Thursday, May 6, 2010

Making Connections in Austria

By Claire
For me, coming to Europe was to see the sights, of course, but it was mostly about people. What makes traveling satisfying and interesting is the people we meet along the way. We have been so fortunate to meet and make new friends and experience the kindness of strangers. It is so exciting to spend time talking to them and learning about their lives.

Today, Kees and Lianne invited us to go with them to meet the parents of their daughter's friend, Ernst. They are a couple from Holland who sold everything and moved to Austria where they have built a home with two apartments that they rent out, Solfelden Appartements.

What an extraordinary day! Kees and Lianne were interested in seeing the apartments for a future visit to this lovely area. We tagged along for the ride because we were curious and have thought about coming back to this area as well.

Karel and his wife Lennie were so gracious and welcoming as we descended upon them. Their house is a wonder of design and comfort. We were given a tour of their spectacular home with all the latest amenities as well as ever changing views of the alps outside their windows. I've never been in such a perfectly planned home. The apartments were equally warm and cozy, yet spacious with plenty of room for four to six people. We might just need to come back.

We ended up staying for four hours and the conversation was lively and relaxed, switching back and forth between Dutch and English, sometimes in the same sentence. Karel and Lennie and two of their three sons, who were visiting for the week, spoke excellent English. Lennie made each of us a cappuccino while their very polite son Ernst, served them. We talked about so many things and then we noticed the watercolor of a 1960 MG A sports car. Karel filled us in on the history of this car and how he came to own it. It was shipped from Berkeley, California (my home town) to a Dutch attorney in Holland. He had the car beautifully restored and then couldn't sleep from worry that something might happen to his prized car. So, his wife convinced him to sell it. Karel responded to his ad and after a long negotiation--the attorney had a very hard time letting it go--they finished with a half-inch thick sales agreement with one especially important point: If Karel decided to sell, the attorney had the first right of refusal. We all trooped out to see this classic car. It really is a beauty.

We were so impressed with Ernst and Edo, their youngest son, and Karel and Lennie. It was truly a great day and one I will never forget. I hope Chuck and I can come back to this area again, this time staying in one of their perfect apartments. This is a special family and a place of rare beauty. We are enthralled.

Karel, Ernst, Lennie, Edo

Kees, Lianne and Chuck and I dragged ourselves away and took a drive through a couple of charming little villages and over another side of the mountains. The views were stupendous and we enjoyed visiting a 16th century church in Maria Alm. I even found another Maypole.

We were all in favor of going out for dinner tonight and made the decision to eat closer to the campground rather than making the drive home over the mountains later. We decided to check out our little town of Lofer, 1 km. from Camping Grubhof. The town is adorable but none of the restaurants were open. It is still not yet the season.

But wait! We have a great restaurant back at the campground; reasonably priced with probably the best meal we've had so far on this trip. We were delighted. The salad bar was unlike anything I've ever seen and we all took part. Marinated tomatoes, white asparagus, roasted pumpkin seeds, mixed olives, potato salad, cucumbers in yogurt and wonderful dressings--as if this mix of taste sensations even needed a dressing!

With Lianne's help with the menu, I selected a schnitzel that was prepared with herbs and roasted pumpkin seeds. It came with roasted potatoes, a chutney and a sour cream sauce.

Chuck ordered another kind of schnitzel with bacon. It was sauteed and I took a bite and it was truly delicious. He loved it.

Sated and fulfilled from another wonderful day, we headed back to our campers.

Life is partly what we make it, and partly what it is made by the friends we choose. ~ Tennessee Williams


Pat in Santa Cruz said...

I'm so enjoying your adventures with your new friends. How wonderful to go visiting with them. You are truly participating in "real life" there -- not just sight seeing. I want to go back a couple of days to remark on the little park with SpongeBob! Too cute. Also loved the chicken sculptures in Lofer. And oh my - did it look COLD up on the mountain! The old pics show that VWBugs rule! (I'm a past owner :-) And how could you encounter a car from your home town? Life is so amazing. Your posts are like little gifts I get to unwrap each morning. Thank you.
Happy Mother's Day Claire!
Love, Pat

Chuck and Claire said...

We do feel like we are participating in real life. Meeting people throughout our trip is really the best part of the trip and the experience has turned out to be so much richer than we ever expected. Thanks for being such a loyal fan!