Thursday, June 23, 2016

East to West: Burgenland to Ost Tirol

With all the work of the basketball camp and Finny's birthday celebration behind us, we started our journey with Luki to Ost Tirol...a drive up into the high mountains and the embodiment of what most people picture when they think of Austria. 

But how could we drive east towards Tirol without stopping in at Kapfenberg to see our old stopping grounds and to visit our old friends. Bernie was the massage therapist when Eric played for Kapfenberg...he was a real character then and nothing has changed. Bernie invited another old teammate over and served us a fantastic lunch in his garden.

Which didn't prevent us from spending some time in his keller (basement)...basically a full-sized and fully stocked bar! 

It was a beautiful day outside, but it was hard to resist revisiting olden days of killing time with friends in Austrian bars! Of course, in the good old days, the girls sitting on the players' laps were a little bit older.

Lunch was delicious and it was so much fun catching up with Armin, Bernie...and Bernie's son Pascal, who was just a little guy when we lived there. Now he's a man with his own life...but JUST as lovely as he was when he was a kid.

We took some time to play some soccer in the yard.

Lukey was in heaven.

It was scorching hot and we had quite a bit of driving ahead of us, but it was hard to leave this little slice of Austrian paradise. Kapfenberg was never my favourite of the places we lived, but people like Bernie made it a much better environment.

Next up, a gorgeous drive through the heart of the country. Everything sparkles in the sunshine and the rural areas of Austria looked pastoral and spectacular.

Even when nature calls, the roadside stops are picturesque. The mill below was super old, but like so many things in the country, it has been lovingly kept up over hundreds of years so that it is still functional. I wonder how many people have walked up here in their lifetimes to turn the wheel on this mill?

Finally, we arrived at our final destination: Obertilliach. A tiny village perched on the hillside, it looked like a picture book.

Every home was the half-timbered style so typical and traditional for the area.

Cows wandered all over and the little streets wound through the village in such a way that it was impossible to know what was a road and what was a driveway. Probably, it was all pretty much the same...!

Our closest neighbours were cows...

Below is the view we had from our room:

It was really neat, because this was a place that Luki organized and reserved. We wouldn't have known where to go or what to expect in this fact, it is the part of Austria we have spent the least amount of time it was really cool to sit back for a part of the trip and let Luki take the wheel.

Another cool part of this spot was that it was a half-pension, which meant breakfast and dinner at the hotel.

The first night's dinner was so exciting. It was sooooo Austrian, which I love. The menu was full of things that I haven't eaten since we left...things that I loved so much while we were there. Cream of garlic or pancake soup. Zwiebelrostbraten. Real schnitzel! Yum!!

It was so hard to choose. We could order anything off the menu and it was a challenge!

Everything was delicious and it was all capped off with Eispalatschenken...basically pancakes filled with ice cream and covered with chocolate sauce and whipped cream. What's not to like?

It was dreamy.

And awesome to see the kids enjoy this items that we loved so much when we lived in Austria.

There was even a trampoline with a view...!

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

BBQ and Soccer in Hirm

One of the challenges of leaving your regular life for a month of holidaying around Europe is the real-life things that continue to need your attention back home. Eric and I found a somewhat happy middle ground of doing a bit of work every couple of days while on the move. 

It's easiest to do when you are somewhere for a few days...and when the people who are kind enough to host you have a lovely space for you to work in. It was great being a Lisi and Manfred's because we managed to get a lot done and have a lot of fun, too. It felt like being at home. 

We spent the morning in Manfred's office, which is attached to their house and has a beautiful outdoor space. That's my kind of office.

After a great day of hanging out around our new second home, we headed over to our friend Erwin's for a BBQ. Like Luki, Erwin was one of the young players on the team when Eric played here...we think of those guys as 18 years olds, but in the years since we have seen them they have grown into men. Men with houses and who make amazing dinners of ribs and potato salad.

