High Alpine Road — day 1

Our next morning in Heiligenblut started out with sunshine instead of rain, so we decided it was finally time to finally drive up the High Alpine Road, to see what there was to see.  Since the first time I’d heard about this place, I was eager to check it out — 30 miles through the high Alps, with information stops, playground, restaurants, overlooks, and even a glacier!  We truly didn’t know how it was going to go, though — how many spots along the road would we want to stop at, how long would we visit the various sites, how much would we really enjoy it, would there be fun stuff for the kids?

We headed out to find out.  The High Alpine Road is only open for a few months every year, because keeping it free of snow would be an impossible task, though some parts are accessible to skiers through the winter.  In the summer, you pay a fee to drive along the road, unless you have a Kärtnen card (which we did, thanks to our hotel) which makes entrance to the road, the cable cars, and lots of other things completely free.


Right away, we knew we were not going to be disappointed.  The views along the road were beautiful.  We passed through mountain meadows and along steep cliff faces.  We passed under the cable car we’d ridden in the day before and saw several gorgeous waterfalls.  It was spectacular.


525Our first actual stop was at the Pasterze glacier.  We had heard, from our hosts at the hotel, that the glacier had really melted a lot in recent years.  They weren’t kidding.  Although the view of the top of the Großglockner was truly impressive (as were the tracks we could see in the snow from the brave people who had climbed to the summit recently), seeing the size of the glacier, and beginning to understand the volume of ice that has been lost, was shocking and very sad.  Back in the 1960s, a funicular was constructed to allow tourists easy access to the actual glacier — you could take the funicular down from the parking lot area off of the High Alpine Road and actually walk right up to the glacier.  We only hiked down a little way, but a lot has changed in the last 50+ years.  Now, it takes a couple of hours of hiking from the end of the funicular in order to reach the actual glacier.  This little bit of ice, off in the distance, reached to where I was standing to take this picture only 44 years ago.  It used to fill up the entire valley, and now it has retreated to just one end.  The loss of ice and water in this one spot is absolutely stunning.  (And the pictures don’t even really convey the scope of the situation.  This valley is HUGE.  The little “puddle” down in the bottom is a massive lake.  I invite anyone who disbelieves human-cased climate change to visit a place like this, see the extent of ice loss, and see if it doesn’t change your mind.)



It was beyond our energy and ability to hike down to the glacier with the kids (actually, I think we could have hiked DOWN just fine, but getting back might have been a challenge, because I think we would have had to carry them most of the way back up), so we satisfied ourselves with a quick walk down to get a good view of the glacier, and then we moved on along down the road.


Our next stop for the day was at a great Alpine playground (which was co-located with a lovely restaurant, where we had lunch).  It was everything I love about Austrian playgrounds — lots of physical challenges for the boys, like zip lines, rope bridges and slides — but with an amazing view (we seem to find a lot of playgrounds with great views in our travels)!



After wearing ourselves out for a few hours at the beautiful playground, we made a stop by our favorite snow spot (the same one from the day before, but this time we reached it by car) for another snowball fight.


We drove on a bit further (as far as the kids’ patience allowed — it had already been a long day) and got the chance to stop at some overlooks and scenic viewpoints with absolutely unbelievable vistas.  It was an amazing place.  Everywhere we looked, there was another beautiful view that didn’t quite seem real.




After a bit, we headed back to Heiligenblut, and then back out, far up the side of the valley, for a wonderful dinner (the best meal we had on our whole trip) with an amazing view of the town and the mountains.  After our first day on the High Alpine Road, I was thrilled with what we’d seen . . . and we’d only seen about 12 miles of the road so far!




After our overly eventful day spent with horses the day before, we departed Maria Lankowitz to drive to one of my most anticipated destinations in all of Austria.  We were headed to the little town of Heiligenblut, nestled at the base of Austria’s highest mountain, at the edge of the massive Hohe Tauern National Park, and at the beginning of the High Alpine Road.  We’ve travelled to a few spots in the Austrian Alps before — Innsbruck, Reutte and Alpbach — but I was particularly excited to see Austria’s tallest mountain, the Großglockner, and to travel along the High Alpine Road.

"We're halfway there!"

“We’re halfway there!”

