Westendorf Skiing

20131227-150807.jpgReini took me to a big girl lift in a neighboring town, Westendorf. There was a big chairlift that you sit on and it brings you to the top. I was very nervous about using this one, but luckily it ended up being a lot of fun after a few confidence-building runs.

This is how it looks when you do it well (ignore my finger over the camera…):




Christmas Markets

I had been dreaming of going to the Christmas markets in Innsbruck for a while, so visiting them this year was a requirement. Reini and I met up with one of his good friends, Hannes, and his girlfriend. We strolled through the markets, glowing with lit trees. We stopped for some glühwein, and I picked up a few presents to bring back for friends at home. Reini made the suggestion that we climb up to the top of the church tower. There we got the best view of the markets and city below.

After climbing back down, we were about to head back to our cars when we saw a lot of people gathering to the sides of ropes in the street. A little perplexed, the locals knew immediately what the people were waiting for. The Christ Child was soon to arrive! We ended up witnessing a grand parade thorugh the streets of Innsbruck. There were a couple marching bands, people riding horses, children singing, and a group of sheep all trotting down the street. Instead of having Santa sitting in a sleigh at the end, there was a young boy in a sparkly white outfit waving to the crowds – the Christ Child. If you remember from my last post, the Christ Child is the one who brings Austrian boys and girls presents, not Santa, so this is a big deal for the kids.

Another night, Reini, Kathrin, and I went to the town of Kufstein for their Christmas market located at the top of their fortress/castle thing. Their market was crazy! It’s located partially in the fortress and partially outside. The inside part was very long, winding aroud through stone tunnels – so cool. There were a couple areas for kids’ crafts, but it was mostly filled with little vendors, selling beautifully hand crafted items. I, of course, had to buy a couple of things to bring back home. After the inside portion, Kathrin, Reini, and I enjoyed some glühwein and listened to a brass ensemble play some Christmas tunes before we headed home.

Frohe Weihnachten!

Christmas celebrations occur all throughout the month of December. Santa comes on the 6th of December, bringing candies for the kids. The Christ Child is who comes on Christmas Eve with the bigger presents. And the Christ Child came to the Fohringer house last night!
The day was a very fun one, filled with family, food, and love. Reini’s sister was busy cooking the Christmas Eve dinner starting the night before so I offered to make lunch (pioneer woman grits) for her and Reini. A little later in the afternoon, Reini’s 2 cousins and aunt and uncle came over to visit with Oma and Opa Fohringer. We were invited down to enjoy coffee (and beer) and a delicious chocolate cake baked by Oma that day.
I convinced Reini to watch Elf on TV with me while we killed some time before it was time for Reini and his dad to play some Christmas songs on the flugelhorns for the guests of Oma’s hotel.

After some schnapps with the guests, the family went over to the Fohringer house for a wonderful Christmas dinner. Kathrin, Reini’s sister, cooked dinner this year – a big Christmas goose with purple kraut and chestnut stuffing. The whole family (Oma, Opa, Mom, Dad, Reini, Kathrin, Daniel (Kathrin’s boyfriend), and I drank wine and chatted around the dinner table. One the meal was complete, we headed upstairs to where the Christmas tree was to see what the Christ Child had brought to the tree for us! Reinhard’s dad lit the candles and sparklers on the tree and we sang Oh Tannenbaum. Then we distributed the gifts and opened them. The evening concluded with Reini and a few of his friends playing their horns at the church after the midnight service let out. It was a very lovely Austrian Christmas that I will always remember.

Mittersill Castle

Reinhard’s Christmas surprise for me was a trip to the Mittersill Castle in the Salzburg region. This castle brags about its 900+ years of history, overseeing the trade and tax collection of the region. Now it is a restaurant, spa, and hotel. It is beautifully remodeled inside, with furniture that looks as if it were from the 1800s. We enjoyed exploring the grounds and later partook in the most delicious 4 course dinner. Reini and I fel like royalty.

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DSCN4761We wandered down to the town below, named Mittersill for the castle overlooking it. The town had sparkly Christmas decorations lighting our way. The evening culminated in a cafe, me enjoying a hot chocolate and Reini a cappuccino.

The next day, Reini took me to my favorite Austrian city, Kitzbühel, to see their Christmas market! We walked through Kitzbühel and stopped for lunch in one of the bistros along the way. The market was so lovely. Austrians were sipping their glühwein and eating gingerbread hearts. I enjoyed browsing through the stalls filled with handcrafted items, most of which were Christmas decorations. I wish I could take everything home with me!

Alpine Skiing

Alpine skiing was not meant for beginners. The Austrians are very serious about their skiing. I felt like I was in Ollivander’s wand shop in Harry Potter World when they were trying to find just the perfect ski boots for me. There is what’s called the Babylift just across the street from the Fohringer house where Reini spent some time attempting to teach me to be less afraid of skiing. The 3-5 year old kids, including Reini’s 5 year old cousin Florian, were skiing circles around me. Those little guys are fearless, very unlike me.Image

The first day wasn’t too pretty, though I later learned that all the Fohringers (Oma, Opa, Sister, Mom, and Dad) were looking out their windows at the show I was providing. I fell a couple of times, but didn’t hurt myself or anyone else (I’d call that an accomplishment). It was a bit tricky getting used to the ski lift. In the babylift’s case, it is a cable that you hang on to for dear life as it yanks you up to the top of th hill, praying that your gloves don’t get pulled off your hands and into the gears at the top…

My tired coach taking a break at the top of the hill

That first day there was a German guy who’s family vacations in the village teaching a couple of his friends from Califormia how to ski, so I wasn’t the only beginner big kid there. Reini (and the German) taught me how to stop (very important) and do little turns. The second day was just Reini, me, the kids, and their parents. I was a little more confident, skiied a little (very little) bit faster and even went around some cones a dad had set up for the little ones.

We might so skiing again later in the week. We’ll see how long my gloves hold up…

An Austrian Christmas

Greetings from Austria! I’ll be spending my Christmas this year with the Fohringer family in the Tyrolean alps! There is snow on the ground, though the locals say it’s not much (it’s a whole lot to this Georgia girl!).
Reinhard and I are going to Schloss Mitersill in Salzburg later today. I’m super excited to visit this beautiful castle (and have a fancy dinner. Mom, I’ll be wearing my new Christmas dress). I’ll keep you updated about the fun things Austrians do to celebrate the Christmas season!