Holidays in Austria 1: Vorarlberg

12 May 2012

Mountains around Hittisau

So, we’ve come to Austria on holiday for a month. We drove from Montpellier and stopped off in Vorarlberg in western Austria for a couple of days of mountain climbing before coming here to Ravelsbach, where Rita’s parents live.

The drive from Montpellier through France and Switzerland was fine, and Winnie was well-behaved. We stayed in a village called Hittisau, just over the border into Austria. Navigation was no problem until we actually reached the village itself, which probably has a population of about 2000 people. All of whom appear to be called Hagspiel, which was the name of the family who owned the place we were staying. It took three goes and a phone call to other family members to locate exactly which “Pension Hagspiel” we were booked into. Confusion was compounded when the people at the first place responded to Rita saying “Hello! We have a reservation for two days: we’re the couple with a dog.” with “Are you sure? The couple with the dog already arrived this morning!”. Obviously a different couple with a dog arriving the same day as us at a different pension owned by different members of the same family...

Anyway, we found it in the end, and it was very nice. We had a kitchen and bathroom to ourselves, a big balcony and a view over the valley. We could see mountains from the bed, which is a requirement for any future accommodation, according to Rita.

Winnie wasn’t too impressed with all the newness, but she coped, and soon found a way to let off some steam. We went for a walk the first evening, up to the Hagspiel’s farm and through some fields. There were chickens and cows around and Winnie was very interested in everything. A moment of inattention from the idiot holding her leash (that would be me) allowed her to discover a nice fresh cowpat to roll in. And not just a little dabble of cow poop either, but a full-on shit somersault. We knew that she liked to roll in horse poop (which strangely enough, doesn’t smell too bad on her fur), but we had been speculating over whether or not cow pies would be just as appealing. Question answered: yes they are. First stop once we got back to the pension was the bathroom where we dumped Winnie in the bath and showered her off!

We had two days of really nice walking, the first day up Hittisberg, which is the “Hausberg” of Hittisau and the second a loopy walk up Gschwendalpe. Both days were great, with warm sunny weather (courtesy of the föhn, we heard), steep climbing, lots of snow (it was the first time ever that Winnie had seen snow, and it was a real treat–she loves to play in it, and was running around like she’d been on the crazy cakes), and very few other people around. We even had Victory Beers in a meadow next to a little Gasthaus on the way back.

Evening entertainment was laid on by the neighbours down the hill from the pension. First night: oompah band until one in the morning. Not continuously, obviously. The correct production of Austrian oompah music requires copious lubrication, so there would be five minutes of oompah, then a pause of 20 minutes or so (the length of time it takes to down a beer, if one has an oompah-induced thirst on), then more oompah. Eventually the beer must have run out, because they all went home and we could sleep the rest of the night in something more than 20 minute naps. Second night: the local vintage tractor association descended, with their roaring infernal machines of, perhaps, 1940s or 1950s vintage. We saw them start to arrive as we were preparing dinner and were on tenterhooks for the next half hour as we waited for more of them and an accompanying oompah band. Fortunately, only three tractors (carrying about six people) and no oompah band turned up, and they only stayed for an hour or so.

After two restful days (modulo oompah), we packed up to head east for Lower Austria and Ravelsbach.