Warm Drinks and Bitter Noses

It’s  -18’C on clear indigo twilight, your nose is sticking together and upon your first step outside the car your fingers begin to burn and ache. As you gather your gear you have moments of doubt but the knowledge of the overwhelming joy of racing down the snowy track in darkness, motivates you.

The snow loudly crunching under your feet and enthusiastic laughter off in the distance, you begin your climb. Sled tied to your back pack or your waist to make the burden easier and shoe spikes for traction on the snowy surface. It may be only a 2.2 kilometer walk up from the Kurvenlift parking area but it was in these conditions my husband and I decided to do our first night run from Untere Firstalm.

When I described this to my friends and family back in the US they thought we had to be crazy heading out at night in extreme winter weather, but honestly if you prepare right.  It can be a wonderful adventure.  Doing a nice small hike like this to a cozy location like Untere Firstalm is a perfect way to ease you and your family into hiking and sledding.  There is nothing better than seeing the warm lights spilling out of the windows on a winters eve and hearing laughter and music and knowing you are just a few icy breaths from a warm drink.  This year I have been introduced to hot chocolate with Rum called a Lumumba.  But I have to admit my favorite is the Jägertee, which is a very strong alcoholic beverage made by mixing overproof rum with black tea, red wine, plum brandy, orange juice and various spices.

Once you have warmed yourself up a bit, inside and out, it is time to get your gear back on.  For Untere Firstalm I would recommend wearing a good headlamp if it is not a full moon evening.  On the evening we did our run there was no real moon light but the bright white snow was reflecting quite a bit and our headlamps were quite helpful.  Obere Firstalm has lighting along their run for night sledding and it is Obere Firstalm where you can rent a sled.  Rental sleds are 4 euros and you have to pay for them inside the restaurant but pick up your sled outside from an out building. Obere Firstalm is a simple walk up a serpentine path from Untere Firstalm if you don’t wish to carry your own sled up the hill.  This is great if you decide last minute to go sledding.

Either sled run is perfect for everyone in the family to get on a sled and have a great time.  They are very easy to navigate with the perfect about of gentle turns and slow inclines.  Nothing at all terrifying and a great place to get the sledding bug.

Both Obere Firstalm and Untere Firstalm are wonderful places to visit set in absolutely stunning location.  During the day or in the evening their very friendly service and delicious food and drink make it the perfect destination for the whole family to have fun.

 

 

 

http://www.mondscheinrodeln.de

http://www.untere-firstalm.de/oeffnungszeiten.htm

 

 

Laura Boston-Thek Laura Boston-Thek

American artist, photographer and professional wanderer who, after 20 years of roaming, put down roots in a 100 year old Bavarian farmhouse and fell in love with the Alpine village and its residents (both 2-legged and 4-legged).

 

 

 

Family Friendly Sledding Locations

Each winter I am asked by visitors to Schliersee where can they find real accessible “Family Friendly Sledding”.  So this year I thought I would put together a small list of places I have discovered and tell you a little about each location.

Albert Link Hutte:  Located in the center of Valepp Almen which is just behind the Alte Wurzhütte in Spitzingsee.  It is not accessible by car but is a very easy walk.  For Albert Link you need to bring your own sled but the location gives the whole family tons of options.  Not only has Albert Link plowed their own small sled run, in Valepp there is a beautifully groomed Loipe for Cross country skiers as well as many tow bars for Alpine skiers as well.  Parents tell me they find this to be a perfect location for family sledding. I can tell you their Kaiserschmarnn is out of this world. Remember that Mondays are Albert Link Hutte is closed. https://www.davplus.de/albert-link-huette

Alt Spitzingsee Strasse: This is the old road that use to take you up to the village of Spitzingsee and is now used for moving cattle and hiking.  In the winter months, when there is enough snow in the valley Alt Spitzingsee Strasse is a great family friendly sled run.  The one downside about sledding here is the lack of parking.  You need to plan that out if you decide to sled this hill.  A great easy way to enjoy this location is to take turns or have a designated driver who drops the sledders off at the top of Alt Spitzingsee Strasse and then picks them up at the bottom near the Joseftal waterfall.  This is a very gentle slope and great for learners.  Hiking up or dropping off both are a lot of fun.  And for your Apres sledding fun, make sure to go around the corner and enjoy some of the amazing homemade cakes, warm drinks by the hearth at Cafe Brunnhof.

