A Smorgasbord of a Post: Spring, Hitchhiking and DVD Players

Photo by Josef Stuefer

Small town living has given me time to consider and observe. Since I’ve been here, life, for me, has slowed down considerably. There is time to share a coffee and pastry with my landlord, have a meandering walk to the grocery store (but before 7:30 pm, because that’s when it closes!), listen to the birds chirping in the morning and evening or take a bath if I so desire. And while I didn’t end up penning that elusive first novel, I’ve been able to make many valiant attempts. This year has been a welcome break from the hustle-and-bustle that was the University of Michigan.

And so, now, I give you my observations of the week, which are not much to publish in independently, but combined, make a nice smorgasbord of thoughts…

  • Bad Aussee is GREEN. Last Saturday, walking to the train station, I felt like my eyes opened for the first time. In the past two weeks, the snow has melted off all but the highest peaks, I’ve sun-bathed on my balcony in shorts and a tank top and we’ve had a few days of rain and cloud cover. The result: green, in every shade! The trees are sprouting their leaves, buds are budding and the grass is growing at an astounding rate. My walk to school is shaded in yellow-green, emerald green, evergreen, lime green, pea green and everything in between. I thought I knew what green was, but know I really know.
  • Hitchhiking is OK when you live in the middle of nowhere. My parents, grandparents, media and campfire horror stories all taught me that hitchhiking was bad. And inevitably ended in kidnapping and/or death. There is a sign on the drive to my cottage in Gaylord, MI that says, “PRISON ZONE: Don’t pick up hitchhikers.” … OK, OK — hitchhiking is wrong and dangerous: I get it. But in the last two weeks, I’ve been the hitchhiker twice and in the vehicle picking up a hitchhiker once. And you know what, it was a fun, even pleasant, experience each time. I think my small-town area lends itself to hitching. When you could stick out that thumb or walk the 3 km to your destination under the hot sun, I’d say the choice is clear. I no longer have qualms about trying to catch a ride whilst trudging along. However, not sure I’d do it in the US…
  • I hate my DVD player on my computer. Why is it that computer DVD players cannot play DVDs from all regions? Why?? I purchased my computer in the United States and it can only play Region 1 DVDs, which have been produced, purchased and intended for viewing in the United States (and Canada). But guess what? I live in Austria, a Region 2 country. I’ve watched the same DVDs all year, and while my British friend, Frankie, can buy a new DVD every time boredom strikes, I cannot. Please, computer companies, take folks like myself and other expats into consideration next time and start producing region-less DVD players, OK? Thank you.

So, what has been on your mind this week? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Until next time!

Hiking in Ausseerland

I’m positively ashamed to admit that I’ve only been hiking once the entire 8 months I’ve been in the Ausseerland. Pathetic.

My excuse is that I’m not a hiker — I don’t own hiking shoes, just some running shoes that “breathe” (aka, have mesh sides) and get wet super easily.

My other excuse is that I don’t know the area — this is just a straight up poor excuse. I know plenty of other assistants who have figured out great places to hike and walk. I just haven’t.

Lastly, I could use the fact that I have no real means of transportation here — but, I could use the bus.

So, there ya have it, my three pathetically horrible excuses for why I’ve only hiked once in my time here. But, that’s not what this post is about. This post is about the one time that I actually did hike, and it was one of the best things I’ve done all year.

Zandra, a Minnesotan-settled-down-in-Bad-Aussee, suggested last week that we hike up to Zimitzalm in Grundlsee. I was instantly up for this. An “Alm” is directly translated as “mountain pasture,” but it’s a bit more than that. It’s a flat area used for cattle grazing located between the first ascent and the remaining ascent, which is steeper and has less trees. This pasture area has many wooden huts and only those with farmland have rights to an Almhut, since they are the ones who will drive their cattle up to these pastures in the summer. However, hikers are free to roam the Alm and sit at unoccupied huts to enjoy lunch or a beer.

The Almhut we ate lunch at.

So, we planned to go this past Saturday, the 24th, weather permitting. At 9 am, my phone rang — “Weather looks great! We should be ready to go around 10:45!” I was pumped; the sun was shining, and there was not a cloud in the sky. After much hassle, which involved getting a screaming Leo (Zandra + Tom’s son) into the backpack/baby carrier, we were on our way.

The hike up to the Alm took about an hour altogether and halfway up, there is a waterfall. Since the snow has recently melted/is still melting, there is a lot of water right now. The Zimitzwasserfall is small, but impressive. Rocks litter the river and would make for an easy hop-skip-and-jump to right underneath the falls. Most unfortunately, my camera is still broken and I couldn’t take any photos. Zandra told me her and Tom once swam there, and I, of course, wanted to do it right then, but the water is ice-cold this time of year. … Maybe next time.

A view I didn’t get to see… One can swim right underneath the falls!

After the waterfall, the path stays along the river all the way to the Alm. This was the most beautiful part of the hike. The water is shallow and moss-covered rocks lay everywhere. The sounds of rushing, melted glacial water was peaceful and a lovely addition to the crunch of leaves under our feet. Looking to the opposite bank — a rolling incline, trees scattered willy-nilly and leaves covering the ground — I couldn’t help but feel I was marching through the Shire with Frodo.

Then, there was snow in our path. It was slushy and about up to my knees, but most of the time I could manage to not fall through. It surprised me how much snow was still in the mountains, and we weren’t even that high up! But, trudge through the snow we did, and it was worth it. The Alm opened up right in front of us and I could see the remaining ascent ahead of me, as well as the way we came, back down to Grundlsee, behind me. Zandra and Tom told me how they’d both made the climb, many times, to the peaks. I couldn’t help but be jealous. We ate lunch, enjoyed the sun and Leo scurried around the Alm.

The hike back down seemed to take half the time. I was tired, but satisfied, with my first and, so far, only experience with hiking in this region. However, it did make my Heuschnupfen (hay fever) go crazy.

Until next time!