Austria delivered... We got our White Christmas.
"Love is a journey. Not a destination"
Great quote. I love it. In fact, it even appeared on our wedding invitations.
But it doesn't always apply. Especially when we're talking about holidays. 'Love' is absolutely always about the destination and as far as I'm concerned, the whole 'journey' part can go get screwed.
Except... when you fly into Innsbruck, Austria.
The flight is an experience in itself. Jagged Alpine peaks rise out of the clouds, dwarfing your plane as it heads for one of Europe's toughest runways, an invisible valley below. As you descend through a thick blanket of cloud, snow-covered mountains rise up on either side - a spectacular, awe-inspiring view that takes your breath away - and not just for its beauty!
We arrived in Innsbruck with smiles plastered on our faces - then drove to our hotel - where those smiles transpired into shrieks of delight. Our room at the Adler Hotel had almost 180 degree views of the Alps - optimised by floor-to-ceiling windows. You could lie in the king-size bath and drink in the fairytale view of white-capped mountains and snowy surrounds without putting down your wine glass. It was magical.
There's something about Innsbruck's old town at Christmas. At its heart is the Altstadt Christmas Market, near the Golden Roof, where you can buy tree decorations, snow-globes, mulled wine and Kiachln - a kind of not-sweet-but-not-savoury donut, served with sauerkraut or jam. But the absolute highlight for us, was going up the Nordkette mountain range via cable car. The views from the top were incredible. We were slightly under-prepared for the amount of snow at the top (you can ski up there!) and had to de-robe the kids in the nearby restaurant to dry their snow-soaked clothes on heaters. But at least they had their thermals (merino is worth paying the extra cash for!) We checked out the Alpine Zoo where sadly most of the highlights were hibernating; then headed for Soelden for a truly White Christmas.
I say 'truly' because on Christmas Eve, a blizzard closed down the mountain. I had never seen so much snow in my life and the kids were thrilled to see the snow ploughs in full-force. I must say, as I loaded our turkey into the oven, I felt 'a fair bit smug' that after all our planning, we were indeed going to have a White Christmas. We woke up to a fresh blanket of snow on Christmas morning then took to the ski slopes - before sitting down to one of our most memorable Christmas lunches so far.
2666m up, in minus 14 degree temperatures, we sat on the edge of a mountaintop and dined alfresco. The froth on our beer froze and our hot chips became cold chips before we even sat down but our picnic spot at Rotkogel Hutte was one of our best yet.
This wasn't just the White Christmas we'd been dreaming of... but something truly extraordinary on the other side of the world. And about as un-Australian as Christmas's get!
Where we stayed: Gastehaus Waldesrand
The photos online don't do this place justice. Our apartment was self-contained with two separate bedrooms, a kitchen and lounge room. It was spacious, clean and recently re-furbished, with fabulous views - we were pleasantly surprised.
How we got there: We hired a car at Innsbruck, then drove to Soelden. We probably didn't need a car as the train is very efficient but we very glad to have it for transporting the kids and all their ski gear to/from the hotel each day.
What worked: Skiing. Everything was really convenient - the ski-hire shop was at the bottom of the mountain, the car parks were free, the kids instructors spoke English and the snow was amazing! On top of that, the kids learned how to ski from the professionals, the adults got some kid-free time - everyone was really happy.
What didn't: Should have stocked up on travel-sickness tablets for the kids - the drive is a little curly.