http://cafe-brunnhof.de

Pfannilift: https://youtu.be/P9QMalIc1gM

Located just up the street from the Fischhausen-Neuhaus train station. This simple little hill much loved by visitors and locals alike if the perfect stop for your littlest snow bunnies.  On one side of the hill you have a tow bar for a beginner ski slope and the other side is a gentle slope for sledding.  Also provided here is a Loipe for Cross Country skiers.  All this and an amazing view down onto Schliersee. What more could you ask for on a day out in the snow.

http://www.maier-schmotz.de/skilift.php

Obere and Untere Firstalm: https://youtu.be/Pxp5xijnyl0

Both of these locations are just perfect for everyone in the family.  It is a simple gradual hike of 2,5 kilometers from either the Kurvenlift parking or from Spitzingsee saddle. Obere Firstalm rents sleds for 4 euros per sled and you pay for the rental inside the restaurant.  Untere Firstalm does not rent but it is easy to bring or own or to carry the rental sled down to their run.  You can’t go wrong with either location for food and drink and the proprietors are warm friendly people.

http://www.untere-firstalm.de

http://www.firstalm.de

Schliersee between Westenhofen and Hausham: Just before you arrive in Schliersee on the right side of the road between Westenhofen and Hausham there is a hill.  On any snowy day it will be full of joyful families sledding.  My colleague Ulrike McCarthy wrote a great article on this location.

https://magazin.schliersee.de/schlittengaudi-auf-dem-kirchbichl/

Schliersbergalm: https://youtu.be/D081YQjK5fs

Last but not least is Schliersbergalm. One of the most spectacular views in all of Schliersee and a simple hike up or you can take a cable car.  It is a very sunny location so sledding might not always be possible if we do not have a lot of snow in the valley.  It is a gentle slope down the hill with lots of turns.   Great food and drink and one amazing view is all provided.

https://www.facebook.com/Schliersbergalm/

 

Laura Boston-Thek Laura Boston-Thek

American artist, photographer and professional wanderer who, after 20 years of roaming, put down roots in a 100 year old Bavarian farmhouse and fell in love with the Alpine village and its residents (both 2-legged and 4-legged).

 

 

 

Mother Nature’s Great Force

One of the most distinctive architectural landmarks on Schliersee is our little rustic boat houses. I know for me they were a real draw as a point of interest in my photography. These privately owned little wooden structures built upon pilings, dot about around the edge of the lake. They are used to house small boats, various beach items and often changing rooms.

The one down side of these little structures are they are subject to severe damage during the winter months when the lake freezes. This year is one such year and though the lake offers much excitement to skaters, the owners of the boat houses have to take steps to protect their buildings.

I have been asked several times in my online posts what are the giant ice cubes I have been photographing on the lake. Well, these are the counter measures that are made to protect the pilings from extreme pressure due to expansion of the ice on the lake. It is with tremendous force that the ice will shift and snap the pilings causing extreme damage. Large blocks of ice are removed around the edges of the docks and boat houses creating a gap to relieve the pressure when the ice expands.

You can see evidence of the power of the ice expansion in many of the photos I am providing as well as the eruption of the land at the edge of the lake. How it has forced the earth up in peaks and snapped telephone pole sized pilings. Twisting and bending to breaking point many of the structures even with these ice removal precautions.

People may have also noticed that several docks on Schliersee seem to not have ice forming around them at all. This is another counter measure called de-icers. These devices oscillate the water to reduce the build up in hopes of preventing damage. Our local waterfowl seem to really appreciate the use to these oscillators freeing up ice for them to swim about in.

I have great respect for the daring hard working people who risk possibly falling through the ice to do the hard work of cutting the ice to protect these landmark buildings, thus preserving the look of our beautiful Schliersee.

 

Laura Boston-Thek Laura Boston-Thek

American artist, photographer and professional wanderer who, after 20 years of roaming, put down roots in a 100 year old Bavarian farmhouse and fell in love with the Alpine village and its residents (both 2-legged and 4-legged).

