This story was written as a diary during the holiday. I wrote it on my Psion and made the fine tuning on the Notebook after returning from the holiday.
We usually like to reserve our next holiday right after ending the previous one. This time we wanted to spend our winter holidays in the mountains. We also figured out that we haven't had a week of family only holidays since Anton was born 5 years ago, so we thought it's about time. Furthermore, we've never tried Austria and Vorarlberg is quite close (2-3 hours drive).
Thought an apartment could be the best choice for spending family time + economically this alternative is much more attractive than staying at a hotel. We checked the availability of the apartments offered by Interhome in Internet early October after our Tuscany holiday and made the reservation to the Montafon valley in Vorarlberg (http://www.montafon.at). We booked a 3-room apartment above Tschagguns with 500 meter to the ski lift of Golm - one of the better ski areas in Montafon.
During Thursday afternoon before the holidays I got hit with a 39 degrees fever. Visited the doctor on Friday who confirmed, that it's a virus and it will take a couple of days to heal (=please stay in bed) -> first days of the holiday I'm most probably going to spend ill.
Day 1 - Saturday, 31.1.04
The evening before we tried to pack as much as possible. I was ill and at the same time had a bunch of work related tasks to delegate / finish before being able to go on holiday with a good conscience. I had my work done by 11 PM and we decided to stop the packing by midnight and continue after waking up.
On the first day of holiday we woke up a bit before 9 AM and started to fix things up. After all the hassles we finally got underway at 11:30 with me driving after doping myself heavily with Panadol. We stopped for lunch in a McDonald's close to Feldkirch in Austria at something past 1 PM. The trip so far had went without troubles. However after McDonald's we were doomed. Anne and I were stupid enough to buy the kids a Happy-Meal, which came with pirate Smurfs toys. Consequence: Worst screaming between the kids ever about who had broken what of each other's pirate Smurf sets. The toys were immediately quarantined, but the nagging went on until we arrived at Tschagguns. Remains to be seen when they get them back...
In the village Tschagguns we stopped at the local Intersport to check out how the stuff with a ski school was working. For Amanda we booked 2 days - Monday to Tuesday - and for Anton a test day (Schnuppertag) for Monday. Amanda also wanted some kind of a trendy ragcap (Buff) that you can modify and use in different ways. I needed to upgrade my ski glasses.
We arrived to the apartment at something past 4 PM. It was a modest, but nice, 3-room flat on top floor (=3rd floor). The guy renting the apartment (Erwin Ainhauser) had built the house in 1975 and made 2 larger extensions / renovations (all by himself!!!) and was living there himself as well. He seemed to be fairly "green". For example, all the wood materials in the apartment were untreated, he was very keen on recycling everything (neatly separated in a bunch of different baskets down at the ski room), and even the blankets were from some specially ecologically friendly wool. Below some pictures of the house with surroundings and the flat.
Here's a picture of the house. Our apartment was on the backside of the house. The house lies slightly separated from the other houses and the village.
Here we are 1.100 meters above sea level.
Here a view from our balcony towards south-west.
Here's a view from the kids' room towards the valley north. Below you can see the Latschau dam. On the left side of the dam are the skilifts up to Golm. The lift station is not visible in this picture.
Here's our living room. This picture is taken from the stairs coming down from the entrance hall and the kitchen.
As you can see, the furnishing is quite spartan and we have no TV or radio (I had a small TV with me to watch news...)
Here's our bedroom. All the wood you see is unhandled. Erwin had also built the beds as permanent constructions. I was very happy to see, that he hadn't built anything fancy on the legside of the bed which meant that I could sleep with my legs straight.
Here's the kids' room. It's long and narrow and therefore not that well suited for playing. The kids naturally chose to play in the living room. Anton had the bed further away in this picture (the one with the bedlamp on).
As I said earlier, I had the flu. By 5 PM, after carrying all the stuff inside, I was so exhausted that I fell into bed and slept (with a small break in-between) until next morning.
Day 2 - Sunday, 1.2.04
We were totally dead in the morning. Firstly we had put Anne's mobile phone to wake us up at 07:30. The phone rang, we woke up, shut the phone, and went on sleeping. After quite a while the kids woke us up. The time was then 07:45. I felt that this couldn't be right... Checking Anne's phone, I saw that it was still set on Finnish time -> the stupid gadget had tried to get us up at 06:30!
