After my two prior skiing experiences in the cosmopolitan resorts of Zermatt and Vail – Saalbach, is proving to be a bit of a culture shock. Our group (consisting of 5 Saffers, 1 Russian and 1 Bahamian) pulled in to this Austrian Alpine resort on Saturday afternoon and decided to hit the après-ski scene immediately. It was about 5pm and the party was pumping. To be precise, I don’t think I’ve seen people this paralytic since Monday nights R5 drink-all-you-can at Springfield (circa 1998) or Sunday afternoons at the Pitcher & Piano in Putney. At first I thought we must have accidentally hit happy hour at the student local but when my eyes adjusted to the darkness, I realised that the average age was somewhere between 45 and half-dead. And then I saw two wasted old-timers, beer in hand, sucking face like standard sixes. Gross! I have to admit I couldn’t stop staring. No-one else seemed to bat an eye-lid – perhaps because they were all so dronk they couldn’t see straight. They did, however, have just enough co-ordination to bop to the beat of the music.
Speaking of music, it appears that the beer is not the only thing that’s home brewed in this part of the world – the tunes are delightfully local too. The “Top of the Mountains” CD in the picture for this posting should give you a sense – the one with the cover photo of a brunette, looking as wholesome as Heidi from the chin up and as tasteful as a Teazer’s billboard, from the chin down. Sort of Amor Vittone on top, but a lot more risqué below eye-level. The music itself is kind of hard rock meets Eurotrash pop, meets folk, meets rave, with some “yodely-yodely yo’s” thrown in. Und one more thing: alles is in Tjerman – ja? Not to knock Germanic music talent – what with Bach, Beethoven, Mozart and all those wunderkinds – but there’s just something about German song lyrics that make them sound like someone barking out orders. It’s just so guttural, so…so scary, ja? So to numb our fears we reached out to Herr Jagermeister. In defence of the music (and the Jagermeister) it did inspire some priceless holiday in-jokes. Not least was the famous “heil five”. This involved two individuals (i.e. two wasted Saffers) looking at one another earnestly, raising their right hands in a militaristic semi-salute, shouting “Heil Five!” in their best German accents and then slapping their palms together in mid-air, before collapsing into fits of very macho giggles.
By 7pm (8pm on our body clocks) we were ready to return to the hotel for dinner. The Husband and I just needed to collect our skis and poles and we’d be right there.
The Husband could not remember what his skis looked like and we spent the better part of an hour searching for his gear amongst thousands of skis and poles all stacked up outside the bar. He eventually located a pair of skis that he thought looked familiar but his poles were nowhere to be found. Finally, we decided to take advantage of the ski gear insurance and he grabbed a pair of poles that best matched his ski suit. (We later discovered that the name “Angela” was etched onto them so we’re still waiting for a Germanic-looking shot-put champ to attack him on the ski slope. So far so good…)
With all this excitement, it took us a while to join the others back at the hotel. By this time, we were late, sweaty, flustered, exhausted and ravenous. We flew into the dining room, trying to locate our mates. The restaurant staff was looking at us askance as we swished through the dining room in our ski pants and thermal Cape Storm tops. (The next day we came across a discreet little note, which read “Please to dress appropriately for dinner, please. No ski gear or sweatsuits”. Oops). We finally found our table and, as we sat down, we realised that while we were out stealing ski poles, our friends had managed to get spectacularly wasted. The waiters looked decidedly unimpressed with our table (it’s worse when they give you the hairy eye-ball in German – trust me) and the other diners were clearly “not amused”. It was then that I noticed that our fellow diners were actually the PARENTS of the old-timers in the bar. My God. We’d booked into the old age home. Seriously: the guests were 75 in the shade and they were sitting there in their bow ties and dinner jackets. WTF? Any hopes that we’d simply have a great time and ignore Shady Pines, were dashed when the dronkest member of our party decided to audibly enquire:
“What the eff is up with all these OLD PEOPLE???”
Needless to say, we’re about as popular as puffadders in our hotel, but I still maintain that, until the folk dancing entertainment arrives, Shady Pines is lapping up our table’s conversation – not least because it’s the only conversation going down in that dining room. Plus, the waiters asking us to “keep it down” are grown men in New Buck leather pants. I mean, what does one say to them, except for “Yodel-ay-hee-hoo!”