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Wednesday, October 24, 2012
We were looking for another outdoorsy activity that would let us see some nature, yet not be too horribly strenuous on our tired legs or out wallets. There was some discussion which in the end concluded with the decision to visit the highest waterfall in the alps. Everyone hopped in the car and we drove about an hour to get there.
First up we had to get tickets to get in to the park, it was pretty reasonable, about 5 bucks a person as I recall. The entrance and lower area of the grounds was by far the most touristy thing we had seen so far. There were many many booths selling cheesy t-shirts as well as the omnipresent salve made from groundhog fat.
Tickets in hand and Henrik on back, we set out on the epic adventure.
Despite all the booths around the entrance, after 100m or so into the park, it was just nature.
The boys were allowed to buy hiking sticks and were making fine use of them as they trekked through the forest on the way to the falls. I think they had a fine sense of adventure.
The park is arranged so that there is a long trail winding up the side of the mountain next to the falls. So every 10 min or so you walk back over to get a nice view, then wind up some more trail to the next station. The first 20 min or so is even paved, but it quickly became so steep that it was in no way pram-friendly.
The first and largest waterfall spot was right at the bottom. Unlike typical North American attractions, there were no fences or other warning things here. Europeans try to leave a lot of the safety up to “common sense” in the interest of not marring natural beauty with signs and railings when possible. This allows visitors to get quite close to the action, but also assumes you can control yourselves (and your kids) from plummeting over cliffs and waterfalls. There are no lawsuits being filed because the state did not explain that jumping off a cliff was dangerous.
You can see here that quite a lot of people are enjoying the falls very closely. Despite being a warm day, the mist off the glacial fed falls made this quite a chilly spot to stand for too long.
As Mike always likes to test the limits of common sense and safety, he wanted to get as close to the falls as possible for a good look.
He managed to prove that his judgment is perfectly acceptable and no Starrs were swept away. They did all get wet though.
More to follow.
Wednesday, October 10, 2012
Friday, October 05, 2012
I have been too busy to make a nice post this week since Monday. Lots going on right now, so I will just put up this quick one with a photo of Claudia and I at the lakefront. This photo would mostly be notable since it was taken by Liam. That is why its from a low angle and much out our bodies are missing. I also straightened it… but he was still very happy to be holding the camera.
Monday, October 01, 2012
This year Claudia and I decided to make the trip down to Munich for Oktoberfest. We had not actually been there since 2000, preferring some other smaller beer festivals over the years, specifically the Rosenheim fest that we have been to quite a few times. But since we had a good time at Rosenheim this year and wanted to give our Trachten another spin, we decided to head down and enjoy an afternoon there. We met up with Michaela and Luisa as well as Bernhard and Vroni.
We decided to take the train down from Gersthofen to Munich both so we could enjoy a beer at the fest as well as avoid the hell of driving in Munich on a Sunday (especially during the fest) We got on the train just after 9am so we would have plenty of time to get down there before lunch. There were many people getting on at every stop decked out in Dirndl and Lederhosen. I noticed that the Trachten wearing crowd seemed to be made up of a few distinct types.
1) Complete families who looked like they were on their way down for the carnival rides and fairground type attractions.
2) older folks (I’ll include Claudia and I in this group now, since we are old)
3) people that for lack of a better word I will call… trash. Who were already standing around with open beer in hand at 9am.
I thought it was amusing that at about 9:20 or so, the German rail gentleman with the cart selling snacks and drinks appeared. However in addition to the usual coffee, snacks and sandwiches, he was selling beer and shots of Jaegermeister. Since we had just enjoyed a lovely breakfast before heading out, Claudia and I passed on the treats. More than a few people opted to crack open beers though you can guess which group most of them belonged to….
Since I have a small mind that is easily amused, I still giggle whenever the train stops at “kissing.” At this point in the journey, the train was full to the point of standing room only, and you can see some folks in full Bavarian regalia enjoying beverages in the aisles. Again, it is about 9:30 or so now….
OK, so we arrive in Munich at 10:45 and make our way over to the fairground. There are TONS of people headed there and it was easy to follow the steady stream of foot traffic and large clearly indicated signs. It was much closer to the centre than I remembered and the walk was only 10-15 min max. Once we arrived, we did a walking round to look at the tents and people before we met up with Michaela.
First site I captured is for the benefit of Mike. It is a fish-cooking booth with many many Steckerlfisch (fish on a stick cooked over coals) we had enjoyed this treat during his visit and I know he would have liked this one as well.
I also really liked the look of this tent the “Ochsenbraterei” where they serve many grilled Ox foods. In retrospect, I wish I had eaten there since it’s not everyday that I have the chance to sample BBQ ox. Maybe next time.
The weather was just a little too cool and grey on Sunday, about 14 degrees and very overcast. It never did rain, but I was very much in need of my warm sweater. It would of course have been much better with 20 and sunny, but you can’t really influence that at all. Despite this, the fest was packed with wall to wall people. Beer tents were already full to the point of closing by noon.
