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May 29
Our overnight Air Canada flight lands in Munich at 10:30 am.  We take the fast, commuter train downtown and after some confusion (the Hauptbahnhof is undergoing reconstruction) we find the subway line which takes us to our AirBnB accommodation in Rotkreuzplatz.  Benjamin, our host, has a comfortable apartment close to the subway line and he welcomes us with coffee and cake.  We drop our bags and walk a block or so to Gaststätte Jagdschlößl to find some lunch.  I suggest that we try weißwurst, a Munich speciality that I remember fondly from 1969.  How was I to know that weißwurst is only served before noon?  I guess it must have been morning when I first tasted it.  We end up with Augustiner beer, leberknödelsuppe (liver dumpling soup) and wurstsalad (meat salad -- but a lot more wurst than salad).  Then back to the BnB for a nap to reset our internal clocks after the overnight flight.

We are up again up at 6:00 pm, walking down Nymphenburgerstrasse and along the canal to the Nymphenburg palace. Ducks and big fat carp in the shallow canal; lovely swans in the pool at the palace. Weather is cool and rainy, but refreshing.  We stop at the Alex Restaurant, close to our BnB, for dinner.

May 30
This morning we return to the Gasthof and its authentic Bavarian atmosphere: deer heads and other hunting trophies on the walls, waiters in well-worn lederhosen
Now that it is the appropriate time of day, we enjoy a traditional Bavarian breakfast:  Weißwurst, Süßsempf (sweet mustard) und Brezeln (soft pretzles) but, we forego the local custom of a litre of beer with our morning meal.

In the city centre.  I try to identify once-familiar landmarks but my memories are a bit vague -- it has been more than forty years -- and in 1969, the entire centre of the city was torn up for the construction of the subway system as Munich prepared for the 1972 Olympics.  We admire the Gothic old city hall in Marienplatz and take a stroll through the famous Hofbräuhaus beer hall, to which all tourists must go at least once, but self-respecting locals avoid unless entertaining visitors.  Instead we seek out the more traditional ambience (and the large bronze pig) of the Paulaner Bräuhaus for a late lunch of Kassler and sauerkraut.  Naturally, we wash it down with a large Paulaner beer.

 

 

The Weisses Bräuhaus proves to be a popular place for dinner and after waiting in line at the door, we are seated at table with two university students from Florida and a young traveler from Russia.  I try a small bottle of eisbock beer, which I believe might satisfy Jay, my beer aficionado friend's instruction to try a doppelbockBob enjoys a large glass of weisses bier (white beer, made from wheat) with his schweinshaxe (pig knuckle), cole slaw and dumpling.  I tackle the Munich roast pork with coleslaw and a bread dumpling. Germany has the best pork!

May 31
The Sarcletti is an ice cream and pastry shop right next door to our BnB, so we stop there for black coffee and kuchen for breakfast and then take the subway to pick up our rental car.  

We leave Munich behind and head south toward the Austrian alps, through Garmisch-Partenkirchen and then over the Fernpass, a route I have never taken before. This is beautiful country dotted with hay sheds, waterfalls, onion-domed churches and tall craggy peaks piercing the clouds.  Once in the Stanzertal valley, we find a new modern autobahn, to the village of St. Anton near the top of the Arlberg pass.

The Zugspitze: Germany's highest mountain An alpine lake in the Fernpass

Despite the 34 years since his last visit, Bob successfully locates the old farmhouse where he once boarded, but he has a little trouble identifying Hermann and Barbara's house.  There are many new buildings on what used to be farmers' fields and the house has been extended.  I approach a gentleman wearing dark sunglasses and  in my best German, ask if he can tell me how to get to the house of Hermann Veiter.  The man says:  "Hier!  Es ist hier!"  Then I look again:  "Hermann?"   He shouts:  "Bob? Bob?"  "Barbara!  Barbara!  Der Bob ist da!"  Then the excitement erupts and Barbara is out the door flinging her arms around him in the warmest welcome you could expect.   I am included in the welcome and we are ushered in for cafe und kuchen and much laughter and catching up.