But our task for this day was to simply get to Heiligenblut, a 3 hour mountainous drive from Maria Lankowitz.  Unlike our first travel day to Maria Lankowitz, the novelty of being in the car had somewhat worn off, and though the kids were remarkably patient, they weren’t quite as enthusiastic as they had been the first day.  It was a beautiful drive, with lots of mountain views, some rain, some sun, and a little getting lost (not too badly, though).We did well.  Road trips in Europe are different than at home.  Every single time we travel in Europe (not counting the UK, which is very slightly more similar to travelling in the US), the most challenging part of our trip is finding a place to eat.  In the U.S., this is not a problem.  Major highways are well populated with fast food drive through restaurants and rest areas to stop.  Large and medium sized towns can also be counted on to be full of drive through fast food, or at least quick-service chain restaurants.  None of that exists here.  (There are drive through fast food restaurants in Austria, but they are extremely rare and I’ve never been through one.  We did go to one in Germany, once, and we were so excited about it.)  When it’s time for lunch on the road, we have to figure out which local Gasthaus we’d like to stop at.  Inevitably, even a “simple” lunch will take an hour (more likely two) and there’s very little way to tell, before we stop, whether the meal will be any good (though most are).  Seriously, I love the fact that Austrians are less obsessed with fast food than Americans are . . . except when we’re on a road trip.





265269277By the time we had gotten ourselves some lunch, and taken a trip through some very long tunnels through the mountains (the longest one we went through, the Oswaldiberg tunnel, was over 4km — about 2.5 miles — which is long enough to be a bit disconcerting), we were almost there.  We started to see snow-covered mountaintops nearby (even though it was July 1), and we impulsively stopped at a beautiful waterfall just a few miles from our destination.  THIS is the kind of thing I was excited to go see!  Waterfalls and snow in the mountains in July!

299But, even given the amazing scenery along the way, Heiligenblut managed to be even more beautiful than I had expected.  It looked exactly like every single postcard I’d ever seen (or even imagined) from the Austrian Alps.  The little town is loosely arranged around a 600 year old church, with ski lifts and cow fields peppered on the hillsides.  The Großglockner iteself stands imposing and snow covered just behind the town.  I was instantly in love, and only happier to find that our hotel (Hotel Kaiservilla) was gorgeous and run by a very kind and friendly Dutch couple who absolutely adore kids.  Even better — the hotel was to be nearly empty for the days we were staying there, and they had given us a huge room with the best view in the place.  It was everything I wanted it to be!


After getting settled and enjoying the view for a bit (the kids got out their binoculars to give it a closer inspection), we headed out for dinner (getting slightly lost along the way — Heiligenblut is a tiny town, but there are lots of equally tiny mountain roads winding through and around the area . . . and very few of them have signs . . . and several didn’t exist according to our GPS).  We ate in a little restaurant/hotel combination across the valley from where we were staying.  We had a lovely, simple Austrian meal, and while we waited for the food to arrive (and then after we had finished) the boys played outside in the playground on the edge of the forest, and visited with the resident bunny rabbit.  As they were finishing their playtime, I noticed some animals grazing high up on the steep mountainside.  I watched them, trying to figure out what they might be (remembering our wild mountain goat experience from last fall) when I finally realized that they were horses!  I was trying to imagine how anyone ever got up there to get them down when they suddenly decided to make their way down the mountain and into the neighboring field.  (Looks like a pretty great place to be a horse, but I wouldn’t want the job of bringing one in that didn’t want to be caught!)


It was a great day.  I was so excited to get on with exploring this part of Austria, and so thrilled to be exactly where I was.  (Unfortunately, we finished our evening out by attempting . . . and failing . . . to remove a splinter from poor Liam’s finger.  That’s the down side to all of the great, rustic, wooden playground equipment in Austria.)


We learned a lot this past weekend (as we always do when we travel).  We learned about the town, we learned about how to make the whole process of toting a combination of children and tons of ski equipment a little bit easier, and we learned (quite a bit) about what we would do differently next time.  Here’s what we took away from our ski weekend:

072Alpbach  We stayed in the town of Alpbach.  Alpbach is in the Alps, southwest of Salzburg on the way to Innsbruck, in the Tirol region of Austria.  It is absolutely beautiful.  It’s exactly what I always pictured when I imagined an Austrian mountain town.  I particularly loved the fact that the whole town was still decorated for Christmas, even in mid-January.  And, if I went again, I would plan to take a carriage ride around the town (they even put sleigh bells on the horses).  The village is set down in a little valley, surrounded by mountains.  The town itself is pretty compact, and is no trouble to get around without a car.  It has everything you’d need for a weekend (or a week) away:  a grocery store, several restaurants, some shops, a couple of ski schools, a variety of ski rental places, and bus routes to connect you throughout the region.  On the negative side, it was a little tough to access from Vienna.  There are two train stations close by to Alpbach:  Jenbach and Brixlegg.  Jenbach has a direct train connection to Vienna, but very few bus connections to Alpbach.  Brixlegg requires a train change (or two) to connect to Vienna, but has more bus connections to Alpbach.  Neither is particularly convenient.  (We took the “hotel shuttle” — really just a ride from our hotelier — on the way to Alpbach and took a cab for 45 Euro on the way back.)  The day we arrived, the town got several inches of fresh snow, which made everything even more lovely.

