Schladming

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It’s October break, the boys are out of school, and the CRV arrived a few days ago.  Time for our first Austrian road trip!  It’s so easy here, we barely have to do anything to get ready except pack some clothes.  No stocking the cooler with ice, no preparing a bunch of food, no rushing at the last minute to fill a jerry can with gasoline.  If we get hungry along the way, we can always stop here:

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With a view like that, why wouldn’t we stop at McDonald’s?  They surprisingly have one of the best cappuccinos in town, and you can get a huge piece of fresh apple strudel.  The boys love that you order your own food from a touch screen.  The screen is even shaped like a big iPhone.

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Do they do this in America now too?   It’s weird to say that it’s been so long I don’t even know if this is cultural or not, but I’m guessing at least the “sweet brezel” is an Austrian thing…

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We had heard about Schladming, a town inthe Dachstein Mountains where families vacation for winter sports, summer hiking, water parks, and beautiful scenery.  We rented an apartment at the Alpine Club, and this was the misty, autumn scene that we woke up to before the clouds burned off in the morning.

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You can’t see the towering Dachstein Mountain range in this picture because of the clouds, but you can see the ropes of the ski lifts which pass literally over the front yard. And the backyard, and around the corner, and over all the slopes for miles in every direction.  Our little apartment had a kitchen, two bedrooms, and a great couch for sleeping and playing games.

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And offered beautiful vistas for taking pictures.

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These days the boys still love to make-believe they are animals.  Kitties, dogs, squirrels, “Our names are Chips and Rex!”  They want Mommy to pretend to feed them and wrap them up in blankets.  Here guys, how about some beans from the breakfast box?  Eli loves beans for breakfast.  Still a sort of weird kid.

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Jake likes doing math worksheets and wearing suspenders.  He’s a little weird too.  It’s fun to spend entire days together as a family because we get to see each other’s weirdnesses.

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One of the things that the kids will always remember about their weird Mom is the way she drags them up mountains.  Hiking is Austria’s national past-time, give me one good reason why we shouldn’t climb this mountain!

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Bundled in warm coats and hats, we went out hiking in search of the Rieseachfalle (waterfall) and a high mountain lake. Along the way we passed a lot of Austrians with walking sticks, and learned that in summer there are entire complexes of hiking trails and mountain huts that people can explore for days.  You hike, stop for lunch, hike some more, stop for dinner, and maybe spend the night somewhere before hiking onward the next day.  It all seems very casual and normal, like what other way would you spend your weekend?  Beautiful scenery, breathtaking views, and plates of warm goulash and cold beer.

At the end of our hike, we found Riesach lake.

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Quick, somebody revive Eli! We have to take a picture before he dies from tiredness!

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Fortunately, Eli came out of his deep fatigue once the climbing ended, and he found an old tire that was perfect for pelting with stones.  Thanks for the selfie stick Mom and Dad.

After the hike we wanted to relax a little bit, which is another national past-time that Austrians do very well.  The cold weather after our mountainous hike made it a perfect afternoon for the pool, which here in Austria are called baths, or “therme.”  All the thermes have heated pools both indoors and out, and usually a few waterslides to entertain the kids.

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Thermes also have separate areas catering to adults, with whirlpools and hot saunas.  Nudist only, and you are not allowed to wear a swimsuit.  I was freezing and wanted a sauna, so I dropped the towel and went in.  It wasn’t really that shocking and I suspect most people are over there just for the peace and quiet of no kids, but still, you really make good eye contact with people when you’re naked.

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All our vacation needed now was a nice dinner to be perfect.  Back in Schladming we didn’t have too many choices because October is the off-season and everything was closed, but it turns out we only needed ONE perfect restaurant, and we found it.

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The boys have started keeping track of how many berries they can drink turned into juice.  Himbeer, Erdbeer, Hollanderbeer, Johannisbeer… that last one is black currant, and I know one time I tasted cranberry.  Elderflower so far is my favorite!

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The restaurant was warm and cozy, with murals on the walls and its own beer vats in the front room.  The guy sitting down in the right corner was there the whole night, drinking from his liter of white wine.  Jake and Eli noticed and wondered what he was doing.  They are noticing a lot of drinking and smoking these days.  I’m guessing it is all part of the education, and I assume they are going to survive.

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The food was Austrian comfort food, hot pots of soup and sausages with roast pork, schnitzel, dumplings, pretzels, and huge piles of different kinds of cabbage.  The next night (we went there twice) we classed it up a bit and ordered off the seasonal menu.  Mike had steak, the boys ordered baby back ribs, and I had saltimbocca with the best mushroom risotto I’ve ever had.  Why is it that Europeans just know how to COOK?  I mean, this is a brew pub, and they are making silky risotto and roasting venison with red wine sage sauce.  I think I need to live in Austria forever.

But I will take living in Austria for now.

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