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Tirol, Austria

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We spent a lot of time in this area of the Austrian Alps. I'm not sure if it was because it was the first area in the Alps we visited, or if it really was that much more different that the other places we visited. Whatever the reason, we came back to this area again and again, even spending two of our four summer vacations there (the other ones were home leave back to Boston, and the Greek Islands that last summer).


Feb 1992 – Skiing in the Alps

In February, we all got a taste of what REAL skiing means. We spent the weekend in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, up in the Bavarian Alps, where we all took skiing lessons! The Armed Forces Recreation Center (AFRC) runs a couple of hotels and a ski lodge there (and golf course, but not in winter), so the rates were unbeatable, especially for a family just trying it out for the first time. Lynn was the only one who didn't fall down. The girls had loads of fun, until the time came to practice. What looked like a little hill from the bottom became a BIG hill when we were perched on the top. Gene learned Rule Numero Uno for skiing -- never, Ever, EVER use a rope tow without gloves! I've never seen smoke come out of my hands before! Yowwwch!

Megan and Audrey Skiing in the Alps
Megan, Lynn and Audrey on Top of the World

After our morning and afternoon of skiing, we took a spectacular cable car ride to the top of the tallest mountain in Germany, the Zugspitze, at an altitude of 2,993 meters (or 9,730 feet). From the top of that mountain we could see hundreds of miles in any direction. The weather was perfect. The Alps were spread out before us in all their glory. It was spectacular, awesome, incredible, and all the other words like that, all rolled into one. This is one place I think we'll be visiting more than once during our stay (even if it WAS a bit expensive to ride to the top).

July 1992 - Alps

Also in July (close to our anniversary), we went on a get-away weekend in the German Alps, without the kids! We went to Chiemsee, east of Munich, and had a wonderful time walking in the alpine meadows and touring around the Bavarian countryside. We expected to see Julie Andrews come over the crest of the hill any moment, singing away; "The hillllls are alive......... with the sound of MUSIC!!!"

August 1992 – Austria

Our summer vacation this year was spent in the Austrian Alps, and it was WONDERFUL! Very scenic and peaceful. We rented an apartment in a chalet in Oberndorf, Austria, an alpine village in a valley. The house itself was outside the village, up a bit on the hillside that started the rise to the mountains. We had a panoramic view of the valley and village below, and we could see right across the valley to the mountains on the other side. Magnificent! Who'd've thought the Vogts would ever get to vacation in Austria!! La-di-DAH!!

We left Stuttgart about 2PM on Saturday afternoon, the 25th of July. I was in the office until 2:30AM Friday night / Saturday morning tieing up loose ends, finishing management type junk (monthly and quarterly reports), and finishing a document I had to write before I left, so it could be delivered. At any rate, I was not going to spring right out of bed Saturday and hit the road early. Well, anyway, we finally got on the road. There was no traffic on the Autobahn, and we were able to zip along about as fast as the old Dodge Caravan can go (75-80 mph) almost all the way. We arrived in Oberndorf around 7:45PM, made spaghetti for supper, and went to bed!

Sunday was a lazy day. We slept late and poked around the apartment and the neighborhood. The apartment had 2 bedrooms, living room/dining room with fireplace, full kitchen with dishwasher, full bath, half bath, and a balcony out the bedrooms that overlooked the valley and village below. There was a beginner's ski slope/rope tow right next door, 50 feet away. Obviously not very useful that time of year. We could hear Bavarian music coming from the hills behind the chalet (no fooling!) on Sunday morning, so we walked up the country road into the hills and found a private party that had an oom-pah band and beer and everything. We considered crashing it, because it was very hot out and we were very thirsty, but we thought better of it.

That afternoon we drove through Kitzbühel, a bigger town, to Hausen and took a gondola ride to the top of the Ehrenbachhöhe, a small local skiing mountain, 1802 meters elevation (5856 ft). We walked around the walking trails on the top of the mountain. It was crowded with lots of folks doing exactly the same thing, and also hiking from peak to peak in these lower elevations. Then it was time to go home to a ravioli dinner.

Megan and Audrey by the Inn River in Rattenberg

Monday we drove to the old city of Rattenberg, on the banks of the Inn river in the Inn valley on the way to Innsbruck (lots of "Inns" there). Rattenberg is evidently famous for glassware, since it comprises 80% of what they sell. Some of it is cut crystal, some is hand blown, some is pressed and hand etched. If its done with glass, they do it in Rattenberg. Some of the stuff was uninteresting, but some was spectacular. It was another one of those hot, hot days, so watching exhibitions of glass-blowing was not the smartest thing to be doing. Needless to say, we needed cold drinks and ice creams frequently in Rattenberg!!