009Train  We opted to take the direct train from Vienna to Jenbach.  It was a little difficult to get between Alpbach and Jenbach (not too much though) but the train ride itself was lovely.  We had a compartment to ourselves (almost the entire time).  The trip was 4 1/2 hours (5 hours on the way there, due to delays because of the snow) and we had a great journey.  The kids handled the train ride beautifully, and we all enjoyed ourselves.  Jenbach is a small station, and very easy to negotiate.

028Aparthaus Sonnenhof  We stayed at the Aparthaus Sonnenhof, which is located a 5 minute walk straight uphill from the center of town.  It’s really an excellent location — we got the benefit of a lovely view while still being close to everything.  The apartment house itself was really nice — spacious and very clean.  The appliances were all new and everything was in great shape.  Our hostess, Margaret, picked us up from the Jenbach train station, and her daughter helped us arrange for a cab ride back to the train station for our departure.  On the down side, the management does not live on site, so although they were very helpful in getting us set up, there was no one around to ask little questions of.  Also, although we knew it was a self-catering apartment, we were taken by surprise at the fact that there was literally nothing provided in terms of paper towels, napkins, toilet paper, coffee filters — usually, we’ve at least found whatever was left from the previous guest, but there wasn’t anything.  Overall, it was a great place, though, and a good value, and we would consider staying there again if we came back.  (The only reason I don’t know for sure that we would is that we might opt to stay closer to the ski lift in town if we were coming back for a ski vacation.)

Ski school  There are two ski schools in town with very similar names:  Skischule Aktiv and Skischule Alpbach.  The prices were nearly identical, but we chose to go with Skischule Alpbach simply because they were more prompt in replying to my email queries.  They had an office right in the center of the town, and they helped us figure out which bus to take to our lesson and pointed us in the direction of the most convenient ski rental.  However, we were not very happy with our experience.  The beginner lessons are held in Inner Alpbach (which requires a bus ride) and our instructor was pretty terrible.  She seemed frustrated to be teaching beginners, and wasn’t interested in teaching children.  (Jo, Benjamin and I took the lesson.)  She acted bored, largely ignored the adults, and was neither engaged or interested in our progress.  She was frustrated when B’s attention wandered, but did nothing to keep his interest.  Our lesson was held in the same area where the Skischule’s “Kid’s Club” is held, and I saw similar disinterest and bored faces from the instructors working with the other kids.  I would try a different school if I went back to Alpbach.  (Although more advanced students might have better luck.)

104Ski rental  We used Conny’s ski rental, because they were located right in the center of Alpbach.  Their prices were reasonable, and their equipment seemed to be just fine.  At first, I wasn’t thrilled with the service — no one gave us any particular help or advice, even though we were complete beginners — but I was very happy that they didn’t charge us for Liam’s skis after we told them he didn’t use them at all.  Conny’s also has a ski shop (for sales, rather than rentals) in the center of town.  I stopped by there to purchase some snow pants and got excellent service.  We stopped by again, later in the weekend, with a question about directions, and everyone was very nice and helpful.

130Skiing  We’re complete beginners, so we don’t know a lot about what to look for (or even to describe), but I’ll do my best.  In each of Alpbach and Inner Alpbach (two little towns, close together, but too far to walk — lots of bus connections, though) there is a normal, gondola-style ski lift and also an inexpensive drag lift area for beginners.  We only used the lifts in Alpbach, but the ones in Inner Alpbach seemed to be very conveniently located to the bus stops as well as within walking distance to the center of Inner Alpbach.  The gondola lift for Alpbach itself is actually outside of town (on the way back towards Jenbach) and would be too far to walk (but also has a bus stop out front).  The drag lift in Alpbach is centrally located, behind the church and by the Congress Center.  This is where we skied our second day, and we would go back here again if we returned to Alpbach.  You do need a lift ticket (sold on site, cash only, kids are free — not sure what ages).  You can either buy a 2 hour ticket for about 25 Euros, or buy one with about 12 runs worth of “points” on it.  We opted for the point system (since we wanted the option of taking breaks, depending on the needs of the kids) and we shared one ticket.  It worked out great for us.  B got to do several runs with Dan, Dan got to do a few on his own, I went twice and Jo went once.  It was just about perfect for our second day, since we weren’t sure how much patience and energy we were going to have for skiing.  On Friday evening, we saw some night skiing not far away, but I’m not sure which lift/ski area that was — there didn’t seem to be night skiing in Alpbach or Inner Alpbach.

