Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Santa speaks German?

Our next family adventure was a short holiday, experiencing four countries; Austria, Germany, Liechtenstein and Switzerland.

The reputation of Innsbruck as the 'Florence of the North' is certainly deserved, and it comes not only from the beauty of its Old Town, but also from the wonderful mountain landscape surrounding it. Every year around Christmas time the streets of Innsbruck are transformed into a magical wonderland of markets, crowds, food, drink, snow and sparkling lights. Set amidst the Austrian Alps, snow covered mountains peeped out from spires of churches and slated roofs, no matter which way you turned.

There were 15 over life size puppets hidden in the streets of the pedestrian old town; an entire building is treated as an advent calendar where a new window is left open each day for the countdown, (brrr chilly); and Santa wanders the streets giving small gifts and chocolate to the children. Princess waited very patiently for her chocolate as Santa stood in front of her and threw down a shot of schnapps. "To keep him warm and his nose red" we told her. I think she was more concerned to find out that Santa did not speak English or Italian, but German. She very quickly learnt to say 'Danke' for the remainder of the trip, after all, Santa is always watching.

Innsbruck really was breathtaking, with mountains in its entire surrounds, I am not sure if I was mesmerised by its beauty because of the destination, the snow, or the festive cheer and decorations; like a teenager with a computer game, I am always hypnotised by flashing lights.

We did a scenic bus tour which took 40 minutes to navigate the entire town; a few medieval facts were given but mostly sports related boasting about the two Winter Olympics that have been held here, 1964 and 1976, (Innsbruck's self proclaimed, claim to fame).

We took a cable ride up to Hafelekarspitze, to see views of Zillertal Alps the Stubai Alps and the òztal Alps and north to the Alpine Park Karwendal. 2 269m up, the climb seemed never ending and all I could think is 'what are those crazy people under me walking up this big hill in skis for?' The view was spectacular, as was the amount of fresh snow fall, icicles dangling from the building, and snow flakes whipping my face in the gusty winds.

Time for the kids so we boarded a train, and went downhill to visit Alpine Zoo, the highest zoo in Europe. It had a back drop that you would not believe. I never thought that my husband and I would be casually walking in snow with two children trying to spot animals. Trying being the operative word. Don't most animals hibernate in Winter? 'Lions, and tigers, and bears, oh my!' (Sorry Dorothy, nothing to see here!) The lack of visible animals did not seem to diminish my daughters enthusiasm as she ran from creature to creature yelling, "Let's find more aminals!"

Austria was beautiful, the food and drinks were reasonably priced, although we found the shopping in Innsbruck was quite expensive. The Austrians were friendly and communication did not seem to be a problem, we tried German, but mostly got by with English or Italian.

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