A Two Day Carriage Ride


The two day trip was something I had looked forward to for many months, so it was with a feeling of excitement that arrived at the Köck home that Monday morning. Nothing however had prepared me for what the next two days were to bring. Imagine what a mixed group of people we were, an elderly Englishwoman and four middle aged Germans, none of whom could speak more than a few words of each other’s language and last, hut by no means least, you Franz who must draw this unlikely bunch of folk together. How would I cope?  I had no idea.


We set off in brilliant sunshine through EIlmau with a friendly greeting from Peter and a group outside the tourist office. The sunshine would be there for the whole two days. Our first stop was at the Spar Shop in Going where we bought our food for a picnic lunch.


Once we left the village I began to relax and feel the influence of my surroundings, green meadows backed by the gentle slopes of the Astberg and, on the other side, the majestic grandeur of the Wilder Kaiser range. We bowled along and our path was between lush meadows where almost the only sounds were of the horses' hooves and the cow bells.  The air was like wine, cameras came out and conversation began - not always in good Deutsch on my part. Uphill now and we got out to walk a steep wooded path, Iovely and cool für a change.


Through the dorf of Reith-by-Kitzbühel and on to Kirchberg with the Kitzbühel mountains quite near the Kitzbüheler Horn and the Hahnenkamm, famous for its ski race in January. By this time the schnapps bottle had been out once or twice and we shared it with folk along the way - an old man digging his garden, a farmer and his wife. My companions had also bought sweets which we all shared though they were mainly for the small children playing on the wayside. It was lovely to see the shy smiles on little faces as fists fulI of sweets were offered and accepted - a generous thought.


A brief stop to view an old linseed mill in Kirchberg; this brought back childhood memories of my father using linseed in his cattle food when there was always a bottle of linseed oil somewhere around. Then across the railway line and over more meadows to a quiet spot for our picnic lunch Scheck and Frieda were tethered to a post and found their own meal while we spread our shared feast an a convenient bench and stretched our legs after the morning drive.


Off again, and a detour because of pipe laying, a bumpy one it was too when you Franz with a touch of devilment, urged our horses into a brisk trot over rutted grassland. What a shake up! Right after lunch too!


To Brixen, and two calls here - one at a fish farm adjacent to a restaurant where you could choose your fish for dinner and wait for it to be cooked, and then to a café for coffee and cream cakes (I can’t resist them).


Away again along narrow tracks and past pretty houses with the Brixen Ski slopes on our right side. Camera out again as memories flooded back of happy winter ski runs. We arrived at Westendorf at about 7pm as the sun went down over the mountain tops. (Lots of hang gliders as the thermals are good in this area.) We drove through the very attractive village centre and on the outskirts we turned into the drive of a beautiful farmhouse, our night stop - the Freihof Gasthof.

After a schnapps - what, another! - a wash and brush up followed by a glass of wine, we set out in Iight-hearted mood to walk in search of our supper. It's a wonder we did not get locked up for the night as someone (who shall be nameless) tried to halt the local gendarmerie at a road junction.


A welcome drink awaited us at our restaurant - another of those schnapps - then our meal was served and what a feast it was! Cheese and pasta (a local speciality) served in the biggest frying pan I've ever seen. How we all tucked in, absolutely FAB. We were then given my favourite sweet, Kaiserschmarren, a special one too with the compliments of the house and along came, yes another, another what? SCHNAPPS, of course! A walk back to our farmhouse and I'll never forget the moment when the quiet ot Westerndort was shattered by a certain person giving us a lesson in yodelling - it must have roused the entire population. The Freihof at last and bed. What a day!!


Day two and I climbed out of bed after a peaceful night's rest and drew back the curtains to look out on a morning with mist encircling the mountain peaks and drifting down the valley. A morning full of promise, the promise of another warm, sunny day. Breakfast with the lovely crisp rolIs and fragrant coffee I so enjoy. Our bags packed and stowed in the carriage, I then bade a sad farewell to my friendly St Bernard. A chill in the air as we slowly made our way from the village to a track through the woods which was to take us to another valley, glimpses of lonely farmhouses, green slopes and the occasional Haflingen grazing on a hillside which interested you, Franz.


Twisting and turning and finally reaching the outskirts of Hopfgarten, we made our way in the now warm sunshine to the village square and a fifteen minute break to enable us to stock up with fruit etc and a visit to the glorious church which dominates the skyline. Now for a little exercise, gentle pace, as our path took us uphill and out of the village along meadow paths and the cows coming trotting over with much ringing of bells to investigate this strange group.  After going on an undulating path through cool woodlands, we reached more level ground and climbed aboard our carriage. The woods behind us, we trotted along the meadow ways again and then, in the distance, we saw the castle of Itter.


With the horses tethered to a tree in a small square, they (the horses) did their best to defoliate the tree while we waited for our Iunch and enjoyed a long cool drink. Frieda decided she didn’t like her lunch from a bucket, tipped it out and proceeded to eat every bit. After a visit to the church and castle plus a photo from the cafe terrace of the valley and Wörgl on the distance, we made our way downhill, for a change. Itter is a small village quite near the Hohe Salve with good ski slopes on the Kelchsau mountain.


It is downhill all the way to the main Wörgl - Söll road which we cross by means of the underpass and onto a side road into Söll. Not before you, Franz, had tried standing up in a moving carriage to pick apples and plums from the trees on the wayside. This was nearly your downfall too, what a laugh! Drink stop under shady trees and Hans finished oft the last of his “heart medicine”, the schnapps.  Into the centre of Söll, and you spot the ice cream shop.


That matter taken care of, we are off again and a short walk, uphill of course, along a side road and past houses that the people speeding by on the main road never even suspect are there. Over the main road and, hang on folks - this could be a bit hair-raising, a steep path and anything but smooth with over-hanging branches – ah, that's better, a winding road via woods and meadows to Scheffau and coffee and cakes.  Something funny going on here?  I take your advice and pay a visit downstairs, first time I've taken a photo of a W.C. notice, but I couldn't resist it!!


The last leg of our journey and, with no schnapps left, what would raise the spirits -a sing-song? So surprise, surprise - out come the song books. Are you prepared for all eventualities, Franz? Words in German and O.K. for some - well, here goes, try anything once, that’s me. I'm not sure we would get many votes as a choir, but we certainly enjoyed ourselves with Hans singing his head off and me taking solo part in ,My Bonny lies Over the Ocean' and ,She’ll be Coming Round the Mountain’(chorus in German, of course). Can't blame the schnapps this time, so we will say it was a touch of the sun. Ellmau in sight and a request to cease our hilarity, so back home and a welcome respite for Scheck and Frieda, carrots too, and did they earn them.


With horses and carriage put away, it was time to think of food for us - so off to the Café Au and then time to say ,Auf Wiedersehen', a sad farewell with fond hopes of a three day trip in 1998.


Many happy memories will remain for a long time, helped by photographs. It was such a fun time, lots of laughs, sharing everything. Me trying to drink schnapps from the bottle and Hans telling me it should go into my mouth, not down the front of my jersey. The people we met along the way, children's happy faces. Walking hand in hand with a very nice Austrian in Westendorf and our evening together, the six of us. Singing at the top of our voices on the way home. All this in some of the most beautiful countryside - peace, beauty and grandeur combined with the fun and fellowship we shared make this a memorable two days. ,,The highlight?”, you ask - it is difficult to pick out one thing, so I will just say, “Thank you, Franz, for the whole two days and for showing us those hidden jewels behind the tourist face of the Tirol.”


Maggie Buttrick, Snitterby


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