Moin Moin meine Lieben!
During the second and final week of the half term holiday here in Hamburg I set off for the south of Germany. Landing in Munich, I was met by my Dad and we headed down to the little town of Pfronten in the Allgäu alps. My brother had already arrived there having flown into a regional airport a little earlier, and we stayed in a small privately run hotel, Hotel Kalkbrennerhof to be precise, which is run by a husband and wife team.
The area was beautiful, surrounded by snowy mountains and green fields. Yes, green fields. Green. You see, dear Reader, we unfortunately picked one of the hottest years in recent times to try and go on our first skiing holiday, which made things slightly problematic. Fortunately, Pfronten is only a stone’s throw from Austria, and so we followed our hotel owners’ advice and drove the short distance to Grän and neighbouring Neunerköpfle, which marked my first ever trip to Austria!
I should add at this point that we did tell my Mum about the trip, honest, but due to a stress fracture caused by running, she wasn’t able to come along. This wasn’t my first foray into the world of winter sports, but from my Bridget Jones technique on day one, you would be forgiven for thinking otherwise.
My school used to run annual ski trips, and so at the age of 13 I headed off to the little French town of Chatel (on the Swiss border) with a few school friends and teachers for my first ever week skiing. It was amazing; we had perfect conditions and I loved trying out something new. It was a wonderful experience, but I was apprehensive before my second ever time skiing the week before last.
I’m now 21 and am certainly a lot more aware of my mortality than I was back then. Along with increased awareness comes a little fear, embarrassment and also a tendency to bruise. Put quite simply, dear Reader, I just don’t bounce as well as I used to.
Much to my surprise, however, I only fell three times (I think) during the whole week, and one of those I blame on the poor design of a ski lift (I got caught on something trying to get off and stacked it before getting cramp in my hip flexor while on the ground. It was a great look all round). There was also the time I didn’t quite get on a dragging lift properly and ended up hanging on for dear life water-ski-style for the 5 minute ascent. There’s certainly work to do on that front.
However, in terms of the actual downhill bit, it wasn’t too bad. My Dad and I decided to ski while my brother had a go on a snowboard.
On our first day my Dad and I had a three hour lesson with an Austrian man called Helmut (for some reason I keep wanting to call him Guido, so go with me if I change between the two). I don’t know if you’ve ever heard an Austrian speak German, but I imagine it would challenge even the most competent of speakers. So there my Dad and I stand, slipping about on our skis, Guido babbling away to us about mountains or something like that, and between us I think we caught about 20 words. That lesson was a physical and mental workout, that’s for sure.
Once we’d overcome the slight embarrassment that comes with being about three times the height of the kids also learning to ski on the baby slope, things started to go fairly well and we moved on to the more difficult slopes gradually. The thing which certainly didn’t help was the weather. Skiing generally involves a lot of layers and standing about, so doing all of that under blazing sun is not ideal. Helmut even saw a mosquito fly past him, which led to a phrase I sadly haven’t been able to forget yet. Expressing his dislike for them he said:
‘Ich sage immer, wenn dich etwas im Schlafzimmer sticht, dann bin ich das’
‘I always say, if something’s going to prick (sting/stick/stab) you in the bedroom, then it’s me’
Once I’d done my awkward high-pitched laugh we carried on for a while, and indeed the rest of the week was spent improving and practising.
We did fit in a few things that didn’t involve face-planting while we were down in Bayern, which included a visit to one of the state’s, and indeed country’s, most famous attractions: Neuschwanstein Castle. They say the Disney castle is modelled on it, and it’s certainly clear to see with the towers and turrets.
We also took a day trip to Innsbruck, which is a very unique city. Situated amongst snow-capped mountains and with a huge array of coloured houses lining its river, you’re bound to fall a little in love with the place.
While there we also ventured up the mountain to the Alpenzoo, which is exactly as its name describes. It houses various birds, beavers and bears, but what it also does is demonstrate very clearly just how well-run zoos in England are. I mean really. I’m fairly sure it wouldn’t have passed many health and safety checks in the UK, judging by the two members of staff who went into the Lynx enclosure smoking cigarettes while the Lynxes were still roaming around in there. Maybe that’s common practice, I don’t know, but it didn’t feel like it from an onlooker’s perspective.
Other trips included a foray to Garmisch-Partenkirchen where we decided to try and find a board game to occupy the afternoons of recovering from the bashes and bruises of skiing in the morning. We settled on the family favourite of Monopoly, and bought the Garmisch edition (I still plan on buying the Hamburg one before I leave). Upon opening it that evening we were a little surprised to find this town on the map:
Yep. It’s a green as well, pretty pricey place is Wank.
All in all, my first ever trip down to Bayern was a wonderful one; we had gorgeous weather and there was lots of laughter. Pfronten even has an Irish Pub, so what’s not to love? We went to the town’s Italian restaurant one evening, too, and the waitress recognised that we were English when we asked for milk with our black tea.
Speaking of which, the little town even had a tea shop! It did look a little like a Union Jack had thrown up in there, but we managed to cope!
Seeing new places is always great, but I can’t wait to be back in the green and pleasant land very soon to enjoy a good cuppa where you should: home.