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Happy New Year to everyone! The Middle East crew is at it again. This year for Christmas, we did something different. Instead of going back home to the US for the Holidays, we took advantage of the fact that we're half way around the world and we ought to see some of this side of it while we are here.The Ken and Allison Bell family, the Mike and Carol Garding family, and Chris and Vickie Shade family (with kids of course) went to Austria for a skiing holiday.
Plans were laid back in October, but finally came together at the first of December. It was touch and go at first, but our travel agent Manuel finally pulled everything together and we were set.
The Gardings came to Dubai a day early to warm up for the trip. We flew from Dubai to Zurich, Switzerland and experienced our first Artic blast in over a year, then on to Salzburg, Austria where we were to catch a 15 person bus to Zell am See, Austria. The 15 person bus turned out to be our own 40 person coach so we were driven in comfort up the winding road through the Alps to the sleepy village of Zell am See. The snow seemed to be a bit lacking on the drive up, so the guys were a bit anxious about the skiing, but when we arrived, we knew that we were in luck.
Where did we Stay?
We stayed in the Hotel Latini in downtown Zell am See. The Latini family has probably the best family oriented hotel in town. The staff were very friendly, gave English their best shot (invented a few words along the way), and made sure that our stay was most enjoyable.
The rooms were a bit small, but spotless and newly renovated. For the 12 people, we had 5 rooms. One each for the adults, one for the 4 girls, and one for the 2 boys.
The barkeep was named (like our travel agent) Manuel. After we slipped him the equivilent of $10 on the first night, the service was excellent, he brought munchies every night, called us all by name and had our favorite beverages ready when we got in from the slopes.
|The skiing was excellent! This was the first attempt at skiing for Josh
and Jessica Bell and Shannon Garding. Kristen Garding, Justin and Jordan Shade and Allison
Bell had at least had skis on their feet before. Vickie Shade and Carol Garding had some
experience. The kids and Allison and Carol took lessons to get things rolling.
Of course, Mike Garding, Ken Bell, and Chris Shade considered themselves God's gifts to the slopes, so they proceeded to rake some snow down the mountain with their backsides.
Allison eventually got the hang of it, but really didn't like skiing that much. I guess she thought that if God had meant Southerners to ski, he'd have made red dirt cold and white.
Josh, Justin, Jordan, and Kristen took to skiing like a fish to water. They really enjoyed themselves and after some coaching from Mike, they were trying to 'catch air' on every bump. This generally resulted in a 'yard-sale' where ski equipment is strewn on the slopes as if being sold in a yard.
Jessica would do just fine as long as she was skiing between daddy's legs or hanging on to his ski pole. Shannon picked it up quickly and did really well, but her real interest lies in eating snow, which she later taught Jessica.
|Mike and Kristen at the top. Look at the Fog covering the city in the background!|
|Here Ken is burning it up on the slopes at Kaprun..... At least it looks like it anyway!|
|After careful instruction for 'Dr. Danko' Shannon shows us that she can ski, too!|
|Carol, Shannon, and Kristen.... Colorful ladies on the slopes|
|Josh is getting his first taste of powder skiing.|
|Kristen shows that she can ski with the elite 'Ski Dogs'.|
|Here Mike Garding shows us how it is really done.|
|Here Mike shows us how to find your ski in deep powder.|
|Josh obviously headed down the wrong path.|
|Josh doing the 'Tuck and Burn' on the way down the hill. Time for Hot Chocolate.|
|Justin and Jordan Shade headed back to the top for another run.|
|"Ok, Dad.... But, don't let go!"
Proof that Jessica CAN ski.
|The top of Kaprun. MAN did we get some great snow!|
Vickie Shade ran into a few problems on her second day of skiing and got to experience the trip down the mountain with the assistance of the rescue squad. A couple of cracked ribs cost her two days in the hospital. She recovered, but her skiing was finished for the trip.
|The scenery in the Alps is just gorgeous.|
Tickets were relatively cheap before Christmas, which is the starting day of the high season. A ticket gives you access to three different mountains and the busses that run between them.
We took advantage of the tickets and went up to an area called Kaprun and was really glad that we did. The mountains were 3000' higher and they got fresh powder almost nightly. The runs were wide open and the amazing thing is that there was almost no one there. We practacally had the whole area to ourselves. We had left the little kids behind, so we decided to go off course a little and beat down a bit of the new snow.
On Christmas Eve night, the hotel had a special dinner. We had Robert Schlumberger's private reserve wine on our table. I've tasted Schlumberger wine before and it reminded me more of Kingsford Charcoal starter than wine, but this was really good. After dinner, the candles on the Christmas tree were lit and sparklers were given to the little kids. The Austrian version of Santa visited and left small gifts and candy for the kids.
|The Reindeer getting ready for Santa's visit.|
|Well, if you can't ski, might as well make snow angels OR .....|
One night we went on a horse-drawn sleigh ride. The little girls all had reindeer antlers on their heads and sang a funny version of 'Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer' that one of them had learned and taught the others. It was hilarious. Even the driver, who spoke only German, cracked up. He recognized the tune, but only some of the words.
|Ken and Jess's first run down the hill... no brakes, no steering wheel. Which leads to...|
|Jess and Ken's first wreck on a sled|
|Being from the Northern US, Carol and Shannon Garding have it perfected|
|Shannon can drive, too!|
|The 'Sled Dogs' pose for the camera.|
On Christmas day, Ken practiced his barganing skills and rented six sleds for the price of 2. We took to the hills on sleds, which the southerners found out can't be steered! All the kids had a sled each and we made the bunny slopes an obsticle course for the beginning skiers. Josh was lying down on his and pushing it up the hill when it got away from him and he took the legs out from under a Norweigen wannabee skier. Dad wound up paying for a ski pole.
|One of the streets in Zell am See|
After Zell am See, we headed back to Salzburg for 2-1/2 days. Salzburg was the home of Mozart and is where the musical 'The Sound of Music' which starred Julie Andrews was filmed. We took a self-guided tour through the streets of Salzburg. The ladies shopped a little, Vickie recovered a little, and the men drank a few more Austrian Steigal beers. We visited Mozart's childhood home and took in the Salzburg zoo, which was really a nice zoo.
|The train ride into Zell am See from our hotel. The kids travel in comfort.|
|Austria and Switzerland are known for clocks. Here's a wall of Cukoo clocks.|
|This is the 'fortress' overlooking the city of Salzburg built in the year 1077. Monks still occupy the castle today.|
|This 'Summer Home' for the Arch Bishop was also used in a Scene in the 'Sound of Music'|
|These street musicians from Moscow performed several Mozart tunes as well as many other types of music. The big instrument is a bass guitar with 3 strings. The two musicians on the left are playing 3 stringed instruments much like a mandolin. the second from the right is playing a accordian.|
|Mike arms himself for the next round of the perpetual snowball fight.|
We took the 'Sound of Music' tour which was included in our trip package. A coach picked us up at the hotel and a guide really hurt Allison's feelings by telling us that the music was all Rogers and Hammerstein's and the story line was 100% Hollywood. None the less, we got to see where the film was made and more of the beautiful Austrian country side and architecture.
This was a very nice trip, one that I think we'd all rate as a 'would-do-it-again'. Hope the pictures were worth the download time and hope that you and yours had a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
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