YIV – Phase I
My Year in Vorarlberg (Phase I) is rapidly drawing to a conclusion as the 90 day tourist visa expires; time to pack-up and head out of the Schengen Zone! We’ve scoured all sources of information we can find and yet we can find no acceptable alternative to the limit of 90 days within 180 days. Ursula will spend the rest of this festive winter in Vorarlberg alone with the cats. I’m off to places unknown and adventures untold….. Well, actually, I do have a ticket and I do plan to blog, so stay tuned. But, in the meantime, enjoy this Year in Vorarlbarg Blog Catch Up to bring you up to speed with general events.
Until then, today’s blog is an attempt to catch-up on some of the thoughts and adventures left unrecorded over the past two months.
Today the cost of the season ski pass matured into a sound investment; it hit the tipping point where the expense of daily lift tickets (had I bought them) equaled the cost of the season ticket. From here on in, it’s skiing on the mountain’s dime!
That point would have arrived earlier, in between Christmas and New Years, if it weren’t for the lunacy of ‘high season’ on the slopes. It appears that everybody in Europe descended on our local mountains to enjoy their holidays. The gondola line, where there was none in pre-season, exploded into a 50 minute slog-fest of pushing and positioning. The lift lines were only marginally better, but the well equipped, rude XXXX’s (nationality omitted) thought nothing of cutting ahead in line as if you didn’t exist, riding over your skis and generally just being a nuisance. This made for a very unpleasant experience. All this was manageable, except the pistes themselves were bespeckled with every variety of skier, rendering the slopes un-negotiable.
In Alaska we have a term for fishing shoulder to shoulder, it’s called ‘combat fishing’. This was ‘combat skiing’. Literally, every turn or swoosh could have been your last due to the ass-hole who cut you off, or, you trying not to be that ass-hole and performing Olympian feats of avoidance to not cut off a less skilled skier. You could maim yourself in the process. The overcrowded pistes presented too many risky problems.
By noon the snow on the easy slopes turned into iced-out mogul hills. This was not fun, this was not safe. By noon plus thirty, I was off the hill and headed back home. On a second venture, I only made it to the Gondola line. My imagination was insufficiently creative to figure out how that day was going to be fun. It was a long and empty train ride home.
Between High Seasons
Today (in between ‘High Seasons’), it was ‘awesome’. There was no line for the gondola and lift lines were as sparse as the skiers on the slopes. And, because of all this, the snow was perfect….at least until 1300. While I would never recommend skiing in between Christmas and New Years, I would wholeheartedly recommend purchasing a season pass. The luxury it affords of skiing when you want, in the conditions you want is almost spiritual.
There’s no bad ski days (unless you foolishly ski in High Season!). The concentrated focus on groomed and open runs helps turn even the most basic skier into a confident, in control, ski maniac! Curving into the sharp turns without skidding out, speedily and safely negotiating your way in between the gaggles of skiers one finds on every crest, and zooming down steep inclines without the fear of looming disaster is exhilarating. It’s that special feeling of knowing why we are here, that unique understanding that life is to be enjoyed to the fullest. I can’t wait until I get the opportunity to invest in another season ski pass.
For New Years 2000 we wanted to experience the Y2K End of the World disaster in a caldron of humanity – we visited Amsterdam. What we were pleasantly surprised to find was that the residence of that wonderful city wanted to put on a fireworks light show, a finale that would be seen from Alfa Centauri in 4.37 light years . Seemingly they invested every last guilder (pre Euro) on explosives for the display. Why not? The banking systems were going to fail at midnight as everybody’s investments evaporated overnight!
One finds that the Dutch are very independent people. Although they may be the original founders of Corporations, cooperation wasn’t to be had on this last night of civilization. The millions and millions of dollars in fireworks didn’t go to a consortium to put on a civilized, controlled and safe display. Instead, every resident decided to put on his very own show, all 7 million of them. The exhibition we experienced was, by every definitions, ‘out of control’. It was an amazing spectacle of non-stop explosions and screaming sparks and fiery lights, up and down every street and over every building. The intersections were the most colorful and amazing. From every conceivable spot flat enough to launch a firework, there was a person with a punk-stick, lighting up their life’s savings.
