Climbing the Scheeberg

Note: Sorry this is obscenely late, my computer crashed and I lost all my files and more importantly, most of my pictures. Backing up – super duper important!

“Want to go climb a mountain tomorrow?”

I don’t know how many times you’ve been asked that question, but in my experience, the answer is always obvious: yes.

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Traveling in Austria with my family, we’re always meeting up with my mom’s old friends. In this case, it was Dopps, who my sister and I knew quite well. He and his family had visited us a couple years back, so we had experience traveling together. So when he asked us if we wanted to go up a mountain, we knew it was going to be good.

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The next morning, we woke up and dressed in our best hiking clothes (shorts and tennis shoes). As we drove further and further out of Vienna, buildings turned into farmland, less people were walking around, and something amazing happened: mountains appeared in the distance. “Do you see that one?” my mom asked, pointing down the highway. “That’s the Schneeberg.”

I exchanged glances with my sister, Natalie. We hadn’t hiked in a while, but it didn’t look too impressive for part of the Alps. It would be a pleasant hike, but not particularly challenging.

Boy, were we wrong.

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Dopps drove us partway up the mountain, where we stopped at a small tourist center. We took a ski lift (would it be a hike lift since it was summer?) another part of the way. Natalie and I swung our feet and snapped pictures as we gazed at the trees around us.

Then the hiking began. After passing a few friendly cows, we started going uphill – quickly. I almost immediately started breathing hard and realized I had vastly underestimated how hard it was. For a while, we climbed through forest, but eventually we broke above the tree line and were rewarded with amazing views.

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For the record – the Austrian Alps are amazing. To be fair, I’ve only been to the Alps in Austria, so I can’t really compare. Austrians, in general, are very outdoorsy and don’t hesitate to take advantage of the amazing natural formations around them. This means plentiful skiing opportunities in the winter, and well designed, well maintained hiking trails for the rest of the year.

The best part about the Austrian Alps? They have a gasthaus on basically every mountain, and it’s just about the best thing ever. It’s basically a small hut that serves anything from beer to strudel. As we made it to the summit, it started pouring like mad, so we quickly headed inside to take shelter.

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Well, once we were there, we obviously had to have lunch, and maybe a couple drinks. I felt absolutely no guilt diving into an apfel strudel – I climbed up a mountain and hell, I deserved it. I honestly don’t know how these little houses make such good food, but they do. Around us, more hikers than I thought were around were digging in as well. Why isn’t this a thing we have everywhere?

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Once it stopped raining, we ventured out again, slightly disappointed to leave our warm refuge. We took an alternate path down. I’m not going to lie, I was pretty scared. Everything was slippery from the rain and at times the path seemed to go straight down. I didn’t even have real hiking shoes on, just some flimsy running shoes. While I had been easily able to keep up on our way up, I quickly fell behind as I cautiously picked my way down the path.

It was frustrating, climbing down so far behind everyone, even though I felt like I was going as fast as I could. But I finally made it, even if it was twenty minutes after everyone else.

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As we walked to the car, I looked back at the Schneeberg one more time. Having been to the top and back, I knew what a challenging climb it was. But that didn’t mean I didn’t want to do it again.

Have you ever climbed a mountain? How challenging was it?

Ice Cream Abroad

A comfort food: everyone has one. This is the food you eat to help you feel better in difficult times. My comfort food relaxes me when I’m stressed, makes me feel less homesick, and best of all, is available almost everywhere.

From Magnum bars to chocolate sundaes, little gelato shops or fancy cafes, ice cream is pretty much universal. The certainty of ice cream is something that comforts me when I’m having troubles on the road or feeling just a little too far away from home. I’ve even ventured out in a snowstorm before to get some cookies and cream! That being said, I have quite a few ice cream stories and recommendations…
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Searching for Ice Cream in Paris

On my last night in France, I was staying with my travel buddy in his aunt’s house, in a suburb of Paris. After dinner, I suggested we take a walk. As we wandered out of the house, I suggested we grab some dessert. I was hoping to find a cute ice cream shop, but no such luck. Paris’ suburbs are mostly residential, with a few small grocery stores and a couple really large malls. Almost everything was closed as we walked through the town square, so we took another street up to a huge mall in the area. The only thing open was McDonald’s. My travel buddy, being French, had no problem ordering a vanilla cone, but I was determined. I flew across an ocean, for god’s sake. If I was going to get mediocre soft serve, it should at least be French.

We ended up walking back to where we came, and managed to find a small corner store that was still open. I peeked in the door and voila! There was a small cooler with ice cream bars. I chose a Magnum bar (one of my all-time favorites), paid, and left. We managed to get lost getting back to the house, but I didn’t really mind wandering for a little bit more with the sunset in the sky and frozen creaminess in my hand.

Property of Wikimedia Commons.

Ice Cream : Vienna Edition

I’ve been to Vienna more than I have been to any other foreign city. I’ve walked around the First District more times than I can count, most times with my mom and sister in tow. I remember many occasions when that walking gets me hungry. After walking around all day, I always want ice cream.

There are a few famous ice cream shops in Vienna, but my all-time favorite is at Schwedenplatz, close to the city center. It’s immediately visible out of the U-bahn station, most likely crowded with people. It’s called Eissalon, and once you make your way to the front, anything’s good to order. You can either sit in the cafe or out in the square, in the company of everyone from toddlers to elderly couples enjoying their ice cream.

Bobtail's hot brownie sundae. Delicious.
Bobtail’s hot brownie sundae. Delicious.

Hometown Favorite

I don’t think there is a fiercer loyalty than than the loyalty you have to your local ice cream shop. I’ve been to ice cream shops from Singapore to London, and still I keep coming back to Bobtail’s ice cream company, about a block away from my house in Chicago. Their ice cream is all made in-store and is creamy and delicious. Some of their more off-beat flavors include Cubby Crunch (with rainbow sprinkles, cookies, and toffee) and Signature Sunset (merlot ice cream with dark chocolate chips). I’ve been there in the dead of winter, and in the middle of the night. This is a must for anyone in Chicago!

What’s your favorite ice cream place? Have you had any interesting experiences involving ice cream?