Hermann and Barbara take us on a walk through the community.   It is quiet here at this time of the year, between the ski season and the summer season.  The chalets, hotels, guesthouses and bars stand empty waiting for summer guests to arrive.  Cradled among the alps, St. Anton am Arlberg, with a permanent population of 2500 residents, annually hosts 11,000 guests and is the frequent site of World Cup ski events.  Downhill skiing as a sport was literally invented here and has become the salvation of the poor farmers eking out a living in these mountains.  St. Anton's ski school was founded in 1907 by Hannes Schneider, the inventor of the Arlberg Technique of teaching downhill skiing.  Local youngsters, practically born on skis, are sought after as premiere ski instructors in the world. We stop by the cemetery to pay our respects to some of the folk Bob used to know.  It is a gorgeous walk! This is a truly beautiful part of the world.

Hermann and Barbara Veiter

St. Anton's iconic onion-dome church

.  The railway has been moved to the other side of the valley but the old Bahnhof is preserved as a heritage building

Haus Mussak -- our home during our visit

June 1
We take a stroll  through the center of town, where Bob looks for familiar landmarks and reminisces about his past in this charming little village. 
Much has changed over the 40-odd years; all the hotels are bigger and there are many new houses.  In 1969, Austria was a poor country, almost third-world, but now St. Anton is as modern (and expensive) as any world-class ski resort.

Later, we spend some time with the extended family.  We meet Claudia, who wasn't born yet in 1969, but has occasionally kept in touch with me. We also meet her younger sister Monica, husband Marcos and their three children.  After drinks and some getting-acquainted time, we hop in vehicles and head for one of the local hiking trails.  Thankfully, we drive to the top and walk mostly downhill.  The path takes us across the side of the mountain above the village.  The views are spectacular!  The alpine meadows are full of wild flowers, which look like weeds but make excellent hay. There are numerous hay sheds dotting the steep mountainside. The farmers store the hay in the sheds and then bring it down during the winter on big sleds. We cross many small streams making their way down into the Rosanna River, which flows through the village at the bottom of the valley.  I stop often to take pictures as we open and close gates, pass under ski lifts and cross meadows. We stop to admire Monika and Marco's little alpine cabin, high up on the side of the mountain. 

Hiking trail above the village Monika and Marco's mountain cabin
Alpenblumen

June 2
We head up the valley in our car to the top of the Arlberg pass at Sankt Christoph This is a watershed and the east side flows eventually to the Danube and the Black Sea, while the waters on the west flow into the Rhine and eventually to the North Sea.   We are well above the tree line and the scenery is dramatic, barren and rugged with much more exposed rock.    We pass through the ski resort villages of Lech and Oberlech where I find more flowers and new copper roof tops to photograph. 

   

Next to Zurs and then further down the Lechtal Valley as far as Holzgau.  We are awestruck by the scenery!  Waterfalls, mountain streams and and gorges make some wonderful photo opportunities.  We see many small logging operations, firewood businesses and sawmills.  Of interest are biomass plants which provide hot-water heating  to nearby villages.  The sideroad from Lech to Warth is narrow and winding and very beautiful; it alone is worth the drive. These are villages which did not develop into world-class ski resorts so they look like St. Anton probably did sixty or seventy years ago.  The avalanche  tunnels that we drive through are from many different eras and  range from  magnificent stonework with huge wooden roof trusses to modern cement and steel.  Along the way we marvel at avalanche fences high up on the mountain slopes, stop to take photos of a covered bridge and then find lunch at the Post Hotel in the village of Steeg.  Every Tiroler village of any size has a Post Hotel, where in olden days, the stage coaches stopped.  Still today, each Post Hotel usually has the best restaurant in the village.

Covered bridge Village of Lech
Classic Tiroler houses in the Lechtal

Back at the  Veiter's I finally get to reconnect with Tomas.  When  I lived with Hermann and Barbara in 1969, Tomas was a baby and I held him in my arms.  In 1978, my first visit back, Tomas was ten and we became great friends. He took me hiking in the mountains and we enjoyed each other's company a lot.  My next visit was in 1982, but Tomas was away at trade school and I didn't see him.  Now, after all these years, we instantly connect again!  I think we must have been brothers in a previous life.  There is much catching up and chatter and we also meet his wife, Marina  and daughter, Nina.    Marina is a lovely lady from Croatia, who first came to St. Anton as a guest-worker.  Tomas quickly spied her and before long they were married.  Tomas departs for band practice in his music room in the basement and shortly we make our way downstairs to listen.  To my amazement there are five men with horns practicing in the little basement room. They are serious about their music and are quite talented.  They play some familiar tunes  for us to enjoy.  I suggest we are listening to the St. Anton Philharmonic Orchestra and Bob jokes that they are the Nassereiner Symphonie. 

