Our latest tale from the boot room comes from Malcolm and Sarah Watts who have been enjoying walking breaks with HF Holidays since 2006.
No lie-in today. And, more to the point, there’ll be no lie-in tomorrow.
Tomorrow was meant to be our free day. We’d been looking forward to an extra hour in bed, a leisurely breakfast at the Hotel Waldheim, a gentle stroll into town and a long lunch at one of the cafés our leaders Bob and Dick had recommended.
Today, on the other hand, we were going to be high in the mountains, climbing to the iron cross on top of the Grübelspitz, listening to the marmots and watching the buzzards riding the thermals.
Ahead of us there would be glorious views of distant glaciers bathed in sunshine; below us lush meadows and gushing streams.
It would be hard work, but by the time we’d descended to the twisting mountain road in the valley we would be tired but satisfied.
But it is not to be.
Eight o’clock in the morning, the cloud hasn’t risen and there have been fresh falls of snow above 2,000m. The easier walk is questionable; the harder walk unwise. So on Bob and Dick’s advice we are taking today as our free day and hoping for better weather tomorrow.
So today is now tomorrow and tomorrow is now today.
But it’s too late to have tomorrow’s lie-in. We’ve been up since 7.00am, hurried down to the Spar to buy our sandwiches and tucked into a hearty breakfast ready for a long walk in the mountains. Today’s early start will have to stay.
But what are we to do? Well, we’re not going to waste the day, that’s for sure.
Bob has set up the Citizens’ Advice Bureau in the alcove at the back of the lounge and he and Dick are on hand to provide maps and timetables, provide suggestions and show the various routes and destinations still on offer – a trip on the steam train to Jenbach, a day in Innsbruck, visits to the distillery and the cheese factory or a ride up the cable car to the summit of the Penken, high above the town.
And, if all else fails, there is always the toy cupboard.
A tall painted wooden cupboard stands in the lounge next to the makeshift CAB. Turn the big brass key and open the ancient door. A small child could probably step inside. An adult very nearly can.
There are shelves of books, games and puzzles, jigsaws, pencils and paper – everything you need for a rainy day. Perhaps there is even a dressing up box, a Punch and Judy show or a train set. If you look closely you’ll find that it’s bigger inside than out.
And, if you were to step inside and shut the door, you’d be transported to a different world!
We opt for the distillery, tempted no doubt by the offer of free schnapps and the photographs of the bare-chested distiller and his dirndl clad wife in the leaflet. The distillery is a couple of miles down the valley, following the broad and fast flowing river past numerous sculptures made from driftwood.
But when we get there we find that Herr Fankhasuer is keeping his shirt on today and his wife is probably in jeans and a sweater doing the accounts. But the schnapps is there and it’s free!
Somehow my wife manages two glasses to my one before leading me away. We aren’t buying and we aren’t listening to the talk in German so we can’t really stand there and drink the samples all day long – can we?
There are no free samples at the cheese factory so we carry on back into town to take the cable car up to the Penken. It is now gone midday and we’ve walked quite a few miles already, even though it’s our day off, so we eat our sandwiches in the cable car as it takes us high up the mountainside and on towards the clouds. A change of cable car, time to pull on a fleece and a waterproof jacket and then we are at the top.
Shorts! They’d seemed a good idea first thing this morning. But the air is very much colder up here. And we can see the freshly fallen snow on the mountain peaks all around us. But shorts? There are goose pimples on our legs and we are soon attracting the attention of passers-by. One group calls out to us and others stare. Shorts! What do they think we are – English?
The walk over the top of the Penken and down to the Finkenberg cable car station on the opposite side is not far. But on a day like today it is far enough. And, as the mist starts to close in, the snow clad mountains gradually disappear and we are left in a world of cloud. But one unexpected treat still awaits us.
A fellow guest has pointed it out: a small square-shaped structure just visible a few metres away from the path. It looks like a large wooden box balanced on one corner. It might be a shrine; in fact it is a chapel.
Open the door and you can go inside. Shut the door and the mist and cold vanish behind you. Just like the toy cupboard it is bigger inside than out. There are plain slanting walls, windows shaped as a cross and a tree trunk roughly carved into half a dozen seats.
With a stone altar and a wooden picture of Christ what mysteries does it contain? A refuge from the storm, a place of safety; it is all that a church should be – a gateway to a different world.
After that we come down. Down another two stage cable car to Finkenburg; down the woodland path past countless different mushrooms; down to another rushing river; down to the hotel; down to the lounge for tea and strudel; down to the basement for a sauna; down to the bar; and down to dinner. Then up the stairs to bed!
Thank you Malcolm and Sarah for sharing your tale!