088Restaurants  We visited two of Alpbach’s restaurants during our stay.  Flo’s has an assorted style of food — everything from traditional Austrian to pizza, along with a kids menu.  The pizza was surprisingly good, not too expensive, and was also available for carry out (unusual in Austria).  The rest of the food was pretty good, if maybe a little overpriced.  The service there was typical Austrian — a little slow, not too interested in customer service (she brought me the wrong dish and then tried to get me to keep it) but perfectly adequate.  The atmosphere was busy enough to not worry at all about the kids.  We had a comfortable lunch there and two carry out dinners of pizza.  We also went to the Post Alm Hotel restaurant where we were very pleasantly surprised by the food and the service.  The food was traditional Austrian and excellent, and the service was attentive and prompt.  The prices were very reasonable (we paid the same for a dinner at the Post Alm as we did for lunch at Flo’s) and the restaurant felt very welcoming to families.  We also stopped in to the Gasthaus Jakober (but didn’t eat there) — they had an interesting menu (also Austrian) and a nice ambiance.

General notes  First, we expected to find some kind of lockers or storage spaces, either at the lifts or at the ski rental places — we didn’t find anything like that in Alpbach (and it would have been so nice if we had).  We rented our skis the morning of our first lesson and had to carry our boots and all of our things along with us all day, in addition to toting the skis, boots and poles for all of us.  Also, our favorite moment of the entire weekend was when we took a walk up above the town (beyond the Sonnenhof) and looked down into the valley.  Whatever time of year you visit, it’s worth the walk to see the village from this perspective.

Overall, we had a great trip, and although it was challenging, I think we’ll ski again.  I would go back to Alpbach.  I might stay in the same hotel (unless I could find one right by the drag lift in town, or a good hotel close to the lifts in Inner Alpbach) and I’d probably rent my skis from the same place.  I would definitely try the other ski school, though.  This trip was, as always, quite an adventure.

Let’s go up the hill!

Today was a huge improvement over yesterday’s torturous adventure. (We’re learning already!) We started out by searching for a place to ski somewhere between totally boring and suicidal. We found a spot, right in town. It had a little “button” ski lift (a type of drag lift with a seat) and a not too imposing hill.

We actually began by trying to interest the boys in a little sledding. Although they were interested in BRINGING their sleds, we couldn’t actually manage any sledding. I think that until you know how much fun sledding can be, the whole thing is just too much work to feel worth it (kind of like skiing, actually).

We knew we wouldn’t be up to a lot of skiing today — especially Jo and I, because we were sore and tired from our lesson yesterday. So, we shared a lift ticket and took turns. Dan went on his own (just to remind himself how to ski — it’s been 10 years and he didn’t ski yesterday) but then he took a very excited B up with him and they skied together.

20130120-003250.jpgIt was wonderful to see. B was so thrilled to be out there, and so brave. He kept insisting that he could go on his own (but we insisted otherwise). He loved it. He did a great job. He’s really a skier now! The smile on his face each time he reached the bottom made every bit of carrying, dragging and aching completely worth it.

Then I took a turn. I was really freaked out. It’s been 10 years for me, too, but I’ve only skied twice and I was never any good. Parts of what I worked on yesterday were a challenge, and that was elementary. Just getting on the lift was difficult, and my legs were shaking from tension, fear and exertion before I even got to the top. I got off the lift, got turned around, and suddenly realized I was up very high. But, my 4 year old had just done it a few times, and I knew I’d regret it if I didn’t try, so off I went. I went very fast and suddenly couldn’t remember anything my instructor had taught me. I managed to slow down enough to gain some control. I managed a few turns, but my legs were shaking and I was going too fast. I fell. It wasn’t too bad. The snow wasn’t icy, and I didn’t fall particularly hard. But I was then faced with the always challenging task of getting up again. My first attempt nearly sent me backwards down the hill, but I finally got it together and got up again . . . and it wasn’t too bad. I had time to take a few breaths and clear my head, and then, as I started down again, I was able to remember my instructor’s advice and actually have a pretty decent time. I was still working very hard, though, and my legs were shaking so hard by the time I got to the bottom that Jo had to get me out of my skis. But, I did it! I skied in the Alps!