A fire-fight of fireworks
I’ve been on deployments, I’ve been to wars. None of them compare to the absolute mayhem of this night. How they did not burn down Amsterdam is inexplicable. Later that night we all walked through the ‘Red Light’ district only to find our shoes hidden by the depth of fireworks residue – literally, not figuratively. One’s foot could not touch pavement. Perhaps the most respected service in Amsterdam is their cleaning crew. Without missing a beat, they cleaned the dismal mess and by mid-morning, it was as if the previous night’s celebrations were just a vivid memory!
A Euro Thing?
The contemporaneous point to this little reflection is that Y2K amounted to nothing, Amsterdam didn’t burn and life went on pretty much as normal – except for that distinct memory of Amsterdam lit-up by the most spectacular fireworks display every imagined. That’s what we thought until several years later when we watched the New Year’s celebration from a hill overlooking Stuttgart. One should really search YouTube for recordings, it’s a festive display of controlled mayhem. After many years here we figured out that these fantastical light works displays are not an ‘end of the world’ thing, or a Stuttgart thing, but it seems to be a Euro thing.
Even here in sedate Feldkirch, the town was ablaze for this year’s New Year celebration. Yes, in many places it is illegal! But I suspect most residents are sophisticated enough to realize the prohibition against fireworks in the city is a bureaucratic CYA effort – just so they can’t be blamed if the town burns to cinders around them. Fireworks are the order of the day as are the haunted and terrified pets. For those who want to get their pyromania fix out of their systems, head here for New Years 2019, it’s sure to be a blast
What does one do in between skiing, eating bread and pastries, drinking wine and visiting friends while spending a Year in Vorarlberg? Not much…if one doesn’t want. But neither Ursula nor I want sedate lives, so we fill our days from morning to night with the other activities.
Austria is inhabited by a very active native population that spends considerable effort to ensure they can enjoy the perks of good health late into life. On Sundays commercial activities cease and people concentrate on quality of life with friends and family. Walking (or wandering) in the forests and mountains is the norm followed up by visits to friends or family dinners. Vorarlberg is strewn with walking and biking paths leading everywhere, crisscrossing valleys and across mountain ridges.
On weekends one find’s traffic jams of people climbing their favorite peaks heading to the more favored mountain ‘huttas’ to enjoy ‘kaesknoepfle’ with a crisp beer or strong coffee. Walking down the hills in the fresh air with a bellyful of goodness, followed up by a late afternoon nap, is, simply, heavenly! In the afternoons on the not so good days, one surprising finds bikers and joggers exerting themselves along the river paths, presumably trying to work off the previous weekend’s ‘goodness’. Gyms are popular (and expensive,,,,but where are they not?) and group sports are abundantly enjoyed.
So, Ursula and I find ourselves spending a bit of everyday walking the hills and vale’s of this beautiful country….even when the weather is lousy. When it was better, we’d enjoy the bike paths connecting each village with their neighbor’s. On lazy days, we’ll stroll through a quaint village center to inspect the ancient architecture and latest styles while ‘window shopping’.
Masquerading as Locals
We’ve been here often enough to have visited all the sightseeing spots, so we pretend to be ‘locals’ and experience living like a Vorarlberger and Vorarlbergerin. We enjoy the charade and most of the real locals enjoy us and don’t seem to mind too much.
In between all this we travel – Heidelberg, Lucerne, and all the towns in Vorarlberg. During the holiday season, Christmas Markets were the rave and inspecting the wares of each kiosk while testing their wurst and Gluehwein seemed to be the orders of the day. Finally, visiting family and friends like never before has been a grace all in itself. Being a ‘local’ and not having to fly abroad after a week or two, gives one a whole new perspective and appreciation to ‘family and friends’ unobtainable with a ‘short-timers’ status. All in all, the adventure and experiment has met success in it’s first quarter.
Regrettably, the second quarter is already a failure, at least in terms of ‘a Year in Vorarlberg’. Ursula’s local adventure will continue, but I’ll be moving further east. Stay tuned to future blogs.
- Interested in the Year in Vorarlbarg Catch Up blog, Link here to our Year in Vorarlberg Series
- See our ‘Best of Photos’ from this a adventure and from the Rhein’s Lands
- Care to comment on the Blog or Adventure? Jot down your comments in the form below – thanks