Monday, March 20, 2006

The First Run

Bells—lots of bells awakened me on Thursday morning! One set tolled the time, while another set sounded more like the bells that ring after a wedding. Regardless of their purpose, for me they signaled my first day of skiing in the Alps! After a quick breakfast and a stop at a local rental shop, I hoped into a gondola and headed into the clouds. Unfortunately, I never really got out of the clouds. At the top of the mountain, people clicked into their skis, headed down the trail and quickly disappeared into the fog. I did the same and soon remembered how much I love skiing, but also how dangerous it can be. The first trail was foggy, narrow and gradual and then wider but very steep. It was on the steep part of the hill that I wiped out for the first time. While not the most spectacular wipe-out of my two days, it was unfortunate to “bite it” on my first run. Oh well!

Anyway, I finally found some sunshine as I approached the first chairlift. The sun illuminated a crystal clear panorama of mountain peaks, green pine trees and lots and lots of powdery snow. The mountain peaks poking through the clouds reminded me of icebergs emerging from an undulating ocean. It was absolutely spectacular! (I had a small camera with me and will post pictures after I get them developed.) The trails at the top of the mountain were nice and sunny but it was impossible to ski a long run without running into the fog again. For a while it was manageable, but by early afternoon I decided that it had really gotten too unsafe. I reached a fork in the trail where I (and a bunch of other people who were stopped) thought the trail continued in one direction, but realized that was incorrect when skiers started coming towards me. So after that slightly frightening moment I followed a ski school class onto a towrope (figuring that a towrope never leads to anywhere too scary) and finally found the gondola to take me back into town.

Dinner was a bit of a disappointment—Mexican at a place I thought would be a cool ski town kind of restaurant but wasn't. Mexican food is something that is really best left to Mexicans or Americans to make. C'est la vie! Besides Friday night made up for a lackluster Thursday… more on that tomorrow…

(I promise tomorrow will be the last Austria posting:-)


At 3:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


The pictures and descriptions of your trip to Snowy Austria were fantastic. Thank you.


At 6:15 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


Love your blog. Brings back many fond memories of my 2 years in Germany a few years back when I was also on a fellowship. I wish I had kept such a blog.

If you haven't been to Aachen yet, I highly recommend it as a 1-2 day Abstecher. The Dom and Rathaus are spectacular, and the city is very quaint with a huge student population. You can walk from Aachen to Holland and Belgium.

Cute pictures.

Viel Spass noch,

At 8:15 PM, Blogger eightyone81 said...

Uhhh, I wish i could be on the austrian slopes, too. did not make it to the snow this year and although i hear that the white is still falling and stacking high I don't think i'll get to see any this year...and i even have a house in austria, damn it!

At 6:40 AM, Blogger Erin said...

Thanks for the Aachen tip, Mike! I will actually be on a Studienreise in a couple of weeks and am looking for an interesting town or two to visit between Brussels, where the trip ends, and Cologne, where I catch a flight back to Berlin. I stopped in Aachen a few years ago, just long enough to see Charlemegne's thrown, but would like to see the rest of the town.

Hi Jonas, yes I am sorry to say that you missed great skiing in Austria this year! At least in Kitzbuehel April ski packages were being advertised-- hurry back and you could work on your thesis in the evenings and ski during the day:-)

At 12:08 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


I highly recommend Maastricht, Holland on your way from Brussels to Cologne. I spent many fun days in Maastricht and brought all my American guests there. It is a fun little town with lots of tiny streets and alleys with interesting shops and buildings. You can see most of it in a day.

I also visited Liege, Belgium several times, right on the way from Brussels-Aachen-Cologne. It has its own charm, but it is a little bit run-down. Sorry to any Belgians reading this. It is on the same river, the Maas, as Maastricht, but has a different feel to it.

Bastogne is a interesting little town on that same route, very historically important (WWII) if you are into American/European history.

If you stop in Aachen on your way to Cologne, you can get a quick stop in Holland in by taking the bus to Vaals, Holland. It is about a 10 min bus ride from the University in Aachen. Very small town but totally different feel from Aachen and nice pastures. If you have more time in the area, it's kind of cool to go to the Dreilaendereck, the place where Germany, Holland, and Belgium come together. There is a nice little hike (~30-mins) from Aachen that takes you to a park with a monument at the location. Good to get a snapshot of yourself standing on three countries.

Another nice hike in the city of Aachen is to the top of Lousberg. It is a little mountain in the middle of the city with beautiful hiking trails and roads. It's about 30 mins to the top with awesome views of Aachen, Belgium, and Holland. You can see the Koelner Dom on a clear day.

Aachen itself is worth a day or two. Besides Charlemagne's throne, definitely visit the Schatzkammer where there are a lot of interesting relics. You can also stop at one of the famous spas there and bathe in the natural hot springs that were the reason Charlemagne decided to set up shop there. It's as good as Baden-Baden. Walk down Pontstrasse, the street with the most Kneipen per foot in Germany.

Not sure if it's your cup of tea, but there are three famous American military cemeteries right in that area, two in Belgium and one in Holland with huge monuments. Most of the fallen from the Battle of the Bulge are buried there. It feels like the Normandy monument there.

Cologne is worth a couple days for sure. Make sure you climb to the top of the Dom, go to the Frueh Koelsch brewery and try the freshest Koelsch beer you'll ever have. If you are into museums, the Roemisch-Germanisches Museum is very interesting. And if you go to any bar near the Uni, you will be sure to meet a lot of nice people there. Cologne is the friendliest and most open German city I have visited.

How's that for unsolicited advice? I wish I could go back and do it again. Enjoy every day you are over there and experience as much as you can.

Viel Spass,

At 3:09 AM, Blogger Erin said...

Wow, thanks Mike! You rock! Your message gives me lots to look into in the next couple of days. I had forgotten about Maastricht. Cologne certainly is a friendly town and in the spirit of full disclosure, I have tried a few different kinds of Koelsch (for cultural comparison, of course;-))
What is it about Germany that is so cool? I wouldn't trade being an American for the world, but this is a wonderful country!
I guess you'll see where I decide to visit when I post it on the blog:-)


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