On a whim, Claudia bought this red hat. She was worried it was too bright and did not match the red of her Dirndl so well, but I think it looked cute. It was pretty cool and windy as I said, so she wanted to keep from getting blown around and warm her head a little.
In the next little while, we met up with Michaela and Luisa, however I failed to take a picture of them. Trust me when I say Michaela was wearing a lovely pink Dirndl. Luisa was dressed in ordinary modern clothes, but I did notice that she had some pretty sweet looking leopard running shoes on.
Bernhard and Vroni were all dressed up as were Claudia and myself. We just bought our outfits while the Starrs were here (will cover that in another post) and I still have the grey sweater that Claudia knit for me a few years ago that matches quite well. Bernhard had also just bought the full outfit, but Vroni was wearing a Dirndl that was previously her mother’s. I think we all look pretty sweet.
I had to include a photo of my lunch since that is what happens to everyone with a camera in their phone these days. I decided on a Schweinshaxe mit kartoffelknödel (Ham hock and potato dumpling,) a meal which has absolutely zero place in my diet. I am not about to let my beer fest be limited by a silly diet though, I enjoyed every delicious calorie on the plate. It was meaty, fatty, crunchy and so very yummy. You can see the edges of the tasty beer that accompanied it on the side there.
Oh, in case you were wondering, we had lunch at the Hacker-Pschorr tent. Tasty beer and tasty food. We searched for a spot inside, but it was so packed that finding a table to fit six people was hopeless. We sat out in the beer garden after doing a round of the tent to see the crowd. It was a pretty nice interior and you can see here the bandstand with the banner behind them reading “Bavarian Heaven” the ceiling of the tent was all decorated with clouds and blue sky banners.
After lunch we strolled around the grounds and had a look at all the rides. I thought most of them looked insanely vomit-inducing and I can not imagine people riding them after the volume of beer and food being consumed in the tents. The other big issue with Oktoberfest is that it is crazy expensive. Even the simplest rides were 4 euro per ride. There was no shortage of patrons though.
Later in the afternoon we went to a “coffee and cake” tent where I was the only person too full to even consider consuming anything else. The others had all selected far more modest lunches than myself and were ready for coffee/hot chocolate/crepes etc, but I was just still exploding with meat. We were very lucky in getting a table here though, so it was a nice break from the dismal cold weather.
I thought the waitresses had really great hats in this place.
So that is it, my Oktoberfest experience for 2012. It was quite fun, but it is honestly too packed and expensive for me to really enjoy. I had a much better time at the Rosenheim fest and I think we will have to make an effort to head back there for a yearly visit rather than Munich. The Stuttgart fest (Canstatter Wasen) is on now and we are still debating if we go to that one. If so it would be one to bring the kids to as well.
Friday, September 28, 2012
After crossing the majestic span of the Alps bridge, a sign pointed us in the direction of the actual Baumzipfelweg.
Unsurprisingly, this involved taking many stairs to get to the tree tops. We told the boys that it would be like walking around an Ewok village since they were both pretty big Star Wars fans. This was about all the selling they needed, anything that was in any way connected to Star Wars was OK by them. That attitude was eerily familiar to my own. The stairs up were not really all that bad. I would say it was about the equivalent of the 4th or maybe 5th floor of an average building.
Walking along the boardwalk and platforms was pretty neat, but a little shorter than we had hoped. the complete route was supposedly 1km, but I would not be surprised if they included some of the stairs distance in that to make it seem longer than it was. I enjoyed it, but it just seemed like it should have been a larger experience for something you would make a special trip for.
There were a couple of observation points, but since we were more or less in a valley, I don’t think that they served a great purpose. Really you could not see all that far, it was not like you were on top of a mountain or something. Still, Liam enjoys any opportunity to look through a telescope or binoculars.
At the end of one section was this glass walled bit, which was kind of cool. Claudia is striking a nice pose here with some of the gnome hats, but I really forget what statement she was trying to make. At the time it was funny as I recall, but now I have lost the context of the pose…
So a bit of a walk along the tops and then it was back down the steps to the ground level.
The other great attraction of this site was a rope/climbing garden. The grown up one cost extra and required about a 30 min training on the use of the safety equipment, but over at our section there was a kids version which was fairly much a big playground/obstacle course type thing. The kids had some fun running through that a few times. Since I had the fun man strapped to my back, Henrik and I just did a couple more rounds of the tree top walk while the others enjoyed the ropes.
That is it for this experience. I will leave you with a cool image of Gnomerik enjoying a rice cake.
Wednesday, September 26, 2012
After such a strenuous and tiring hike, we thought we would take it a little easier the next day and look for something that was maybe a little less difficult. We settled on a visit to the “Baumzipfelweg” or “tree-top way” which looked very nice in the brochure. Essentially it is a path on elevated platforms on top of some trees with nice views. It was also quite close to where we were staying, so the prospect of a shorter drive was also quite welcome.
Like pretty much every activity, this started out with a nice long walk from where we parked. There was about a 30 minute stroll along this path next to a nice river. Compared to the past days massive inclines, this seemed pretty easy.
