A Travellerspoint blog

A real winter wonderland

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When we first started planning our trip we all agreed a white Christmas was a must and after researching numerous possibilities, Obertauern in the Austrian Alps was one of the few destinations that could guarantee snow. It is located 1 hours drive south of Salzburg and at 1700m, above sea level.

The town of Obertauern

The town of Obertauern

Well we got the white Christmas we wanted and a whole lot more. The people are friendly, the food great, the scenery amazing and the skiing, for our skill level, was fantastic.

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The boys hadn’t seen snow before and it had been a while since Bret and myself had seen the white stuff so skiing lessons were a must. Our main hope was that Ben and Ryan would be able to get up to the blue and red slopes by the end of the week. The ski instructors (Fabian, Florian and Sebastian from Top Ski Schule) worked wonders and before long the boys were tackling the runs with confidence. Bret was well on his way after just a few hours and I realised that maybe I should stick to shopping!!!

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One of the highlights of our stay was celebrating Christmas at a traditional Austrian restaurant and then having it snow on Christmas day.

Sunrise in Obertauern on Christmas day

Sunrise in Obertauern on Christmas day

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On our last full day strong winds hit the town along with about 20cm of snow. In the morning it was too windy to ski, Bret hit the jackpot getting a tour of Obertauern with Peter (owner and operator of Petergstamm Haus) on the snow mobile.

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By about 1pm the lifts had opened and the boys were back out on the slopes.

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On our last night in the Alps we had a number of schnapps with Peter, whilst the boys hit the sauna before rolling in the snow, a common practice in the Alps.

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We all had an amazing week and it was sad to leave the picturesque village. Having made new friends we all agreed that one day we would return.

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Posted by AllisonP 00:29 Archived in Austria Comments (2)

Frohe Weihnacht (Merry Christmas)

sunny -3 °C

It is now Christmas Eve in Obertauern, the traditional day for Christmas in Austria.

The tradition here is that the tree is put up on this day in the living room, it is decorated and lit with real candles awaiting the Christkind. The room is left empty awaiting the Christkind to arrive and give gifts.

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A small bell is rung, which signals the Christkind has left the room. The family can then enter the room.

The Christkind - Small blond child with wings that brings gifts on Chrtistmas eve

The Christkind - Small blond child with wings that brings gifts on Chrtistmas eve

The dinner is usually goose and ham served with Gluhwein, Rumpunsch, and chocolate mousse.

Today the ski lifts will be closed at 3pm to give everyone time to meet up with their families. Our traditional Christmas day will be just like any other. It is forecast to snow on the 25th but not tonight.

We plan on going out for dinner and then skyping our families afterwards where it will be around 7am.

Frohe weihnacht an alle (Merry Christmas to all in german).

From the Parkinsons

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Posted by BretP 22:26 Archived in Austria Comments (0)

Welcome to Obertauern.... Our Christmas Destination.

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After days of travelling it was great to finally make it to Salzburg, Austria for a number of reasons. We were closer to seeing snow and we were to catch up with Alex, our very first German exchange student. We hadn’t seen him for seven years.

Beautiful Salzburg at night

Beautiful Salzburg at night

On arrival Alex was waiting for us, we said our hellos and headed into the old town where one of the best-known Christmas markets exist. The markets appeared more authentic to the area than those we had previously seen. Stalls were packed with beautiful Christmas decorations, Austrian food and plenty of Christmas cheer. The stallholders were extremely friendly and happy to speak to you in English making our shopping experience much easier. The streets of the old town were beautifully decorated and Christmas was definitely in the air.

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Next on the agenda was dinner and we all decided schnitzel was a must, however finding a restaurant with an available table for us was proving to be difficult. It seemed everyone in Salzburg wanted schnitzel. We were just about ready to throw in the towel and have a pizza when a Christmas miracle happened – a restaurant with room for us appeared. Hooray!! The most amazing Wiener schnitzel for myself and the boys, and Schweinshaxe and a few Austrian beers for Alex and Bret.

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It was time for Alex to leave us, so we said our goodbyes. I was coming down with a head cold so had an early night. We also decided Salzburg had taken over top spot as our favourite town.

Inside Salzburg Cathedral

Inside Salzburg Cathedral

Next morning we ventured back into the old town to see it in daylight – still beautiful. It was about 1degree but apparently that is warm for this time of year.

