Located roughly halfway between Salzburg and Innsbruck, Kitzbühel is a cosy little mountain village that has nowadays evolved into one of Austria's premier ski resorts. Kitzbühel has traditionally been a very relaxed place to ski, but it's been going much more upmarket in recent times. I've been told that it's now considered "the Aspen of Austria" — however, although you do see a lot of flip-top sports cars and fur-lined coats there, I think that that comparison goes a bit too far. I spent a week here over Christmas, skiing hard all day and partying even harder all night.
Americans don't have Boxing Day: WTF? According to our American friend Margaret, there's nothing at all special about the 26th of December, if you're residing in the USA. It's simply "the day after Christmas". I always assumed that it was more-or-less a worldwide thing, celebrated by most Christian countries. Or by most protestant countries; or at least by most English-speaking countries. But no: apparently, Boxing Day is only recognised and celebrated in England, and in a few countries in the British Commonwealth — Australia, New Zealand, Canada and South Africa, to be precise. Just goes to show: you learn something every day. Especially when you travel.
If you think Alpine Austria, and you don't think enchiladas, then think again. This evening, Jake and Mitch showed Kade, Margaret and myself a Mexican restaurant here in Kitzbühel, called "La Fonda" (no, all you Napoleon Dynamite fans, not LaFawnduh :P). They serve up a mean portion of enchiladas here: the best I've eaten outside of Mexico. Next time you're in Kitzbühel, don't miss out on the famous Austrian tradition of Kitzbühelerenchiladen — chorizo ist gut, ja!
Hammerschlagen is a game with a simple set of rules, and a very difficult gameplay. In this centuries-old German / Austrian social game, you have a tree stump (with its surface flattened and smoothed), you have a hammer, and you have a bunch of nails. Each player takes a nail, and hammers their nail a few millimetres into the stump. Then — using only the thin, axe-like side of the hammer — each player in turn attempts to whack their nail all the way in. For this evening's après-ski in Kitzbühel, we kicked off the night with a visit to Chizzo (an outdoor bar in the main street of town), where they have a Hammerschlagen area set up. Jake and Mitch introduced the rest of us to the game: here in Kitzbühel, the rule is that the loser (the last person to hammer their nail in) shouts a shot of Jäger to everyone else who played. Check out the video.
Gemütliche is a very special word indeed. So special, in fact, that despite its not being Spanish, it calls for a one-time revival of the famous Palabra Del Día (lit: "Word of the Day") tradition, that I bet you thought was long-finished on this blog. Gemütliche means "cosy". It means comfortable. It means warm and fuzzy and cute — and all in that distinctive, Germanic, central European way that can't be found elsewhere in this world. I've heard the word gemütliche used many times, here in Kitzbühel; and I'm not surprised by this at all. Kitzbühel is possibly about as gemütliche a place as you could ever find: small, proud, beautiful and cosy; and extremely Austrian. And like so many other highly expressive German words, gemütliche also found its way firmly into the Yiddish language, and subsequently into modern Yiddish-peppered American English — which is why I've known it for as long as I can remember.
Jake and Mitch are two Aussie brothers, one of whom has been to Kitzbühel before (and who just can't get enough of it), and who seems to know everyone in town. These two are absolute champions: they're utter bogan knobheads, and they're fond of getting wasted well beyond the limits of regular mortals; but they're also ridiculously friendly. They rocked up to Snowbunnys this evening, where they'll be staying for a few weeks, while they try their hand at snowboarding up on the mountain. At least, they might try some snowboarding — assuming that they can make it up the mountain, which is only possible on the rare occasion that their après-ski sessions finish before the sun rises.
After two days of learning and practicing, today I took Craig, Sarah and Kade up the big mountain, and showed them what a real ski run looks like. Since this was their last day in Kitzbühel, it was also their final opportunity to give the slopes a try. For the first time in my life, I found myself an "advanced skier" amongst newbies (I'm accustomed to the reverse being true), and the burden of teaching (rather than of being taught) fell on my shoulders. It was an interesting experience; and — as long as you're able to be patient — quite a fun day.
Jägermeister is a strong German liqueur, that for some reason has become wildly popular all over the Western world today. It tastes pretty bad (it was originally invented for medicinal use), but makes up for it with its legendary effect. I haven't gone near any Jäger for most of my trip: but here in Kitzbühel, everyone seems to be drinking an awful lot of the stuff — especially in the form of "Flying Hirsch" or "Jägerbomb" shots (i.e. Jäger and Red Bull together). It sure as hell ain't Aussie — and it's not Austrian either (although Red Bull is) — but Aussies in Austria can't get enough of it. Personally, I can take Jäger or I can leave it; and I don't see what all the fuss is about.
Christmas lunch was cancelled today, on account of having better things to do; but we made up for it this evening, with a fine dinner of roast chicken. Craig, Sarah, Kade and myself feasted on chicken breast (originally frozen — they were out of fresh chook), crispy potatoes, corn cobs and various vegies — with a side of seasonal cranberry sauce. Sadly, the roast (as roasts do) took much longer than expected to cook, so we were bloody starving by the time it was ready. Shots of Jäger and several card games comprised dessert.
Margaret's an American woman who's currently living in sunny California, and who works as an engineer in her nation's nuclear power plants. Pretty full-on job, eh? I watch The Simpsons, so I know exactly how gruelling and high-pressure an occupation that can be (mmmm... donuts :P). Margaret's staying here in Kitzbühel — at Snowbunnys — for a few days; and like the rest of us, she's here to carve up the slopes with some skiing, Austrian-style.
It wasn't what I had planned, but it's what happened: today I was crazy enough to hit the slopes with Nikolas and Viktor — the fearless Swedes of Snowbunnys — and to embark upon a grand tour of the resort with them. We covered an awful lot of runs today, and most of them were in the eastern area of the resort, which I didn't get around to visiting yesterday. Plus, we managed to navigate our way around for the entire day, without getting stuck or having to catch a bus once: it was lifts, gondolas and skis all the way. And as an added bonus: I even survived to tell the tale.