Friday, August 6, 2010

the hills are alive . . . with the sound of music

Twenty three hours after I got home from girl's camp, Dave and I were at the airport heading for Europe, just enough time to unpack, do some laundry, sleep a little tiny bit, teach a Sunday School lesson, and repack a suitcase. My Aunt Vicki convinced us that we could travel with just carry-on luggage. I was very skeptical - absolutely sure it could not be done, but she reviewed with me what we should wear, what to take, what not to take, and you know what? We did it. We traveled for almost 3 weeks with just carry-on luggage. (Thank you Vicki). It ended up being a good thing because we hauled those bags around on subways and trains quite a bit.
So I'm going to post some highlights of our trip in no particular order.
One of my favorite days was in southern Germany. We had rented a car to drive through Germany and had picked up Dave's niece (or cousin? second cousin? ok, his cousin's daughter . . . what exactly is that relationship?) Anyway, we were traveling with Kasia who is 21, a world traveler, speaks German, smart, tall, and beautiful! (Kasia, I swiped this picture right off your facebook. I didn't have any closeup pictures of you. Hope you don't mind??)
Isn't she gorgeous? She had spent a semester in Berlin and was about to fly home to Utah/Idaho and had a few days to come and play with us. We had planned a day hike in the Alps. Finding an appropriate day hike was so much harder than it should have been. My online search results read like this: - A list of all hike routes in Schattwald, Tirol Hinterstein zum Schrecksee - Moderate hike in Schattwald. Herrliche Panoramawanderung zum Schrecksee. Wannenjoch und Iseler
Basically all I can read of that is "moderate hike, in the region of Austria." Not helpful at all. I was back and forth and back and forth to google earth and mapquest to find if any of the search results were within driving distances of the areas we would be near. Besides the fact that we were not just looking for any old hike. It had to be picturesque, hard but not too hard, long enough to fill our day but not exhausting, etc etc. Oh, and it had to be officially in the "Alps".
We finally found -this one . It was perfect. It was a 5 hour hike along the ridge of Iseler Mountain. The description said "This adventurous hike starts off easy with the chairlift ride up to the top station (1560m), and has a straightforward 300m climb by foot to the summit of Iseler. However, then it follows a rocky path along the ridge top, dropping and climbing along the border with Austria, before taking a hefty descent back down to the lower chairlift station and car park. It's only 7 kilometres long but it takes a long time, as several sections require great care when choosing where to put your feet. The views from the ridge top are spectacular and very rewarding, but only if you have a head for heights and good balance. "
Ok, on paper that sounds do-able. I focused on the part that says "easy" and "chairlift ride" and then I kind of ignored the part that say "however, hefty . . . rocky . . . dropping . . . . climbing". And as for the length of the hike and the elevation, I never learned the metric system, so I just ignored all that.
Actually, I really did study it out and thought it would be a great day for us. I'm not sure I shared enough information with Kasia ahead of time for her to be prepared. Good thing she is so strong and fit.
The chairlift ride was gorgeous, and the switchback trail to the top was long, but do-able. We felt like we were on the top of the world looking over mountain after mountain, and down into the valleys where there were quaint little villages with a tall church steeple in the center of each one. There were dairy farms all around, you could hear the sound of cow bells clanging in the distance. It was breathtaking in every direction. We were at the point where most people go to see the view then turn back around. However, our plan was to do the whole mountain loop. We weren't actually at the summit yet. When we glanced over to where the summit was, I started to question whether we could do it. Not because of the distance or the height, but because of the scary trail we saw ahead. You can see in the picture below that the little narrow trail follows the ridge of the mountain - grassy steep slope on the right side of the trail, and a death defying dropoff cliff on the left side of the trail. The mountain is the border between Austria and Germany so if we fell off the trail we would die either country depending on which way we tripped. I don't know if the picture does it justice. It still makes my heart race a little bit.
Our whole purpose in traveling to Austria is for this picture. How can you be in the Alps and not sing "Sound of Music" songs??
But we made it back down to our car - kind of amazed as we looked back up to the top of the mountain we had just been on.
Crazy enough, from this hike there was one other place we wanted to visit nearby. It was a Bavarian Castle called Neuschwanstein, or as we called it 'Crazy King Ludwig's Castle' because we couldn't pronounce 'Neuschwanstein'. So after we stopped for a late lunch, we drove there with the hopes of getting in on the last tour of the day.
Isn't it a pretty castle? I heard that it was the inspiration for Sleeping Beauty's castle at Disneyland, and I thought it looked like the castle filmed in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. We didn't take this picture, obviously, because a) it is a winter scene that I found on-line and b) to take a picture of the castle, we would have had to hike up to a bridge on the hill for this overlook viewing platform and our legs were still shaking from our hike. We did, however, buy a poster of this beautiful winter scene. I don't know exactly why, because a) you can buy things like that on-line from home, and b) we were still 7 days away from the end of our vacation and we had to carry it around everywhere with us. You also should know that the cardboard tube they offered us was too big around for an easy grip and cost several dollars, and although we were paying a heck of a lot of money for this vacation, the cost of a cardboard tube was apparently just not in our budget. So we carefully carried around this silly poster for 7 days only to loose it in the taxi on our way to the airport to come home. Anyway, not only was the viewing bridge a significant hike up the hill, the actual castle was a significant hike up the hill from the parking lot. The only option was a bus that dropped you off near, but not at the castle, or a horse and buggy would take you right to the drawbridge. Without a discussion, we hopped on that buggy. Then once inside, there were 180+ steps up through the castle for the tour, and 180 steps back down and since we were the last tour, the horse and buggy option to go back down the mountain had already closed up shop and we had to hike back down to our car. Dave's legs were shaking so badly he tried walking backwards for most of the way to use a different set of muscles.
I would buy a castle in a remote country, in a far away land, up a steep hill, just for this very view out my bedroom window! Breathtaking isn't it?


Lauri said...

I loved looking at the pictures the other night and love looking at them again on your blog. Breath-taking!

Suzanne Barker said...

You are a brave, brave girl! The hike photos are stunning!
We went to Neushwanstein and we went to the bridge to take the photos. That part wasnt'too bad. Poor Edith was having a hard time though. By the time we hiked up to the castle and then heard about how much climbing was inside, we ended up just looking around outside because inside would be too hard on Edith. But it isn't like we didn't look in a BUNCH of castles while we were there.

Cathy said...

Wow, such world travelers! I remember going to the castle on school field trips & once w/ the whole family when we lived there in the 1960's. Love the picture but could here the song "Maria"!

everyday katie said...

This is the post I've been waiting for. Your poor legs. I don't know how you did it. It does sound scary, but GORGEOUS! Of course you had to hike the Alps. It's worth whatever it takes to sing Sound of Music.

Sorry, no view could get me to live all alone in the mountains. But if YOU lived there. I'd love to visit and enjoy the view.

And packing only carry-ons? I'll have to remember that when I take my European vacation (30+ years from now).

Your blog is always Spencer's favorite from my entire blog list. I'm sure pictures of your trip will just seal the deal. HE has a fondness for Europe.

Bandanamom said...

This is awesome, can't wait to hear more. !

Kasia said...

I miss those days! That was such a good hike and so much fun to do it with you two! Miss you both!