From the gondola lift, I could see a lot of trees on the ground. When asked, Lucia said that at times, strong winds blow down huge trees. Small patches of snow here and there scared me a little. Having learnt my lesson the day before, I had opted to wear three layers of clothing. But if there was snow, it might not be enough.
The restaurant was a small wooden cabin with a large wooden door and a wooden sign hanging on the door which read Katrin Almhütte. It looked as cute on the inside as it did on the outside. Small wooden tables, checkered table cloths and cute little chairs. Delicious smells wafted from the kitchen. A young man stood behind the counter and on recognizing Lucia, he brought us our steaks and a salad. Four steaks. One for each of us, although I had clearly said that I wanted to eat a salad. After having an internal debate in my mind, I finally decided to go for it. They had already made it and it would be rude and wasteful to decline.
I had never eaten beef before, so I was extremely apprehensive of this. I took one bite and it was like, nope. I didn’t want to be rude, though. And I also needed the energy as we still had half a day worth of activities left. I made it through five more bites with the help of a few juicy little cherry tomatoes, when I decided that the pain wasn’t worth it any more. There wasn’t anything wrong with the taste, it was just the fact that I am not used to eating red meat. Also, it was a really big piece of steak. Even mumma and papa could only finish half of it. On the other hand, Lucia finished eating her entire steak and a salad. Later, papa explained, the reason why people here were so healthy was that they were physically active and also ate a fair portion of food.
Lucia saw that I had not particularly enjoyed my lunch, so she bought me a packet of sweet wafers. The guy behind the counter was a little confused as to why I had eaten so less. When I told him about red meat, he laughed and offered us a schnapp instead. It is a fruity alcoholic beverage.
We declined as none of us drink. Since none of us were drinking, Lucia too politely declined.
We went back down and this time, we went to a mill. This mill is famous for baking its own bread, right from the scratch. It was a cute little farmhouse with a beautiful view of the mountains, quaint little tables outside the farm with a stream flowing by their side. We were told that it was more than three hundred years old. On entering, we were greeted by a lady who seemed to run the place. She knew Lucia and they both conversed in German. She looked at us, smiled and asked us in English whether we would like to eat something. We declined, but like an old persistent mother, she convinced us to have a bit of fresh smoked salmon from the stream beside their farmhouse and homemade apple juice .
I wasn’t too kicked by the idea as I don’t like fish either. I had a glass of apple juice diluted with sparkling water. This was another thing in Austria. Whenever you asked for water, they would give you a choice between sparkling or still. I don’t know why anyone would even want sparkling water, it just tastes really strong. I once heard someone describe sparkling water as angry water, and I feel like that is a very fitting description.
The owner’s daughter came to serve the food, dressed in a traditional Austrian dress. I really loved what she was wearing, it comprised of a white dress and and a bodice. I wanted one like that. Lucia said that it could be found in any nearby market. I vowed to find a dress just like that and buy it.
After that brief second lunch, we were shown their collection of homemade pasta up for sale. It was made of many different kinds of grains. Next , we were led to the actual mill, where the actual flour was made. The other daughter of the owner was waiting for us. She would be giving us a tour of the mill. She couldn’t speak very good English so Lucia translated her words.
She told us, they still had the old fashioned wooden equipment which was earlier used for the process of making flour. She showed us the new equipment, explaining how the flour was made and how they accommodated its storage. We were led to the place where the old equipment was kept. It had been dissected and markers had been put to indicate how it was used. The bakery mainly sold their bread and not their flour.
We moved on to the actual bakery, where the magic took place. We were shown how the owner of the mill made the dough and how they had prepared the furnace to bake the bread. They used old fashioned ovens powered by coals to bake. In the past, the stream was essential for their business as it created hydroelectricity. They still produced their electricity from the energy produced by the stream. We had an extensive discussion about breads, multigrain bread, how bread can be made from almost any grain, Indian breads which is just different types of rotis. It was getting late, and soon it was time for us to leave.
They handed us a few loaves of their bread as a parting gift.
We visited a few other lakes which were not all that interesting. And then we went to the church where a scene of the famous musical ‘Sound of Music’ was filmed. It was a beautiful church with many pretty and colourful bulidings all around, a lot of cafes that we would have loved to visit if we hadn’t been so full already.
We started back towards the inn. This time, there was a different lady at the reception. She was much older. We had the tea she offered us and went to our room. I packed my bags, as we were leaving the next day. We made use of a few more cup noodles. I looked at the setting sun, knowing that it would be the last time I would see this in such a beautiful place.
Next stop: Salzburg
Photographs by Insha Faridoon