Family ski holiday in Austria: Ups & Downs

It has been our tradition to go skiing with my family for 5y now. Last year we were in Kirchberg (see here the blog on my winter ascent) and this year not far away from Wildschoenau. The chalet wasn’t as luxurious (no wifi, not very clean etc), but on the flip side there were other houses in our village ‘almdorf’ allowing Alex to meet new friends such as Linus from Aschaffenburg and the snow-white family dog Lillyfe. With the kids busy, we enjoyed talking to the parents Tanja & Rene – perfect. 

Message to Almdorf Wildschoenau: Hey guys … the wifi & heating (to dry clothes!?!) need fixing. Ahh yes, and take a look under the beds. Needs some cleaning too. And a toaster per house would be great too. Otherwise, we enjoyed our stay. 

Here a great clip of the trip … thanks go to my sister for this one!

Weather wise we were not very fortunate. after a full week of sunshine in 2017, we only had one really brilliant day though generally good snow conditions and beautiful white coated forests everywhere around us.


Ski arena Wildschoenau: the ski area couldn’t quite compare to kirchberg/kitzbuehel. In particular it lacks good blue runs for the parents we felt. Also apres ski was pretty muted, as the area is mainly frequented by families that don’t go much more crazy than a few drinks at the end of the day.


Project igloo – well, an open air one anyway: alex loves playing in the snow. With plenty of snow around he suggested we build an igloo. Well, we tried but just didn’t have the skills to fit a roof. Still, great effort and fun building it together. The ferraro rocher that alex has hidden somewhere inside is still there – bon appetit to whoever finds it!


Progress report – Mum taking second place in her first race: Alex went to ski school as usual. He is still struggling with  parallel skiing at times, but fearless and enjoying every moment. Mum also went on a course again in her second year and ski’s really well by now. Her efforts were awarded with a stunning 2nd place finish (out of 9) in Thursdays slalom race. We had bets running where she’d come out. Frances was spot on while we others all expected a worse outcome (Bodo #4, Ronny #6, Alex #8). The ceremony happened at Hotel Harfenwirt and rounded off our evening out. Fun. 


Carneval @ home: this years winter holiday coincided with the carneval week. We had brought costumes and celebrated in the chalet. Alex went as dragon, sister as indian, dad as captain, mum as something and i as some hula hula girl from Hawaii (though with a strong ladyboy touch judging by the pictures / feedback … well, i am just back from Thailand after all). Alex’ friend linus and his parents joined us for the evening. to our surprise, all of us being really tired from sport & fresh air all day, we chatted to almost 10pm and laughed a lot. Great evening. 


German  carneval & its origins – see here for a really good source

I guess a good way of understnading the origins are to look into the three typical terms for carneval – carneval itself, fastnacht & fasching (depending on the region). Historically it was a celebration ahead of a ‘fasting’ period beginning ash Wednesday and lasting about 6w to Easter Sunday.

The word Fasching dates back to the 13th century and is derived from the Germanic word vaschanc or vaschang, in modern German: Fastenschank = the last serving of alcoholic beverages before Lent. In olden times the 40-day Lenten period of fasting was strictly observed. People refrained from drinking alcohol or eating meat, milk products and eggs. The English word “fast” (to refrain from eating) is related to German fasten.

Karneval, on the other hand, is a newer, much more recent (17th century), Latin-based word borrowed from French and Italian. The true origin of the word is uncertain, but it probably comes from Latin carne levare (“away with meat”) > carnelevale > Karneval or Carnival. In earlier times, the German word was even written with a C rather than today’s K-spelling. (Some German carnival associations still use the Carneval spelling in their names.)

The third common term for carnival in German, Fastnacht, refers to the Swabian-Alemannic carnival, which differs in some ways from Fasching and Karneval, and is found in Baden-Württemberg, Franconia (northern Bavaria), Hesse and much of Switzerland. Although this word looks like it comes from the German for the “eve of Lent,” in fact it is based on the Old German word fasen (“to be foolish, silly, wild”). Thus the word, sometimes spelled Fasnacht (without the t) actually means something like “night of being wild and foolish.” You can learn more about Fastnacht below.

