“Ochen sladka, very sweet,” says the Russian girl opposite us merrily and takes another swig from her bottle of peach-passion fruit syrup. Over the last two hours our local train has been filling up with pale Russians and burly Swedes clad in yellow and blue, swarming in from Bavaria and Tyrol to visit Innsbruck for the Euro 2008 preliminaries.
The girl is eating large chunks of fried chicken, and wondering how they could possibly all fit into the small paper bag, we try to identify the different chicken parts. A wing? A piece of breast? The two pimply boys travelling with her, meanwhile, share a pack of Minifritts potato snacks. After the girl has finished the meat and half of the syrup bottle, she produces a bottle of Mozart Liqueur from her shoulder bag. The ball-shaped bottle is wrapped in gold foil that perfectly matches her golden fingernails and the leopard-spotted ballerinas.
Up into the Oetz Valley
Instead of disembarking at the Innsbruck stadium we travel on to the entrance of the Oetz Valley, where we climb our heavily laden bicycles and follow the Ötztal Mountain Bike Trail uphill. A cycle-friendly shortcut, we think. But after a few kilometres of bumpy trails taking in every village on the slopes, we give up and take the main road. Russia won 2:0 this evening.
„Yes, Vanessa, well done! Doa aihaggln wannz kunscht!” (transl.: Clip the karabiner if you can). Next to us at the Engelswand Climbing Area, a group of 8- to 12-year-olds is scrambling up routes like Lucky Luke and Oetzi’s Path. We, meanwhile, struggle to master Chickpeas. It is our first day climbing outdoors in months. We quite enjoy it, but nevertheless feel a bit anxious. In the afternoon, the children leave. Instead we are joined by an elderly Swiss couple, fumbling with the rope and climbing even easier routes than we do. Soon a single alpine climber in purple, quick-dry dungarees arrives, who is belaying himself with two karabiners and a lot of complicated knots. This evening the Netherlands win. Our neighbours at the camp site – most of them Dutch – whistle happily while washing up their cheese graters.
A visit to Tyrol’s highest waterfall
One day we rent a Via Ferrata set and head for the Stuiben Fall, with 159 m falling height the highest waterfall in Tyrol. The new Via Ferrata climbs up on the left side of the fall. On the top, it crosses it on a wire cable just below a natural rock bridge. As it has rained for weeks before we arrived, the stream has a lot of water and we are drenched when we finish. Not a bad thing on a hot day.
Otto Schöpf and his team, we read in the local history museum in Unterried, are the European team scything champions. And yes, they come from the Oetz Valley. Indeed, it is the hay harvest season just now. Most families make use of the sunny weather to cut the grass – often in the traditional manner, with scythes and arranging the hay into “puppets” to dry. The small museum also collects everyday objects of the past, like candle moulds, sausage formers and cabbage graters. Besides that it is also upholding the old traditions. There are flax making sessions, and the old baking oven is used to make bread with bread clover.
„Now that should do it,” comments the old woman from Berlin dryly who has set up her orange tent next to ours. 2:1: The semifinal match is nearing its end, and at last Germany appears set to win against Turkey. „At least they know how to stonewall,” our neighbour continues. They don’t, but nevertheless in the end Germany wins 3:2.
Oetzi, an ancient Italian visiting Austria?
About 5000 years ago, a guy walked over the Tisen pass to Italy, or from Italy into the Oetz Valley. Somehow, he died on the way. Only in 1991 was his body discovered in the ice by a couple descending from one of the Oetz Valley mountains. Frozen and mummified, Oetzi was a great find for the scientists. In the wake of the discovery it turned out that this spot is already in Italy, and therefore Oetzi was taken to Bozen. On a particularly sunny day we work our way through deep snow to the site where Oetzi has been found. Here, an urn-shaped monument commemorates him as the “Similaun man” in German and Italian. These days he is named after an Italian mountain rather than the Austrian valley.
“Viva Espana!” a lone Spanish fan announces the outcome of the final match over the yard. Apart from a raging thunderstorm, the camp ground had been empty and quiet for the last two hours. The victory of the Spanish team does nothing to change this.
The next day a police convoy of several honking cars and motorbikes roars past us as we head for the camp site in Innsbruck situated next to the airport. They escort a green coach with darkened windows and „Espana” written on its side. The new European champions on their way home, we figure. Viva Espana!