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.

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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!

My night of pretending to be posh

It took me an hour and a half to do my hair last night. I just don’t have the kind of hair that you can do things with. It’s incredibly thick, which hairdressers will tell you is a good thing, but it’s not. Next time you’re in a place that sells hair accessories take a look and see how many of them have a little sticker saying “for thick hair”. If you manage to find more than 3 it will be a miracle. If more than 1 of those is not ugly please tell me where that shop is, I need to go there right now!
Anyway, last night. I knew I couldn’t leave it down, not for a posh restaurant, so it had to go up. My first attempt took 10 minutes and a dozen hair clips. From the front it looked ok, but then I saw the back. It was a mess. So down it came. I then tried putting part of it up and leaving a bit down at the back. It didn’t work. At all. Six tries later I was sweating, exhausted and frustrated, but at least I’d managed to get my hair up. By the time I’d managed to get my make up done we were running late and had to rush into town. Rushing in sandals with heels isn’t good. I now have blisters on the balls of my feet, which hurts a lot and makes it difficult to walk, I won’t be wearing those shoes again for a while! It was worth it though, the rest of the night was amazing!

When we arrived at the hotel we were first shown to our room. Yes, we had a whole room all to ourselves! The nice waiter man took our jackets then suggested that we head over the the bar for some aperitifs. They called it a bar, and there was indeed a bar at one end, but the room itself looked like something in a stately home. It was amazing! Portraits on the wall, nice carpets and posh armchairs everywhere. Wow! We ordered our drinks, which were incredible. I had a cocktail of champagne with strawberry liquer and strawberry juice. To go with our drinks we were rought some hors d’ouvres. Little pieces of bread cut into circles and squares with tiny but perfectly arranged toppings. Fabulous.

After the appertisers we headed back to our room. We were served our starters and the wine expert came by to advise us on what to drink. We started with a sweet white wine that tasted almost like lemonade. Later we switched to a dryer white wine, which I then stuck to for the rest of the night. There was also a red wine to go with the later courses. I tried the red wine but didn’t like it. The starters (can’t remember what they were) were followed by foamed goose liver pate with goose mince arranged on top of it. It tasted a lot nicer than it sounds! Next came the fish course. We had kingfish fillet, which I really enjoyed. Then came something that was called “Flusskrebs” in German. I’ve just looked it up and found out that means crayfish, so there you go. It was quite nice anyway, but I couldn’t have eaten too much of it. Good job posh portions are only little! After the crayfish came the part I had been waiting for all night. Meat! It was ram I believe (trying to translate from the German here). I usually prefer my meat well done, and this was only medium, but it actually tasted incredible. All of these courses were served by 3 or 4 waiters at a time, who then placed the plates in front of us all at once. Before each course our waiter came in and explained what we were about to eat.
The meat was followed by cheese, which was brought in on a huge trolley. A waitress explained what was on the trolley and then put together a selection on a plate. This took a while as she had to do it for each of us individually. And finally we had pudding – a gorgeous chocolate cake, followed by coffee (I had cappucino), little chocolate covered fruit sweets (the waiter insisted that everyone had to take at least one) and finally some liqeur. We all chose a pear one which came from Vorarlberg in Austria. I had to go for that one of course because I used to live there. I was told that the final bill came to over 2,000 euros. Wow! Jan insisted on paying for my share. I have such a wonderful boyfriend 🙂

So that was my posh night out. I would definitely recommend everyone to do it at least once, it’s an amazing experience. And I found out this morning that Baden Baden and Brenner’s Park Hotel are on the list of 10,000 places to visit before you die. Only 9,999 places to go then 😉