When I think of Austria I think of the Alps, like most people probably do. And, assuming that Google is always right, I learned that 62 percent of the country is covered by the Alps, so thinking of mountains when thinking of Austria is fair. The Alps were also the reason for my first trip to Austria back in ca. 2002 when I and about 40 other high school students from the north of Germany got on a bus to go play in the mountains in the neighboring country to our south. (Germany is only one of land locked Austria’s eight neighbors, next to Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Italy, Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Slovenia). It took us about 15 hours to get there, six hours more than planned because the highway was closed after a horrific bus accident a few miles in front of us. Shocked by seeing the burned out bus on the side of the road, hungry and exhausted, we finally arrived at our picturesque hotel in the middle of the Pitztal (valley of Pitz?) late at night. A bowl of hot soup has never tasted better (turns out that even teenagers can get sick of eating candy and potato chips). I spent the days on the slope at the back of the pack trying to minimize the damage of inevitable falls and the nights “dancing” to Out of Space by The Prodigy, which was our jam back then and definitely took our brains to another dimension (alcohol had nothing to do with it). It was a good time.
The second stop in Austria was a night in its capital Vienna while travelling with the German National Team. We stayed near the Hauptbahnhof (main train station) from where we would continue to our final destination somewhere in Eastern Europe the next morning. While we washed our stinky practice gear in the hotel room sinks (our male counterparts were probably flying somewhere in first class at that same exact moment but who’s holding grudges), our head coach, who was a small man with a giant sweet tooth, enjoyed the other thing that Austria is famous for, cakes and chocolate (see Sacher Torte below).
I look forward to being back in the Alps at some point in the future, as a much better skier than I was in 2002, and to top to bottom runs that will be filled with joy rather than with fear-induced tears and sweat.