New year’s eve 2010: The Alps

Posted: December 6, 2012 by jennroig in Chronicles, English, Photography, Travels
Tags: , , , , , ,

There are the Alps.

I spent there the New Year’s Eve of 2010. Specifically, I was at a friend’s cottage in the Austrian Alps, in the Carinthia state.

I met Lina during my summer in Vigo, where we shared apartment. She invited me to her place in the mountains once the summer ended and we had to be back to our regular lives. So we planned it.

I arrived in Villach first from Hamburg, where I took a train belonging to the Austrian Railway company ÖBB, crazy cheap for European standards. Actually for any standards! She was waiting me at the station. From there it took us around an hour of driving to her cottage in the mountain, maybe a bit more.

Considering it was the end of December, in the middle of a particularly cold winter in Europe, the most impressive thing was precisely driving up the mountain through the curvy roads. It really tests your nerves the vision of those steep cliffs and the sides covered by frozen snow.

But Lina is a great driver, at least as good as it takes to get us safely to her place up there. She was actually telling me the statistics of car accidents during the winter season, mostly Dutch, German and Nordic tourists coming from flatlands with little skills driving in mountains and slippery hills.

Fernando Lamas

Fernando Lamas

I still have mixed feelings about those days. I did have a nice time with everybody there -Lina had invited many friends and had created a sort of international community to spend together the holidays. I met interesting people. I had the chance to see majestic landscapes. I won’t forget that sunset we saw from a bar in the peak of a mountain. To get there we had to take one of those funiculars skiers use to go up and then ski their way down. It was one of those moments you actually believe some God must exist, because such perfection cannot be the random result of just Nature’s work. Think how full of flaws Nature made us, Humans, and how defective are so many other things. But in front that landscape, watching the sun shining with a golden glow reflected on the skirts of the mountains against the background of the sky, I recovered some sort of faith.

The dawn was also a spectacle to watch. I woke up early after the first night and opened the window to see. Trees, white blanket all over, some stars…

Fernando Lamas

Fernando Lamas

Every morning we woke up to prepare the messiest breakfast ever. Within such a mixed group, it’s amazing how different can our feeding habits be. Some took eggs, other jam, cheese… different breads, fruits, coffee, no coffee, milk, no milk… Austrian milk rocks, by the way. Also the chocolate.

But I felt out of my territory. I’m a tropical creature and snow is strange to me. I had my first panic attack ever that same day we were at the bar! After we finished there it was dark, funiculars didn’t work anymore so the plan was to slide all the way down.

Sliding, for a control freak like myself, it’s almost unthinkable. And doing it for the first time, without any previous experience whatsoever, it’s beyond any chance. I started to cry like a baby, totally convinced that I would fall down a cliff and die. Thank God Aida, a Slovenian friend of Lina, took care of me and was willing to walk with me all the way down, step by step… We would had actually arrived the next day, but a sort of small truck with shovels, something similar to this, stopped for us and took us to the base of the mountain, living us very close from the cottage.

In fact, I didn’t take my own pictures, even though I took my camera. But I felt so scared of being walking around with my camera in hand, in case I could fall and break it. So I’m now using some friend’s shot to remind me of that time. This blogs wins, anyway, because he’s a professional photographer.

At midnight, the 31st, Austrians stop whatever they are doing and listen to the radio. At that time, every radio station is broadcasting the sound of the Pummerin , the bell of St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna, followed by The Blue Danube (Donauwalzer), by Johann Strauss II. Lina and their friends did so, as well, and it was sweet to see them hugging and clapping and dancing in waltz style. However, I was remembering our traditions back home, where people open their doors and come out with a bucket of water to throw it out to the streets. In Havana, or any other Cuban city or town, if it happens that you are walking in a street at midnight on December 31st, and by any chance you are walking next to a building, then it’s  likely you’ll end up soaked, because the water will fall from the apartments’ balconies, taking away all the sadness, dificulty, missery, that must go and die with the year that has already been left behind.

On December 31st, 2010, I had been out of home for a year and a half. So yes, after I laughed and hug my new friends, I discretely left the room and locked myself in the restroom, to drop a few tears and allow nostalgia to take me over for a moment. Just a moment. I cleaned my face and came out with the cheerful hope of a better year to live.

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