One thing I really love about the Germans is the way they embrace their excruciatingly long, dark, and freezing cold winter. If it’s -15C outside you won’t find these lot panic buying at supermarkets or sat at home cuddling a water bottle. They will be out burning calories faster than Usain Bolt by going cross-country skiing, ice-skating on frozen lakes or hiking with those silly poles they even use on concrete. It seems most people in Bavaria own some kind of winter sports equipment, be it a snowboard, skis, ice-skates and half-a-dozen sledges (or sometimes all of those). In England only rich people have skis and snowboards, so I’m forever impressed when I see the contents of a Bavarian’s garage. In Bavaria there are plenty of places to ski and snowboard in winter, such as Garmisch-Partenkirchen and Mittenwald. But as Bavaria borders Austria many Germans bypass their own country’s resorts and head deeper into the Alps for even better conditions. Petrol is also cheaper in Austria, which is why the pumps close to the German/Austrian border are usually full of satisfied German drivers filling up their tanks. And it takes a lot to satisfy a German, particularly one that’s driving!
Last weekend some friends and I drove across the border into Austria – a 90 minute trip from our home near The Ammersee. As with most European border crossings the only way we could tell we had entered another country was a ‘Welcome to Austria’ sign and our mobiles frantically bleeping with text messages telling us it would now cost an arm and a leg to answer our own phones.
The drive was spectacular. The snowy German Alps were shrouded in an eerie light morning mist, which gradually lifted to reveal their full grandeur. Then as the road snaked higher into the range we were engulfed by a heavy snow storm, turning our surroundings into a wonderful winter wonderland. Pine trees stood tall sprinkled with white, while cute little log cabins with thick snowy roofs poked out from the blanketed countryside. Just lovely.
We ploughed through the blizzard to the Winter Olympic resort of Seefeld, a pretty postcard ski village just a few minutes drive over the border into Austria. As you can tell from the photographs, it’s a gorgeous little place.
To cater for the huge number of Germans who ‘drive and ski’ the resort has a multi-story car park with escalators to take you right to the bottom of the slopes. Everyone changes in their car or on the car park floor on arrival before purchasing their lift passes by the runs. So efficient, the system must have been designed by a German! There are also 25 ski lifts, 28 km of ski runs, and facilities for night-skiing.
Being a Sunday the resort was pretty busy and heaving with kids. Most of these children were extremely competent German skiers and snowboarders who annoyingly whizzed past me as I fell on the same part of my right butt cheek again and again and again (it’s been a while since I last snowboarded.) Ten days on and the huge purple bruise to my bottom – and ego – is still there. Still, the view from the top of the easiest run I could find was breath-taking. Between painful snowboarding sessions I sat on the snow, took in the scenery, and breathed in that beautiful fresh alpine air.
After some hearty food in a wooden Apres-Ski restaurant complete with smokers and pumping Austrian dance music, we dragged our sore bodies into the heart of Seefeld. The picturesque village boasts plenty of hotels (all proudly advertising their saunas), cute cafes, and souvenir shops bursting with cuckoo clocks.
We only had a day here but if you stayed for longer there would be plenty of fun to be had. The area is a popular destination for cross-country skiers, sledgers, climbers and hikers. There’s even a ‘Strudelfest’ on this July! I can’t wait to return and see more of Austria. Just remember to do as the Germans do, and stock up on petrol if you’re coming back this way.
For further information, visit http://www.seefeld.com