There were also some cows enjoying the path, so we enjoyed the cows too.
At the end of this path, we got to the “Golden Gate Bridge of the Alps” and the kiosk where we had to get our tickets to the path. Possibly the greatest part of the whole experience was that with every entry ticket, you received this amazing gnome hat. Here is the Anderson family in full gnome mode, standing before the mighty bridge.
The Starrs looked just as cool decked out in their hats.
The bridge was pretty cool, I have only ever seen the real Golden Gate bridge from an airplane, but I have to say this one may be just as good in my books. Mostly because the real GG bridge leads to Oakland and this one leads to Schnitzel.
I have a moderate fear of heights, so the very see through grating of the bridge made me feel a little nervous. I did however suck it in and look super calm and comfortable so I can maintain my manly he-man image in front of the children. I know they clearly see me as some sort of super macho dude.
Oh, and I did not really mention that again I had the pleasure of all this walking and climbing with some extra pounds of joy strapped to my back. This was the 3rd or 4th outing in a row carrying Henrik though and I have to say I was actually getting rather used to it. I don’t think I would have managed another 5 hour trek right away, but it was not so bad.
Stay tuned for the next update when we cross the bridge and enjoy the tree tops.
Friday, September 21, 2012
Well, since we were all feeling fit and adventurous and the kids had not uttered a peep of complaint we decided to take the long route back. On the posted sign/map it did not look too tough and it was not particularly late.
We started out ok and went on this trail that took us out of the gorge. As the sign says, we bid goodbye to Taxenbach.
The trail was long and winding as it took us up away from the gorge and we had some very nice views of the woods and river as we walked along. I do like to notice how much less “safe” touristy things are in Europe. There are tons of trails that go right along the edge of cliffs and drop offs without a single fence, warning sign or other lawsuit-preventing accessory. They count pretty heavily on people to exercise some common sense and behave themselves. Maybe I am cynical about North America, but I every time I see a nice path like this I just imagine a version where someone’s kid falls off the edge and a train of American lawyers are rolling up to sue the life out of everyone in range.
This is not even the most steep drop off we walked along, but it was a nice bit of the trail.
Every now and then a little stream would cross the path, often with a nice little waterfall like this one.
Mike of course had to stick his head in it.
Sometime shortly after this, it became evident that it was not going to be a leisurely walk, but more of a tremendously strenuous hike up very steep and uneasy terrain. About an hour out of the gorge, we were all questioning the decision that we made to take the long route home. This nasty section has no photos because both Mike and I became too tired to stop and take out the cameras. I was struggling up the hillsides with a laughing frolicking Henrik strapped to my back, and Mike was carrying his belly.
At about 1.5 hours of all uphill walking we came at last to an Alm where we could stop and have an ice cream break. Some very much needed cold treats and feet resting took place before we started out again on the final leg of the trek back to the starting point. We were refreshed enough to bring the cameras back into play. Here we are as we head out for the (thankfully) downhill portion of the hike.
Austria has a lot of beautiful landscape and we really enjoyed the nice sights as we crossed fields and villages on the way back. I think one of the highlights was walking through a herd of cows that were enjoying lunch on the trail. Cherie is posing here with her new friend.
All in all the hike took us about 4.5 hours and was somewhere around 18km. A little more than we planned when we had set out that morning…
Here we are in the home stretch, walking down the final big hill.
There were still very nice views right through to the very end though.
One of the last things we saw on this route was a big hollow tree that all the kids loved. Of course each child had to climb inside and have their picture taken. This is Liam’s version, where he is also showing an interesting rock that he picked up at some point of the journey. I forget why it was interesting, but he assured me it was.
There you have it, the big hike came to an end and my feet and shoulders demanded that we would take it slightly easier the next day….
Wednesday, September 19, 2012
The gorge was quite large and the hike started off fairly close to the bottom. After a bit of a walk we enjoyed a walk up many many stairs to get to the upper portion of the gorge. Still walking along the river that fed the waterfall we had just seen a few moments earlier. I think the kids were enjoying all the walkways and steps while the adults had fun with the nature. It was a pretty good outing for all concerned.
On the upper section of the hike, there was a nice bridge spanning the gorge that called out for a group photo. I only learned later on that this bridge was actually the sight of a tragedy a few years earlier. Apparently a school trip had come to the gorge on the hike and the entire group went out on the bridge for just such a photo. They overloaded it and sadly the bridge collapsed into the gorge, killing a few of the kids. Now there are strict warning signs advising of the safe capacity.
Below is a long shot and a close-up of us enjoying the nice spot.
And a reverse angle of Mike the photographer taking the previous images.
Trails like this are always big fun and have steep bits, flat bits, and even tunnels through the rock wall. The boys always enjoy a cave.
Followed by a nice high up walk along a steep bit.
So after walking about 45 min or so we came to the end of the gorge hike. At this point we had to make a choice, do we go back the way we came for about a 30 min hike to the start (downhill more and easier than the way up) or take the long way back and keep hiking in the larger circuit.
Next post shows the outcome.