Not goodbye, auf wiedersehen

Today I managed to spend a lot of time rolling in snow, quite a feat considering there’s barely any left.  So little, in fact, that the cable cars have stopped running to the top of the Hahnenkamm; yesterday was the last day of the ski season.

Today I went with Waltraud, Heidi and the kids to the Schwarzsee, literally translated as “Black Sea”.  It reminded me of when I first watched The Sound of Music.  It was from this film that I learnt that Austria had a navy (in which Herr Von Trapp is a captain) and this has never made sense to me; why should a landlocked country possess the means to defend shores it doesn’t have?  At the time, I jokingly asked if the enemy ships were flown to lakes so that the opposing sides could shoot at each other, to this day I still wonder if that’s what happens.

There were people swimming in the Schwarzsee, which was strange.  I’ve swum in it before, but that was in summer, we’ve just left the ski season and the lake was iced over less than a week ago.  I was also slightly disappointed that there was a light wind causing ripples on the water.  When it’s still, the lake is a perfect mirror, and it’s hard to tell which is the real mountains and which are the refections in photographs.  I did learn that the lake and its mud is over 300,000 years old and very good for rheumatism – interesting stuff!

It was inevitable, really

It was also here that I had my first close encounter of the snowy kind for the day.  We went of the beaten track following a kind of woodland adventure playground for kids, part of the track was covered by snow, which was hard packed.  Except when I stood on it and wound up buried up to my ankle!

This was only a taste of what was to come, though, a taste of what I would subject myself to just a few hours later when I went to the Hahnenkammrennen track.  During the winter, the piste in one of the fastest, most dangerous race courses in the world.  But now the snow is mostly melted away, the last layers being just slush and ice.  This evening, I decided I had to climb it.

It wasn’t a spur of the moment thing.  There is a large hoarding of Kitzbühel’s symbol (a modern rendering of the coat of arms) and from my arrival, I’ve wanted a picture in front of it, but it was always too far away.  So this evening, it being my last night, I resolved to climb up to it.

The first part – getting across the kiddie slope between the road up the mountain and the actual course – was fairly easy, the little snow that was there was soft enough to give me grip, but hard enough that I wouldn’t go through.  Gradually, however, it became slippery slush and my shoes were quickly soaked.  I got to the main piste and just had to keep plowing on, heading for a grass patch just in front of the sign.  It was only a few hundred meters, but I was worried about slipping, I was worried that I wasn’t allowed to be up here and the Polizei might come after me, I was worried that my camera my not save the pictures properly, making this all for nothing.  I was loving every minute of it.

When I made it, I went snap happy.  Every angle, expression, gesture I could think of, I took a several pictures of each.  I felt I had earned every one and the right to make sure that I had at least on perfect picture in there.  I even filmed some video whilst I ewas up there, which I want to use later (I’m putting foresight into my vlogs, now I shall be unstoppable).

Of course, then I had to get down.  I wasn’t keen on walking; the snow was soft and slipping over would be a lot more hazardous whilst walking down than it had been going up.  I thought it was a shame that I didn’t have a sled… and a thought struck me.  The snow was soft, I was wearing sturdy jeans, it would probably happen anyway if I tried to walk.  I should slide down!

It took me maybe five minutes, during which my thought processes alternated between “this is stupid” and “this is genius”.  I resolved at stupid at a plateau, where I could cross to the main road and head into town and where I stood up and was able to crack the ice in my half-frozen jeans: it was an entirely stupid idea, but totally worth it.  I also found the eaiest way to the road was using a skiing/skating movement, so I have now (sort of) skied in Kitzbühel.

Whilst I was in town, I bought some gifts for the family.  I bought a bottle of Austrian wine – called Servüs, the dialekt equivalent of aloha – for Heidi and husband, Michael, in thanks for their food and hospitality.  It was only a cheap thing, but they appreciated the gesture.

I also bought Waltraud a plant.  She has several Phalaenopsis, which Heidi pointed out to me, and I bought her another.  I was going to get a small one for €13, but it was a choice of that or a much bigger one for only €3 more.  For the past 10 days, Waltraud has fed me, given me a bed, washed my clothes and gone out of her way to take me places in the area.  She allowed me to stay with her family and in doing so, invited me to take part in her family’s Easter celebrations.  An extra €3 was the least I could do.

She was almost in tears of happiness when I gave her the plant – she calls it her Queen – and Robert was beaming at me.  I’d wanted to get him something as well, but I couldn’t work out what.  In the end, what I’ve learned about Robert is that his greatest joy is his family.  It’s subtle, but whenever he’s listening to his grandchildren babble or he sees his wife and kids happy, there is never anything other than a smile on his face.  I kind of hope he smiles like that when he thinks of me.

I’ve really enjoyed my time in Kitzbühel.  This place is my home, even if I am barely here.  The one downside of the place is that there’s no one my own age here to experience this with me.  A friend in Wien said he wanted to visit Salzburg and Innsbruck.  I’m going to see if he wants to add Kitzbühel to his itinerary.  I’d like to show him around.

Explore posts in the same categories: Ben is a strange child, Deftness for Daftness, Travel

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