For me, there’s hardly anything better than going to Austria to ski. I’ve been lucky enough to do this many times and just finished a spectacular stay there with my son, grandson and the grandson’s fiancée. Every trip to the Arlberg area of western Austria produces something new along with the familiar.
NEW. A shower stall so small it was impossible—at least for this owner of an 81-year- old chubby body—to turn around in without hitting the shower handle and thereby surprising my skin with either very hot or very cold water. Is it possible this was not a shower at all? Maybe it was a “rinser,” an apparatus you step into only after soaping up your body all over. You rinse but you don’t dare try to turn around.
One evening in stepping out of the shower in my natural state I saw that the window curtains were open. If any young Austrian was passing by at that moment, a family in my favorite Austrian village may face years of counseling fees.
FAMILIAR. In promoting their products, Austrian and German companies are fond of tossing around English words that don’t quite fit. A restaurant in St. Anton has a sign on the front of the building, "Food On Fire." That happens to me frequently when making toast at home, but I don’t brag about it.
At a bus stop one day, I was standing next to a man wearing a ski jacket with "Sweet Protection" written on the sleeve. Did that mean the owner could eat all the sweets he wanted and not gain an ounce? Or that by putting on that jacket the wearer lost all lust for sweets?
NEW. Traveling without an ice pack, I found that holding a bottle of cold water against an aching hip was an effective pain reliever. The trick is to remember to remove the bottle from your underwear before pulling up your pants to go to dinner.
FAMILIAR. The Austrian and German places where I’ve stayed don’t believe in blankets. You know, those cloth things tucked into the end of the bed. People in this part of the world sleep with a three-inch thick, soft sack on top of them, a sack that goes its own way during the night, leaving both large and small parts of the body uncovered and unwarm. If I were an advertising man, I might suggest the local Austrian tourist bureau adopt the slogan, “The Arlberg, Where Everyone Sleeps With Their Socks On.”
NEW. New to me anyway, using FaceTime in Austria. I tried to FaceTime Irene every day around noon her time. When I saw myself on the screen, I looked a minimum of 104 years old or deceased or both. Next time I think we stick to the old telephone where the sound of a familiar voice is enough of a connection.
FAMILIAR. The last time I flew home on Lufthansa from Munich I wrote a letter about the abysmal food. I think it’s fair to say the word “abysmal” remains apt. The dinner choices this time were goulash or pasta with cheese. I opted for the pasta, figuring all you have to do is boil water. There was some sort of herb or perhaps green pencil shavings on the pasta, so when I bit into something crunchy I figured it was the shavings or maybe just a hard piece of pasta left over from the age of the Druids. When there was a second, loud crunching noise, I stopped chewing and retrieved from my mouth a white piece of plastic or porcelain. Could it be that I had ordered porcelain pasta?
Sherlock McCoy examined the dish the pasta was in and found the side was chipped in three places. I saved the piece extracted from my mouth to show one of the flight attendants, but all I got was an "ah." Like most everyone else I deal with these days, she wasn't impressed.
To save time, I may compose a form letter to Lufthansa about what they serve on their planes with only the date and the flight number to be filled in.
In truth the aggravation with Lufthansa soon passed. Nothing could spoil how much fun Jack McCoy, Nicholas Parish, Shirley Cruz and I had on the slopes in good weather and perfect conditions. All four of us would go back tomorrow if we could, and all four of us would probably bring our own food for the flights.
For my next Austrian outing, I may order a ski jacket with “Sweet Protection” on it and simply nibble on German chocolate all the way to and from Munich.