Tuesday we all got up early (sort of), and headed out on the road to Salzburg, on the banks of the Salzach River, between two mountains; the Kapuzinerberg and the Mönchsberg. Salzburg, the musical capital of Europe (so some say), where Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born in 1756, is northeast of where we were staying. Actually, Oberndorf is pretty much on a line between Salzburg and Innsbruck. The scenery while we drove over the back roads was spectacular! Beautiful green and grey mountains, with flecks of leftover snow here and there in the higher altitudes, rivers, villages, just magnificent. Salzburg itself, however, was a different story altogether!! July and August are the high season for travelling in Europe, and since 1925 Salzburg has had its Mozart Festival in late July and all of August (along with a lot of other musical things going on simultaneously). We hit traffic about 5 miles outside of Salzburg, by the airport, and moped and crept all the way in to the city, all the way around the city, and all the way out. After 3 hours of creeping traffic and every parking lot being full, we gave up in exhaustion and exasperation, and headed back out the way we came, defeated! It was easy to SEE the city, we were driving so slowly, but we couldn't stop anywhere!

We ate lunch in a Gasthof outside of Salzburg, which was excellent (as Gasthofs usually are), and headed for Berchtesgaden, Hitler's summer vacation home. We arrived too late to take the bus up to his "cottage," the Eagle's Nest, but we did enjoy walking around. It, too, was crowded, but at least we could find a place to put the car while we walked around!

We drove back that evening and ate dinner at a Gasthof in our village of Oberndorf. I had venison steak, Lynn had rabbit, and the girls had "toast;" a German/Austrian specialty, consisting of an open-faced ham and cheese sandwich, grilled, sometimes with eggs or pineapple or something unusual. We see it a lot on menus, and the kids like it.

Wednesday was another sleep-late day, then we went to a wild animal park on the side of a mountain in Aurach. It was the hottest day so far! Easily in the nineties, even in the mountains! We walked around among the deer (we think they were reindeer, but we're not sure) and mountain goats, and saw rabbits, and wild boar (uggh-ly!), donkeys, llamas, monkeys, birds, a lynx, and lots of other stuff.

Reindeer in the Wildepark

It was so hot we stopped on the way down from the park and played in a cold mountain stream for about an hour before heading back to the apartment and a dinner of Czechoslovakian sausages (cevapcici) and Austrian liver dumplings, both found in the frozen food department of the local grocery store!! Shades of Swanson!! After dinner we walked over to a local resort hotel that had a miniature golf course - not the kind of Disneyland type of mini-golf you find in vacation places in the States. More like my family used to find up in the White Mountains in the 1960's; spartan and simplistic. But it was fun and it was handy. We just finished up as a huge roiling thunderstorm came up over the mountains. It turns out that we got no rain from that storm, but the lightning was pretty impressive!

Thursday we woke up to find Lynn sick; she had nausea, diahhrea and headache. After it was all over, we think she might have gotten sick from drinking the mountain stream water, down the mountain from the wild animal park! We'll never know, though.

Megan & Audrey On the Alpine Slide

I took the kids to an Alpine slide in the next town; you take the skier's chair lift up the mountain, and then ride these wheeled bobsleds down in a cement track set in the mountain. Lots of fun, but not cheap for adults (~$7.50 per ride), so I did it once with the kids to see what it was like, and then sat down in the ever-present biergarten sucking down cold ones in the heat while the kids did five more runs. It was much cheaper for a kid's 3-ride ticket; about the same price as an adult's 1-ride ticket. I guess they didn't want adults riding!! The girls enjoyed that probably the most of the whole week, or so they said.

After lunch at the apartment, the kids walked over by themselves to the mini-golf and played another round, then I took them to the town pool to cool off, since it was another scorcher in the mountains. It was an outdoor pool, it cost all of ten Austrian schillings to get in (~ a dollar), and it cooled the kids off.

Friday, Lynn was still under the weather, so Audrey stayed home and read and kept Lynn company while Megan and I took a ride into the Alps. We stopped at a 5 mile tunnel south of Mittersill that would have brought us out about 15 miles from the Italian border. We hadn't brought our passports, and the tunnel toll was 180 Austrian schillings each way (~ $36 round trip) , so I decided I wasn't willing to pay that kind of money just to experience a long tunnel; twice. We ate lunch at the bierstuben at the entrance to the tunnel and headed back. The tunnel was at 6,000 ft altitude, and the mountain it went through was a lot bigger. The van was beginning to buck a little in the thinnish air.

