Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Snow Days in the Austrian Alps

Although Kyle and I got plenty of snow on our recent visit to Indianapolis, we still wanted more!  Kyle had a few days off, so we did a quick two night trip to the Austrian Alps.  We stayed in a town called Brand, which was a short 3 hour drive from our house.  The town is in a beautiful valley that's high in elevation, so even though this isn't a great snow winter for Europe, there was plenty in Brand!

Brand is a small town that's pretty much centered around skiing and winter sports.  There are a number of lifts and slopes for people of many skill levels.  Luckily, there are plenty of other winter activities for people that aren't skiers like me and Kyle!  (I value my life and my joints too much!)  Our first afternoon there, we went on a winter hike and checked out the nearby historic town of Bludenz.  We had dinner at a cozy restaurant that was just down the street from our apartment.  It was a nice, relaxing start to our trip!

We had another hike planned for the next day.  We knew it would be an uphill hike since you can toboggan back down, but we didn't expect to hike half the elevation of an alp!  The map was very misleading, but we're definitely glad we did it!  The hike started on a peaceful path at the edge of town.  We walked through pretty snow covered pine trees while gradually hiking up.  The further we hiked, the steeper the trail became, and the more majestic the scenery became.  We saw awesome cliffs with blue icicles clinging to them and we were completely surrounded by the alps. There were not many people hiking, so it was really neat to feel like it was just the two of us hiking the mountain.

After hiking uphill for about two hours, we reached the end of the trail, where conveniently there was a Hütte, which is a restaurant/small lodge in the wilderness for hikers.  We were so glad to see the Hütte!  We were definitely ready to eat after that long hike!  We each had a hot bowl of delicious goulash soup and we split a flammkuchen, which is like a really thin crust tarte with creme, bacon and onion.  We washed it all down with a nice hefeweizen and some espresso.  It really hit the spot!

What a welcome site!

We rented toboggans from the  Hütte to make our way back down the mountain.  It was a lot of fun!  There was hardly anybody else on the path, and it was so cool to sled down a mountain surrounded by peace and beauty!  It's amazing how long it took us to hike up, and how quickly we made it down!

After our hike, a trip to a thermal bath sounded perfect!  We weren't too far from a very nice looking thermal bath in Bad Ragaz, Switzerland.  It had a series of pools with different temperatures in a beautiful building with simple and elegant architecture.  There was also an outdoor pool.  It was pretty neat to be swimming outside surrounded by snow covered mountains!  It was a great way to relax our muscles, which we knew would be sore the next day!

We were heading home the following day, but we were in no hurry so we took the scenic route. We drove through amazing mountain valley passes that were absolutely stunning.  It was foggy when we first started out, and it looked just plain majestic once the sun started burning off the fog. It was quite possibly the prettiest drive of our life!  We stopped fairly often so that Kyle could take some pictures.  We never regret taking the scenic route!

We stopped for lunch in a town in the Bavarian Alps called Oberstdorf.  It's a gorgeous little town that definitely loves it's winter sports.  It reminded me a little bit of Garmisch on a smaller scale. We had a delicious lunch of cheese fondue and walked around town for a bit before heading home.

Mmmm, cheese!

There's never a bad time for ice cream!

Austria is such a beautiful place; we are so amazed every time we visit!  We had a wonderful time playing in the snow surrounded by incredible beauty.

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