Our start was slow ... very slow. We got out at 09:15 after trying to hurry along. We had a short drive (500m) to the ski lifts and after arriving there and starting to put the ski boots on, we noticed that we'd forgotten the additional ski socks for the kids. Consequence: Driving back to the apartment, fetching the socks, and driving back. with some additional small screw-ups we were up on the slopes at 10:30. As the kids should go to ski school next morning, we definitely had some improvements to make to be able to make it on time next day.
On top of it all, I still had over 38 degrees in the morning, so the ski day was directly related to the internal supply of Panadol.
Well on the slopes, life started to smile (as you can see from this picture). The sun was shining and everybody was eager to go skiing.
This picture is taken from Golm on an altitude of 1.890 meters looking east over a part of the Montafon valley
In this picture it looks like I dumped Anton to Anne. It was actually the other way around. I skied with Anton between my legs using my ski sticks squarely as horizontal handles for Anton.
Anne has here my old skiing glasses. Due to the fact that they weren't designed for people using glasses, they pressed Anne from both sides. Later we gave these ski glasses to Amanda and Amanda's glasses to Anton.
So far, so good. Then for the problems...
Problem number one. Amanda was somehow "ryyd" and moved slower than the slowest beginner on the slope - I think she was disappointed that Anne was skiing better than she did.
Problem number two: Skiing with Anton between my legs was really killing me. I had to ski with a deeply bent back and with my skis in a constant V-form which really takes on your leg muscles - especially if you haven't been working the muscles much before.
Problem number 3: I had forgotten my Panadol pills in the apartment, which I noticed after lunch. The afternoon was physically downhill - makes for real "downhill racing", doesn't it?
In the evening, after we had returned to the apartment, we gave the kids a box full of Mechano toys that were rewards (promotions) from buying Weetabix boxes. We had 12 of these Mechano boxes altogether - 6 of each 2 sorts. We spent 2-3 hours building different Mechano combinations. These gadgets are for 6-year olds upwards which I could clearly see when building the stuff with Anton. In the pictures you can see the gadgets built with / for / by Anton and by Amanda (please notice the difference in prepositions)
Anton wanted space ships with all kind of laser cannons, photon torpedoes and other cool destructive gadgets.
Amanda liked the violet bad guy scuba diver stuff more...
In her hand you see the Mechano all-round tool.
In my days the Mechano sets were of metal with real bolts and nuts and proper tools. This plastic stuff is perhaps more cool, but still pretty garbage. I'm happy we got these for free.
Day 3 - Monday, 2.2.04
This was the first ski-school day. Our morning start was now also good. We decided to rent skis for Anton - the ones we had brought with us and with which Amanda had learned to ski were too long and one of the skis was broken. I didn't have the guts to take him with these crappy skis to school – the teachers would surely had laughed us out of there.
Anton went to beginners training (Schnuppertag) and for our great (positive) surprise he stayed and had great fun. Here you see him on a conveyor belt getting up a very small hill in the small kids' part of the ski school.
Amanda had to go through a ranking by skiing once down a short slalom track and based on her skiing she was sorted into a suitable group. There were something like 7-8 different groups running in parallel.
She was categorised into a yellow group which was for children with not yet that much experience, but they left immediately outside the ski school area and starting skiing blue slopes.
Both enjoyed the ski school very much and the kids now look forward to a new day at school tomorrow. Let's hope for good weather
Today I felt well (could be because of a Panadol in the morning and after lunch) This was also my first real skiing day - it felt great to go your own pace down blue and red slopes instead of taking small spurts and always waiting 2 minutes in-between for the others to catch up. Furthermore, as the weekend was history, there were perhaps only a quarter of skiers to yesterday.
Our house is one of the houses you see in the sunny spot to the right of my face in the picture.
Anne had her first true skiing day as well - she bravely came along most of the hills I wanted to visit. In this picture I got her up to 2.300 meters to ski down a couple of red slopes. (She's still smiling ;-)
At the end of the day she said her legs were cooked spaghetti.
It was very nice, though, to spend time only between the two of us - e.g. we stopped in a small "Pistenstube" and enjoyed a Jägertee outdoor under the shining winter sun
The evening was very relaxed. The kids played with their Mechanos, and Anne and I spent time discussing and reading. By 9 PM we all were in bed.
Day 4 - Tuesday, 3.2.04
Today we split up - Anne went walking with a sleigh, and I took the kids to ski school and went skiing myself. Here the lack of previous physical exercise came to bare - after skiing a couple of slopes, my feet were shakin' like Elvis' pelvis on stage.
Anne had bad luck with her walking trip. She had targeted a cottage names Lindauer Hütte 7 km walking distance away and 750 meters higher. When she arrived there after a 2,5 hrs walk, the cottage was closed and her lunch ruined. Fortunately it was excellent to sleigh down from the cottage - that took only 20 minutes.
