Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Apres Ski

I just got back from my weekend skiing in Austria--pretty much a dream of mine. I decided that I needed to get out and do it, so I loaded my skis up and caught a night train. I absolutely love the night trains because you sleep on the way there, and wake up in a totally different world. It is way better than hassling with the airport! On this trip, I woke up in Austria... amazing! For those of you who know the Bavarian villages of Solvang, CA or Leavenworth, WA, they are pretty much right on. The y even had a hotel named Edelweiss... I could hardly keep from breaking out into song!

As I am incapable of planning ahead and having reservations, I met a man on the train who works at Obertauern and could recommend ski lodging for a reasonable price. Because it is early season, a lot of hotels weren't open yet, so I ended up staying in a room above a disco (good thing I am a heavy sleeper). The room was cheap, clean, walking distance from the slopes and came with a breakfast so as long as you don't mind the vibrations of the base below you, it was a great place to stay!

The first day I skied, I quickly realized that I was the ONLY telemarker on the entire mountain (and it is a big mountain). People kept coming up to me and after a bunch of gibberish (German) I would hear the word "telemarker." Luckily most of them switched to perfect English when I mentioned that I hadn't understood a word they said. They all thought I was crazy (apparently not many people from the US ski at Obertaurn). As I got ready to head back to my hotel at the end of the day, I heard loud, fun music coming from one of the ski lodges... it sounded like a party! As I like parties, I headed inside and was introduced to the world of Apres Ski (after ski in French). The idea is that after you ski all day, you are stoked by having a great day, but have nothing to do except head to your lodging. In order to give people something to do, lodges and restaurants open up from 3-6 to let skiers party until dinner time. Skiers come by the mass, still in their ski clothes to enjoy Apres Ski. The music is hilarious (YMCA, Macerena, and Austrian Yodeling) and people are amazingly agile while dancing in their ski boots. I even partook in some of the festivities (yep, I tried dancing in ski boots). At 6, the Apres Ski places shut down to clean up for dinner.

One of the best things about travelling alone is the number of people you meet. The second day I set out skiing with a woman from Austria who rips! We had a great day skiing and once again participated in Apres Ski. What a kick... I wish I had a video camera so that everyone could appreciate how amazing it is. When I decide to quit teaching and make my millions, I will open an Apres Ski place in the states!

Austria exceeded all of my expectations and I can't wait to go back to ski there again this winter... hopefully I can convince friends to come too!

Monday, November 19, 2007

Snow Day!

As all little kids know... these are magic words! All weekend it has been snowing in Belgrade. We currently have about 1/2 a foot of snow and it is absolutely beautiful. It completely changes the whole city, and makes me really happy (even though someone knocked down my snowman).

Saturday, taking full advantage of the snow, we immediately headed to the top of Belgrade's sledding hill. They used to have a rope tow on the hill (and may put it back in if there is enough snow) and there are two mini ski lodges at the looks like we are in the Alps right?

While there wasn't enough snow on Saturday for sledding, Sunday had plenty! We took our trash bags and made "Ghetto" skis and snowboards out of plastic and wood planks. We were quite the hit on the hill. One little boy told a Chrissy (wearing the white coat) "Wow, your yellow trash bag is really fast." We were pretty much entertainment for the entire crowd (and the only adults enjoying the snow).

Apparently, due to the weight of the wet snow on the power lines, a line went down at our lower school causing an electrical fire and destroying our server. The admin is meeting today to decide if they will cancel school Tuesday and Wednesday as well so that we can have a longer Thanksgiving break. I am rooting for it... there is no way to teach without computers right?

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Slovenia Rocks my Socks!

I just came back from a crazy, but wonderful trip to Slovenia's Julian Alps. Jamie and Ethan are always up for a trip, so we decided to do a marathon weekend to meet up with Melissa in the Julian Alps. Melissa has decided teaching in Belgrade isn't her cup of tea, so is leaving on the 19th. In the meantime, she has been travelling throughout Bosnia and Croatia, and then met up with us in Slovenia. To get to Lake Bled (our homebase for the weekend), we jumped on an overnight train Friday after school. Somehow we ended up in first class (I assume it is because they looked at us and thought we deserved it), so our sleeping accommodations were fantastic. Comfy beds, a nice rocking train and cold medicine made for an incredible night's sleep. We arrived in Ljubljana early Sat. morning and headed straight for the mountains. Boy do I miss mountains.

Jamie, Ethan and I could barely contain ourselves as we checked into our room and immediately set out for some exploring of Vintgar Gorge. This super steep canyon has crystal Green waters and some killer rapids. Unfortunately, they are pretty log jammed, so I won't be kayaking them anytime soon. We walked along the boardwalk through the river canyon and then decided to go a bit off the beaten track. Long past the time we should have met Melissa, and 10 km from town, we realized that no one picks up hitchhikers in Slovenia--or maybe just not those who look like riff-raff like we do.

After meeting up with Melissa, we decided to explore Lake Bled. The lake has a castle on one side, an Island Church in the middle, and is absolutely stunning. Unfortunately, they do not rent out paddle boats at night. We were somewhat sad to not be able to row out to the island, until we stumbled upon a boat on a dock. Some kind Slovenian had left it with oars all set up and untied. We decided to go on a covert mission to the island (yep, we are molding the minds of future leaders). Either the owner didn't mind us using his boat, or he didn't notice, but we left it back on his dock after our nighttime adventure.

Sunday was another beautiful day so we set out for Triglav National Park. Hiking in the mountains definitely did the soul some good--I didn't realize how much I miss the mountains! The slopes were steep, and I can't wait to go back. Perhaps next time, we will take advantage of the mountain huts for a backpacking trip.

We arrived back in Ljubljana at 9 Sunday night in time to catch an overnight train back to Belgrade. Of course, the train was an hour late, so we headed straight to school, still stinking in our hiking clothes... I am ready for my next weekend adventure!