One more month down, and we have a verdict: no EWHL playoffs for us. The last weekend of January we had to win both games against Martin in order to make the playoffs. Instead we split the series. We traveled on the bus nine hours, to north-central Slovakia and came back empty handed. The one loss to Martin, Slovakia was really a letdown, but our team just couldn’t catch a break. In combination with our sloppy play and missing our starting goalie, we were useless. The next Saturday we beat them at home 5-3. However, on that Sunday we had to play our last game for Austrian Championship placement versus the Neuberg Highlanders. We had already clenched a spot in the championship series, but we played hard for pride and won. Next weekend we start the Austrian Championship, best of three series versus the Vienna Sabres, for the title.
Since we have practically a month without games and Sarah is on her semester break, we have been getting creative with our activities. There is a small mountain, Kapuzinerberg, in the middle of the city. One day we grabbed some ice cream at Icezeit (Ice Age or ice time), and we hiked to some great lookout spots. There is a monument near the start of some trails where Mozart wrote “The Magic Flute.” No doubt he was inspired by the view of the castle with Untersberg (berg means mountain) in the backdrop.
When it got a bit darker, we were ready for dinner. Sarah made some Jamie Oliver style chicken recipe, compliments of Youtube, and I made (bought) dessert. After eating a few macaroons from a nice confectionary store in town, we asked ourselves, “How hard could that be?” We spent the next several days turning our kitchen into a laboratory, but our tasty treats were the ugliest things I’ve ever eaten.
I asked to take a few practices off (with the promise of off-ice workouts) in order to travel. Many of the girls missed last week for Austrian national team camp anyway. I travelled home with Sarah (we had to give the macaroons to somebody), to Dornbirn, Austria, which is in Vorarlberg, the western most part of Austria, close to Switzerland, Germany, and Lichtenstein. Lichtenstein is actually the only country I’ve ever been to in which I managed not to take a single picture, because I forgot my camera. I’ve been to Sarah’s house quite a few times, but this trip was the first occasion in which we made it to Mohrenbraeu, the local beer factory, gift shop. Other attractions near Dornbirn include Rappenloch and Lake Constance. Rappenloch is home to a water powered dam and stream high up in the mountains with trails winding even further up into the mountains. Lake Constance is a lake with Switzerland to the south, Austria to the east, and Germany to the north. There is a theatre stage on the water near Dornbirn where a scene from a recent James Bond movie was shot.
Last year we took a day trip around the entire lake and spent the day checking off a list of things to do and see. FIAT is soon coming to America. Since we have experience dealing with the team’s little FIAT Panda last year, I should warn you that unless you get the top model with a cigarette lighter, you cannot plug in a GPS system. So…before we could find all of the places we wanted to see, we had to install a GPS system. We couldn’t forget the toilet paper! Not every restroom has some.
We saw an ancient Iron Age village on the water, fed monkeys with our bare hands (Sarah was suffering Monkey ADD…so I only have half a face here), and somewhere along the way passed Napoleon’s childhood home.
It really is a lesser known vacation destination, but I have had some fun there. Everywhere is surrounded by the Alps and you are always close to some great skiing in the mountains. After a few days of playing with her cat, dog, new puppy, and sneezing into my pillow all night, we bought train and bus tickets to Venice, Italy. The last night, Thursday, at Sarah’s we walked 50 meters to attend her Oma’s birthday party. Her extended family all lives in neighboring houses on the same little mountain, so it was quite a large gathering. They welcomed me all the same. Her Opa eagerly poured a glass of local wine for me to try, her Aunt kept trying to give me another schnitzel, and her Oma madehomemade Krapfen (cue giggle but they are like doughnuts). A little ways down the road on the same little mountain there is an incredible view of Lake Constance, which means you can see all the way to Switzerland and Germany.
We said goodbye to her dad and brother, Simon, Thursday night, but the puppy, Felix, and dog, Emil, woke up to send us off before 6am. Luckily, her mom dropped us off, and we didn’t miss the train unlike last time. Here is a picture of thechocolate Yoda, aka Felix:
The trip from Dornbirn to Venice took us about 8 hours. I didn’t mind much since it was beautiful display of castles, mountains, and vineyards the entire way. We went through Innsbruck, Tirol which is a region that runs from Austria to Italy, and down to Verona. At one point we saw the Europabrucke (a very long bridge in Tirol, southern Austria). We boarded a Swiss train in Verona, and traveled another hour before crossing the water into Venice.