At noon I took the kids to lunch. We only had 1 hour time before the ski school started for the afternoon. With all the people the schedule was very tight. Amanda left earlier and I had to run with Anton not quite making it on time.
Here his ultimate coolness is finishing his blackberry juice. He likes his granddad so much, that he even wears his name on his clothing ;-)
Anton was doing quite well at school. While the other kids in his group were going here and there and falling and crying, Anton coolly skied along even helping the other kids up once in a while.
Amanda was also enjoying her day at the ski school. Here you can see her in the middle of the picture with her yellow hat and overall.
I took the picture from a skilift when she happened to ski by.
At 2 PM Anne and I met at the same "Pistenstube" were we sat yesterday. There I gave Anne my skipass and she went up to get the kids while I stayed to first write a bit of this story and then ski down.
In the evening (mostly) Anne wanted to go somewhere instead of hanging in the apartment all evening long - we've already done that since Saturday. Close to us there's a hotel (Montabella *** http://www.tiscover.at/montabella), and we decided to go there to enjoy a restaurant dinner. We raced down the road on the sleighs and were able to enjoy good food in a nice and peaceful surroundings. After this we hauled our tired behinds back up to the apartment and straight to bed.
Day 5 - Wednesday, 4.2.04
Woke up after a long night's sleep with aching muscles at the usual time of 07:30. Today we made the following split: Anne took Anton to ski school (we decided to prolong the school for him as he was making good progress and was up to his first slope today), and I went with Amanda to a new ski area (Hoch Joch) that boasted a large area with blue slopes.
Anton started his first ski-tour down a blue slope with his ski teacher and 4 other beginner kids at 10:45. They were back 1 h 20 min later at 12:05. Pretty heavy, but then again the slope was about 4km long and it was their first time. Anton told me that several kids fell several times, but he claimed that he didn't even once. Maybe true, maybe not...
Anne spent her time sleighing and wandering in the mountains instead of skiing the Golm slopes - finally now it's clear for me that she really is not that keen on skiing :-(
Amanda's and my trip to Hoch Joch was a hit! The weather was a dream and it was nicely warm even at 2.400 meter - the highest point where we were.
The Golm ski area is to the left behind Amanda on the other side of the valley. The mountains far away to the right of the sign belong to Switzerland.
The slopes were in top shape and we didn't have to wait by any lifts. The mountain behind Amanda is full of long blue slopes, which we skied down several times.
There we also for the first (and last) time used an anchor lift. Almost up, we screwed up and fell off. Hence we had to take a small (and easy) off-pist tour. During the longer lift rides, we had word games (gimme an A...) or I made up stories (Den Vimsige Mumien - The Weirdo Mummy). Amanda used to sing while skiing down and once in a while even got bold enough to downhill-race some shorter intervals of the slopes.
At 4 PM we all came together at Latschau dam - starting point of the lifts to Golm. After going back to the flat and having something to eat, we decided to go to hotel Montabella to have a bath in the sauna (I checked the possibility yesterday when we went there for dinner). The sauna could be rented after the fix time reserved for the hotel guests, which ended 6 PM.
We went to the sauna at 6.30 PM and reserved it for 2 hours for 14 €. The sauna looked very nice - it had a place where you could rest in comfortable armchairs, a separate corner for sitting together around a table, a very nice double shower corner and a Turkish & Finish sauna. The Turkish one was off (we didn't order it). The normal sauna was nicely heated at 90 degrees, but as almost always in central Europe, there were some glitches... Firstly the sauna was even smaller than our sauna at home - 4 persons felt crowded. Secondly the air conditioning didn't work. After only 5 minutes you started to feel very tired and had to go out to get some air. Thirdly, and this is the funny part, the sauna had a nice and large stove, but it was designed in such a way, that the stones were separated from the electrical heating resistors - thus the stones couldn't get heated up to respond to water thrown on them. Furthermore, the stones selected for the stove were local mountain stones - looked pretty, but didn't reserve any heat. After having cleaned the bucket from a horrible overdose of orange aroma, I threw water on the stones anyway - mostly from old habit and partly for cleaning the stones from dust and sticky aroma stuff. Otherwise, however, it was very enjoyable to have taken these 2 hours for cleaning up in the sauna landscape .
This evening, as all evenings before, we went early to bed totally exhausted by all the outdoor activities. We should be doing this kind of stuff much more often to reach a more sound basic level of physical fitness...
