Look Up, Look Down – Großes Walsertal

I haven’t taken part in Look Up, Look Down for a while, and today seemed as good a day as any to join in again.
This is an old photo, from when I still lived in Austria. It was taken from up in the mountains of the Großes Walsertal (a Tal is a valley, so technically the Großes Walsertal is somewhere at the bottom, but I couldn’t tell you the name of the mountain!). Is anyone else reminded of The Land Before Time when looking at this scenery?

Großes Walsertal

This photo was taken at the end of May, and it was actually quite sunny down in the valley (although some stubborn bits of snow were still hanging on). It was freezing up in the mountains, though!

To take part in the Look Up, Look Down challenge and see all the other entires, check out Travel With Intent’s blog post.

Look Up, Look Down: The Katzenturm

Today’s look up, look down photo was taken in Feldkirch in Austria and shows the Katzenturm. Those of you who speak any German whatsoever may realise that this literally translates as “Cats’ Tower”. Sadly, there were never any actual felines in the tower… the “Katzen” were probably a type of canon. The bell tower of the Katzenturm contains the largest bell in Vorarlberg, and sixth largest in Austria.

Katzenturm Feldkirch

Got a photo that you think would be perfect for the Look Up, Look Down theme? Check out Travel With Intent’s blog post to link up!

Return to Feldkirch

Locator map of Vorarlberg in Austria.
Austria, with Vorarlberg in red (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

You may or may not know that after graduating from university I moved to Austria for 10 months. I had originally wanted to go to Innsbruck for my year abroad, but my uni only had one exchange place there and somebody else got it. I was left with my second choice… Karlsruhe. So when it came to deciding what to do with myself after graduation, I decided now was my chance to go to Austria. I applied for the position of English Language Assistant through the British Council, selecting Vorarlberg as my first choice Bundesland because it was the closest part of Austria to Baden-Württemberg (where Karlsruhe is) and, because almost nobody actually chooses to got to Vorarlberg, I got what I wanted!

I was assigned to two schools, with the main one – where I would work three times a week – in Feldkirch and a second one  in Götzis, a few train stops away. I decided to live in Feldkirch, partly because I was going to spending most of my working hours there but also because Götzis is a pretty small town, while Feldkirch is the second largest in Vorarlberg (which doesn’t mean much when you consider the size of most towns in Vorarlberg). That year was the start of my love affair with Austria. I had always wanted to go to Austria (thanks to the Chalet School books!) but I was never really in love with it until I actually lived there. Admittedly I didn’t always have the best time there – the other language assistants had a tendency to “forget” to invite me to things and I was lonely a lot of the time – but I never tired of the scenery. Even now, I miss looking out of my window and seeing mountains (climbing the hill with all my shopping not so much!). And if I ever see something Austrian on a menu I will always order it.

I hadn’t actually been back to Vorarlberg since finishing my assistantship, so when Jan and I were invited to a birthday celebration at a hut in Switzerland, close to the Austrian border, and Jan suggested leaving the day before (a public holiday in my part of Germany) to spend some time together first, it was obvious that I was going to want to see Feldkich again. Luckily, Jan agreed so we booked a room at the Best Western in town and he arranged for a car.

The view from our hotel room window
The view from our hotel room window

We arrived in Feldkirch at 3 pm, after driving a route that took us through most of Vorarlberg, and quickly checked in before heading out for a walk around while it was still light.  It was a dull, cloudy day but I took photos anyway. And I discovered that Feldkirch hasn’t changed very much – they now have a Müller, one of the book shops has gone and two of the bars we used to go to have closed down, but other than that everything looks the same.

After walking around for about an hour and a half, we’d basically seen everything – the main centre isn’t very big and there’s not much to see in the other parts of town. We had been driving for about four hours and hadn’t stopped for lunch, so we decided to go for some food. Rösslepark was exactly the same (except that it now has a smoking and non-smoking section). The beer is still good and I enjoyed me real Austrian Wienerschnitzel.  Jan chose the Schlachtteller – literally slaughter or butcher platter – which consisted of meat, meat and more meat! But not just any meat… it included things like liver sausage and blood sausage… and tongue! So I can now say I’ve tried beef tongue (of course I sampled some). It tastes a bit like beef, but has a weird texture and is slightly bitter. Not something I’m likely to eat again…

After eating, we went back out into the dark and had a walk up to the local castle – the Schattenburg. There’s a museum in there, which I’ve never been to, and a restuarant that is best known for its giant Schnitzel. I ate there once when I lived in Feldkirch and I can confirm that those things take up an entire plate! They come with chips (fries), which have to be served separately. Here’s the Schattenburg and some terrible night-time shots of Feldkirch from above – my camera doesn’t do too well in the dark!

The next morning, after checking out of the hotel, we drove over to Dornbirn – the second biggest town in Vorarlberg. A couple who had lived in Feldkirch when I lived there moved to Dornbirn three years ago so we went to visit them and their 11 week old son! It was lovely to see my friends again and the baby was very cute.

A little church in Dornbirn
A little church in Dornbirn

After a cup of tea, some baby hugs and a catch up, it was time to move on as we had another long drive ahead of us…
Check in soon to read about our further adventures over the long weekend!

Things I HAVE done before 30 – Part 1: Travel

Venice from the air
Venice from the air

I said I was going to have a think about the things I have managed to achieve in life before hitting the dreaded 30, and since I currently have nothing else worth saying, now seems as good a time as any to start blogging about what I’ve come up with. I thought I would start with some of the travel-related things that I’ve done. Here they are…

Been to Rome – twice!
I have been to lots of places, actually. But Rome seems to be one that’s always mentioned when people talk about places  they would like to go, or think that everyone should really have been to.