Venice or Venezia is without a doubt the most unique city I’ve ever seen. I’m sure I probably said that same thing to myself when I saw the mountains around the giant medieval castle in Salzburg, but Venice is completely different. It is a living museum (you hear that term used a lot there). According to our gondola driver, a new building hasn’t been built in Venice in over 500 years. A millimeter of space isn’t wasted. The streets are so narrow that the only means of transportation is either foot or boat. Even biking would be too difficult with all of the walking bridges, tourists, and tightness of many streets. It is also a huge tourist destination. Tourists outnumber locals 10-1 anywhere you go, and they are easy to identify with maps in hand. They often following each other into dead end walls and you can see them trying to squeeze by each other to turn around). A good sense of direction and adventure will only get you lost in Venice. Unless you’re Jesus and can walk on water, you need a map to find the streets with bridges. Some streets wind and wind into a dead end. It’s no secret why there are so many people from all over the world visiting. Every tiny street or canal is picture-worthy (until you end up with 800 pictures). The way of life is different. Trucks don’t deliver goods to businesses; people get up early in the morning when the streets are less crowded to boat and cart goods in and garbage out. Two wooden poles in the water signifies private parking. Our gondola driver yelled “Yo hoi” as we approached every turn and explained “this is my horn or beep beep.” It takes years of practice to hone the skill required to dance boats around each other in such tight spaces. Our gondola trip took us on the Grand Canal, under Rialto Bridge, and through many small canals past Marco Polo’s house, and even past Casanova’s house. Bigger boats are confined to the bigger canals. Some are used at taxis, but all of it is expensive, especially the gondola (but Sarah and I thought it was well worth it).
Naturally we picked the best time of the year to go to Venice. We didn’t know for sure (dates vary), but we thought we would be there around Carnival. Luckily we got to walk the streets with the Teletubbies, mushrooms, the Toy Story characters, hundreds of people wearing Venetian masks, kids throwing confetti, and protestors chanting and carrying “Veneto Stato” flags. One morning, Sarah and I left (with map in hand) for some sightseeing and mask shopping, and we only knew one way (without hiring a boat) to get across this tiny little 4 meter canal. We started to cross before police came from the other side of the bridge, and we were forced to walk back the other way. Following the police were hundreds of these protestors. We took a guess that they were peaceful and hung around waiting to cross.
Since I always comment on the hostel, I will continue by rating this as a 5 star hostel. Really it was called Al Saor B&B, so technically it was a bread and breakfast. The price was as cheap as any hostel I’ve stayed at, and the owner, Silvia, served breakfast. Another lady in the kitchen offered to make omelets too. The bathroom was also a unique experience as it was equipped with a bidet. Since the property is so expensive, rent for locals is practically impossible to afford. Tourists fuel Venetian businesses, and one of the number one essentials is overnight accommodations. It is expensive to reach Venice, but there are many cheap places to stay.
Back to the sightseeing, I must say it is possible to see the major sights of Venice in only a day. It takes more than a day to really enjoy the time there. The main island only takes about an hour and a half to walk around. So, we were able to see many old historic cathedrals, buy our Venetian masks, eat a slice of pizza, voyage out near the end of the island, wander around Saint Mark’s Square, and take a trip to the top of the Bell Tower all before 3pm.
After our gondola ride, we ate pasta (with hot peppers), had a glass of red wine, grabbed a gelato, and called it a night. Sarah wasn’t feeling great for much of the trip. The next morning we left, but not after another gaunt through Saint Mark’s Square and a trip to Rialto on foot (and another breakfast). We hopped on the OEBB double-decker bus, and started our voyage back to Salzburg. It was another scenic trip, via Villach. Nothing really exciting happened, although I did hit the emergency call button twice while trying to hit flush in the bus bathroom.
This week we returned to practice as we need to prepare for next week’s game. I also picked up a few English lesson clients this month. One asked me to help him refresh his business English in preparation for a meeting with a London based company. So, I have enjoyed talking about equities, stocks, bonds, and asset allocation while helping him refine his introduction and prepare questions which will help his non-native English speaking client. Blah blah blah. On a more exciting note, this week was the mark of Sarah’s first Oreo, first roasted marshmallow, and first root beer float. I was trying to introduce her to a few American friendly items, but not all went according to plan. The Oreo I had to get because it was the first time it has ever appeared in the grocery store, and she commented “What is that?” After I promptly picked my jaw off the floor, I put a package in the cart. A few days ago I was roasting a marshmallow from the package my parents left here at Christmas time, and she asked “What the hell is that?” After slapping my face with my hand and moving my mouth up again, I told her to eat it. At first she said “No, it smells like my grandpa’s bonfire and burning plastic,” but I insisted that all Americans love roasted marshmallows and she was prejudice against the marshmallow. She didn’t like the marshmallow. There was some gagging, and instead of finding a new snack we just found out that marshmallows don’t flush down the toilet very well. I still felt bad about the marshmallow incident, and the Oreos just aren’t enough to do the trick. So after putting the Oreos in the cart, I discovered a Dr. Pepper. It was a thin single row of Dr. Pepper’s in a corner of the beverage section. Typical sodas found in America are of course not very typical here. I haven’t been much of a soda drinker since middle school, so it took me two years to notice the lack of brands like Mountain Dew and of course Barq’s (or any type of root beer). The Dr. Pepper was no replacement for A&W, but A&W went out of business (so what do they know). I told Sarah to grab some generic vanilla ice cream, because I was making root beer floats (minus the root beer). It was more successful. Nobody gagged, and we at least finished. I’m not sure it made up for the marshmallow though.
We have returned to coming up with creative activities. Amongst our usual cooking experiments, we took some artistic time to paint our own Venetian masks.
On a final note, our neighbor across the way has begun playing the flute. His noise and low ability level have confined him to the building’s drying room. There are no drying machines in many homes in Austria, so there is a designated room for hanging up clothes. A few days ago after coming home late from practice, the light was on in the basement and strange noises were emerging. Then, a head, flute, and music stand appeared amidst a row of dish towels.