Dan & B went a few more times, and then Jo tried, and after I’d rested, I went again. I was worried I was maybe doing too much — that maybe I should end on my first successful run and leave on a positive note. I’m so glad I didn’t. With the confidence that came from a reasonable first run, the second was even better. I was relaxed, thinking clearly, and comfortable enough to even enjoy my surroundings a bit. It was so beautiful up there. I had a view of all the surrounding, snow-covered mountains, some in sunlight, some in shadow, and of the cute little town below me. It was amazing, and beautiful and as peaceful as it can be when you’re gradually accelerating down a mountain in a standing position. I think I got a small glimpse into what people love about skiing. My second run was great. No falls, even!

20130120-003315.jpgAfter that, B decided he was done, and Dan took a few final runs. We had been worried that Liam would not handle a day out in the snow well (since he didn’t yesterday), but he did great. He played, ate snow and ran around. He was a happy little guy. (Maybe skiing next time.) The whole area where we skied today was perfect for kids. In fact, we saw quite a few other families in the same situation as us — a preschooler on skis and a toddler with a sled, with both parents trying to keep everyone safe & happy. It was great to see that we weren’t the only ones.

After skiing, we had lunch, returned our skis (which might have actually been my favorite moment of the weekend) and went back for a rest in our hotel.

This evening, though, we ventured out again for a walk, and the boys optimistically brought their sleds along. B chose our direction, and just a short ways from our hotel we were lucky to find a hiking trail, very snow covered and perfect for sledding. After a few tries, he figured it out and had a great time. Liam didn’t want to try, though, so after a bit, we let Liam choose what to do next. He wanted to keep walking. And when we asked where he wanted to go, he said, “Let’s go up the hill!”, so we continued on, up the hiking trail, into the dark.

This is just how Liam is. He likes to walk, he likes to hike, he likes to climb. Mountains make him happy. We thought he’d be really into skiing (maybe one day). But, he likes to go UP, not down.

20130120-003451.jpgWe walked up a short distance, beyond the buildings of the town and into a clearing. And we were treated to the most beautiful view I’ve had in Austria. We were up, a bit above the town. There was snow everywhere, a deep cushion over the field where we were standing and on all the roofs below us. Alongside the packed down path where we were walking, right next to us, there was a stream gurgling under the snow. Below us, the village of Alpbach was illuminated — the church, the Alpine houses still decked out in Christmas lights — and we could see the little dots of light on the mountain facing us, all the little buildings and outposts of the ski resorts. Our clearing was lit by the moon and the stars (some of which actually appeared lower in the sky than some of the lights on the mountains) and behind us, further up the hill, closer to the foot of the mountain cliffs behind them, were the houses of the next village, with Christmas trees decorated all around. Other than the sounds of the stream, everything was quiet, and we all stood and soaked up the magic of the moment.

We had such a remarkable day. The challenge of yesterday has been completely overshadowed by the delights of today. I loved seeing the joy B got from learning to ski and the drive Liam has to explore. Seeing B come down the mountain, the view I had at the top, the breathtaking moment of seeing an Alpine postcard fantasy in real life, the feeling of my little ones’ hands in mine while we walked through the snow — I hope I can hold on to all of these memories. I had some truly special moments today.

File under: skiing, Alps, torture

We are beach people. Ever since I can remember, my life has included lovely trips to the beach. Not every summer, but often.

We are not ski people. I’d skied twice before ever in my life, about a decade ago. Dan has skied a few times. For Jo, Benjamin & Liam, this was their first time.

20130118-230443.jpgWe have no idea what we’re doing. And I mean that in a grand sense — not just on the slopes. We are complete novices, utterly clueless. We know nothing. For instance, we didn’t know that renting skis, getting on a bus and going to a ski lesson is one of the levels of hell. There’s just so much stuff, and it’s all awkward and unwieldy. The boots are horrible to walk in and everywhere you walk is slippery. The kids can’t carry their own stuff and all the skis and boots and things are in addition to all the normal day-out-of-the-house stuff you need. It’s a nightmare. We were all exhausted before we even got to our lesson.

