Wednesday, April 23, 2008

SKIING IN AUSTRIA, FRANCE AND SWITZERLAND February/March 2008


It was my biggest wish to go ones more on a real skiing trip to Europe. The last time I skied was about 7 years ago. With a “free” voyager flight (not so free, since the airport taxes accumulated to R2,000) I could fly from Jo’burg to Munich and onto Vienna. Three days in Vienna and then my skiing started with my very good Austrian friends. I had the fortunate experience to be able to ski for three weeks in three different countries, Austria, France and Switzerland.

I spend 6 weeks in Europe, which improved again my german language and the economic and political knowledge of Europe. This can help when one is touring around South Africa with tourists from Europe.
The above photo shows me with Mont Blanc on right.
First week of skiing:
The first day of arrival in our accommodation, the Pension (GH) Reiterbauer, near the Reiteralm, (also see http://www.ski-reiteralm.at/ ) we checked in just after lunch and then straight away off to get skies and boots for skiing at the Reiteralm.
I spend two hours skiing with a ski teacher. This was very good, since she showed me all the special ways to hold my body and ski sticks to have the right balance and get around the turns down hill, without falling. With this lesson I quickly had my confidence back. If not quite as fast, I could follow my friends down the hills.
At the Reiterbauer we had a three-course evening meal, which was very good every evening. .
If you are looking for a more luxury accommodation you could go and stay in the Pehab Hotel and Wellness-Oase, look at http://www.pehab.at/ It is in Ramsau in a very beautiful setting.
With this absolutely super weather on Thrsday, we went up the Dachstein, at 3,000M. Fantastic views over the Alps and just the right level of skiing for me up there. 3,000M Freiheit --- look at http://www.planai.at/ . Interesting was also the Ice-Palace, which is inside the glacier. Yes, despite the global warming, there are still a few glaciers around.

Our extra day this year, 366 days, we skied only until lunch. Then the bad weather started, but I also had to leave and be taken to Salzburg to catch the train to Munich. Next morning I went by train to visit family in Dresden, Magdeburg and Leipzig. It was lovely to spend some time in my city of birth, Dresden, and to visit the barock Church, Frauenkirche, that was now rebuilt into a magnificent Honour to God. The last night my relatives, Cordula and Gerhard, took me to the Restaurant at the Dom in Meissen, the well-known town with the beautiful hand-made crockery. For more on this lovely crockery look at http://www.meissen.com/

Second week of skiing:
On 7th March my cousins and I left Leipzig on our long journey to a skiing area in France, near Mont Blanc. We stayed over in Freiburg and arrived then in Les Arces 1800 on the Saturday, 8th March at 19h00, after having been stuck for hours in big traffic jams, all wanting to reach their skiing accommodation before dark.

Our first day of skiing in Les Arces, really only half a day, after getting up late and then spending quite some time to fit the right shoes and skis again for the week at the sports shop, look at http://www.sport2000lesarces.com/ . The biggest challenge of the day was always getting those horrible ski boots on and off again, but they do protect ones enkels.
On 10th March we went for a whole days skiing, since the weather was good, almost too warm and very wet snow at the bottom of the mountains. The next two days it was snowing most of the day. We played cards and the youngsters, cousins son and Spanish girlfriend, had fun in the snow.

13th March My lucky day! The sun was shining again. So beautiful to be able to ski on new snow and in sunshine, but the wind was rather cold.
14th March, our last day skiing in France and an even better day, since the weather was super, blue skies and no wind. We skied all day and also went right up to the top of Les Arces to look over all the Alps and specially enjoying the view over Mont Blanc, the highest peak of the Alps.
Look at http://www.guidesdesarcs.com/ for summer walks up Mont Blanc.

Third week of skiing:
15th March Now my third and last week of skiing started in Switzerland. It was rather difficult to get on a Saturday down from Les Arces to Bourg St. Maurice and then onto Les Cretes, Switzerland. Look at http://www.lescretes.ch/
The weather was not great the next day and we just took one skiing up, but decided we cannot see, there is some ice-cold wind up there and we rather stay inside. The next day was not much better, so we went to look at a very lovely little Swiss town called, Aigle. Here we had a look at Chateau Aigle and stayed for lunch at this little castle. Look at http://www.chateauaigle.ch/

17th March a sunny day and we decided to drive to Verbier, which was only about one hours drive from our side of the mountain and up the other side. We had a morning of super weather, but afternoon the clouds came over again. Verbier is a beautiful little town with lots of Restaurants. Look at http://www.verbier.com/
20th March was another nice day, although still quite cold. This day we decided to spend at Leysin, also a quite well-known skiing area, but not so overcrowded like Verbier. There were places of ice on narrow slopes, not my favorite, but partly it was still good. At lunch I decided this is it and we decided to have lunch up at the top in the turning Restaurant, quite a lovely idea. Sitting there having lunch, one could see all the lovely mountains going passed. Always another interesting view. If you want to stay in Leysin there is a lovely little, affordable Hotel, called Au Bel Air, look at http://www.aubelair.ch/
Next day we were driving through snowstorms to Z├╝rich where I was going to spend Easter with my very good Swiss friends, the Islers. More snow storms over Easter and also during my last few days in Munich with Prof Kraft and Family, but I still had a super time with all these old friends.

Not seeing snow often in Africa, I found even the snowstorms interesting and really had a most memorable
6 weeks in old Europe.

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January/February 2008-- Day Tours and Karoo Tours

Since October 2007, I had many day tours around Cape Town.
In February 2008, just before my overseas trip, I took three people to the Observatory at Sutherland, the coldest place in South Africa. This is also where you will find the Southern African Largest Telescope, SALT, with the biggest "EYE" into the clearest skies of Africa. If you want to find out more, go to www.saao.ac.za