Bidding Graz goodbye, we left for Lienz for the final leg of our travels around Europe. It was bittersweet leaving Graz; it had been a good home for me over the past few months, and I would miss the beautiful town and the new friends I had made, but it was also about time we headed home.
Alex invited us to his home in Lienz to celebrate the holidays with his family. Lienz (not to be mistaken for Linz), is in the beautiful region of Tyrol, and is home to the highest mountain in the Austria – the Großglockner. Basically, if you love mountains, this is probably the place to be. Both Lienz and Innsbruck boast the most beautiful mountain ranges I’ve seen in Austria. A pity we didn’t get any skiiing done.
The day before leaving Graz, Alex apologised in advance as we doubted there would be any chance of snow since it was a very warm day Lienz. I had yet to see actual snow fall in Austria. Whenever it snowed in Graz, I was either asleep or out of town. However, in the last weeks in Graz, there was quite a fair bit of snow on the ground and in the trees, so I did get a somewhat “white Christmas”.
While we were on the train from Graz to Lienz, I got a text from Alex exclaiming that it was snowing! Not just any snow, but major snowfall; heavier than the past few years. We were really so lucky! I felt like the Lord had answered my prayers. This was truly a gift! You simply could not wipe that big smile off my face as we pulled in to the station at Lienz. It was really snowing heavily, and we just couldn’t resist throwing a couple of snowballs at each other.
After some monkeying around, we hopped into the car and Alex drove us to the little hotel we were to stay at for the next two days. Immediately after putting our luggage down, Peiwen and I just ran outside and started frolicking in the snow! I guess there really is something magical about snow (for us people who live in countries that don’t ever see snowfall).
Alex picked us up again after we settled down and brought us to a river. Oh, what a sight to behold.
It wasn’t as cold as it looked, which was great, because we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.
From the river, Alex brought us to an empty field so that we could start on our snowman. I mean, it is simply inexcusable to have so much snow and not build a snowman, right? The last time I built one was when I was just 4 years old, in Scotland. Apparently, I loved the snow so much that I just sat down on the ground and ate snow, all the while refusing to get back inside despite my teeth chattering.
The following scene the field still remains vivid in my memory. It was the most peaceful moment – a wide, open field, silent, untouched. In the distance, I was barely able to make out the silhouette of a man and his dog walking among the firs. At that moment, I let out a sigh. Truly, this world we live in is beautiful.
We started building our snowman. Even with my gloves on, my fingers started to get numb from the cold. I was worried that my camera was getting wet because the snow was still falling pretty heavily as we were building our snowman.
The many years of squatting (and tyre flipping on a few occasions) certainly helped me, as I laboured on until we finally completed the huge ass snowman, taller and bigger than any of us. We were overcome by such a strong sense of accomplishment and just couldn’t wait to strike a pose with our masterpiece.
Hungry after our workout, we returned to Alex’s Oma’s place for dinner. Everything was homemade, and it was a really authentic Austrian meal. My favourite was the yummy pretzels – the best I’ve had to date!
There was also Weißwurst and the best Christmas cookies ever! More to come the next day!
That night, we took a walk around the Old Town with Alex and one of his childhood friends. The town was pretty quiet, I guess because it was pretty late and nothing was open, which was to be expected for the day after Christmas.
The next morning, Alex picked us up and took us for a little ride so that we could take some amazing photos of the mountains. Lienz is at an elevation of 673m, so yes, it is in the mountains.
Everything looked more beautiful the second day as it had stopped snowing and we could see things clearly. The fresh blanket of snow was still white and beautiful, although walking through it was quite the challenge.
We stopped by the side of the road to take a few photos, and I got some of my favourite photos from my whole exchange in the five minutes we were there.
Our next stop was to Bruck Castle. We didn’t go inside, but wandered around the compound for a short while taking photos. It’s amazing how many castles there are throughout Europe. It becomes such a common sight that one really has to have an interesting story or be so beautiful to stand out. This castle, however, nothing special. I didn’t get to find out about the history of it, but I’ll read up on it soon.
Lienz is a winter sport paradise, and when we were there, it was the Ski World Cup season. We walked past many of the venues where they were setting up. It was no wonder that finding a hotel during that period was nearly impossible. Next time I’m in Austria during winter, I swear I’ll go skiing.
We tried heading up a mountain to catch a view, but the car got stuck in the snow and we all had to get out and push for no less than 20 minutes. We were using all our strength but the car simply wouldn’t budge. Fortunately, along came some kind souls who helped us. We decided to head down instead, and went back to Alex’s place for lunch.
Alex’s Oma makes such beautiful Christmas cookies. My favourites are the Linzer cookies, the Lebkuchen, the Vanillekipferl… just about everything!
She also made these Tyrolean dumplings (Knödel) which are made from stale bread, bacon and parsley, and served in a hot broth like a consommé. I’ve had a couple of dumplings in other parts of Austria, and they were usually too doughy and chewy. These were just unbelievably delicious and hearty; perfect for the cold weather.
After lunch, we decided to visit our snowman again. This time, we brought along a carrot to put some finishing touches.
The area where we built our snowman looked completely different now that the snow had stopped and it was a clear day. The snow reflected the perfect azure sky, giving it a light blue hue.
We were very proud of our snowman. It was the only one we saw in those couple of days. Never lose the child in you, people! :)
It was a very short stay in Lienz. It is, to me, the ideal retirement town. One day I would love to live in the mountains (after I’ve earned my millions).
Dj and I left a day before Peiwen did. We took the train to Berlin, our second last destination before we headed home to Singapore.
We had a very tear-filled goodbye. I couldn’t stop sobbing for the next hour because it would be a long time before I met these two again – the best friends I made on exchange. They made the whole experience such a joyous and memorable one!
Thanks, guys! MISS YOU! <3