Shoop Shoop – Bridget goes Skiing

The last four days have been a formative part of my life. Likewise, I think that the last four days may have provided a steep learning curve for the Austrians about us Brits. There were a variety of things about Austrian culture and their lifestyle, which surprised, perplexed and downright baffled me.

When I think of tourists and the way us Brits are viewed, I am reminded of a routine by sometime stand up Greg Proops.

“English tourists are good fun on holiday too right? You guys know how you are. English tourists have one goal on holiday and that is to get lobster beet red and then perhaps at some golden moment, projectile vomit on a statue in the town square. ‘Look, look, f*cking Nigel just f*cking threw up on Al’s Head. Nice one! I tell you what I want, what I really, really want, what I really, really want, I want a huh, a huh, turn us all around and shag us from behind.’ and then f*ck off to the Benny Hill pub in Majorca to complain about all the foreigners that live in the country you are visiting.”

I don’t think that we behaved like this, but when it get’s written down on paper/internet blogosphere, it does start to look worryingly familiar. I’ll leave you to be the judges of that.

The first thing that struck me was the food. For breakfast, we were served a plate of parmesan, Emmental, Stilton and parma ham. Now, I’m British and consequently love food. But, who could actually stomach Stilton or parmesan at 7.30 in the morning? Deciding to bypass yesterday’s discarded lunch, I decided that an egg would most definitely be safe. It has to be said, that when I ordered an omelette, I did expect them to ask what I wanted in it. Imagine, if you will, a 2 egg omelette, with nothing but an incredibly liberal dash of salt, for your breakfast. To add insult to injury, the egg had not been sufficiently whisked before cooking, so it was a kind of pebble-dash effect omelette. Still, it’s best not to overindulge at breakfast, after a couple of hours of skiing on the slopes, I’ll have a cracking lunch. On our trip down the mountain, we saw a cabin restaurant with an amazing view of the Glacier, so we stopped for a rum and hot chocolate to peruse the lunch menu. It seemed a little peculiar that the only options available to us were a variety of sausages or soups with sausages in them. Thinking this was some funny place, we decided to ski back down to the village where there would be decent food. Shelley was brave enough to try the salad with bacon dumplings; this appeared to be made of a bowl of grated carrot with a liberal dose of balsamic vinegar and the dumpling was a fist sized lump of heavy suet with about four flecks of bacon interspersed through it. The dinner menu was equally exciting; starters of omelette soup or noodle soup, followed by an entire unseasoned trout for mains. Ok, so the Austrian food isn’t great, it tends to be schnitzels and sausages, which leads me to ask you if you have ever been to an expensive restaurant in Britain and been offered a Bernard Matthews breadcrumbed lump of meat? This is essentially what a schnitzel is. I could not see Gordon Ramsey serving a turkey twizzler up at Foxtrot Oscar. As a point of interest, I direct you to this picture, which was the only day I found food that tasted of food. Although, it still came with half a tonne of grated carrots.

So on day one, we’ve come to the conclusion that the food isn’t brilliant, but a good strong drink will make up for that. The majority of wine in Austria is taken from the great wine making countries of the world; The Netherlands, Germany, Italy and Hungary. Any wine from a country, which is known for actually making wine was over 40 Euros a bottle, so completely out of the question. A carafe of pink balsamic vinegar and very little food later, we were soon turning into the archetypal British tourists. Shelley and I were busy examining the tongue of our trout, which did involve cutting the head off and using it as a hand puppet. As Shelley was using the trout’s head as a finger puppet and driving it around the table on the pepper pot, the owner of the restaurant stopped by our table to find out how we were. Now, at this moment, Shelley and I were crying with laughter and all we could utter was “the trout’s got a tongue! And it moves!” The restaurant owner did a sterling job at hiding her disdain; she picked the plate up and said “Yah, I see the trout tongue. I have not looked before” and promptly left us to our special brand of peculiarity.