The first time I went to Rome it was an 18th birthday present from my uncle. I went with him, his partner and my sister for a long weekend. I mostly remember delicious pasta, my uncle walking off in his own little bubble – crossing roads like the traffic wasn’t even there while the rest of us struggled to keep up, queueing for absolutely ages at the colloseum, but finding it was worth it once we got in, deciding Trevi fountain was my absolute favourite place on Earth, falling asleep under a tree in a park and drinking cocktails in an Irish bar. It was a good weekend.

My second trip to Rome was with Jan, my mum and step dad, my sister (again) and her boyfriend and my brother. I wrote a little about that trip here. My main memories of my second visit to The Eternal City include walking until I got blisters on my feet, finidng Trevi fountain to be just as beautiful as I remembered but much more crowded (I’m sure it must have been just as bad the first time and I’d just erased it from my memory), feeling like I was going to pass out from the heat at the Roman Forum (it’s impressive but there’s literally no shade!), creepy monk bones in the Capucin crypt (which you can read all about in the post I linked to) and queuing for ages to get into St. Peter’s Basilica.

Foro Romano: Impressive but severely lacking in shade!
Foro Romano: Impressive but severely lacking in shade!

Travelled first class
In Germany, it often works out cheaper to get the first class savings price than the regular price for second class (once the savers price for second class has run out). Jan and I did this on the way back from Hamburg, among other trips. I was also once allowed to take a seat in first class when the car where I had reserved a seat was not actually part of the train (this happens quite a lot in Germany… why?!). First class seats have more room, but other than that travelling first class on a train isn’t all that amazing.

I have also flown business class. The day we went to Rome was my 18th birthday. My uncle, at the time, was working at the airport – as was his flatmate. The flatmate was on duty that day, so he took our tickets and passports to wherever those in charge hide out when they’re not telling you what to do and had them upgrade us as a birthday treat for me. We also got free champagne on the flight. And before take off the co-pilot came to me and said he’d heard it was my 18th birthday and would I like to come in the cockpit for the landing? I was too stunned to reply, but luckily my sister said yes on my behalf – so when we landed in Rome I was in the cockpit of the plane! There’s an experience I doubt many people have had.

Lived in four different countries
Specifically England, Northern Ireland, Austria and Germany. Critics may say that, because we lived on an army base, we were technically in England, not Northern Ireland “proper”. I say that’s silly – of course we were living in Northern Ireland! And if anybody tries to tell me that England and Northern Ireland are not, in fact, countries but mere regions of the “country” that is the United Kingdom I may have to track you down and hurt you!

Feldkirch, Austria, where I lived for 10 months
Feldkirch, Austria, where I lived for 10 months

Been to the USA
Yes, I’m aware that it’s a big country, but going to the US is our equivalent of the Americans’ “go to Europe”. Where we go isn’t necessarily important, but everyone should (apparantly) have at least set foot on American soil.
Going to America had never been a particular ambition of mine, but Jan was there and I hadn’t seen him for 6 months, so when my dad offered me flights for Christmas I obviously leapt at the chance. I enjoyed my time there – my favourite of the places I saw was Philadelphia – but I have to admit I like Europe better. There’s just so much more history here! It was fun to visit a place called New Castle though – named after England’s very own Newcastle Upon Tyne! (Sorry, no photo. I have absolutely no idea where mine are!)

Seen Stonehenge
And Hadrian’s Wall, the Eiffel Tower, the Colloseum in Rome and the Statue of Liberty (from the ferry rather than up close, but still seen!).

Stonehenge on a cloudy day
Stonehenge on a cloudy day

Spent New Year in various places
Specifically New York (USA), Vienna (Austria), Prague (Czech Republic), Paris (France), Brussels (Belgium), Padua (Italy), Edinburgh (Scotland), Salzburg (Austria) and Luxembourg City (Luxembourg) – in that order. Next will hopefully be Madeira (Portugal).

The city of Brussels knows how to do fireworks! New Year 2008/09
The city of Brussels knows how to do fireworks! New Year 2008/09

Spent the night on a train
Once in the Liegewagen (couchette car) – the non-private, uncomfortable sleeping compartment where you get to smell complete strangers’ feet all night – and once in a proper sleeping compartment, which has more comfortable beds (with something resembling mattresses) and is for two people only. There’s also a wash basin in there (and the posh ones even have a shower!). The sleeping car I would recommend, the couchette not so much!

Been to all four countries of the United Kingdom
England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales. Admittedly, I remember very little of Northern Ireland (I lived there for two years, but we left when I was 7), but I’ve still been!

Loch Lomond, Scotland
Loch Lomond, Scotland

Visited 30 German towns
At least that’s the plan. Hopefully by the time I reach 30 I’ll have completed this challenge! You can read all about my German travels on this very blog (check out the page on the right).

Travelled to numerous other places in Europe
The Channel Islands, Greece (Rhodes  – I would love to go the mainland), Spain, Portugal, Malta, France (not only Paris), Switzerland, Liechtenstein… I wonder if I’ve missed any?

A "living statue" on La Ramblas, Barcelona
A “living statue” on La Ramblas, Barcelona

If you’ve got this far, thanks for reading! Part two will look at some of the experiences I’ve had – such as trying different foods. Watch this space!