On Thursday the 25th of February a flight was going to take us from Manchester to Austria, unfortunately this meant that we all had to get up at 3am! After rolling out of bed and snoozing for a three hour coach journey, we arrived at the airport. Then we went through security, ate some food and boarded the plane. The flight gave us a great opportunity to see the colossal Austrian mountains we would soon be visiting. Once there, we were greeted by some three Austrian officers, including Major Hass, then drove for another hour to the Theresian Military Academy. Even though we were all groggy, we could still appreciate the outstanding views. We finally reached our destination, and were greeted by a historic site that matched even Welbeck abbey. Our hosts then showed around their traditional school; with high ceilings and a grand staircase, we were beginning to get a feeling of the history of the place. After almost thirteen hours of travel, no-one had problems sleeping that night!
Waking up around half past six, we had our showers and wandered through the long corridors to the dining hall. To our surprise, we were fed cold food and Coca-Cola for breakfast. After breakfast we were introduced to the school and military Principals. That Friday we followed our Austrian counterparts through their lessons. We struggled to understand every lesson except English, but no-one needed a translator for the Chemistry lesson. Even after hearing stories about the Chemistry teacher, we were still all amazed by the man when he turned a pile of green ash into a flame-spitting mound, and overwhelmed when he created a stink bomb that hung in the air for the rest of the day. That evening we socialised with the students and learned how different their career is to ours, then walked to the local town centre for a hot pizza and some sightseeing. Soon we were all back at the academy and in bed.
On Saturday, there was a chance for a small lie in and some cold breakfast before we were then driven back to Vienna for a guided tour. Vienna was full of history, with the grand buildings and statues to prove it. Walking around the cobbled streets, there were horse and carriages, huge gold leaf ornaments, and old WWII structures littered everywhere. Along with the grand views, we saw some buskers horsing around! After a good deal of hunting, we were relived to see that there were golden arches in Austria, still with free internet and a cheap cheeseburger! Finishing up in the city, we drove to Schoenbrunn Palace and had an audio tour of a building that was at the pinnacle of Austrian history and its Emperors.
Sunday was mostly filled up with the six hour drive to the skiing residence. After another Austrian breakfast and a last minute panic pack, we stuffed our suitcases into the coach and settled down for a long haul. Just before we arrived, we collected our skiing kit from a local ski hire. When we finally got to the hotel, my roommates and I were very happy to find we were given the en suite with its own kitchen and sauna! We settled down that night after a hot meal and a lot of anticipation for the next day’s skiing.
That morning we woke pleasantly surprised by a huge breakfast and thick white blankets covering the landscape around us. After a quick register, we all loaded into the coaches, clumsy because of our ski boots. The views around the mountain range had completely changed overnight, turning into a perfect postcard picture. Soon we reached the bottom of the ski resort, we grabbed our skis and waddled over to the snow. As most of us were beginner skiers, those who felt less confident started at the bottom of the mountain, getting up to speed with the help of an Austrian Instructor, Colonel Stocker.
Once again, the weather had layered the land with another powdery inch of snow. Like the day before, we crowded into the coaches and set off for another day of skiing. Because everyone was now up to scratch, we all went up the gondola into the mountain peaks, revealing the vast horizons around us. We started that day skiing down red runs, this time a bit more challenging. Although most of us still couldn’t keep up with the Austrians, everyone enjoyed themselves. We finished the day, then came down the mountain and returned to our accommodation, spending the remaining evening playing some of the Austrian games.
This was one of the best days skiing as it brought the best weather and some of the best skiing. With everyone excitedly going up the gondola, we headed off. This time we went across the Bahn to the opposite peak. Here was a lot more black and harder red runs. With this new challenge in mind, we went down the World Cup run. The parts that weren’t blocked off were challenging but we got down in one piece. After an eventful day we went back tired and exhausted for a well earned meal.
After Day 7 we thought the weather was going to be better until we got to the ski lifts. You couldn’t even seen the gondola in front of you. Luckily we went above the cloud line and got on with some challenging off piste. To make it harder throughout the day the fog kept on getting worse and we couldn’t see it lifting off. With some unforeseen bumps in the snow and some hilarious crashes, the day came to the end. We were all thankful for the thick layers of snow to cushion our falls.
The last day on the slopes was, of course, the best. It gave us the best weather and the best snow and we made the most of it. With the mile walk (in skis) to a ski lift not even that put our spirits down. It was a lot of off piste and even the top group joined us for part of it. With the six hour bus journey we all got back tired and exhausted. After take away we all got a well deserved rest.
The morning started off well with breakfast in the Military Academy and then a tour. We saw the paintings of all the former Generals of the Austrian Army, had a look around the Hall of Knights where our Austrian counterparts will pass out, and saw the photos of the Academy from the Second World War, where it was all but obliterated by bombing. We also listened to the very knowledgeable Lt Lang as he described the reasons behind the building of the Academy, told us tales of his time there training to be an officer, and gave us a real insight into a part of Austrian history that would ordinarily pass us by.
We’d like to thank Ma’am Shaw and Mr Warren for an excellent trip where we learnt more about the Austrian history and culture that has led to the modern Austria we see today. We also saw a lot of the different politics that we don’t see in the UK like the mass immigration and the benefits of the EU.
Ben Palmer and Callum Clifford