Quiet days in the Alps

We’ve been working pretty hard here the last couple of days, so no real time to write and reflect. This morning, though, most of my team took advantage of a little extra recuperation time, so I sat in a quiet corner of the hotel lounge, taking advantage of the wireless LAN, drinking coffee and watching the snow come down. It was incredibly peaceful here at the Waldklause.

Our hosts have been determined to share with us many traditional Tirolese experiences. Last night, that included driving in a four-wheel-drive vehicle up a steep and winding icy road with many switchbacks to a small inn, taking dinner in a cozy wood-paneled room, and, after much trepidation and building of courage, donning miner’s headlamps, hopping atop wooden sleds, and rocketing back down the road. This is called “bobbing,” and while the sleds weren’t really the traditional bobsleds, they felt as though they were going about as fast. I acquitted myself well, being the second of the five Americans down the hill. But it was after midnight by the time the sleds stopped at the bottom of the hill.

The most interesting moment of the evening, though, was a powerful Proustian moment I had just after stepping inside the lodge. The faint aroma of sauerkraut permeated the air, and I was back for a minute in my grandmother’s kitchen. We sat down to dinner, which was to be served family-style with no menu, and my seatmate wondered what the meal was to be. “Well, we at least know there will be sauerkraut,” I said. My tablemates were astonished; none of them had smelled anything, and they poked fun at my specificity—“Not rotkraut? Only sauerkraut.” To my delight, it was sauerkraut, and really good too, with a plate of ribs and potatoes. “To give you extra weight going downhill,” my neighbor said. Um. It was good, but after last night I need no additional help to slide down hills at top speed.