that we were to find out that these were congratulations cards on Lil’ Pinot’s and my engagement, written out by Emma (my goddaughter, age 6) and Case (age 4). The cutest things you ever saw. We knew this would be the beginning ofa
wonderful week with our lil’ companions.
By the time we got settled it was already 2:30p so Lil’ Pinot & I made our way towards town to grab some grub. Of course, we picked the wrong direction and instead of ending up at the center of nearby Hinterglemm, we ended up in Saalbach, approx. a 20 minute walk in what had to be sub-20 degree (Fahrenheit) weather. Fortunately, it was sunny and the walk made for a great way to acclimate to the altitude.
All I can say is this place is beautiful all around. Never would have thought to come here, but it’s been a regular spot for Emma’s family (her dad is a dear long time friend of mine) for the past four years. He sure called it right and Lil’ Pinot has been beside herself enjoying the place. Needless to say, with a choice in the morning of water aerobics, gymnastics, running, and a killer breakfast, not to mention the inevitable day of skiing in dry cold weather (can you say champagne snow?), what’s there not to like.
We made it to a light dinner that night, but more because we wanted to see how these past 4 yrs had treated Emma since I last saw her. Her sister had a only been born a few months when they all moved to the UK (from Cole Valley), where they live now. Priceless lil’ girls with the cute lil’ British accents and a “joie de vivre”. As Emma and I chatted, Case had some news of her own to share and she would not be stopped. Of course, there was no real news, but she needed some attention too. Emma shared how she’s now the fastest swimmer in her class and how she was enjoying her skiing
lessons. By all measures, Emma is the perfect child. Well behaved, very thoughtful, speaks quietly but confidently, and is very distinctive in her adorable way. Case for her part has a tough act to follow but does so gladly telling her stories and being much more physical as a means of expressing herself. The two together are truly wonderful to experience, which of course was the object of this trip to begin with. There’s good snow in Aspen too, but no Emma and Case to be enthralled by.
Today, we managed to get out by 9:30am and ski/snowboard ’til 3:45pm…and believe it or not, we only covered some 25% of the combined resort of Saalbach-Hinterglemm. The place is HUGE! Lots of gondolas, not lots of lift lines, plenty of powder due to a recent dump a couple of days ago, and midday food that puts you in the right mood. I gotta say this, Austrians take their lunch breaks seriously. What a spread for lunch. I settled in to a Wienerschnitzel while Lil’ Pinot went with some gourmet chilli and rice. Within a half hour, we were back shredding what untouched powder remained, making an effort to hit some new spots we had yet to explore. The picture above was taken by my buddy during our afternoon session. The alps view you see behind Lil’ Pinot and I, was what you could see no matter what direction you faced at the tops of any mountain range there. Amazing.