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After some more shopping we made the hour drive to Obertauern, where we will be spending the next seven nights. The drive took us through the beautiful Austrian Alps and the boys where able to touch real snow for the first time. The excitement in the car was mounting as we got closer to our Christmas destination.

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We arrived in Obertauern, 1700m above sea level, The village is a small ski resort. We are staying at Haus Petergstamm, which is a Ski Chalet owned and run by local people, Peter and Tamara Aubrenner.

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As we parked out the front I got away with the first snowball at the boys, the long anticipated snow ball fight was on, Bret and I left them to it and checked-in.

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For our first full day we did not ski, we took Peters advice and waited for ski school so we could ensure we got the most out of our skiing holiday. Instead we headed cross country, courtesy of snow shoes supplied by our hosts.

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We set off and ended up in a meadow with no skiers around, the only trace of life was the rabbit footprints in the powder snow. We built our first snowman and then headed back forgetting to get a Christmas tree.

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That evening Peter dropped by with a cure for my cold, some local schnapps brewed by his friend. A great evening was had.

Now its time to do some Skiing!

Posted by AllisonP 11:16 Archived in Austria Comments (3)

Goodbye UK... It's time to head to the Alps!

all seasons in one day 3 °C

The next three days would mainly consist of car travel on motorways.

First stop after 5 hours driving from York would be Dover. Dover has a castle, a nice one at that which is set upon the White Cliffs. The kids were over castles at this point and there really isn’t much else in Dover. To be honest we just wanted to get across the channel.

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The next morning we headed for the Ferry which would take us to Calais. Once on board we found a corner to chill out for the next 90 minutes.

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Bonjour France… We finally make it to France and picked up our brand spanking new Peugeot 3008, a nice birthday present that I will have to give back in 6 months time. A great addition to the trip is the on-board GPS, we can now put the phones away and relax and let ‘Charlene lead us around Europe’.

We headed to Strasbourg, a 6-hour drive across the top of France. The drive is mostly straight on motorways. 50euro’s in tolls later we arrive in Strasbourg. It was night and we headed straight out to see the Christmas markets and grab some food.

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The markets are spread out all over the old town with different themes’ for each of them. The first one we come across was centered on food and drinks, very different to the English ones, which sell mostly German sausages and French crepes; these have much more variety and looked delicious.

This is the first time we hit the language obstacle, having practiced French for the past 6 months I thought I would be able to get by, unfortunately my mind could not think quick enough when I was asked questions. Often only English would come out and I would stumble at that. At least I was able to say Merci to some of our frustrated friends.

The markets were highlighted by the one centered around the Cathedral. This building is massive and getting a photo proved most difficult, as it was just too big but what an amazing building.

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On the way back I picked up a bottle of French wine so I could have a drink for my birthday, unfortunately when I got back to the room I had no opener… I went back to the local corner shop where I purchased it. Not confident with my French I showed him the bottle, he smiled and opened it for me. Merci Beaucoup!

The next morning we headed to Salzburg; another 5 hours in the car. As we headed out of Munich the boys would see snow for the first time. The Alps got closer and excitement was growing as we entered Salzburg.

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Posted by BretP 00:33 Archived in France Comments (5)

York

overcast 12 °C
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Heading out of Newcastle we decided to stop past Durham for a coffee. Well we wish we had stayed here instead of Newcastle, a very pretty city with the historical buildings and a University feel.

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York was to be the last major stop on our visit to the U.K. and it didn’t disappoint. As usual we arrived late afternoon, so we had a quick walk around to get our bearings. Once again it was great to be here at Christmas time as the streets were filled with Christmas lights and decorations. As our time in the U.K. was nearing an end some British cuisine was on the cards for dinner – pasties!

York which way

York which way

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The following morning we went to ‘The Shambles’ – a tiny laneway that back in the day was used by butchers – hooks are still outside the shops where carcasses were hung. After a quick hot chocolate, the boys and myself went to Yorks Chocolate Story to learn about the history of chocolate and how it is made. A great tour with many chocolate samples along the way.

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Next stop was York Minster. After a look around the church we climbed the narrow spiral staircase – a total of 275 stairs to reach the top. Well worth the climb, the view was amazing. We also managed to work off all the chocolate we had eaten earlier.

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All enjoyed dinner at The Slug and Lettuce before the boys headed back into town for a ghost hunting tour. No ghosts were found but plenty of stories were told.

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Next we head to Austria with a few stopovers.

Posted by AllisonP 11:33 Archived in England Comments (1)

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