Thursday, December 15, 2005

I (WILL BE) HOME AUNTIE EM!

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Quick one - Last weekend Daryl, John, Matt Klein, Guy and I all went to watch our music teacher's choir perform three cantatas by Bach. Meredith and the wife of a MUDEC teacher were also in the choir. It was very good, the big fat bass soloist was especially good. Afterwards Backes (the music teacher) invited us down to where the choir and other musicians were celebrating, and we hung out there for a while. When Backes was talking to us, Klein mentioned my birthday, and Backes immediately ran to the front of the room and announced in Luxembourgish or German or French or possibly all 3, that it was my birthday and that they should sing. I must say, I have never had so skillful a singing of Happy Birthday. Some were singing in German and some in English, but it was well done. I don't know that I have ever been more embarassed in my life. So that was fun.

Sunday we went to go hiking with Roland Hoff, a MUDEC German and French tutor as well as the resident authority on hiking. This was the same man that Daryl adn I hiked with previously. This time we were in the Mullerthal region, which was very beautiful with strange caves and rock formations all along the trail. Afterwards he had us to dinner. The man has an awesome library, partly taken when his company (ARBED, the Luxembourg steel company, now the 2nd largest in the world) was going to burn their library and he was told to take what he wanted. He has a quite impressive art collection as well. Originals by Salvador Dali among others. He cooked us a great meal and talked all of our ears off.

Next stop, DES PLAINES! I cannot wait to be home and to see all you idiots, get free refills at Denny's, and take a dump without the bathroom stinking horribly. Not to mention meals for less than like $10.

Lewis

Monday, December 05, 2005

Innsbruck

Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more;
Or close up the wall with our English dead.
In peace there’s nothing so becomes a man
As modest stillness and humility:
But when the blast of war blows in our ears,
Then imitate the action of the tiger;
Stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood,
Disguise fair nature with hard-favoured rage.

This is the last vignette, story, journal, email, etc for now.
Diese ist die lätztes vignette, story, journal, email, etc für jetzt.

Day 1 25.11.05
John, Daryl, and I set off to Austria around midday. We had to go from Trier to Koblenz to Mannheim, where we met up with Matt Klein. (Matt Klein was the guy we met up with for Amsterdam, if you remember.) In Koblenz, John and I bought Calvin und Hobbes auf Deutsch. Matt Klein had had a moment of panic, since we had deviated from our planned schedule and arrived on a different train, however, we arrived shortly after, and found him waiting at the platform for the ICE train to Innsbruck. The train was late arriving in Mannheim and arrived at a different platform, but we eventually got on the train and headed off at high speed for the Austrian Alps. Wier waren gegen fünfzehn minuten spat, aber dass war kein problem. When we arrived in Innsbruck, about 2130, we headed out to see if we could figure out the bus system to get us to Camping Kranebitten, where we were staying. We gave up and took a cab after a short time. When we got there, Franz(Fritz?), the proprietor of the campsite was very helpful, telling us all we needed to know, and giving us the key to our camper.
We dropped our bags off and quickly headed back to a restaurant we had passed on the way in. Unfortunately, by now it was after 10 and the kitchen was closed. Matt Klein conversed with the manager in German for a while, and they eventually decided to do us a favor and make us something. We decided on wiener schnitzel and potato salad, very Austrian. It was quite delicious, and we thanked them profusely for being so kind to us. We were all ready to crash, so we headed back to our camper. We realized when we got there that the heater in it did not seem to be working. It was very cold outside, and this was not a good thing. We bundled up in our blankets and tried to sleep. None of us slept all that well, but we did get a little bit.