 

 

 

 

The Icy Daredevils of Schliersee

This is how Wikipedia describes “Skijoring (pronounced /ˈskiːʃɜːrɪŋ/) is a winter sport where a person on skis is pulled by a horse, a dog (or dogs) or a motor vehicle. It is derived from the Norwegian word skikjøring meaning ski driving.”

 

How would I personally describe it? Gritty, loud, bitter, daring, fascinating and utterly unforgettable.

 

When winter is JUST RIGHT here in the valley and we get the perfect amount of snowfall, you will notice one of our local Fischhausen farmers starting to prepare a snowy racetrack in the middle of one of the fields. He might have to prepare this track more than once in a year simply loosing it to warming temperatures but build it repeatedly, he does.

Here is a little excerpt from an article by Sebastian Grauvogl of the Merkur

 

“Just like all the 62 teams who duel in the skijoring behind motorcycles on the 400 meter long snow race track in Fischhausen. It will be launched in seven classes – including 125 and 250 motocross, 500, and side and side drive cars. Up to six teams compete at the same time. If you accumulate the most points in three preliminary stages, you can make it into the final. Already for the 11th time, the MSC is exhibiting the motorsport spectacle on the meadow next to the Pusl Autohaus. Since 1997 it has been canceled a few times because of lack of snow.”

 

I don’t know if I would call the weather we had “perfect” for my first experience with Skijoring in Schliersee, more like “not fit for man nor beast”. Despite the near blizzard conditions, contestants and spectators arrived in droves. Motorcyclists, skiers, pit crews, and spectators all huddled together in anticipation of the day’s races.

 

The bright colors of bikes and riders, the grinding and revving of gears and the smell of exhaust is all so incredible in contrast to the purity of the fresh white snow. My heart was racing the entire time, as I am sure many others were as well. Racing that day were teams of motorcyclists and skiers in teams that started with just two people and lead up to teams of four or five with everyone hanging on for dear life as they sped around the icy track blowing waves of snow in their wake. They offer excitement, chills, and spills. The announcers are also not kidding when they suggest you stand at least one meter from the track. This photographer had to learn that lesson the hard and cold way. I must say, the snow bath was totally worth it!

 

So keep on the look out for the posters and billboards announcing the next skijoring event. It is all up to the weather the date but it is normally around February and it honestly is something to be enjoyed by young and old.

 

This year at Jan, 29. … don’t miss !

 

 

Laura Boston-Thek Laura Boston-Thek

American artist, photographer and professional wanderer who, after 20 years of roaming, put down roots in a 100 year old Bavarian farmhouse and fell in love with the Alpine village and its residents (both 2-legged and 4-legged).

 

 

 

Life in Two Season at Once

One occurrence of life here in the foothills of the German alps is that there are often times when two season attempt to coexist and the result can be pretty magical.  This year in particular we had the most amazing golden Autumn.  Everything just seemed to glow and then the moment all the animals had returned to the safety of the valley farms, our first snow of the season fell.  If you can believe that was in October.

I have to admit that for a photographer, Schliersee and it’s surrounds are an endless supply of inspiration.  And the blending of two seasons makes for spectacular images.  It’s Winter but with all of Autumn’s glory.

When you live in Schliersee you learn not to just accept the weather that is your front door.  You have options here.  It may still be autumn in the valley but in just a very quick car ride you can find a winter wonderland.  Spitzingsee provides the wanderer and the Winter sport lover endless snowy adventures.  For several weeks now, those living in and around Schliersee have been living in autumnal splendor with foggy mornings and clouds drifting through, while those living or visiting Spitzingsee have enjoyed perfect white powder conditions.

We enjoy watching from our window while cozying up by the fireside, as the snow line descends down the mountain. It’s crazy, I never thought there was an actual “Snow Line” but there is and it is just out my window here in Neuhaus.  The views can be absolutely dramatic and are a never ending show of the power of Mother Nature.  In our house we call it the best show on TV.  Just grab a drink kick back and let the show begin.