Slap in the face (with a hammer): Not all was fun for me last week. I had to deal with some surprisingly rude treatment from someone who I value very much and thought vice versa. How wrong I was. I skip the myriad of details here. Such things happen in life – both on the giving & receiving end – and one gets over it.  But then it always hurts when someone essentially slaps you in the face unexpectedly and with brute force. Especially if it is someone that you helped a great deal in life. Sometimes these things are interpersonal, cultural, to protect the other person, influenced by third parties, out of fear, because of difficult family situations, due to lack of maturity or sometimes because it’s just hard to speak the truth … god only knows (but he kept it to himself for now). Cut. Next take. Get ready to shoot. Sound rolling. Camera rolling. Action!

It’s funny how sometimes the people you’d take a bullet for are the ones behind the trigger.

Finishing off in Munich – as usual: It’s never good to finish on a bad note after a challenging week. Nor should I. Good news is that there are so many good people in life, first and foremost my sister. As we have done in so many years, once again we enjoyed a good time in Munich. Alex had right a go at the Schweinehaxe in the Hofbraeuhaus … impressive how much he liked to nibble on this big piece of pork. German after all.

Family isn’t always blood. It’s the people in your life who want you in theirs; the ones who accept who you are. The ones who would do anything to see you smile & who love you no matter what.



Weihnachten zu Hause

Christmas in Germany kicks off pretty early on the 24th in the evening (usually with the closest family), followed by two bank holidays that are usually spent with either set of grandparents (mum’s side and dad’s side).

Striezelmarkt: Before we even got to the delights of this years’ xmas, we enjoyed a day on one of Germany’s most famous xmas markets in Dresden. 8 degrees plus didn’t really give it an authentic xmas feeling, but heh. First up a long overdue catch up with Sandra, a former fellow Commerzbanker. She was part of the insane group of people to offer me a job many years ago ;o) Then straight into mulled wine, snacks and shopping with Alex, mum and sister. Good times. Even had the time to catch up with my cousin Denise and the family of her better half. Great evening!


Take me to church: People from Saxony are mostly not religious. Those that are tend to be protestant – a statue of Martin Luther in front of the Frauenkirche (Dresden) underlines that. Our family has always been protestant yet we didn’t visit Church all that often and usually only on Dec 24th. Could be a byproduct of anti-religious policies in East Germany (the central government disliked competition) or that freely available schooling made a lot of the wanna be believers i meet in London redundant (‘pay or prey’ to get your kid into a good school). Who knows. Anyway, after a brief stop in my home village Naundorf and granddad Kaiser, we made it to church in Struppen and enjoyed this year’s nativity play. Always good fun.


Kartoffelsalat: Most of my fellow students in Russia will remember my praises for my mum’s potato salat. A tradition in Germany in most families. Each mum has her own recipe passed on from previous generations. Add a few frankfurters and you have a basic yet tasty meal … and afterwards its time for presents. Dominated by lego sets this year. I got 5 finger shoes … as inspired by ‘Born to Run’. Lets see if it helps me reducing running related injuries.


Stollen in Dresden: After our family trek to the Barbarinea, we visited granddad in Dresden. Like the one in Naundorf, he lives by himself and so we usually just swing by for coffee instead of a full festive meal. Part of any coffee that time of the year has to be Stollen (Stollen is a cake-like fruit bread, see here). And there is none better than the one from Dresden! Taaaaasty!


Goose & green dumplings: Traditionally the 2nd bank holiday is reserved for dad’s side of the family. Originally we picked that day due to them being busy on the first bank holioday serving xmas lunches to guests in our restaurant, while they closed the 2nd. Now I guess it’s a routine even though the restaurant is just a B&B by now. A lot of the lot i hadn’t seen for a year (and some like Steve’s new girlfriend Anastasia not at all really) and so we discussed a bit the Lhotse adventures and future plans. Food is always excellent including tasty & tender goose, dumpling (Klösse) made with raw potatoes giving them a slightly green-ish colour and red cabbage. Wine is also never in short supply teaditionally kicikng off with a glass of Pinot as aperitif. Its tradition in Thuringia where my grandma is from … and tradition matters (and is super tasty).

Uttewalder Grund: Catching up with school friends (& their +1’s, +2’s … +4’s)

The tradition to meet up with former classmates from Pirna’s Rainer-Fetscher high school has been around for some time though, depending on family commitments and how the calendar around xmas comes out, it is not always possible for all to join. For me it was the second time and first time with Alex. In total we were 26, if I counted the group picture well, dominated by loads of young-guns. A productive vintage! Go Saxony!

