Monday, March 9, 2015

Igloos in Austria

Not long after I returned to Germany from visiting the States, Kyle and I headed to Kühtai, Austria, which is Austria's highest winter sports village.  I had found a deal on Groupon to stay in an igloo for a night, and we figured, why not?  It was just about a four hour drive from home.  We couldn't bring Gizmo since dogs aren't allowed to stay in the igloo village.  (Very understandable...white snow is much prettier than yellow snow!)  We stayed in the igloo for one night, then headed to a different part of Austria to stay for two more nights.  

We arrived to the snowy white winter landscape and changed into our snow gear.  We were greeted in the igloo bar with a cup of warm glühwein.  We chatted with the bartender for a while, and then went through a short briefing once the other igloo guests arrived.  That was followed by a delicious dinner of cheese and chocolate fondue.  I don't know why, but fondue is perfect in the cold weather!

After  dinner, the group of us (six people total) headed out for some nighttime snow shoeing and tobogganing.  We were guided by the very nice girl that was pretty much in charge of the igloo village.  We had never been snow shoeing, and we thoroughly enjoyed it!  It's so peaceful walking through the snow at night.  After hiking for about an hour, we ended up at a hotel further up the mountain.  We went in for some drinks before making a much quicker trip down on toboggans.  I'm definitely glad that the toboggan path was well lit!  Once we got back down, we had a bit more glühwein before heading to our igloo for the night.

The igloo was very pretty, complete with edelweiss carved into the wall and colorful changing lights. There was a waterproof mattress to sleep on, topped with animal skin and their heavy duty arctic sleeping bags.  The girl recommended sleeping in just one layer of clothing, which I should have listened to!  I wore sleep pants, a very thick pair of fleecy socks over thin socks, a t-shirt, a sweat shirt, and my hat and gloves.  I woke up sweating and had to take off some of my layers!  Those sleeping bags are no joke!  I also slept with my clothes for the next day in my sleeping bag, so that I wouldn't have to change into ice-cold clothes in the morning.

In the morning, we reluctantly crawled out of our warm cocoons and made our way to breakfast at the hotel that runs the igloo village.  We were very grateful to eat indoors in the warmth!  From there, we headed to the Lech valley, which was about two hours west of our location.  (It really wasn't that far the way the bird flies, but we had some alps in the way that we had to drive around!)

Kühtai in the morning

Our igloo 

On our way to the Lech valley, we stopped at the Ehrenberg castle ruins near Reutte to check them out, as well as the new, VERY high pedestrian suspension bridge.  We had driven by the impressive castle ruins a number of times in our travels, and decided it was finally time to stop and see them.  It was just about a twenty minute hike up to the castle ruins, which date back to as early as the 1200s.  We wandered around the ruins for a bit before heading across the world's longest pedestrian suspension bridge, which just opened in November of 2014, making it into the Guinness book of world records.  It was pretty cool and had wonderful views, but it is not at all recommended if you're scared of heights!  The bridge bounced quite a bit as you walk across, which made you really hope that they used a trustworthy construction crew!

The view of the bridge from the parking lot below

Pretty hike to the top

We arrived to the town of Holzgau where we were staying in time for a late lunch and a little snooze at the hotel.  (I guess we didn't sleep too soundly in the igloo the night before!)  There was a beautiful sunset that evening.  Shortly after sunset, we drove a couple of towns north to go on a sleigh ride!  It was pretty dark during the sleigh ride, so Kyle didn't get any pictures, but it was so peaceful!  The horses wore bells, so "Jingle Bells" definitely got stuck in my head for a while!  After the sleigh ride, they had some schnapps waiting for us that warmed us from the inside.  It was a very fun evening!

View of sunset from our hotel

The next day we checked out more of the Warth-Schröcken and Lech area.  It is definitely a place for skiers, which we are not!  We were hoping to go from the town of Warth to the town of Lech via lifts, but as it turns out, that could only be done by skiing.  After being slightly disappointed by that, we stared at the ski school in town for a few minutes, contemplating ski lessons.  We decided that the school looked like it was just for kids, and spared ourselves the embarrassment.  (We are very torn about learning to ski.  We love the snow and winter travel, but are not necessarily excited about the idea of learning to ski.  Everyone says we have to while we're here, and we kind of feel like we should...but we don't really want to!  It's very expensive, we'll never ski enough to get really good, and it's dangerous!  Every single person that skis has an injury story!  I think we're just as happy tobogganing and saving ourselves some pain and money!)

We drove to the town of Lech instead, and enjoyed the scenic drive through the Alps.  Once we got to Lech, we took a cable car up to have a delicious lunch on a terrace with beautiful views.  In our typical style, we tobogganed back down to town.  (Very fun and low stress!)

Rösti (shredded, fried potato), topped with bacon and egg

Crepe stuffed with ham and cheese in a cream sauce

The town of Lech

We headed back to Germany the next day.  When we woke up, it was snowing beautiful, huge fluffy flakes.  We couldn't even see the mountains because it was snowing so hard!  Of course it was hard for Kyle to leave knowing that it was going to snow there all day, but I wanted to get out in time before it was too late!

Austria is such a beautiful place in every season.  We always love visiting.  Staying in an igloo was a very fun "glamping" experience, and we're really glad to have had that chance!  Perhaps there might be an ice hotel in our future?

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