On the way back we spent some time in the town of Mittersill. Based on what I saw on the map I was expecting this quaint alpine town with lots of touristy things to see. Nope. Good, solid blue-collar town, with factories, and stuff. We had to look hard to find a place to buy a few postcards! Back in Oberndorf, Lynn was feeling well enough to join us on an evening ride to visit some villages close to ours, and to look for a place to get dinner, since we had pretty much cleaned out the cupboards the last few days and this was our last night of vacation anyway. We ended up eating on the patio of a resort hotel in Erpendorf (no, not Oberndorf, Erpendorf!). Once again, it was delicious. I don't think we've had a bad restaurant meal in Europe the whole time we've been here.

Back at the cottage after dinner, we had one of the most spectacular displays of lightning I've ever seen; great bolts streaking across the sky continuously, mixed with howling wind and rain, for over an hour! Big flashes every two or three seconds. Quite a display of awesome raw power!

Saturday we headed home, stopping once again in Rattenberg to look for a glass pig that Megan had fallen in love with that first time there, but for some reason didn't buy. Then we hit Innsbruck for lunch. Innsbruck has the Northern Chain Alps right on its doorstep to the north, so you look up over the red tile roofs and see these majestic grey stone mountains, right there! The Inn River flows through the town, cutting it in half. The "Inn Bridge" (Inns Brucke in German) is mentioned in history as a trading post as far back as the 12th century. Innsbruck was much more manageable than Salzburg. The old-town pedestrian area was busy, but we had no trouble finding a space in the municipal garage, and we ate lunch at a Gasthof that was established as a business 27 years before Columbus discovered America (1465)! Talk about history!! And this is a fairly young town! Salzburg dates back to 400 BC!!

All in all, it was a wonderful vacation, but too short (as always). I think mountain air is good for the sanity as well as the lungs! We had hoped to get a chance to spend a day in Italy, since it was an easy drive through the Alps from where we were, but we just didn't get to do it. We had also wanted to take the Sound of Music tour in Salzburg, that followed the story of the von Trapp family, but the crowds clobbered that for us. Perhaps we will drive down for a weekend during off-season and tour through the places we drove slowly past.

September 1992 - Alps

Just as the Fest season was starting up, we welcomed our second set of visitors, my (Gene's) sister Joanne and her husband David, from Colorado. We met them at the Stuttgart train station on the 22nd of September, and we traveled and partied for three weeks. We visited castles, and spent a weekend in the Alps, drank our way through the Munich and Stuttgart OktoberFests, and traveled through the Black Forest, France and the Mosel River Wine country. They headed home on the 12th of October, tired but smiling (or was that grimacing?)!

Mad Ludwig's Castle

On Saturday, we stopped at Neuschwanstein Castle (mad Ludwig's masterpiece) for a tour, then on to Garmisch-Partenkirchen, where we stayed at an American Military hotel. Basic amenities, but super prices. We had some great pizza for dinner at a local restaurant just a walk from the hotel, then we hit the hay for the night. On Sunday we went to the top of the Zugspitz, the highest mountain in Germany. We crossed over the border and had lunch in Austria while we were up there (the Austrian-German border runs right across the top of the mountain). We tried to make it back to Garmisch-Partenkirchen in time for the Almabtreiben (bringing the cows down from the mountains), but we missed it by two hours, so we followed the meadow-muffins to see where they went. No luck, so we headed home to Stuttgart. The ride home was one of the worst we have experienced since we got here; many stau's (traffic jams) all the way home. We finally rolled into Stuttgart around 11PM.

November 1992 - Austria

As November was turning cold and damp on us, we welcomed our fourth set of visitors, my (Gene's) sister Betty and her husband Jim, from Woburn. Betty and Jim were with us over Thanksgiving, but our holiday was anything but traditional. They arrived on Saturday the 21st, and on Sunday the 22nd we did an early Thanksgiving dinner with all the trimmings, complete with our German neighbors (no we didn't cook them, we invited them!)! After a few days of local poking, Jim headed off for a week of business, and Betty headed off with us to Austria! There wasn't any snow in the valleys, but the mountain-tops were well covered. Thursday during the day we roamed around Salzburg, and Thursday night we had an Austrian version of Thanksgiving dinner in the pension (pen-zee-own) in the Alps where we stayed! Jim met us on Friday night, and we spent Saturday in Innsbruck, visiting the old part of town (and we do mean OLD), and the Innsbruck Christmas Market. Sunday we all drove back to Stuttgart in the rain. Jim headed off Monday morning for more business before heading home, but Betty got to stay a few extra days, so she and Lynn spent a day (and a lot of money) in the Black Forest, and also visited the Stuttgart Weihnachtsmarkt (Christmas Market) for a day.

