Austria (known to the locals as Österreich) is located in the heart of the gorgeous European Alps; it's the undisputed world capital of classical music (and historically, of music in general); and it's one of the countries that — perhaps more than any other — sits right on the frontier between eastern and western Europe (although it's definitely part of the west). It's also the only "pure German-speaking" country in the world (i.e. having German as its sole official nationwide language, and spoken by 90%+ of the population), apart from (neighbouring) Germany itself. I came to Austria to soak up some of the culture, to yodel with the locals, and to enjoy some fine alpine skiing.
Farewell to Kitzbühel
This morning I woke up, to find Jake asleep at the breakfast table — apparently, after last night, him and Mitch managed to flood the bathroom, and the flood spread into the entire lounge-room area. Man, I'm gonna miss those boys, they're the biggest bogans on Earth: I just hope they don't get kicked out of the hostel. I had some brekkie, said goodbye to everyone (especially to my good friends, the crazy Swedes)... and that's it for Kitzbühel! It's been an incredible week: as with my previous week in the snow this year, it's been one of the best weeks of the whole trip. Pity that spending the whole year skiing would send me broke — otherwise, I'd do it in a heartbeat.
The mystery of the fleece
For the past two days or so, I've been without my beloved and well-worn fleece jumper. Purchased a long time ago — in a continent far away (Cusco, Peru, after my Kathmandu fleece became one of the first victims of this trip) — it may be cheap and falling apart (and grey and ugly), but it's kept me warm through a great many ordeals. The two of us have together endured hardships across the globe, and we now share a very special symbiotic bond (en Anglais: I've grown rather attached to it). After my very big night on Wednesday evening, I thought I'd lost it.
Après-ski: the long finale
It was a long night, and it was a good night. Sadly, it was also my last night: Kitzbühel après-ski, I'm going to miss you! After our fun and games at Snowbunnys, Jake and Mitch, Nikolas and Viktor and myself hit the usual pub crawl route: we started at Flannigans, and then eventually moved on to Highways. Flanny's was mainly about the drinking (and the passive smoking — f$#% that place stinks), and Highways was mainly about the dancing. All of it was about partying like only an Austrian mountain village knows how. I got back at about 4am — considering that Jake and Mitch were asleep on the breakfast table the next morning, I hate to think when the hell they returned.
We were entertained by several card tricks. We had more than a few to drink (I bought a bottle of Jim Beam yesterday, and it was received with glee in the Snowbunnys lounge this evening). And then, it was time for a CARDFIGHT! I never before realised just how fast and how hard you can throw a playing card: but as Jake and Mitch proved, they're actually quite aerodynamic little buggers, if you know how to flick 'em right (they hurt, too). So the Aussie brothers started flicking cards. And then everyone else started flicking them back. And after that, everything went way downhill.
Red card black card (video)
It seems that Jake and Mitch, Kitzbühel's favourite two Aussie boys, never cease to entertain. The "red card black card" trick looks simple, but leaves you in awe. The way it works is as follows: the trickster deals the entire deck face-down into two piles, and picks a volunteer. Each time that the trickster deals a card, the volunteer says either "red" or "black"; and the card gets accordingly dealt to one of the two piles — the "red" pile, or the "black" pile. Exactly halfway through the deck, the two piles are swapped — i.e. all "red" cards now get dealt to the black pile, and vice versa. Through the entire dealing process, neither the trickster nor the volunteer sees any of the cards: the calling out of "red" or "black" is a completely random choice, decided each time by the volunteer. At the end, the trickster turns over and fans out both piles: and unbelievably, they're both exactly half-red (all together) and half-black! Check out the video.
The new Snowbunnys crew
Kitzbühel's slopes were packed today; and this evening, Snowbunnys was a lot busier as well. Seems that I really did sneak this ski trip in, just before the rush: because as of now, The Rush™ has officially arrived. We had a number of new arrivals in the hostel last night, and even more tonight. Apparently, still more guests are due in tomorrow — and the hostel is going to be 100% booked out over the weekend.
Kitzbühel skiing: the packed finale
After four blissfully quiet days on the slopes, the world finally makes sense again: as of today, Kitzbühel has crowds... and lots of 'em! For my final day of skiing this year (seriously — look at the date, will you), I once again got in as much slopes-time as I possibly could. But today, I was battling some fierce hordes on the pistes and in the chairlift queues. Looks like I got in my ski trip just in time, before the rush — if it's going to be like this for the next week, then maybe the fact that I must depart Kitzbühel isn't so bad after all. Maybe... but probably not :P.
Uncle Ben's curry
Back in Oz, we feel like Chicken Tonight; but here in Austria, they feel like Uncle Ben's. Tonight's dinner was quick, cheap and easy: with a bit of rice, a bit of vegies, and a bit of Uncle Ben's stir-fry curry mix, I had me a delicious (and enormous) serving of curry, courtesy of the Snowbunnys kitchen. Now that Craig, Sarah and Kade have buggered off, I'm back to my usual big, unoriginal and economical cooking tricks — but hey, it floats my boat. And everyone said that it smelled great, too.
Kitzbühel skiing: up on the horn
Things were a little messy this morning, after last night's big crawl. I woke up rather hung-over, to find that (after 3 privileged nights) I'm now sharing my room with 4 new people (2 Aussie couples from Melbourne), who informed me upon arising that I was snoring my head off all night (hey, they should kiss my a$$ — I could have done worse). Plus, I went downstairs, to find my beanie randomly hanging on a hook in the kitchen (WTF?). Anyway, a good Snowbunnys breakfast cured me a bit, as well as giving me my voice back (must have been all the passive smoking at Flannigans that robbed me of it — gawdammit Austria, could you please enter the 21st century and pass some anti-smoking laws!). And heading up to the Kitzbühelerhorn, for another day of skiing, was more than enough to complete the curing process.
Flannigans et al
I've been to cities that never close down — but I haven't yet found a town (anywhere in the world) without an Irish pub. Congratulations, Ireland: us Aussies only have ourselves everywhere on the planet; you guys have taken world conquest that one step further. Flannigans just goes to show that Kitzbühel (and the Austrian Alps) is no exception. Flannigans is loud, it's smoky, and it's packed every night of the week. This evening — after our enchiladas — Jake and Mitch continued their après-ski tour of the town, by bringing the gang over here. These two Aussie brothers are incredible: they walk into Flannigans, and half the pub is rushing up to talk to them — seems that they're best mates with everyone! Flannigans has a fairly large contingent of "regulars": and if you hang around, you soon get to know most of them. This really is a very gemütliche place, after all.