Schwarzsee, Kitzbühel, Austria

Kitzbühel, Austria

Monday, July 16, 2018

A lovely view of the mountains greeted us when we woke up in our Kitzbühel apartment.  I probably sat in bed for an hour just admiring the view.  Once we got up, we had breakfast in our apartment and set out for Schwarzsee, a lake a few minutes drive from our apartment.

From there, we started the Balance KitzTrail, a 3 hour hike recommended by the TI as being beautiful, having low elevation gain, and easy to do in tennis shoes rather than hiking boots.  There is a brochure you can pick up that describes several different trails in a lot of detail, as well as a hiking map you can purchase that gives brief descriptions of even more trails.  The city also has a website with some info about activities in the area.

We started at the Schwarzsee and started around the perimeter of the lake.  Beautiful!


This lake is supposed to be popular for swimming, even though the water is quite dark, and there are lots of lily pads and reeds.  I always associate both with leeches.  But in the afternoon we saw a bunch of people swimming, and there was even a giant waterslide.


James was super excited when we approached a llama farm, although at the distance we were at, they could have been alpacas instead.  In any case, it gave James more fodder for his “Alpaca and Maria” stories.  They have now concluded their date at the Empire State Building, and are now traveling through Switzerland.


The trail varied between dirt, pavement, roads, and raised board walkways, winding through farmland, forest, lakes, and villages.  You might want to double check with the TI, but this one would likely be stroller-friendly if you have something heavy duty.  When the kids were little, we took our Phil and Ted’s jogging stroller everywhere.  The tires were inflatable, which made them perfect for very rugged situations that included both easy hiking trails and cobblestone.  There was an attachment to turn it into a very compact front/back double stroller, which was perfect for navigating Europe with all of its super narrow streets and grocery stores.  The only downside was the minor possibility of a flat/popped tire, so we quickly learned to carry a spare tube and a portable bike pump.


We made sure to take the trail clockwise.  All of the signs had a sticker labeled “Balance,” but they seemed to assume you were going that direction and didn’t always have a sticker pointing the way in the counterclockwise direction.


The boys thoroughly enjoyed being out in nature, particularly enjoying the forested parts.  I always feel so peaceful walking through trees.


There were also a few cows.


And some electric fences to keep them from the path.  Of course, the boys had to find out if they were really electric.  Yep.  “But why can’t we touch it again?  Why don’t you want to feel it?  But, it just feels like the shock you get going down the slide.”  Little boys…


I also found the perfect house if I were to live here.  Isn’t it super cute?


The views were breathtaking.  The camera simply cannot capture the beauty.


We passed two other smaller lakes: Gieringer Weiher and Vogelsberg Weiher, but for whatever reason, didn’t take pictures.


The boys had a really good time and enjoyed being out in nature rather than touring cities and museums.  It took the expected 3 hours and made for a very good morning.


On returning to the car, we drove to the grocery store to get a few things for the next couple of days, then returned to the apartment for lunch and rest.  I love the views from our apartment.

There were supposed to be thunderstorms in the afternoon, but they never materialized.  Mountain weather is alway unpredictable.  The morning was supposed to be clear, but we had a few raindrops when we first got out of the car.  Luckily that was it.

We wandered into town and visited the church and chapel in the center of town.  The boys led us to a playground they wanted to play in.  Most of the parks we have been to in Germany and Austria have had ziplines.  In Ukraine, it was merry-go-rounds.  It’s kind of fun to see the differences in playgrounds in each country.  Our general conclusion is that most playgrounds are more fun than the average American  playground.  Not as safe, but definitely more fun.  And who can resist oohing and aahing over the horse drawn carriages that drive by.


On returning to our apartment, Jeremy and John decided to wander a bit more while I made dinner.  I love the fresh spätzle they sell in the grocery stores.  All you need to do is cook up a little sausage, toss in a couple of jars of tomato sauce (preferably one with basil and onions pictured in the ingredients) or one jar of basil pesto, boil the spätzle, and add it to the sauce.  The result is an easy entree with tons of flavor, and it doesn’t require a ton of ingredients, which is super important for travel cooking.  Add my favorite travel salad of diced tomatoes, cucumbers, bell peppers, and a little olive oil, and you have a delicious meal.  I also like to try the local cheese, and if we are in one spot for a few days I will often buy a couple of different wedges and slice them up to serve with our meals and take on picnics.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

For breakfast I cooked up some eggs, then we decided to do the 4 hour Streif-live KitzTrail hike, which was one of the highlighted ones from the tourist info office, and mostly downhill. We headed out for the Hahnenkammbahn cable car, which was built in  1929 and holds the record of being the first ski lift that was built for skiers.  Looking into this, I found a German ski lift that was built for tobagganing and skiing in 1908.  We bought our lift passes, then hopped on.  Note that one-way single ride tickets are somewhat expensive.  If you are going to be doing a lot of serious hiking in this region, definitely consider getting a multi-day hiking pass.


The ride up was beautiful.  I particularly admired two little lakes that we saw.  We later learned that they were the Seidlalmkopf reservoirs.  James liked that each of the cable cars had the name of a famous skier on it, with their corresponding country flag.


At the top, the boys were excited to find both a playground and a conveyor belt style ski lift that was in operations.  We explored some of the ski history and walked up to the Streif start house, which is where the famous Streif ski race takes place.  The course is 3,312 meters to the bottom, and the hiking path zigs and zags along it.


There was a nice panoramic view point that Jeremy and I explored while the kids had fun in the playground.