My silent protest: To unite both of Pirna’s high schools is fine by me and was probably underpinned by ever fewer babies. HOWEVER, to rename a long standing institution like the Rainer Fetscher into ‘Schiller’ is either a very dark form of humour or plain stupidity. I strongly suspect the latter.

We met up in Stadt Wehlen and hiked along the Uttewalder Grund. Kids found to each other quickly and i guess alex got one or the other free german lesson. There is a little creek along the way, which proved tempting for most kids and got some of them a pair of wet shoes. Life! After about 1:20h we reached the inn ‘Waldidylle’ for some well deserved refreshments.
: Along the way the Schill family located a geocash. A little tube hidden in the rocks where you can record yourself in a little logbook. Theses cashes were new to me, but are a global thing that can lead you to nice places. Read here for more.

There was plenty to catch-up on. A clear trend seemed the drive for folks to move back home – be it Anja, Schmitti or Jens. I guess a global phenomenon once kids are about or the right job comes along.

On the way back we had torches and lampingnon’s for the kids as well as a few fire crackers supplied by us. It was dark already by the time we got back to the ferry in Wehlen. Mum already waiting on the other side for our bowling night – she hates being late (while i have a somewhat larger tolerance by now).

What a fun afternoon! Alex almost in tears as we concluded the event … given that we didn’t have anymore wristbands to give to his new friend Valentin. I promised to fix that via mail. Let’s see.

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More posts about my home region Saxon Switzerland

Thanks go to Heiko (aka RAUMSTATION) for putting this together & to everyone else for attending of course. His email is clear evidence that sometimes democracy ain’t the right thing, but we need dictatorship. Just like the Roman’s did in their days.

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X-mas stroll to Pfaffenstein & Barbarine

When travelling around the world it is all too easy to forget all the nice places back home. Having spent some time this summer in Saxon Switzerland, we took a family stroll to digest all the festive & heavy food such as my mum’s tasty potato salad and homemade sausages.

The hike up the Pfaffenstein offers fantastic views of the surrounding rock formations such as Königstein castle and Lilienstein as well as the Elbe valley more general. Especially the Barbarine (the rock that looks like a needle) is as iconic as can be for my beautiful home region.

The boys are back in town: Chamonix calling

Alex’ christmas holidays started pretty early this year leaving a whole week before x-mas eve would arrive. Given my apartment is rented out anyway I figured time (&money) is much better spent on the slopes than trying to kill time in London cinema’s or Museums. Alex loves Chamonix anyway – the place of his first time outdoor rock climbing & canyoning (see here) and home of Mt Blanc. Many happy memories for him.

The trip was arguably at the cost of my first year almost without a x-mas lunch had it not been for my good friends Sara & Paul who I visited on the one night i had between Colombia and Chamonix. Both kids including my godson Bobby were thrilled and we had a great time together. In the morning the kids could even reunite with Alex … the only small disappointment when i rocked up alone the night before.

The way to Chamonix wasn’t too bad though with some delays and heavy bags given i carried my snowboard on top of winter clothing and presents. No one was happier than my little prince when we finally got to our destination … temperatures well below zero and loads of snow. Alex wasted no time getting his gloves wet (although he had an entirely different perspective on this). Thankfully the girls from ‘Chalet le Chatelle’ picked us up quickly and soon we hit the bed. I was devastated having had my last full nights’ sleep in a bed 4 days prior in Colombia!


The next days were simply great fun as usual. After 15cm on Monday (read: no sun), we were blessed with great conditions and few other skiers. 3,5 days of good snow action! Alex on ski’s (we’ll try snowboard in Austria in Feb’18) and me on snowboard. His first red run (le cornu in Brevent) still caused some tears, but I know his level and by day two the piste had become his favourite). No issues after that one run, as he rediscovered his confidence. We spent time mostly in nearby Brevent and la Flegere, but also Grand Montets – dominated by red pistes and with a great run all the way down into the valley.

Evenings were usually dedicated to a Tartiflette at ‘elevation 1904’ (tasty & good value at eur11) or the odd raclette in town, the chalet’s hot tub (his russian soul coming to the fore big time ;o) and movie time. Quality boys time!