corders in the hague

It's like having the Corders round for dinner - except the kids don't smash stuff and Mike doesn't drink all your booze. And when you're bored you can get rid of us with a mouse click rather than having to start tidying up the house.

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Location: The Hague, Netherlands

Thursday, June 19, 2008

The hills are alive with the sound of ... panting.

Given my fears of abduction by crazy Austrians, I was more than a little alarmed when the delightful matriarch of my hotel, Fraulein Frick, said to me at breakfast the other day that she wanted to show me a "special place."
I needn't have worried.
Instead of an S&M dungeon, she brought a map and said there was a beautiful walk in the mountains I should take if I got the time.
I feared I wouldn't make it, but Russia's 2-0 defeat of Sweden in Innsbruck gave me an extra day in Leogang.
I should have known they'd win. I pretty much guaranteed it when I packed my suitcase and hauled it to Innsbruck and booked a seat on the overnight train to Vienna so I could write the Russian team's obituary there the following day before flying home.
So after getting back to Leogang at 3 this morning I woke up at 8, had breakfast and followed Fr. Frick's meticulous instructions to what she described as a nice half-hour stroll that very few people knew about.
What she failed to mention, though I suppose with hindsight I could have expected it, was pant-wettingly scary drive around a string of hairpin bends to get there.
When I finally, dizzily stepped out of the car, I was in the car park of a mountain chalet restaurant/hotel as seen on the lid of countless boxes of chocolates around these parts.
I set off up a well-trodden path past through a gently sloping pasture holding the cow pictured below and a herd of his/her friends as well as a couple more picturesque mountain huts. Looming over it all was the imposing rock wall of the Hochkonig mountain, which measures 2,941 meters in its stockinged feet.
Have you ever had the experience where you (talking silently to yourself) repeat a word over and over until it loses all meaning and just becomes an odd sound? I had it today with the word loom.
Looking back at that last sentence, it makes me feel like I'm going insane so please somebody say you know what I'm talking about.
So anyway, I set off at a brisk clip past the cows thinking it was a nice stroll to shake off the cobwebs of the late night and early start.
Then I rounded the first corner and saw the narrow path winding up, and up, and up. Fr Frick had promised me an easy walk to a hostel at the foot of the cliffs where I could have lunch. Instead, I wondered if I was going to need ropes and crampons.
Mercifully, the sun was shining as I began the final ascent of a path that seemed to have no end.
Just as I began to fear I would keep walking up the cursed mountain until I passed out, I lumbered, sweating and panting around a corner and there before me was the hostel and a sort of beer garden occupied by about two dozen hikers, all of them well into their 70s, who looked like they'd just woken up. I'm pretty sure there was a secret escalator somewhere for the old crones.
I had a cup of coffee while I got my breath back. All the oldies were drinking half-liter glasses of lager as they compared one another's nordic walking sticks.
It must be an odd place to live for the couple that runs the hostel. I suspect they were banished there because of their poor wood stacking skills. Their pile was such a mess I couldn't bring myself to take a picture of it.
My trip back down was uneventful apart from seeing a woodpecker pecking wood.
I promised myself a bowl of the local speciality when I got back down the hill - clear beef broth with a sort of semolina dumpling floating in it. But just before I got there two coach loads of more geriatric climbers had arrived and were ordering everything on the menu. I wandered out, pausing briefly to admire the dead fox in the entrance that had been stuffed and posed standing on its hind legs holding a hunting rifle. The indignity of it all.


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