Saturday, August 15, 2015

Beauty Surrounds Me - Austria part 1

After leaving the Czech Republic we used our timeshare to enjoy a week at the Alpenland SportHotel in Maria Alm, Austria. This is a beautiful village nestled about an hour from Salzburg. This area is bustling with skiers in the winter but provides a nice quiet retreat in the summer. The first night as we ate dinner at the hotel restaurant and I told Mark I could just imagine it in the winter with folks sitting around in their ski clothes. When we checked in we were told they'd given us a 1 bedroom with a kitchen even though we'd booked the one without. Hooray! That means breakfast in the apartment and sometimes dinner too! The temperatures have been in the mid-upper 90's so there were times it was a bit unbearable but a fan helped and by bedtime it's not bad, although Hannah struggled the most with going to sleep hot. But there is a lovely sunset to enjoy from our balcony every night! My first "wow". 

Maria Alm is a very small and quaint little village with all the hiking, cafes, shopping and beautiful views you'd ever need. And I'm sure in the winter it's equally as appealing. There is a lovely Catholic church just behind our hotel and I'd love to photograph it in the winter! 

The last morning we were here it had finally cooled and there were low hanging mountain clouds and I made Mark pull over before we headed out for the day just so I could grab this picture! 

Our first day we enjoyed some downtime then took in the sights of Sell am Zee, a nice lake town. And the kids got to enjoy some playground time. Every corner we turned on our drive there resulted in more "wow"!

And ice cream, we had ice cream every day this week as a treat for good behavior (and to cool down). This girl loves her chocolate ice cream! 

Our third day in Austria was a favorite. We visited Saafelden, a village a few kilometers away. There we were were able to take a chair lift to the top of a mountain and ride toboggans down a bobsled run. Yes, we rode toboggans all the way down a mountain! It's a 1.6km run and was a crazy amazing experience. I highly recommend this to anyone who gets a chance! Both kids enjoyed it...and their parents! The oldest parent and oldest child did it twice! Pictures of the pictures we bought there:

(Please ignore me - I had to be a pack mule and wear Daniels toddler size backpack, my purse and my camera while holding him and driving!)
Then we rode back up the mountain to enjoy lunch with this view. Wow. 

And some more playground time! One thing we never had a difficult time finding was playgrounds. 

We finished off the day by briefly leaving Austria to check out the views from Kehlsteinhaus, also known as Hitlers Eagles Nest. It is an absolutely amazing structure at the very tip top of the mountain. And it tickles me to death to be able to offer my own kind of anti-salute to Hitler by bringing my black children here to enjoy some gelato!  

We stuck closer to home in our fifth day in Austria, taking the chair lift not far from our hotel and enjoying the top of our mountain. We hiked a short ways down to a little cafe for drinks and then back to the top to soak up the sun. Seriously, this was beautiful! I could have sat in one of those chairs all day if not for having to chase down a wandering child so frequently! My mind kept returning to an old favorite song "Tall mountains, green valleys, the beauty that surrounds me; All make me aware of the One who made it all." 

The last day in Austria we found ourselves in Sell am Zee again for a little souvenir shopping and lunch. While enjoying a "quiet" ( I use that word lightly because we had our kids with us!) lunch at a sidewalk cafe a crowd gathered in the street near men dressed in traditional clothing and a strange performance/celebration broke out. Men were performing with large whips and also a performance army (mostly old men who couldn't march in step) began loading their rifles and firing. And then there was the canon. My kids were fine with the loud whips, the guns caused tears and the canon and more whips were more than they could handle ending with one near hysterics and the other also crying but more for attention. Somehow this was all related to the Assumption of Mary but we never could figure out the correlation!

I'm writing another post about our days in Salzburg and Munich so stay tuned! 

Austria was beautiful and I consider it a true blessing to have spent a week with my family in such lovely surroundings. If you ever get the opportunity to visit the Alps please do it! You won't be able to stay in a Hilton or Holiday Inn if you go to the smaller villages but you won't regret staying in a more local style hotel/resort either. Put on some good walking shoes and go enjoy! 

Lord, Your hands created some spectacular mountains.  You formed the highest mountain peaks and the most intricate rock formation. Thank You for allowing me the opportunity to witness it firsthand and sharing the experience with the three people closest to me. Please continue to allow us to have these amazing experiences throughout our adventure. Amen.

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