Where I live in Austria it snows in winter. Not just up in the distant mountains, but down on the ground, out in the streets, and along the Autobahn. The first few times it snowed I was in a winter wonderland of magical happiness. I skipped around the streets in my new boots, marvelled at the silence the blanket of snow created and drank hot tea while staring out onto pretty white fields.
And then it snowed again… and again. And then it melted… well, half melted. And that’s when I found out that sometimes snow is a big pain in the ass.
I love the fact that in Austria there are four distinct seasons. Over the next few weeks I’ll be publishing creative pieces on the sights, sounds and smells of the four seasons. This is the first week, beginning with winter. Enjoy!
It’s finally coming to the end of winter. Thank goodness, since it has been an exceptionally cold and snowy one. Yet as much as I prefer the warmer months, I still managed to rack my brain and come up with 10 reasons why winter is not all bad.
Winter in Australia is… well… somewhat mild compared to Austria. And while there are some absolutely freezing days in Melbourne, especially when there’s a cracker of an icy wind blowing, it’s definitely not on the same scale. So here are 10 things I never knew I’d have to learn about what a real winter involves.
Winter in Austria is cold. I think I’ve reiterated that time after time, and will probably continue to do so… because… well… it just is! I hate the cold – my body’s not made for it. But I do like exercise, I do like sun and I do like fresh air. And just because it’s snowy outside, doesn’t mean that physical activity has to stop.
Since hubby and I are not exactly dedicated to all that’s required to go skiing on a regular basis, we found a great alternative – Snow Shoe Walking.
I’ve always been an avid skier. In my younger years friends and I trekked to New Zealand multiple times to experience ‘real snow’, as well as undertaking yearly mandatory trips to nearby (ok frigging 5 hours away) mountains.
When I moved to Austria and realised I’d hooked up with the only Austrian who couldn’t be bothered going skiing anymore, he put aside his prejudices and organised a number of trips for me.
My job is conveniently located (despite quite a long drive) just off the autobahn out of Graz, which means I have an easy run every day with no traffic problems. The only problem is that it also requires me to drive over ‘The Pack’ which I have affectionately renamed: the Death Pass.
It is one of the higher parts of the Austrian autobahn, climbing up over a mountain range and being notorious for heavy snow and ice. With my minimal snow driving experience, the thought of driving the Death Pass in winter scared the crap out of me. I was sure I was going to be stranded overnight in my car as thick snow slowly built up around my car turning it into an icy death den… ok so I was being a little bit melodramatic.
So now that winter is finally over, here are my more realistic reflections on the Death Pass.
In retrospect, it wasn’t that bad. Though at the time, pretty traumatic.
I scraped the car windows and drove out of the slippery, ice covered parking lot. So far, so good. The weather conditions weren’t bad, but I had a 45 minute drive on the autobahn… and as I found out, conditions can change a lot.
Magical, magical snow. That’s how it feels to us desert-dwellers. I mean, I’ve always been a skier, so I like snow, and I’m under no illusions as to what it’s actually like… it’s cold and it’s wet… but of course, it is beautiful and magical and the idea of a moonlight, snowy European walk is enchanting.
Living in a valley surrounded by beautiful mountains is very scenic, but it does have its downfalls. In winter we don’t get much wind (bonus), but that also means that we’re often shrouded in clouds, with no wind to blow them away (anti-bonus). But if you know that somewhere up there the sun is shining, all you have to do is jump in the car and drive up a small mountain until you pop out!