The Nassereiner Symphonie Tomas Veiter

 

June 3
Hermann and Barbara suggest a road trip as the weather is cool and rainy and not conducive to the barbeque at the mountain cabin that had been planned. 
We head east down the valley on the original scenic two-lane road that I remember, passing through village after village.  It could be called the valley of the hay sheds.  The hillsides are cloaked in evergreens, mostly Norway Spruce; what a beautiful tree!

At the junction of the Stanz and Peznaun valleys we stop to admire the castle on a high cliff and the very imposing railway bridge that stands high against the sky.  Everyone laughs as I find more blumen to photograph.

As our car climbs up into the Petznauntal, we pass through more villages and stunning scenery, admiring traditional farm buildings and house-barns.   We see horses, goats, sheep and burros in addition to Brown Swiss, Holstein and Ayrshire cows.  

We arrive in Galtur and stop for a visit at the Alpinarium.  This museum is built into a 345 x 19 metre protective wall constructed after a disastrous avalanche in 1999 took out an entire residential area killing 31 people.  The avalanche consisted of 330,000 tons of snow traveling at a speed of 350 km per hour.  Twenty-two people were rescued but the rest were not so fortunate.   The museum has a room dedicated to the victims. The valley is now protected by avalanche chutes, fences and barriers of every size and description.

The museum is disconcertingly unique in approach and presentation, challenging visitors on multiple levels.  My favourite rooms are the Orbital where three dimensional figures have been constructed to demonstrate annual snowfalls captured by graphs and the Spherical Coordinates room which is all angles and mirrors and replicates my image endlessly.  I feel like I am in a kaleidoscope.

Museum in Galtur Our hosts:  Hermann and Barbara

From Galtur, we make our way back down the valley and stop in the town of Landeck for lunch.  Then Hermann drives up a narrow winding mountain road that takes us up to a nature park above 10,000 feet where the views are breathtaking.   We watch farmers cutting alpine meadow hay with small walk-behind mowers. The hay is hung on little cross-like posts to accelerate the drying process.   They look like little green alien hordes from a science fiction movie.

Looking down on the River Inn Hay "aliens"
Church in Petznauntal Happy tourist

June 4
We set out to find the trail that leads up to the small chapel on a steep hill looking down on the farmhouse.  The chapel is built on the foundations of the original castle that guarded the Arlberg pass for centuries.  I find a large slug and some snails:  Austrian escargot perhaps?  Bob is
fairly patient as I take pictures of the blumen, cows, mountain cottages and scenery.  The cool wet weather persists and we get a bit damp from time to time as we make our way across the ski slopes above the village.

Picturesque little chapel built on the foundations of the 13th century castle
Local wildlife The house-barn (brown and gray roof) where I lived in 1969
The village from the chapel St. Anton`s beautiful church

The legendary Krazy Kanguruh is open for lunch so we stop in and have a plate of pasta with a rich pork and mushroom sauce.  This a real nostalgia trip for me as the KK was (and probably still is) the most popular après ski bar and restaurant in the resort.  It sits on the ski run, directly above the village.  Although I mostly couldn't afford to patronize it back in the day, I did manage to participate in a couple of legendary pre-season parties.   Then we head down a steep shortcut into the village.  The custom was to party at the Krazy Kanguruh until after daylight (and common sense) had fled and then slide down the ski run into the village on pieces of cardboard.

We are invited to Tomas and Marina's for dinner.  It is a wonderful evening with a lot of jokes and laughter.  Hermann even tries to convince Bob that all those avalanche fences on the mountains are not for avalanches at all, but really vineyards, where the grapes for Arlberg ice wine grow!

Marina is a good cook and we enjoy a wide variety of barbecued meats from her family's farm in Croatia, along with about five different salads, a warm asparagus and hard boiled egg starter, bread and a wonderful dessert, a bit like raspberry fool.  A cream cheese, yogurt and whipped cream combination with three fruit sauces:  cherry, raspberry and strawberry.   All accompanied by copious amounts of excellent homemade red and white Croatian wines.  We finished up with homemade cherry schnapps.

Susan admires the unusual and very beautiful Swarovski crystal chandelier, which Tomas says: "Cost more than a cow!"  We just bet it did but it is lovely and Marina is very proud of it (even if the cost did give Tomas a heart attack).

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