Mozart's Birthplace
Betty & Jim & the Vogts at the Gasthof

May 1993 - Alps

While her sister was here for Lynn's 40th birthday, Lynn and Gail took off for a "girls-only" vacation to the Bodensee, Garmisch-Partenkirchen, and the northern part of Austria. They had lots of fun and Gail got to see what we've been raving about for the past two years. Gail's visit was short (only a week), but Lynn really enjoyed seeing her.

June 1993 - Austria

The Crew At The Heilbronner Hütte

In June, just before our bi-annual trip home, we spent a weekend hiking in the Austrian Alps with our German neighbors. They have a favorite place they like to visit in a valley called Montafone, and Gerhard and I hiked to an Alpine hiking lodge high up in the Alps. We hiked, but Lynn, Ursula, and the girls rode a jeep to the lodge, so we all got to see it. One of the nights we went to a Heimat-Abend; an evening of local culture, folk-songs, and folk dancing. It's mostly for the tourists, but it was great fun to see. Once again I got some great video.

August 1993 – Italy Austria

After two weeks of peace and quiet, everything got back to normal real quick. Lynn and the girls and one of Megan's friends from West Woburn (Melinda Turner) returned on Sunday, August 8th. Melinda got to stay until the 4th of September; after school started over here but before she had to return to Joyce Middle School in Woburn. While she was here we took a lot of little day trips, and one big five-day trip down through the Austrian Alps into northern Italy and the Dolomites (the name for a Dolomite-filled section of the Alps - clever name huh?). We visited Bolzano, and Merano, and followed the trail of Mozart for a while (when he used to travel from Salzburg to Venice).

Audrey, Melinda, And Megan

We drove over some amazing mountain passes, and saw a lot of vintage wine country (pun intended). On our trip back we drove through the Timmelsjoch Pass on the Italian-Austrian border. The old van was working hard and gasping for air (Timmelsjoch Pass is at 2509 meters - 8232 feet!), but it made it. The pass is also less than a half-mile from where they found the 5,200 year old bronze age man back in 1991 (there was a great article about it in the June 1993 National Geographic magazine).

October 1993 – Alps

Sunday of that week (the 3rd of October) both girls headed off on week-long field trips; Audrey was off to an Outward Bound program of mountain climbing and adventure stuff in the Alps, and Megan was off to Russia! Audrey left first. Her group gathered at the school around 10:00 AM on Sunday and headed off in cars for the German Alps, in the vicinity of Berchtesgaden (near Salzburg). During her trip the class visited a giant salt mine in the area (the name of the Austrian city of Salzburg translates to Salt Mountain).

In attempting to squeeze information out of Audrey to include in this letter, I finally resorted to a WHO-WHAT-WHEN-WHERE-HOW-WHY fill-in-the-blank form that I had her fill out. She loved her trip, but all we get is one-word answers from her when we ask about it! I guess its the age. In her own words from the form: When was the trip? 3rd Oct. - 8th Oct. Where did we go? Outward Bound mountain climbing. Why did we go? Educational experience. Who else went on the trip with me? My classmates and their parents. How did we get there? By car. Where did we stay while we were there? At the Seeklaus (that's the name of the hotel/gasthof). What was the hotel/gasthof/hostel/etc like? Comfy. How was the food? Good. What did I bring home? A hat pin (for Dad), a box of salt rock (for Audrey), a Salt Mine picture (group photo in the salt mine). What was my most favorite thing about the trip? Rappelling (as in ropes down the mountain!). What was my least favorite thing about the trip? Hiking. Do I want to go back? Yes. Why? It was fun. Anything extra to add? (blank).

August 1994 - Austria

Our final adventure for this letter was a restful one. We returned to Oberndorf, Austria for a week's vacation. This was our third time visiting the area. In July 1992, we spent our first summer's vacation in Europe in Oberndorf. It was so great, we returned for Thanksgiving 1992 with my sister Betty and her husband Jim. This time, we returned for another week's vacation, to the very same apartment we rented two summers ago. We had a great time, taking day trips when we wanted to, and resting when we didn't want to do anything. We visited Berchtesgaten again, and finally got up to the Eagle's Nest - Hitler's summer retreat house. We spent a day in Zell am See visiting an old-world resort town. We drove back to the old city of Rattenberg. We took Audrey back to an Alpine Slide in the next town that we had visited the first trip. We even spent a half-day at the freibad (outdoor swimming pool) cooling off from the heat.

Walking Path Down The Mountain
Audrey By The Footpath Gate
Music Fest in Oberndorf

Our last few days there, we visited a local music fest, rode a gondola to the top of a local mountain (Kutzbühuler Horn), visited an Alpine garden (and finally saw Edelweiss actually growing), and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. We're beginning to realize we may not get back to some of these places we've grown to love, and it makes us a little bit sad when we leave them for perhaps the last time.



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