For more information on Spitzingsee

http://www.alpenbahnen-spitzingsee.de/en/about-us/

 

Laura Boston-Thek Laura Boston-Thek

American artist, photographer and professional wanderer who, after 20 years of roaming, put down roots in a 100 year old Bavarian farmhouse and fell in love with the Alpine village and its residents (both 2-legged and 4-legged).

 

 

Sankt Nikolaus is coming… put your shoes out!

So have you been naughty or nice? On the eve of December 5th, all across Germany, excited children put their shoes outside so Sankt Nikolaus can fill them with wonderful gifts and treats. It is traditionally the shoes are filled with items like oranges, various nuts, chocolate coins and possibly cookies like cinnamon spiced Speculaas.

On December 5th in Schliersee, Old Sankt Nik likes to do things a bit different and with a bit of an alpine flair. In Schliersee, he might fill your trusty old hiking boots with local Almkäse or mountain cheese produced high on the mountain by one of our local farmers from our happy cows. Or he might tuck in a beautifully hand carved wooden Edelweiss from one of our many talented wood carvers.

I awoke bright and early on this crisp and sunny December morning to find my much loved and much tested hiking boots filled with local hiking magazines, some maps, fresh fruit to tuck in my pocket for when I headed out on my daily wander. And as an added bonus brand new trekking poles to provide stability and motivation throughout the year. Last but not least a beautifully printed Schliersee lens wipe which Old Nikolaus must have purchased at our local tourist office.  Just perfect for wiping off the bitter water spray which always coats my lenses while photographing the icy Neuhaus waterfall.

This year I must have been very good because I did not receive a visit from Krampus, who is Nikolaus’ evil looking helper. He must have just passed me by. Phew! Better luck next year Krampus.

 

Laura Boston-Thek Laura Boston-Thek

American artist, photographer and professional wanderer who, after 20 years of roaming, put down roots in a 100 year old Bavarian farmhouse and fell in love with the Alpine village and its residents (both 2-legged and 4-legged).

 

 

Winterizing your Ride

On the day we moved to Schiersee, as the moving company was unloading our truck to the back drop of the wintery Brecherspitz mountain, I kept hearing one word in German mumbled under their breath…” Schneeloch”, simply translated to English as “Snow Hole”. I think they thought we were absolutely crazy to move from the historic downtown of a city to an old alpine farm house surrounded by trees and mountains. That is not how we saw it at all. We envisioned snowy mornings, sipping coffee by the heat of wood stove and jumping into winter boots to make the first foot prints in the fresh snow.  We are two years into our alpine adventure and Schliersee has not disappointed. Call me crazy, but most days I feel like Alice in a Wonderland.

Our first snow since becoming Schliersee residents, one of our neighbors called us and told us to grab our sleds and come over he would show us the best local sledding spots. Mind you it was a blizzard out and our sleds were ones I had found on a trash pile that I used for decoration but that was not going to stop us from joining in on the winter fun. We did take some mocking from our friend who had what I can only describe as the Ferrari of sleds. It was all sleek and sturdy and he swore you were able to actually steer it. So began our search to find the perfect winter sports car…I mean sled.

On the advice of many locals we were told to go make a visit to the Schliersee Radhaus and talk with it’s very knowledgeable owner Felix Wolf. He was amazing. He took my husband out back to an extra warehouse absolutely full of sleds. He explained to us that the Gasser sled made in Tirol was really a lifetime purchase. Most German families will have a range of sleds from sleds for the baby on to adult sleds. It was a big investment but for us it was an easy decision. We love winter sports but with both of us having joint issues this was a great way for us to have a fun winter sport we could do together.

I felt very much like Goldilocks trying to choose my sled. My husband’s was too big and heavy and others just didn’t fit me right but Felix brought out a young boys sled that was “just right”.  He took our sleds in the back and sharpened our rails and explained to us how to properly store them so we could enjoy them for many seasons to come. Another thing I really appreciated about Felix from Schliersee Radhaus was his emphasis on sledding safety. He didn’t just sell us our sleds he explained to us basic courtesy while sledding and important gear we would need.  He asked us to make sure to always wear a proper skiing helmet. Having enjoyed two wonderful sledding seasons, we have been witness to several accidents where sledders were ill prepared and we are grateful to Felix who prepared us correctly.