There was some expected rain, and we were in tennis shoes rather than hiking boots, so we decided to get started.  The path is quite steep, and we had a total of 3 falls while hiking down, but luckily no one was hurt.  It is definitely better to pack hiking boots for this type of destination, but we intentionally didn’t since we are traveling all summer and didn’t want to add the weight or use up the space for 3 days of fun.


John was super excited for this hike.  Not only was it the site of a famous ski race, one part of which has an 85% slope (called the mouse trap), but he was happy that the hiking trail was dirt, that it was steep, was a mix of forest and grassland, and that there were no signs of cars anywhere nearby.  Yesterday, he was a bit grumpy that we would alternate between too easy hiking paths and roads, but today was his vision of what a hike should be.


He got a bit carried away when we came across more electric fences.  “Hey dad, take my picture!”  At first we thought it was off, but no.  Why do little boys like being shocked?  We had a long talk about what would happen if he tricked someone who was wearing a pacemaker.


As we hiked, we got closer to the lakes I admired from the cable cars.


And we saw lots of beautiful wildflowers.


We finally made it to my Seidlalmkopf resevoirs and discovered some super comfy recliner chairs and sat there until we felt a few drops of rain.


The raindrops never turned into anything serious, so when we got to a nice bench under a tree, we ate our picnic lunch.  We really like taking bread, smoked salmon, and cheese with us on European hiking picnics.  Tasty, and a bit different from what we normally have at home.


Next we came to some cows that were “playing.”  One of the kids told me, “They were getting married, just like two ladybugs that we saw at school.”  Umm.  Yeah.


There was also a pig running around.


At this point, we had to decide whether or not we really wanted to walk by the frisky bull, but we saw some other people coming up the mountain and they walked right by him without incident, so we decided to keep going.


Hiking here reminds us a lot of hiking in the Jungfrau region of Switzerland, my all-time favorite place to go hiking.  We end up going to my favorite town of Wengen every few years, but decided that on this trip we should explore some areas that we might end up liking just as much.  I must say, I am really enjoying it here, but Wengen is still my favorite.  On the other hand, Austria is a lot less expensive than Switzerland, so is much more accessible.


We continued down the mountain until we reached Kitzbühel, where the kids told us they needed more exercise and that we should take them to the park.  That is one nice thing about taking a cable car up and walking down, you don’t get nearly as tired.  I know, I know.  Lazy!  But it’s fun.  And if you are with kids, they can go a lot further.


At the park, I decided to lie down on a bench and promptly fell asleep.  After the kids got their fill of the zip line, they woke me up and took me back to the apartment for a proper nap.  Jeremy went to the laundromat again, walking back in some fairly heavy rain, to get us caught up on laundry, then I made a pesto pasta to eat with our leftover salad from the night before.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

We had thought about doing the Alpenblumenweg (Alpine Flower Trail), but given the falls we had yesterday due to our lack of hiking boots, we decided to do the 2.5 hour Rainy Days KitzTrail.  The hike/walk started in town, then headed out to the Ölbergkapelle, which was along a nice, forested path.  Quite pretty.


On leaving the forest, we entered a nice meadow.  So peaceful.


We continued until we got to the Hinterobernau Farmhouse Museum, but no one was particularly interested in going in, so we kept going.  The path varied between walking paths, small streets, and small towns.


Once we came to Vordergrub, we ended up for a bit behind a garbage truck that was making about the same progress that we were.  The trashcans were spaced just far enough apart to be unfortunate for walkers.  Once we hit the end of the road, the signpost was missing and we were uncertain which way to go.  While we were looking at the map, three different people stopped and asked if we needed help, and we got three different answers on which way to go.  As it turned out, all three people were wrong and when we finally navigated to the correct signpost, we were on another forested path that continued along the river.


The forest turned into pasture, and we saw many signs like the following that James took a picture of:


The path eventually led us to the llama farm we had seen two days ago.  James was pleased.  From here, we knew the way back to the Schwarzsee lake and enjoyed our stroll, watching the swimmers and hoping to catch sight of “der bieber” (the beaver), which we decided to name Justin.  No luck on finding him, so we continued on towards town, making a brief detour to Lebenburg.


Super fun!  Once we reached town, we wandered through the church cemetery, stopped for a light lunch, then came back to the apartment to rest and enjoy our mountain views.  I have been feeling a bit run down, have a little congestion, and hope I’m not coming down with a cold.  My hope is that it is just my allergies to grass, but I’ve been taking my trusted Cold Eeze (zinc tablets), just in case.  I highly recommend bringing at least one box with you while traveling.  If you take them the first instant you suspect a cold, often, it will disappear.


Jeremy took the boys to the park and I enjoyed some time to myself.  We had some leftover pasta for dinner and I bought some tomatoes and turned our left over sandwich bread into crostini.  Yum!  If you have an oven, put it on broil, slice the bread and put it on some tin foil, toast one side, flip, add cheese if desired and toast until starting to turn brown, add the diced tomatoes, olive oil, and any spices you have on hand and toast until the edges are brown.  Be careful not to overcook or you may set off the smoke detectors.  If the kitchen isn’t well stocked with Tupperware or baking pans, just buy a roll of plastic wrap and tin foil, and you are set.  The plastic wrap is also helpful for packing sandwiches or slices of cheese for picnics.  The tin foil can also be used to cook frozen pizzas.

Now we are all packed and tomorrow we will head towards eastern Germany and explore the land of Martin Luther!

Keep reading our travel blog for more posts from our Gap Year!

Here are some more posts from this trip to Europe:

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