Salzburg was magical. Salzburg was lovely. Salzburg was freezing. I'm told the magic of Salzburg is in the hills, but we had trouble looking too far up, as the wind was out of the north and the snow flakes were falling in our eyes as we looked around.
We noticed one of the first miracles of European Union integration as we departed Innsbruck for Salzburg: our train almost immediately left Austria at the border at Kufstein, and traveled the rest of the way through Germany – endless fields buttoned up for the winter with rolls of hay stacked at the margins – before arriving. Imagine how different things were a few decades ago when Germany was divided and Austria represented the frontier and the Iron Curtain that demarked the two philosophies of the Cold War.
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I'd hoped to learn all about the speckled history of Innsbruck, "the Bridge over the River Inn" in order to flesh out this story. In reality, between kids and work and other responsibilities, I never really got a chance to learn much at all about the place we spent Christmas of 2014.
That doesn't mean it hasn't earned a very special place in my heart, though:
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Christmas is different in every culture around the world, and while many of America's Christmas traditions come from Germany and Austria, that doesn't mean it's the same thing.
For one, in Austria, it's the Christ Child himself who delivers the gifts to good little children, not some bearded, Nordic fat man in a red suit. And we were lucky – not only did the Christ Child bring a gift or two for us while we stayed in Innsbruck, but we got a chance to see the lighted procession on Christmas Eve.
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The kids wanted a white Christmas, sure, but I was also hoping our trip to Austria would yield a little snow. I was hoping to do a little snowboarding for the first time since we traveled to Sierra Nevada, and the second time since my 20s. But as we arrived in Innsbruck in Christmas week, it was beginning to look unlikely, and the forecast was cheerily focused on sun and seasonally warm temperatures.
"It doesn't matter," my Austrian friend said. "We'll just go up and ski the glacier."
My heart leapt.
Continue reading "The Stubaital Glacier"