Day 6 - Thursday. 5.2.04
For today we had decided to take a break from skiing and spend the day sleighing instead. The morning was slow - even slower than planned. After getting up at 8 AM, having a relaxed breakfast (in the picture), and fetching the laundry from yesterday evening, we arrived at the lift to take us to the sleighing slope we selected (at Silvretta Nova) only around 10:30.
The weather was a pearl - the sun was shining from a clear blue sky and the temperature was even higher than yesterday (16-17 degrees in the valley). The sleighing slope was roughly 5 km long and the feeding lift was an old 2-seater. Everyone had a blast!!!. For lunch the kids got spaghetti bolognese again - it seems this is the only kids menu available :-( I had something interesting - pea soup with 2 long sausages (stretching over both sides of the plate) that I cut with a knife to make it eatable. The pea soup, by the way, was light green and all the peas had been pulverised so you couldn't see even the slightest sign of a pea. This picture is taken outside the restaurant before we headed down for another tough sleigh run.
After sleighing down a couple of times we went to the village Schruns (centre of Montafon) to walk around and to see what the village looks like. Wasn't much to see. We spent less than an hour there.
From there we continued to find a place to catch the last shines of the sun before it disappeared behind the mountain chain. This brought us to the village Bartholomäberg, which has its' view towards south-west. There we stayed one hour until 5.30 PM when the sun disappeared. During this time the kids built a bobsleigh track in the snow and raced it down with miniature bobsleighs Anne had bought from Finland a year ago but only gave them now. In the picture you can see their bob-track and if you look really carefully at the lower left corner, you can see a silver and yellow bobsleigh.
Anne and I, in the meantime, spent our time on the terrace of a hotel enjoying the sun, the temperature, and the wonderful mountain view. Another day to remember.
The evening went uneventful. For Saturday they have promised a weather change and it should be raining and storming. If we get this verified by the weather forecast tomorrow, we have decided to leave tomorrow evening instead of Saturday. Things are open...
Day 7 - Friday, 6.2.04
This morning we took a "normal" start getting up at 07:30. This time we took the whole gang to Hoch Joch. The decision when to leave was still left open, but the tendency was towards leaving in the evening.
Apart from some stray clouds in the morning, this was a new sunny day. Again we rented skis for Anton. In Hoch Joch the ski rental took 10 € / day - a rip-off compared to 6.50 € at Golm.
Anton proved to be a real ski devil - for being the 1st whole day on the slopes he showed magnificent spirit and stamina. Here you see him at the top of Hoch Joch - almost on the same place where the picture of Amanda with the Hoch Joch sign was taken. Far behind you see parts of the Swiss alps.
A couple of times he sat down in the middle of a slope to rest (not that smart concerning all the teenage snowboarders racing around), but otherwise he almost kept up with our (relaxed) skiing.
This picture was taken from a skilift where Amanda and I were going up passing Anton and Anne going down.
Amanda had clearly also developed quite a lot. She felt much more comfortable with the slopes and hence also was putting much more speed into her skiing. The turns were also going better, though she still needs to work on making parallel turns.
After the day we all felt tired but happy and comfortable with the idea of leaving for home already this evening. This day was a perfect ending to a terrific family ski-holiday week.
We were back at the apartment at roughly 5 PM. The whole procedure with packing and dinner took 2,5 hours. Close to one hour of this I spent discussing with our host, Erwin Ainhauser, with whom we talked about everything between forestry and building technologies to world economic policy and overall ethics. I got the impression he was kind of lonely up there in his house in the mountains and needed somebody to talk to.
At 10 PM we arrived home. Anton slept the whole way back and Amanda half of it. We carried the kids in bed and the bags in and left the rest for Saturday.
On Saturday morning the kids woke up at the usual time of 07:30 rushing immediately to watch cartoons from the TV. Anne and I woke up at around 9 AM - she got up and i stayed in bed finishing a book. Outside it was raining and the wind was howling. The holiday was over and now we need to adapt to the "normal" life.
This holiday is going to stay in our memories for years to come - because of the weather, the surroundings, and last but not least because we had one week time to do stuff together as a family. This first family holiday in five years was definitely long overdue. In he future I've got to make sure, that we will get one week family holidays every year. It is now traditionally time, by the way, to plan our next holiday. Gotta do some thinkin'....
While I'm writing this epilogue, I'm downloading my emails from the week - 115 mails excluding spam. Tomorrow (Sunday) I need to prepare for the working week by going through the mails and planning a couple of important meetings on Monday. I have a very tough deadline approaching on February 20th, which means working day and night again. The reality is catching in on us again...