BootsnAll Travel Network

What's this all about?

We took off for a year (which turned into 15 months) to travel the world. This blog was started as a place to keep family and friends updated on our plans and where we were. Now, we are moving to Europe, so the blog will be about our new experiences, travels, and life as expats for the first time!

Endless Summer

November 17th, 2013
It probably seems like my blogs about our summer just keep going, but the summers in southern Austria are really amazing.  The weather is warm, but except for about 1 week in August, not so hot that you can’t sleep without airconditioning.  The sunshine, lakes, and mountains mean that we get a lot of tourists, mostly from Germany and the Netherlands.  The tourists fill up the restaurants, cafes, and bars, but generally there are so many hiking and biking trails that they are not too crowded.

We spent nearly every weekend this summer on those trails and really got to explore a few new areas, like Saalbach, which is actually paradise for mountain bikers.   We also made two trips to the Dolomites which have the most spectacular scenery (see below for proof).  Every trip to this area leaves me with a feeling that I need to go back and see more.

Our town lies on both sides of the Drau river, which starts in Italy, flows across Austria and ends in Slovenia.  There is a bike trail along the whole length and we’ve ridden some short sections near Villach.  This year we did an overnight trip with some friends along a western section…  some year we’ll do the whole thing!

Eric also took up a new sport called “Klettersteig” or via ferrata. It seems to be unique to Europe, and very popular in Austria and Italy.  Basically it’s like rock climbing, but “assisted” with permanent cables and ladders in the really tricky parts.  You wear a special harness to clip onto these elements and it provides a bit of safety so you won’t end up splattered at the bottom of the valley.   Not my thing, but a lot of people here are really into it.  There are quite a few trails and passages which were created during WWI, complete with tunnels that are available for Klettersteig and they offer great views if you have the fortitude to climb.

Finally we finished off the summer with this year’s Kirchtag week – always a lot of fun, but by the end of the week we were exhausted and escaped to the mountains for some rest. I’ll wrap up with a few pictures of the Dolomites, but check the next post for some more hiking highlights.

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‘Dam Good Cheese!

October 6th, 2013

I’m still pretty far behind on our summer travels, but this one requires a post.  At the end of June we took a week off (we get 5 weeks vacation now after all!) and went to Amsterdam, via London.  Aside from the shopping and dining opportunities that a big city presents, it was also nice to be tourists for a while.  We stayed at a small hotel in one of the many townhouses along the canals and immediately set off to explore the city.  After an exhausting day of walking, we gave in and rented bikes.  Everyone else is riding them for good reason – you can cover a lot more area comfortably and the city is really set up perfectly for bikes.  The only downside is that you need a least 2 very heavy locks, as theft is pretty common.

After a few days downtown, we headed out to see some of the country side.  After coming from Austria, we were surprised at how flat the landscape is!  The windmills and wooden shoe shops are touristy, but fun.  However, we had something else in mind and arrived in Alkmaar on a Friday morning when they hold the traditional cheese market.  Huge wheels of gouda are sold, weighed, and carried out by groups with different colored hats.  It’s partly for show, but there is real business being done, and afterward we snacked on some of the finished product.  Yum!

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My own Giro d’Italia

August 12th, 2013

After the long rainy spring, summer finally did arrive in June! We have a “To Do” list of interesting activities in the area and it keeps getting longer. The next few blogs will be about some of things we’ve already done so far this summer. There are many bike trails in the area and we use them fairly often for short rides after work or on weekend. However, there is also a trail which goes all the way to the Adriatic Sea. While we didn’t take it quite that far, we did spend a nice day riding to Italy for lunch and back.

As an American, it’s still very weird for me to just go to another country for the day, especially when the language and the food are so different from Austria. It’s even stranger to go there on my bike! The Italian part of the trail is mostly built on an old unused railroad line, so it includes bridges high above mountain rivers and lots of tunnels. We enjoyed it so much that we went back again a few weeks later and rode all the way to Venzone, a medieval walled city, and then took a train home.

Here is Eric’s bike parked on the border:

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Searching for the sun

August 2nd, 2013

We had a very snowy winter in Austria which turned into a very rainy spring.  By the end of May nearly everyone was totally depressed by the constant bad weather.  You may have seen the terrible flooding in Austria and Germany on the news that was eventually a result of this.  We finally couldn’t take it anymore and decided we needed to go somewhere sunny and warm, even for just a day.  After spending half a night searching the weather websites, we realized that there was no place nearby which would be any better.  Spontaneously we started searching airline websites looking for anything.  There it was… a cheap ticket from a nearby airport to Catania in Sicily.

We left on Friday night and after some delays eventually arrived.  The next morning we were greeted with bright sun, a blue ocean, and great food.  Catania turned out to be a pretty interesting destination, with Roman ruins and a side trip to the most active volcano in Europe, Mt. Etna.  Sadly Sunday night came too quickly and it was back to reality and rain again.

The Mediterranean isn’t just beautiful, it also yields some great fish, seen here at the famous fish market.  At night these stands are cleared away and great restaurants open up to serve up the seafood.

Mt. Etna – still smoldering…

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Off the tourist trail… and into the trees

July 30th, 2013

One of the great things about living in Europe is that we get to see and do things that locals take for granted and most tourists never get to experience.  I’ve written before about our town’s Kirchtag, which is the largest festival of it’s kind in Austria.  However, most towns, no matter how small, have one or something similar with music, food, and of course a beer tent.   While my parents were here, I heard about one in a town nearby and we went to see one of the old traditions that they still practice here… the Maibaum (a Maypole in English).  If you’ve ever wondered how they actually put them up, we found the answer…  a lot of people with long sticks, and a promise of a cold drink at the end.

In progress:

The finished product!

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