Before I arrived in Germany, my host parents and I emailed a little back and forth. I was so excited, I must have been checking my email about five times a day! One of the emails they sent me included the question: 'Do you ski?'.
And so when I had to fit a year's worth of everything into two suitcases, I included some ski clothes, as my host family had planned a trip to the Austrian Alps for our February vacation.
My host brother and a really good friend of mine ended up tagging along, and so all five of us squeezed in the car early last Saturday morning. My host dad drove about half a mile, then realized we forgot the Wurst so we had to drive back. After that little episode, we drove through the better part of six hours, snow, rain, and Bavaria, before making it to a little ski village called Riezlern in the Austrian Alps. Riezlern is part of the ski community of Kleinwalsertal, which is pretty unique as you can only access it from Germany. Our condo was owned by a family of the name Süß, which means Sweet. Ferienwohnungen Süß- Sweet's Condos. Cute or what?
We would be staying for six days, and would be leaving the next Saturday.
All of us rented skis at a little place called Edelweiß, and for those of you who have seen (or have been forced to watch) "The Sound Of Music" as much as I have, you know that the Austrian song that the father sings in front of his children goes by the same name. I got super awesome skis with flames on them to match the camo helmet I had to borrow from my host brother, but that's beside the point.
On our first day out, we suffered through 30 foot visibility and 10°F weather. It was snowing and windy. We ended up calling it quits around 2:30 PM, which meant that I had time to sleep before and after the Super Bowl that I was planning to watch with my host brother. We both rooted for the Ravens (maybe because I made him), but after the amazing 109 yard touchdown by Jones, I kind of fell asleep. It was almost four in the morning, so please understand. Regardless, my host brother stayed up till the end and witnessed the last play. I'm kind of disappointed I missed it, but whatever. That's why there is YouTube.
I was even more upset that I fell asleep during the Super Bowl on Monday morning, because I could have stayed up- we ended up not going skiing on Monday. From the bedroom window, I could get an amazing glimpse out on to the village and mountains. Or into a white cloud of snow. Which was what happened on Monday.
My host parents decided to drive us down to the valley, which brought us back into Germany. We went on a hike through a little canyon, which was unbelievably beautiful. The cliffs we were walking underneath sheltered us from the snow, and later the rain.
Waking up bright and early, we reached the slopes at 9:30. The temperature was in the mid twenties, and we could even see the sun.
That lasted about two hours.
Without any warning, a white cloud enveloped the mountain. It wasn't the warm type of enveloping, snug and blanket-like, but the kind that blinds and suffocates you, and tries to knock you over with hurricane winds and dumps snow into your face. We were too far along to retreat back to the lifts, yet not far enough to quickly head to the lodge. There seemed to be no one else on the slope aside from us five. If there were, I couldn't see them. I was terrified. I didn't know where the edge of the slope was. I could have easily fallen to my death, and no one would have seen. Maybe I'm being a little dramatic, but I had never experienced anything like the anger of that snow storm and it scared me witless. We skied five feet, waited until the gusts stopped, and skied another five feet until the gusts started again. It took forever and killed my legs, until we finally made it to the lodge. When we went back outside after lunch, the sun was out to greet us.
The conditions thankfully remained pretty consistent throughout the day, with sun until mid afternoon and then snow. We skied from Austria to Germany (all the way from the mountain to the valley) which I found pretty cool. After a long day, we dropped off my host brother at the condo then the four of us headed out to go sledding. My host parents were excited to show me 'traditional' sledding, as I told them I'm accustomed to sledding in plastic saucers and foam boards. Traditional sledding takes forever. It's very very slow.
We tried another sledding slope, which even had a lift! We used the sleds available there, which had old skis as bases and went incredibly fast. It was a blast!
Another day 'wasted'. From my bedroom window, I once again saw only white. By mid-afternoon it cleared up, so my friend, host brother, and I headed out to play in the snow. It was about three feet high at some points, higher at others. We built a path then tried to build a wall, but gave up and had a snowball fight. It was a lot of hard work, especially since everyone ended up getting stuck in the snow.
At first it looked like we wouldn't go skiing again, but we decided to make the most of our last day, and went for it. The conditions kept changing every ten minutes, from wind to sun to pouring snow.
We left around 9:45 from the condo and headed towards Regensburg, Bavaria where we planned on staying overnight with friends of my host parent's. It was about four hours with traffic. After a post-arrival coffee, we got in the car, where the friends gave us a little bit of a tour. Regensburg was the former residence of Pope Benedikt XVI (who just got back in the news with the announcement of his resigning), so we saw his house. Or, my host dad did. We had split into two cars, one for my host mom, my friend, the wife, and I, and one for my host dad, the husband, and the daughter. We saw a sign for the Pope's house, stopped to take a picture of it, and didn't see the other car anymore so we figured they had gotten impatient and driven ahead. We left to go 'follow' them, not realizing that they had just taken another turn to see the actual house.
I did, though, see the cathedral in which he used to hold mass. It was absolutely beautiful. The altar piece was coated entirely in silver!
We then wandered a bit through the city and through the snow. Although my district is hosting a tour around Europe which will go through Regensburg, I was glad to have some time to walk around without having a schedule. Regensburg is a really old city, first settled in 90 AD by the Romans. It was barely destroyed by WW2, so some really old buildings still stand. For example, next to the old bridge over the Danube stands a little snack bar. This snack bar was built in the 9th century for the workers who built the bridge. Both still exist to this day. The snack bar even has its original kitchen! And to think my computer can't last a year....