Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Hallstatt: An Austrian Love Affair

It's true that I was on foot.  It's true that I stayed in Pauline's attic and picked at runny eggs three mornings in a row. It's true that I rented a bike from an extraordinarily crass bike rental guy named Eddie.

Despite all of these things, it's true that I fell head over heels for Hallstatt, Austria.

Nestled in the Austrian Alps, right on the lake, is fairytale land, otherwise known as Hallstatt. And if this is what the "end of the world" looks like, as dubbed by a few locals, then, well, I'll take it.

I fell hard for Hallstatt. Here's 14 reasons why:

1. It looks stellar from any angle:

Taking in the view from above
2. Because...fairytales

3. It glows at dusk

4. Hotdog paninis


5. Sausage


6. Impromptu Oompa concerts on balconies

7. Swan staring contests

8. Boat rides across the lake

9. Street wanderings



11. This

12. And this

Because no fairytale is complete without a swan...

13. Oh, and this

14. Bam. 

Alas, Hallstatt, how I love thee.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Don't F Up the Bikes

We awoke in the attic to the alarm I set specifically for breakfast, because something told me Pauline expected us to be prompt. And I didn't want to piss her off.

Rightly so because in the next few minutes Pauline became my hero. My pitcher of coffee hero. Her quickly acquired hero status was just as swiftly destroyed when the coffee induced euphoria cleared and revealed the breakfast before us. Promising at first glance, the hard boiled egg was in fact, not hard. The little packaged tin was not jelly, but liver spread. LIVER. 

Across the room was a jar of Nutella. So close, but out of reach as it was not for us, but the family's Nutella jar. We had plans to wait for Pauline to leave the room and sneak some of the chocolate hazelnut goodness in lieu of the liver spread. But, we were afraid of getting caught.

There it is. The elusive nutella jar.
Alas, there was the pitcher of coffee. And we didn't know it yet, but we would need it for our hike to our hike.

I cracked, okay, attempted to crack the egg open and it's guts spilled out over the fancy holder Pauline had chosen for this uncooked egg. It was amazingly unsalvageable. Wait until she got a load of the mess I made. I picked at some cheese and mystery meat, careful to steer clear of the glistening liver tin, and drank every drop of my allotted half of coffee pitcher.

We were ready for our hike.

But first, I e-mailed every place I could find that might have a way for me to try fly fishing. Fingers crossed that someone would write me back and I'd be able to check off my first item here in Austria!

Ok, NOW we were ready for our hike.

Since we were on foot in Obertraun, our hike began with a hike, up to the cable car. A cable car that went up (obviously), but seemingly up into the sky for infinity. Seriously though, this shit was high. And it was swingy. Super swingy.

The only thing worse than being in a swinging cable car is being in a swinging cable car packed to the brim with people.

I burst from the cable car letting out the unintentional breath I was holding relieved to be out of there. We made our way to a viewpoint creepily called "The Five Fingers" which delivered on views high, high above Hallstatt, and I forgot all about the scary cable car.

Pretty nice lil Sunday

We began our hike on the Heilbronner Circular trail with a quick sheep encounter. It was quick because as soon as I tried to get up close and personal Mr. Sheep gave me a warning nod like "you've got 3.5 seconds to scram" before coming at me. So I did. Scram, that is.

The hike was pretty freaking gorgeous. End of summer flowers still hanging onto the last bit of warmth, sheer mountain backdrops, abundant sunshine, and a giant metal shark. Yep, it was glorious.

Too big for a walking stick?

OBVIOUSLY had to climb up it

We finished the hike hours later, and boy were our dogs barkin. But we still had to walk back to Pauline's. Ugh. On our way down we had a bright idea to rent bikes. Only thing was the bike rental was all the way down by the lake. So we reluctantly made our way, hoping that our reward would be in the form of two bikes.

The bike shop was closed. Or at least that's what the 12 year old captain (who was wearing lederhosen) from the previous day informed us...that is, until we met Eddie.

Eddie was a bit rough around the edges. A bit of a scraggly mulleted rebel. A bit more than a bit rough around the edges, actually.

Our feet hurt we said. We were staying so far away in Pauline's attic we said. We needed bikes we said. We begged.

"I give you the bikes." Eddie relented as he tuned up a rather iffy looking bike. 

KJ and I secretly celebrated with eyebrow raises.

It was then that Eddie decided to become extremely comfortable with us and let his true self shine. 

He proceeded to share his entire life story, inserting the word "fuck" about five times per sentence as he readied our wheels.

"I fucking want to go to America man. That would be a f*cking awesome trip. F*ck." 

KJ and I nodded. Just give us the bikes.

"I want to f*ck my wife in Arizona." Eddie told us.

I looked at his ring finger. No ring. 

"Did he mean find?" I mouthed to KJ who was just as confused.

Is it even possible to accidentally mix up the words "f*ck" and "find"?

"HA!" we laughed nervously. Eddie was a real character. 

"This f*cking job man. Don't f*ck up these bikes. My f*cking boss will go nuts. Here's the f*cking lock." Eddie kept going; f*ck happy as he was.

He presented us with the most wildly amazing bike lock that could ever be. A cross between Rainbow Brite and Fisher Price bike lock circa 1982.

"What's the key?" I asked.

"F*cking sailboats." 

Right. As if it was the most obvious of choices.

We paid for our new transportation and thanked Eddie.

"Since you leave me no tip we have beer together." Eddie so plainly informed us.

Negotiation at it's finest. 

And so that's how we ended up hearing about Eddie's life in Slovenia, his stage fright playing bass guitar from a bathroom during concerts, and the word "f*ck" about 23723748 more times. Then as an added bonus, the lederhosen wearing 12 year old captain joined us, since he was friends with Eddie, naturally. His name was Bernie and blushed just about as often as Eddie employed his favorite word. 

I decided this would be a great time to ask about fly fishing. 

"F*ck. Fly fishing at the end of the world? Bernie'll take you. He's f*cking good."

Bernie blushed.

"Would you? We have one more day here." I pleaded.

Bernie had to work. 12 year old captains don't get much time off it turns out.

Back to the drawing board. Would I ever check something off? At least we had bikes to get back to Pauline's attic. So there was that.