16 May 2009


St. Johann, Austria

Loving the oh, so proper Austrian gentleman outline on warning signs!

Saalfelden w/red Rauthaus in background. Scene of the first wedding of the day.

This morning when D+M and the girls come to our room MK warms a cup of cocoa for KF and gives her a straw. KF is so, so funny sipping from the straw without taking a pause until the hot chocolate is almost gone! Kacao is one word that she says clearly. Slovaks love their hot chocolate before bed each night—DM says it’s funny that even the adults have the habit. Guess it’s equivalent to the American’s bedtime bowl of cereal.

DM’s family has checked out of the Alpenland Sportshotel Maria Alm. They return to Bratislava today to prepare for LG’s 4th birthday party tomorrow. Bobbi—the Slovak grandma—has prepared the birthday cakes and also food for our return. JL and I are staying another night. Our plans for the day are fluid as we are hoping that the Citroen treats us kindly.

I put my jacket over my pjs and take the walk-of-shame through the hotel lobby and out the back door to help load up the Kangoo for DM’s family. They have agreed to take as much of the weight from our suitcases as they can fit in—the plan being to keep the load in the Citroen down to a minimum (two cushiony grandmas) to preclude any stall-outs. Please, dear God, keep this little car running up as well as down these mountains.

Our plans for today are to visit villages and towns toward St. Johann and then check-out the other Alpenland Sportshotel. Let me say here that the St. Johann version of this hotel is not in St. Johann, as we discover… It is near Muhlbach on the other route—you know, the one we spent a lifetime trying to conquer on Tuesday night/Wednesday morning. That being said…

DM has described a bakery two or three villages along the way that he recommends. We find it and get a sugar cookie which is encircled with chocolate and then the middle is filled with hazelnuts and a bit of spun sugar. YUM! I enjoy a espresso with cream, but JL sticks with her bottled water. We drive as far as Leongang and see many lumber mills. It is flat here and not very interesting and we turn back a bit to further explore Saalfelden before remembering that we had been headed to check out the other resort in St. Johann.

In Sallfelden we find the Rauthaus and there are weddings in progress and qued-up to begin. I think, European regulations require a City Hall ceremony prior to the one in the church. We crane our necks and give some opinions on the brides and their finery… Then we wander into and out of shops eventually ending up in a wood-fired pizzeria where we both order Pizza Spinnaci—tomato sauce, cheeses, spinach, and a fried egg in the center! The crust is yummy, and the combination works. We decide that they crack a fresh egg in the center, break the yolk, and then fire the pizza as normal. Soon, we are back on the road…

We reach St. Johann and easily find parking. We wander the wrong direction and end up near the hotels and hostels, but the architecture is interesting as are the gardens. We eventually find a covered bridge and cross the river, wandering back toward town and right into the middle of the Zentrum. O.K. so, this is touristy, but the building date from the 1700s and we do love this type of touristy. The batteries are dead in my camera and we head for the car for replacements. Only, we are a bit lost… After a very round-about and out of the way, but healthy walk, we find the car and fresh batteries.

This is a lovely village. Most shops are closed because it is late Saturday afternoon, but the cafes and restaurants are abuzz. We take bunches of photos and enjoy the warm afternoon sunshine… This is unofficially our last day in the Austrian Alps. We leave early tomorrow a.m. for the drive to Bratislava and LG’s 4th birthday party.

I’m exhausted, but JL walks into the village and discovers either a local wedding or festival. Our waiter/bartender from last night is dressed in cultural togs, as is our waitress from the first lunch, and many other faces, recognizable and not. Everyone ends up at the music hall, leaving the tourists to go about their own business… JL snaps some final photos and then decides to take a swim in the hotel pool, and I continue reading my VERY GOOD book by Charles Todd: Wings of Fire. I am loving this British Scotland Yard Ian Rutledge series… I drove all day so sitting here in the sunshine on our balcony suits me fine.

Dinner is a combination of salami and cheeses, another big vegetable salad, and all the crackers and brioche we can stuff in… We mostly pack and get to bed a bit late for our 5:30am wake-up call. DM calls to say they have arrived home safely after a 4-1/2 hour drive. He also says that MK’s mother has prepared TWO birthday cakes and making the checkerboard cake tomorrow would be way overkill. Maybe later in the week. He suggests we not leave quite as early as planned (6:00am) and gives me four pointers to keep me on track on our driving route for tomorrow.

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