We loved Austria. Completely, absolutely loved it! I have come to realize that life is generally better while being surrounded by gorgeous scenery. Like, if you have to do certain things in life anyway; breastfeed, change a poopy nappy, entertain a toddler, or listen to a chorus of whinging from the kids, how much better to do those things with the Alps in the background!! ....with a yodeler.....in Lederhosen.....and a cow bell ringing.
Austria was a wonderful blend; consisting of the level of perfection and beauty that we had seen in Germany, combined with a more relaxed and easygoing vibe than it's more regimented neighbour. It was like the younger brother. It had its own unique flair and special talents, but is sometimes dwarfed by the bigger, more imposing sibling. We found things a bit more flexible, and a bit more easygoing in the 'little brother' territory of Austria. That was our impression anyway. And come on, a country where they wear adorable dresses with aprons and lederhosen out and about has got to be cool! Well, my version of cool anyway ( I'm a total sucker for any kind of fancy dress! ).
I thought it would be fun to show some of the things we got up to in beautiful Austria.
There were two main things that I had found on my internet researches before we arrived in Europe that looked particularly fun; German Christmas markets, and the dry summer toboggan that goes all the way down a mountain!
I knew these toboggan runs existed in Switzerland, but I was very happy to discover that there was a sommerrodelbahn right near us in Maria Alm. It's not particularly cheap for a family of 7, but we had a free pass as part of our handy tourist card, yay! They only run them when there has been no rain for at least a few days because of safety, and we weren't able to take baby Bo, but we chose a nice sunny day and planned on taking turns. Unfortunately the day we selected was a popular one, and for some odd reason, the place was overrun with tourists, particularly Arabs. I got chatting to one lady in the line and discovered she was from Dubai!
Rushy had to be with an adult, so he was lucky and got to go down twice, once with Ross and then with me. Ross was also lucky, he got a good solid run down the mountain as he didn't have many people stopped in his way. Amira, Bo and I waited excitedly for them to appear!
Finally Amira and I had our turn with Rushy. It was so much fun!! Although, we had a few pauses.....the Arab tourists liked to stop and take selfies along the way, and text, or chat...!!!! Aargh, so frustrating! And there was a bit of an art form to it. If you went too fast, you ran the risk of crashing off the edge. Then you had to walk your sorry butt all the way down the mountain carrying the toboggan! There were lots of sharp corners, hills and tunnels ( plus tech obsessed tourists ) along the way. So we had to stop and start a bit, but we still absolutely loved it, and we got a good run at the end!
We went to the 4 km long gorge in the mountains called Liechtensteinklamm, it has walls up to 300m! This activity was part of the time in Maria Alm when we got carried away with the walking thing. It was fine, not exactly the amazing, blow your mind stunning vision that Pinterest promised, but maybe that's just because it was cloudy and drizzly. We sort-of enjoyed the walk and seeing the waterfall at the end. Probably the most exciting and memorable part was when we were walking back to our car; the heavens opened up and unleashed a torrent of rain upon our heads!!! Just like in Salzburg, it came on so quickly and without any warning! It was one of those moments when we laughed because it was just so crazy!
3. Hallein Salt Mine.
This was part of our education for the kids; a fun, hands-on learning experience about where salt comes from. This mine has been in operation for 7,000 years since the time of the Celtic tribes and earlier. Bo couldn't go in, so I walked around the outdoor Celtic museum with him. They had great displays of what life was like in Celtic times. Ross and the other kids went on the salt mine tour; they learned lots about the ancient high value of salt, slid down a slide, rode an underground train, and wore funny outfits.
4. The Marionette Theatre.
Time for some culture. One of my favourite books is 'Magic Flutes' by Eva Ibbotson. The characters and the setting are just so adorable and ever since I have read it, I have dreamed of seeing Mozart's great opera 'The Magic Flute'. Well, what better way to experience the opera with kids than at the famous Marionette Theatre in Salzburg !!! Again, Ross and I had to do some juggling to make it happen, and this time he took the baby duty and I got to go with Levi, Amira and Zahli. Personally, I really loved it. My kids....sort of. I mean, the whole thing was in German, and we were told that there would be translation, but it turned out to be a bit few and far between. We had the usual dramas of the kids wanting to play musical chairs throughout the show, and my daughter Zahli has no idea how to whisper, so we got shushed a lot. But despite this, I'm really glad we went. Ross always talks about how his Mum made him and his brothers watch opera on Saturdays if they ever said that they were bored, lol, so I was glad to carry on the tradition. The artistry and skill of the marionette makers and the puppeteers was truly amazing, and I really loved to see an old traditional craft being upheld. As far as the storyline goes....we mostly understood what was going on, but there was a fair amount of guess work going on!
5. Strutting our stuff in the local gear.
I love Austria, and I love lederhosen. It's hard to explain why, I just think they're so cool! I also love that Austrians actually wear their tradition clothes out and about sometimes. I spotted people here and there wearing lederhosen and dirndls and so I asked my Austrian friend about it. She explained that because lederhosen are made of leather and are expensive, they are actually considered your 'best' clothes. So people wear them to special occasions, or church etc, but people also wear them out in the field because they're hard wearing ( you know, shorts made of leather...!) I even saw teenagers at the pool wearing board shorts with patterns on them to look like lederhosen....like fake, swimming lederhosen! lol
Amira, Zahli and I already had dirndls that we'd purchased for our awesome experience on the 'Sound of Music Tour'. I pestered Ross relentlessly about truly getting into the Austrian spirit, and I pointed out that there were a few guys who wore them to church ( admittedly they were the old men ), and then.....I found a sale!!
It was a sign.
Haha. So my husband, in true good humour, went lederhosen shopping with me. 'Sigh' - true love.
We chatted to the lady in the shop about the traditional Austrian dress and asked her questions about when people wear it. Then she asked us; "So what is the traditional dress in Australia?"............
um......I had a few images flash through my mind about what it could be.
Those hats with the corks?
Stubbies and a bonds singlet?
Haha, finally I told her that we didn't really have one. Our native indigenous people traditionally wore......um, a loin cloth and some body paint.
It was a funny conversation. So after some modeling from Ross, he found his lederhosen. These ones in the photo were the super cool $200 ones that we couldn't afford, I found this t-shirt to go with them, but Ross wasn't a fan, he said that he too closely resembled the Grinch!
6. Mozart Dinner
All kitted out, we were ready to hit the town, Austrian style! Our lovely friends from Salzburg offered to babysit all our crazy kids for one night so that we could get out on a date together, yay!! With so much time spent together with our kids, any offers that came our way for some time off were quickly and gratefully accepted!
We dressed up in our super-cool ( and sort of hilarious ) Austrian gear, and hit the town! Lederhosen are happy clothes, because when someone is wearing them, you can't help laughing and grinning the whole time!
We went straight to our dinner. There may have been a bit of running involved (I'm always late), but we made it just on time! We were seated on a table of with another lovely German couple who did not speak English, so we only managed to communicate a few funny misunderstood sentences and friendly smiles.
We really loved the dinner, it was just such a fun thing to do in Salzburg! Also, we were probably feeling a bit giddy at being kid free for the first time in ages!!
After the dinner, we were able to walk back to our car at a slower pace and enjoy seeing the city at night. It was incredible! The air was warm, and people everywhere were enjoying the night from outdoor cafes or just strolling around the old part of the city. It was a totally different feel from the busyness of the day and it made me fall in love with Salzburg and Austria even more.