Saturday, May 5, 2007

17 March: In Search of Snow

It’s time now for our return visit to Austria for four days of skiing. We’ve been really nervous about this trip because the snow has been terrible this year. Apparently none of the snow that fell on Germany at the end of February made it to the Alps. The good (and potentially bad) news is that there is a storm in the forecast for the Arlberg starting on Monday (today is Saturday). I just hope that it doesn’t snow so much that we have whiteout conditions the whole time. After some discussion we decided to return to the Hotel Maiensee because we had such a good time there last year. It seemed like a good idea to go back to something that was familiar, and even if the snow is terrible, at least we know we’ll enjoy the food!

We took Cody and Scotty to the Tierhotel in the morning, where Prinz Ratibor told us they were always happy to see Cody because he gets along so well with everyone.
We did most of our packing once we got back home, since we didn’t need to leave until early afternoon. Plus, Cody is starting to get really good at stressing out when he knows we are getting ready for a trip, so this way we were able to do our packing without his incessant whining.

We ate all of the leftovers in the fridge for lunch and left the house around 2 pm. This was our first road trip in the E-Class and it was quite comfortable. It was a smooth drive and, unlike last year, we ran into no traffic jams on the Autobahn. We crossed the border into Austria around 3:30, buying our vignette (highway toll sticker) at the same Shell station as last time. Once again we were amazed at the sight of the Alps rearing up into the sky just over the border – there are hardly any foothills to speak of.

The lack of snow was painfully obvious as we headed into the mountains. Last year we saw snow almost as soon as we entered Austria. Today the snow was virtually nonexistent until we were less than 20 km from the Arlberg. But once we got close, there was actually more snow than I expected, so that was a good sign.

We pulled up the steep driveway to the Hotel Maiensee just after 5 pm (remarking on how cool it is that we can drive three hours and be in the middle of the Alps). The same nice young woman greeted us at the front desk (we didn’t see Herr Traxl until later in the evening) and immediately stumped us when she asked us if we wanted a glass of sekt (sparkling wine). We both looked at each other expectantly, hoping the other person had understood the question. Sadly, this still happens to us fairly often, even with the most basic of questions. We were shown to our room – number 18 on the top floor, right next door to the room we had last year. I was hoping we would get a slightly better room this time, but we have nothing to complain about – it is very cozy with a low slanted roof, big white-washed beams, and plenty of couches and space for our luggage. The only disappointment is that the bathroom has only a stand-up shower and no bathtub, so we won’t be able to soak away the aches and pains of skiing like we did last year.Looking out on the lower slopes from our balcony, we were cheered to see reasonably good snow coverage.

We hung out for a while and then went down to the bar at 7:30 for complimentary drinks, which seem to be a regular thing on Saturday nights, along with the fabulous Maiensee buffet. Herr Traxl introduced all of the staff by name again. I recognized the bartender and one of the waitresses. Dinner was just as we remembered. We were seated at a cozy corner table in one of the smaller dining rooms, along with a party of six Irish guests, a German couple, and two German guys. We had cream of asparagus soup, then the awesome salad buffet, followed by the main course buffet. We had pork with a sour sauce, spareribs, rösti (shredded potatoes mixed with onion and smoked ham), and mixed veggies, accompanied by a nice bottle of Austrian Zweigelt. Then we availed ourselves of the unforgettable dessert buffet, complete with cream puffs, tiramisu, chocolate mousse, several kinds of strudel, and at least a half dozen other tempting treats. Yum!!

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