20130118-230458.jpgI’m sure there are ways to make it easier. It reminds me of going for a day at the beach . . . only this was our first time, so I think we got everything wrong. With the beach, over the years, we’ve learned. We know what to bring and what to leave, we know how to pick a place that’ll be as convenient as possible, we know what parts are going to be hard and in what ways. We don’t know any of that about skiing. We don’t know how to make it easier or how to prepare ourselves for the hard parts.

Liam never even got on his skis. He fell apart pretty much as soon as we arrived for our lesson and although he recovered, he opted out of participating. He & Dan spent the length of the lesson in the hotel lounge next door, being warm.

20130118-230514.jpgJo, B & I endured two hours of torture known as a “beginner ski lesson”. Although we all learned at least a little something, and watching B experience (and enjoy) skiing for the first time was pretty wonderful, it was a rough two hours. Physically, it’s tough — just standing in ski boots for a few hours is a challenge, and trying to make the skis do what you want is harder and takes muscles I don’t typically use. It was made worse by having an instructor who was unenthusiastic about teaching children and beginners. I starting checking the time about 20 minutes in to the 2 hour lesson. We got through, but it was not a great time. (Except for B, who truly enjoyed himself. He especially liked the “bumps” — little moguls. When Jo & I tried that, we fell over. B has no fear.)

While Dan & Liam warmed up inside, one of the other ski school instructors came in to get one of the other kids warmed up. They all chatted a bit, and Dan ended up asking her, “This is so hard. There’s so much stuff, and managing it with the kids is so hard. How do people do this?” And she said, “You suffer.”

Which answers that.

But also, people here who bring their kids skiing seem to have mostly separate vacations. The parents drop the kids off at the ski school in the morning and pick them up in the afternoon. The school even provides lunch. It’s like daycare, with skiing. The parents go and have grown up skiing time, and the kids have their own thing. That’s really not what I want. I want us to spend the time together, even if it’s not totally exciting for all of us. (Although after today, I certainly understand their choice a little better.)

20130118-230631.jpgB seems to like skiing, so I don’t think we’re done. (Talking to him this evening about sone logistics for the next few days, he actually said, “Oh Mommy, NOTHING could stop me from skiing!”) We’ll do some more tomorrow, and we’ll see what else our weekend holds. If we keep this up, we’ll get better at it — and not just at the skiing. It HAS to get easier. Because today was really hard, and we were literally huffing, puffing and groaning as we hiked back up the hill to our hotel this afternoon. The skiing part was kind of fun though, and I certainly get why the sport is attractive — this is a beautiful place, and I do love being outside to enjoy it. I just wish we didn’t have to “suffer” to enjoy it.


Ski time!

20130117-234003.jpgWe woke up this morning to several fresh inches of snow in Vienna, and more falling. It was a perfect day for heading to the Alps to go skiing . . . which works out, because that’s exactly what we had planned for this weekend. It was pretty exciting to have plans that agreed so well with the weather.

We finished the packing and trekked snowily off to the train station. (Apparently there was enough snow today to snarl Vienna’s roads, and the mountains were even worse — glad we were taking the train!)

It was a perfect day for an Austrian train adventure. We were all nice & cozy on the train while we watched the snowy world go by. Although there was so much snow falling, on the ground and being kicked up by the train, that certain parts of the trip just looked like white on white.

20130117-234021.jpgWe’re pretty seasoned in train travel with the kids, but we had never ridden in an enclosed compartment, which we got to try today. It was excellent. The compartment had 6 seats, and unless there was not a single other seat on the train, it was pretty unlikely that anyone was going to choose the empty spot in our compartment. So, we got a whole little room to ourselves for the entire trip. We could talk, the boys got to watch some shows on the iPad and play angry birds (with sound!). We even played catch for a little while. And when Liam fell asleep, we were all quiet so he could rest. It was nearly a 5 hour trip, but it was the best and easiest train trip we’ve had so far.

20130117-234046.jpgUntil the part at the end, when Dan, who was repacking everything in the suitcases, hit his head on a reading light and cut himself. (Requiring our first task in Alpbach to be finding a doctor to glue Dan’s forehead back together. He really is fine now.)

From what we can tell (in the dark), Alpbach is darling and surrounded by mountains . . . which we will be sliding down tomorrow. I’m a little freaked out. They still have their Christmas lights up here, which is awesome.

It’s certainly been an adventure so far.