While Erwin BBQ'd, the kids went for a swim in the beautiful natural pool in Erwin's yard. One half is lily pads and other plants, the other half is for swimming.

The sun was shining (actually, it was a super, super hot day) and the smells filling the air were incredible. We even had the Eurocup game to look forward to...and Austria was playing.

We also got to meet Erwin's soon-to-be wife, Eva, who is absolutely lovely. Lucky Erwin.

Dinner was great. The company was fact the only thing that wasn't great was watching Austria lose in soccer.

Erwin and Eva have a hover board, which was a huge hit with the kids...I watched with my heart in my throat as they "hovered" around Erwin's house (hopefully without damaging anything valuable). They took turns practicing circles, balance and speed.

When we went to tour Erwin's rubber factory the hover board came with us...the tour was great and the kids learned a lot and asked some good questions. Most of all, Eric and I were happy to see a good friend enjoying a great life.

And I was happy we got away from there with no broken bones, furniture or anything else. We won't be buying a hover board anytime soon...

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Finny's 12th birthday at Loipersdorf

Well, just in case you didn't get it from the post title, or the inflatable crown on her was Finny's birthday.

We had a day planned at one of Eric's and my favourite places in Europe: Therme Loipersdorf. The therme (hot spring) was a sponsor of Eric's team the year we lived in Fürstenfeld, so we went at least once a week to enjoy the warm water and gorgeous setting. 

We set out towards Fürstenfeld and stopped to show the girls the public outdoor pool we used to take them:

The spring we lived in Fürstenfeld was spectacular and we logged quite a few hours by this pool...Molly wandering around and baby Finny splayed out on a blanket in the shade.

Eric was even wearing his Fürstenfeld fire department hat...we were almost like locals!

But we weren't there to swim in the public pool...we were on our way to Loipersdorf, so we got in the car and headed to our final destination, where Luki was waiting to join us for the day.

Luki had already scoped out great seats outside for us...we laid down our towels and hit the pools and slides.

The weather was perfect. Luki gave Finny a beautiful bracelet for her birthday and we even had a lovely lunch in the hotel Luki was staying in.

Finny, Molly, Luki and Lukey

The wave pool

The zipline
Pictured below is the wild river, a circle of fast moving water...we were in here zipping around when I noticed a little girl clinging the side, holding on for dear life. When we let go and went under, she resurfaced with a look of pure fear on her face. I grabbed her and she clung to me like a baby koala bear...she definitely thought she was going to die!

I got her safely to her grandma (who appeared to have no idea she had suffered a traumatic ordeal) and spent the rest of the day smug in the knowledge that I was a superhero (at least, to one terrified little girl!).

We logged some time in the sunshine and took turns taking the kids for slides and swims.

While the sun was blazing, the hot pools weren't too appealing...

But when the sun started to go down, the warm water was drew us in...there were timed jets on special seats all around the inside and outside pools. With the sun setting, it was spectacular.

One of my strongest memories of being in these pools when the girls were babies was the torture of getting out at the end of the night. It helped that the temperature of the air was so warm, but it is such a gorgeous pool that it is hard to get out any time of the year.

We finally dragged ourselves down to the showers and got out of our suits. On our way out of the building, there was a huge seating area and beer garden set up for an outdoor screening of the Eurocup games. We grabbed beers and had a snack while we watched the second half of the game.

We left late and weren't holding out much hope for finding an ice cream place still open, but birthday luck was on our side...just closing up in the middle of Fürstenfeld was a great gelateria. We all got cones and did one last drive around town.

A midnight play at the playground next to the gym Eric played in...I thought we might so those ice creams come back up...

Home to sleep after a great day and a perfect celebration of the start our Finny's 13th year...a day full of life, just like our girl!

As an aside, Finny may be full of life, but Eric was full of cake...Lisi and and Manfred gave us the rest of Finny's cake to keep in our fridge downstairs and I walked in to see Eric scarfing down another midnight snack...