Sixth Adventure: Innsbruck, Austria

4 Jan

You decide to drive up to the marriage retreat and stay an extra day in Austria.  You are very glad you do because this results in 6 hours less travelling time, plus one more day of drinking delicious winter glühwein (spiced hard cider).  The marriage retreat is a welcome getaway, as before, but this time you stay a little longer to play in the pool with the boys and relax in the outdoor hot tub for a bit.  Then when it is time to leave, you have only a short one hour drive to your hotel in Austria.

You have chosen to stay at a pension hotel – essentially a bed & breakfast without the breakfast.  It is cheaper, but it offers no amenities and you have even opted for a shared bathroom.  For a simple family, this works very well for you, as you do not require the fancier luxuries.  (Nicole is a big fan of room service, but she is able to survive the couple days without.)  The water closet and shower room are located immediately outside your door, and you only share with one other couple for just the first night.  You bring milk and cereal and juice with you for cheaper breakfasts, and your unsuspecting children never know what they are missing out on.  In fact, Kirby is so comfortable with the arrangement that he kicks his shoes off outside the bedroom door and wonders why someone else is in your bathroom at one time.

After settling in, you go to check out the couple markets that are open.  It is just a short walk to the markets and the streets are beautifully lit with Christmas lights strung across from building to building.  The architecture is bright and lovely, and the mountains provide a painting-like backdrop.  You wonder if Europeans appreciate how gorgeous their surroundings are.  The markets are small stalls filled with pretzels, cider, sauerkraut, wooden toys, and many Christmas decorations.  Right away your boys sucker you into buying them springy animal trinkets (plus a spinning top for the baby).  You watch fairy tale stories put on by a theater group in fast German.  Your whole family has no clue what they are saying, but the boys enjoy the silliness.  You then listen to a fun brass band playing Christmas music from a balcony in the center of the square.  You finish the night by eating some humongous bratwurst for dinner and heading back to the room, as the air is very cold once the sun goes down.  All is well until Frankie suddenly gets sick and you spend the next hour cleaning up after him and helping him to rest.

The next morning you and the family are ready to go back.  Frankie is feeling much better.  Kirby wonders why you are going back to the markets that you were already at.  You decide to skip ice skating (Nicole has no balance lately and Kirby hasn’t really ever had balance), and opt for a very cheap and very quick horse-drawn carriage ride through the nearby streets.  You admire the Fairy Tale Lane filled with human-size animals and people from the Grimms’ and Andersen’s stories.  You take a quick look down Giant’s Alley, that has massive statues of bearded giants.  You watch the street performers – a silver lady with a huge hoop skirt & parasol, a silver man dressed as a miner, and a burly smelly-looking fellow tossing a wooden spool in the air with a short rope.  After getting some lunch and buying the boys some ridiculous wooden and felt mace toys (the spikes are felt at least!), you watch a puppet/variety/fire throwing show.  Once again, none of you have any idea what is being said, but the boys are amused and Kirby makes sure to laugh when the other children do.  You join up with another American couple and eat Thanksgiving dinner at a pizzeria in Austria.  Quite the cultural mashup!

On your last day you stroll through a couple more markets, then take a funicular (tram car on an incline – see a little video of it here) up to the middle of the hillside.  The view is lovely and the boys enjoy the little ride.  You ride just a short way back down to stop at the Alpenzoo, expecting the zoo to be small and simple.  Instead, you spend over 3 hours watching the different animals.  The most exceptional are the wolves, which (on a prompting from some howling grown men) gather in a very intimidating pack and  start singing the scariest howls ever.  You walk away from them, grateful for the fencing.  There are playful otters, long-legged moose, and horrid-looking vulture-like birds.  At the end of the zoo is a fabulous play area for the boys to wear out whatever energy might be left in them before the long car ride home.

You astoundingly have the next month home too (2 months in a row is spectacular for here!), and the chapel is planning another trip to a holy site – this time Assisi, the home of Saint Francis.  There is room on the bus for all four of you, but you can perhaps find a friend to watch the boys while you two go by yourselves.  Continue reading if you choose to bring the boys along again, or go to Seventh Adventure: Assisi if you would rather find a sitter and go without them.

You tell the chaplain that you might take the boys with you, but after a day of thinking that’d be the right plan, you think how much nicer it would be for another couple to be able to go to Assisi…and especially how much nicer it would be for you to spend time with just your wife!  You offer up the children’s seats to some other adults instead.  Now go to Seventh Adventure: Assisi to read about your day trip out with just Nicole.

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