Another peculiar thing about Austria, but this time, one that I feel a slight affection towards is the public transport system. It’s so incredibly flawed, but I wish it were the same in London! We were told on arrival that if there were special ski buses, which ran from the village to the mountain and were free to those with skis/boards. Fantastic we thought. So we diligently waited for the free skibus on the Monday and the Tuesday and off we went. Tuesday evening, we planned to go into the city (Innsbruck) to explore and for dinner. So we picked up a bus timetable, got on the bus, showed the driver where we wanted to go and paid our fare – typical tourist behaviour, I suspect. However, the bus driver seemed to find us really funny and put our bus fare in his pocket and not in the till. As our journey went on, we noticed that everyone got on the bus at the back and curiously not one person paid or showed a bus pass. Admittedly, the service was a little shaky; we were forcibly removed from the bus two stops early after the driver couldn’t get past a riot in the streets. It was a very peculiar demonstration/protest, which seemed to involve thousands of angry men with placards stating “STOP FASCIST CONTROL!” and yet there was a bouncy castle and children running around playing games. Knowing Austria’s slightly turbulent past when it comes to fascist control, we moved swiftly into the side roads to find some dinner. Eventually, we stumbled into a heaving German/Austrian pub on the basis we recognised “rumpenstekke” on the menu. After a couple of pints of weissebeere and a rumpenstekke, we went off to find the bus again. This time we decided to act like the locals; we boarded the bus, cheerily cried “Halloo!” and walked past the driver and sat down. We didn’t pay to travel on the buses or the trams all week, which was fantastic. I think that London should consider taking this kind of policy up, if you want to pay, then go ahead, but no-one is going to force it either way. I have no idea how Austria can afford to run such fantastic public transport with so little funding, but they manage somehow.

Rereading my earlier words, I have come across a bit like Al Murray and this concerns me; I loved my holiday and my week in Austria. They just had a terrible idea of what constitutes food. The skiing in Austria is fantastic; the slopes were practically deserted and there are so many resorts that you can get to. We really wanted to go to the Stubaier Gletscher because apart from being an absolutely amazing spectacle, the skiing (as always is on glaciers) is amazing. Our trip up there was quite an adventure. Again, we made good use of the public transport, although I’m not quite sure what everyone thought of us as we got onto the 8am commuter bus into the city centre in all our ski gear! Once we got into the city, we had to find the Skibus that would take us up to the Glacier and after wandering around aimlessly for a few minutes, we saw someone with a snowboard and followed them. We ran over to the coach and went to load our skis on the back, when we noticed the signs in the window were all in Japanese. Thankfully, two lovely men stopped us from getting on the bus and going on a Japanese Sightseeing Tour! In a bizarre twist of fate, we got chatting to these blokes and they live just five miles away from Shelley; they were great fun and spent the hour travelling in the coach, taking the piss out of her for living near South Molton. We bumped into them again on the bus down from the Glacier and really weirdly, at Innsbruck airport waiting for our flight; they were incredibly helpful and even offered to smuggle Shelley onto their Brizzle flight. So perhaps not all Brits are total prats on holiday, it was just us.

The city of Innsbruck is beautiful.

However, I am a little unsure how anyone can afford to live there or clothe themselves from the shops. Everything was overwhelmingly expensive; Clarks shoes were about 120 Euros and every single shop (bar the one selling Clarks shoes) was a big designer with even bigger prices. Perhaps this is why their public transport is free?

The other slightly curious fact about Austria, is that they seem a trifle obsessed with wandering about in the nud. What is wrong with wearing a swimming costume to swim in? And is it really necessary to lie around with all your bits dangling about dangerously close to frying in the sauna? No-one wants fried gonads. Not even in the dodgy Austrian diet. At first I thought it was just me being a prude, but every single English person we spoke to said exactly the same thing. The two Devon lads said “but it’s not naked Tuesday!” and they are right, every day in Austria is naked Tuesday. And you have to question the sanity of anyone who thinks it is a good idea to get in a plunge pool starkers. For a start, women become reminiscent of a Cherry Bakewell and the blokes? Well, they just seem to internalise. Not that I was staring I’ll have you know, it was the blokes who shared this nugget of wisdom. With regards to this, don’t choose a potential hubby in an Austrian sauna. Or after bodyboarding mid-winter in Devon come to that. Anyhow, it was only us Brits who seemed so concerned about sitting around flashing our bits to the whole world, but is it really necessary? I don’t just mean that they preferred to be nude, the swimming/sauna area was a strictly nude area; they got quite cross if you tried to hide under lycra. Although, it’s amazing how adept you get at keeping your towel covering all until the very last bit of you has submerged, it’s quite a skill. I think that they enjoy having nude areas simply to embarrass the British tourists.

So, my advice to any Austria bound travellers is to be prepared to diet or about a month before departure take up a Bernard Matthews/sausage based diet. If you don’t eat for the duration of your trip, you will feel more confident when using the Spa facilities.


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Monika Thornton
    Mar 16, 2010 @ 20:31:15

    cool blog, so much to read, wow! 🙂


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