Felix shared some of his tips about buying and storing your sled:

  • Store the sled standing up in dry place
  • If you see rust starting on the rails, which is natural, give the rails a good wipe down with course (50 – 80 grit) sand paper and then apply a very light coating of oil
  • To keep rust from forming on the rails during storage cover the metal rails with packing tape
  • ALWAYS wear a helmet
  • Have as much fun as possible!

If you are coming to Schliersee or Spitzingsee for sledding and are ready to commit to your sled. Drop by the Schliersee Radhaus and talk with Felix. Don’t hesitate…Winter is just around the corner. For more information on Felix Wolf and the Schliersee Radhaus:

http://schlierseer-radhaus.de

https://www.facebook.com/SchlierseerRadhaus

 

 

Laura Boston-Thek Laura Boston-Thek

American artist, photographer and professional wanderer who, after 20 years of roaming, put down roots in a 100 year old Bavarian farmhouse and fell in love with the Alpine village and its residents (both 2-legged and 4-legged).

 

 

 

Frauenbund & Santa’s Workshop

In my search of Santa’s helpers in Schliersee, I stopped by Gasthaus Seewinkle on a windy afternoon right before first Advent and the opening of Schliersee’s Seeweihnachts I had an insider tip that a group of Santa’s helpers from the Frauenbund in Schliersee would be gathered and busily preparing their items for their Christmas market stand.

The very talented women of the Frauenbund, a group of 15 women and one very handy man, used their many skills to help earn some money for their many social causes to which they contribute. The Frauenbund in Schliersee is a Catholic organization with 115 female members.

These wonderful women take the work out of Christmas preparations through their delicious hard work. They have lovingly and traditionally made various Christmas cookies as well as hand sewn pillows and decorative hand crafted, delightful poinsettias. Many vintage style of religious ornaments so delicately created with an obviously skilled hand.

If that isn’t enough of a choice, deep in Santa’s workshop Martin Huber, also known as head elf, has been hard at work cutting decorative holiday items from wood to give your Christmas that warm natural touch. I saw rustic birch wood hand painted Santa figures and various wooden festive votive holders.

I highly recommend a visit to Schliersee’s Seeweihnachts with it’s festive lights reflecting on the lake. Grab your first fragrant Glühwein of the season and drop by to see all the friendly ladies from the Frauenbund and their many hand crafted decorations. These items are all very unique gift ideas. You won’t find anything similar on Amazon and the money you spend will go to help many great causes they support.

Having just come from taking photos of the ladies in their Santa’s workshop while they were packaging up an incredible array of beautifully decorated Christmas cookies.  As a kind gesture they gave me a tasting of their cookies for me to bring home to my husband.  He said they were absolutely amazing.  Poor man lives with a gluten free wife so it was a real treat for him.

Schliersee Seeweihachts will be held 26-27 November at the Schliersee Kurpark directly on the banks of the Schliersee.  The times the market will be open is from 2 pm to 8 pm on Saturday and 12 pm to 8 pm Sunday.

For more information:
www.schlierseer-weihnachtszauber.de/seeweihnacht

Laura Boston-Thek Laura Boston-Thek

American artist, photographer and professional wanderer who, after 20 years of roaming, put down roots in a 100 year old Bavarian farmhouse and fell in love with the Alpine village and its residents (both 2-legged and 4-legged).

 

 

Leonhardifahrt – The Blessing of the Horse

The grinding sound of wagon wheels, bells and low whispered prayers while steam rises in the morning light from the backs of beautifully liveried horses…that for me is Leonhardifahrt in Schliersee.

On a crisp autumn morning in November, the wooden carriages begin their procession to the St. Leonhard Chapel in Fischhausen.  Each hand painted historic wagon, decorated in the old way with straw, flowers and religious themes is filled with gloriously dressed men and women.

This colorful procession is to honor the work horse and livestock.  I know your thinking another event to celebrate the cows?  But of course. Why not.  They certainly deserve it.   This centuries old farming tradition gives thanks to the patron saint of livestock,  St. Leonhard, with a blessing by the church.