Day 2 25.11.05
We woke up freezing cold, put on our gear and headed into the city proper. In the train station we had trouble figuring out how we get from the city to the mountain. We decided to wait until the tourist office opened, and ate breakfast in the mean time. We also bought granola energy bars for the slopes. When the tourist office opened, we asked about which resorts were open and which was the best. We were told that the resort we planned on going to was the best; Stubai Gletscher. We bought a package deal for €49.50 that had rentals, lift pass, and bus rides there and back all covered. We then hopped on the bus and headed to Stubaital.
Let me take a moment to describe how stunningly beautiful the city of Innsbruck is. It is situated in a valley and is absolutely surrounded by the alps. On all sides you see nothing but gigantic snow covered mountains. It would snow on and off and mostly on this whole weekend, so it was always snow-covered, and everything was just picture perfect. As we took the bus up to the Stubai Valley, which the glacier is at the far end of, we headed up switchbacks and could look down into Innsbruck and the other, smaller towns in the alps. The whole ride there we just stared out the windows at the stunning scenery.
On arrival, we got our lift tickets and headed up to one of the base stations. On the way up, we were in a gondola with a ski instructor, who gave us some info on skiing and German grammar. We got to Gamsgarten and rented skis and John and Matt Klein rented ski pants as well. We finally got on the slopes and went for a couple easy runs on the blue runs near the station. (In Austria, Blue is easiest, then Red, then Black.) Daryl had never skied before, so Klein was giving him a lesson on a bunny hill while John and I hit a blue run nearby that wasn’t much more challenging. I could feel myself getting back into the swing of things and was getting bored. John, having only skied once or twice before, was still getting his legs to do what he wanted them to.
I headed over to see how Daryl was doing (not well) then skied to the red run at the bottom of the area we were at. I took a deep breath and headed over the edge. It was very crowded and I was holding on too tight, so I fell a couple times before I relaxed and let the bumps come and stayed somewhat in control without trying to control everything. At the bottom I tried to take a shortcut to the Gondolbahn, but I ended up in two feet of powder. Oops. I eventually got on the correct gondola and headed back to Gamsgarten where the others were. I skied with John for a while longer, saw that Daryl was getting a hang of it a bit better, and found that Klein had headed off on his own. John and I hit a couple more blue runs, then Matt Klein reappeared and we headed off to do the red one I had done before, then go up to the top. We had a good and very tiring time on the red slope. It just kept going, back and forth and steep. It was exhilarating and exhausting. When we got to the bottom we took two gondolas that got us all the way to the very top of the mountain, 3333 meters above sea level. It was very windy at the top and Klein didn’t have goggles, so he was having trouble seeing. Thankfully the hills weren’t too crowded, so we headed down a real long blue run that went from the top all the way down to Gamsgarten (elevation: 1600m). It was actually quite challenging; parts of it were bumpy and you couldn’t tell when the bumps came, so you had to just go with it and hope they weren’t too bad.
There we met up with Daryl, who was still improving. We messed around there some more, and decided to make one more run to the top before we had to turn in our skis for the day. We headed down the aforementioned red hill again and decided to go all the way back up and make the whole run again. When we got to the top we realized we would never make it down in time, so we stayed on it, and just skied from about halfway to the top down to Gamsgarten, where we met John and Daryl and turned in our skies. We took the gondola back down and ran to catch our bus. We slept a lot of the way back to the city, and when we got there decided we would check out the Weinachtsmarkt.
The market was pretty cool, and Daryl, Klein and John bought gifts for some people. There were a lot of useless trinkets being sold, but all very German/Austrian useless trinkets. We eventually headed back to our campsite, where we dropped some of our stuff and headed to the restaurant we went to the night before. I had some delicious goulash and the others had what the waitress recommended. It ended up costing them a bit more than expected, but that’s life, and we headed back to the campsite. We told Fritz/Franz that our heater didn’t work and he refilled the gas, and it fired up. We cranked it and headed to bed.
We awoke much more refreshed than the previous morning and headed into Innsbruck. We grabbed a train to München and stopped there to see the Weinachtsmarkt there as well. It had more German trinkets, but it also had some great Bratwursts that we ate on the run to catch our train to Koblenz. In Koblenz we caught a train to Luxembourg, and headed home.

Great things are done when men and mountains meet;
This is not done by jostling in the street.