Skiing, holiday and travels

Over the last three weeks of December, my fiancée and I had the opportunity to do a trip through a bit of central Europe. A trip we had planned to do in August, and then postponed and then changed, and then changed again. It was great to finally get there.

We flew into Munich early on a Friday and spent the day riding trams from hostel to Paleontology Museum to Deutsches Museum to restaurants and everywhere in between.

Sunset on the Isar

Sunset on the Isar

The next morning we were picked up to start a week ski package outside Innsbruck (Austria). It was organised by SkiAustria. And I would recommend them. We had a great time. It was the two of us and a couple from ‘Maritzburg who we didn’t know previously, but got along with well. It was a pretty much all inclusive package, transport from Airport to ski-resort and back, all the ski equipment, lessons, accommodation, ski-passes, breakfast, supper and drinks.

Opening weekend at Axamer Lizum

Opening weekend at Axamer Lizum

We went early season, the Sunday we started was the opening weekend of the resort (Axamer-Lizum). And there wasn’t a lot of snow. It was a risk we knew we were taking, but it worked out just fine. Both the beginners/training slope and the main (ex-Women’s Olympic Downhill) slope were open. Which was enough for us as beginners.

Sunshine for the European winter

Sunshine for the European winter

We stayed at the Hotel Edelweiss in Goetzens. The service was wonderful and food and drinks offerings great. Rooms had a beautiful view out over the town and mountains. Staff were helpful and friendly. A nearby bus stop gave us access both to Innsbruck and to the ski resort.

View of the peaks surrounding Innsbruck

View of the peaks surrounding Innsbruck

Skiing is fun. Like super fun. I’d done it once before without instruction, and benefited greatly from our quick-witted instructor ‘Charlie’. Everyone on the slopes knew Charlie, and had a story to share. Charlie kept us entertained and skiing for 5 of our 6 days on the slopes and got us all down the big one on day 3 in one piece.

A misty lake somewhere in Austria (I really don't know where)

A misty lake somewhere in Austria (I really don’t know where)

After our first week we hired a car in Innsbruck made a quick stop at the Konnigsee and went on for a night in Salzburg (stayed in Yoho Youth Hostel). Spent some time at one of the biggest Weihnachtsmarkt (Christmas Markets) that we saw on our trip, and did a quick bus-tour round the city the next day before taking an extended walk. Back in the car, we drove up to Vienna.

Vienna skyscape from the Aquarium

Vienna skyscape from the Aquarium

Four nights in amazing Vienna. Lots of walking, lots of Weihnachtsmarkte (think we attended 5 different ones), Aquarium, Technology Museum, Natural History Museum, Mozart performance, more walking. If you’re there for several days I’d recommend the Vienna Card. Stayed in Enziana Hotel.

Christmas Market 1 of 1000

Christmas Market 1 of 1000

Then a train to Munich, arriving Christmas eve, and standing at the bus stop for only a couple of seconds, a local decided the bus wasn’t coming and dropped us off at our hotel. Christmas day we went into the city to have a picnic in the English Gardens and were surprised at how many people were out and about. Kids playing, music performances, runners, cyclists all enjoying the untypical sunny weather. We followed that up a viewing of the latest Star Wars movie in a packed cinema, before heading back to our hotel.

Christmas day Picnic

Christmas day Picnic

Boxing Day got us another car and a trip across Germany to the Black Forest. Spent the night in Todtmoos (Europaeisches Gaestehaus – more of a hostel). Odd little town, much more welcoming in the light of day. From there down to Switzerland. First night in Lucerne (stayed in Bellpark Hostel). Went up Mount Pilatus. Absolutely beautiful. Lots of tourists. Switzerland is very expensive. Tarryn had fondue for supper :)

View from Mt. Pilatus

View from Mt. Pilatus

Next day we travelled up to Grindelwald and had an extended walk in the forest in search of an elusive lake. Spent the night in French speaking (much to my confusion) Freibourg, at the NH Hotel (disappointing).

The Eiger (if I recall correctly)

The Eiger (if I recall correctly)

Our last day we drove to Constantz and spent the day hopping from shop to shop trying to avoid the cold. Flight out from Zurich back home.

Christmas Market food is great!

Christmas Market food is great!

We would have loved to experience a bit more snow, but with the amount of driving we did, it was probably better that our weather was as sunny and warm as it was. Most days in the 2-8degC range. Dropping a bit at night.

Majority of our accommodation was booked on Hotels.com, with one or two on Hostelworld.com. Cars booked through Hotels.com car hire interface. Do not hire a car in Switzerland, or drop one off there. Hire in Germany drive through Switzerland, and drop-off back in Germany. You will save thousands of Rands.

EU cars have steering wheel warmers. They're amazing!

EU cars have steering wheel warmers. They’re amazing!

We had an amazing time. Marvelled at the scenery, architecture and contrasting infrastructure. Skiing is definitely on our list of things to do again. Through some good fortune it seems we might be returning for a trip to South Switzerland in their summer, which we’re both looking forward to.

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