When I first moved Schliersee this was the one event of the year everyone was talking about.  You can imagine my excitement when I started to see these ancient wagons being rolled out of barns all over the area and the decorating beginning.  I felt like a kid on Christmas morning and this event did not disappoint.  From the incredibly detailed local costumes to the polished to perfection, colorful livery and the endless stream of proud and prancing horses.  This is one event you can’t miss.

After all the carriages arrive and are lined up to make their passage past the ceremonially dressed priests and receive their blessing everyone parks their wagons in the field behind the chapel.  This is a great opportunity to get a close look at all the beautiful details that goes into each carriage.  There is a small church service held outside with the beautiful backdrop of our local mountains.  Some folks gather in the small baroque chapel, another site not to be missed, and say their prayers in the smokey Frankincense scented interior.

For my friends and family, we like to head over to the Wasmeier museum for a beer and a meal afterwards.

The event begins at 9 am on 6 November 2016 at the Leonhardi Chapel in Fischhausen.  This chapel is located on B307 just passed the lake in Schliersee and before you reach the train station in Neuhaus.  This road will be blocked on the day so arriving early or taking the BOB train is recommended.

If you would like more information about Leonhardifahrt, please click the link provided: http://www.schliersee.de/sommer/kultur-lebensart/tradition/#c1471

 

Laura Boston-Thek Laura Boston-Thek

American artist, photographer and professional wanderer who, after 20 years of roaming, put down roots in a 100 year old Bavarian farmhouse and fell in love with the Alpine village and its residents (both 2-legged and 4-legged).

 

 

Autumn Traditions and Time Travel – part 2

I met Hartl once more at his breathtaking lake side farm early in the morning while the dew was still glistening on the grass and the fog was beginning to lift revealing the mountains once more. After our long jeep ride up the mountain passing several groups of hikers heading up Bodenschneid in this perfect wandering weather.

We arrived at the Alm early that Sunday morning and Anna and the other Hirteren (herders), Sennerin and farmers were calmly preparing the cows for their festive procession down the mountain, through the town and back to the farm. It is rather amazing how calm the cows remain even once they have received their large ceremonial bells and the head pieces. The calmness is attributed to the care and calmness of the Sennerin and her many helpers. If the humans remain calm, the animals follow suit…for the most part. They are animals after all and can be very unpredictable. Like humans each animal has it’s own distinct character.

Looking timelessly beautiful in her Trachten (traditional clothing), hair braided in the traditional way and decorated with Edelweiss. It was very obvious Anna was leading this show and with pride, as she should be. Very few famers in our region had a successful season this summer due to extreme weather. Once all the selected cows received their decorations, and everything was put just right, Anna began to lead them home. Of course the cows had ideas of their own and ran in different directions but through the skill of Anna and her many helpers the cows were once again quickly organized and down the mountain, through the forest they went.

Their journey took the group along ancient wandering forest paths of which I can only imagine hundreds of years of farmers traveled before. For over two hours they negotiated these mountain paths cheered on by the many hikers and cyclists they passed until they reached the edge of Schliersee and we on the homestretch to the picturesque farm in Hausham.

Once everyone had entered the farm and the cows were brought once again into their lush green pastures the business of deftly removing the decorations began. They are removed quickly and with care even if the cows seem to have difficulty giving up the pretty decorations. Part of the history of Almabtrieb as being a way to give thanks for a successful season but also it is important to hang the decorated bushes, head pieces, on the outside of the stalls to continue to bring the herd good luck.

The Baurernhof or farmhouse was situated with the mountains in the distance and was truly spectacular. Hartl and I were given the great honor to join the family and all the helpers in a magnificent meal on the sun soaked terrace surrounded by the delicious scent of warm vine tomatoes ripening. For this time traveling wanderer it was a life long dream.

If you would like to visit Rainer-Alm
http://www.bergwandern-für-senioren.de/huetten/index.php?gebiet=2&huette=213

For a wonderful farm house vacation or amazing cabin in ski season:
http://anderlbauer.schliersee.de/unser_hof/unser_hof.php

 

Laura Boston-Thek Laura Boston-Thek

American artist, photographer and professional wanderer who, after 20 years of roaming, put down roots in a 100 year old Bavarian farmhouse and fell in love with the Alpine village and its residents (both 2-legged and 4-legged).