Saturday, January 4, 2014

Helsinki - Berlin - Salzburg - Saalfelden.... big day

Flights from Helsinki to Salzburg went off without a hitch and I saw about 2 hours of Germany courtesy of a quick stopover in Berlin :/ Checked into the hostel late and went off in search of sustinence in the form of a Burger King meal (how nutritious) and kipped out. 

Following what I thought was a well earned sleep I set out in the morning for a run around town in an effort to see as much as possible in the several hours I had there. Ran up Kapuzinerberg near the hostel which I luckily found the entrance to via an opening between a number of shops on the road. Trail was a mix of asphalt changing to gravel / hard leaf-covered rock (a good challenge for the trail-less legs over the last couple of months), right up to a lookout overlooking Salzburg. Then down along the river, through town and up to the Fortress Hohensalzburg which stands out as it is located on the other hill which surrounds the city. 

Easy to miss - entrance to Kapuzinerberg

Salzburg is a pretty nice city to run in, however Saturday mornings are very busy due to countless shoppers going about their way so it was a bit of a case of dodging the 'moving trees'. Later walked around the city for a bit of touristy happy snaps... the Cathedral is huge... there is a bridge with a huge number of padlocks... and the old town is right on the edge of the mountain leading to the fortress

Padlocks on Makartsteg
Left in the afternoon to RV with the team at Salzburg airport, and following some minor hitches with transport arrived to Saalbach in the evening. Wallner Kaserne barracks will be our home for the next couple of weeks whilst we do some snowboard training in Leogang / Saalbach Hinterglemm, prior to the RAF competition.

Inside the Arctic Circle

So I've been in Finland for the last week over NYE - first flew London to Helsinki for a night (stayed near the airport - no interesting stories apart from my first authentic 'Finnish Sauna Experience') then up to Rovaniemi for a night where I checked out the local museum (Arktikum) to learn something about the local people and culture, and later met up with Dan for a beer. Rovaniemi is right on the Arctic Circle and famous for being the official Home of Santa Claus (their claim, not mine :) with the somewhat touristy Santa Claus Village nearby. 

The local brew - Karhu (Finnish for 'bear')

First run in the wet snow the next morning was.... educational, and although it didn't go as bad as I thought it would, I had to cut it short due to a light rain and my feet being saturated (which doesn't bode well when the ambient temperature is barely above zero). Its much easier running in subzero temperatures as I would find out at Levi.

So after a morning sauna to defrost (in the personal in-room sauna... awesome!), I met up with Dan and Siiri and we drove up to Levi which is about 150km (2hr 15min on snow-covered roads) north. Levi features a good size ski resort with about 17 normal lifts, mostly surface-type (i.e. t-T-Bars), a good thing as it keeps you out of the wind. This was the first resort I have been to where they have more gondolas than chairlifts. The elevation of the resort is from around 200m at the base to ~500m at the peak. So commenced daily snowboarding and nightly partying and reindeer meat eating. 
Hmm ... Bars Closed

NYE was tamer than usual due to a more intense night out on the 30th, but we went out to dinner and a 30km snowmobiling trek around the lake (so quiet out on the trails at that time - you could hear nothing and only see the faint glow of lights reflecting on the sky in the distance). We then returned to the cabin for beers and the obligatory NYE countdown which didn't really work as everyones phones were out of sync so we didn't know the true time, and wandered into town to the club, observing random fireworks being set on the street throughout the night.

NYE snowmobiling around the lake

Also managed a post-NYE run (first for 2014... yay) up towards the summit. Although this also had to be cut short due to the freezing effect of the wind near the top it was great to be running through the mountain road and not seeing a single person, only the crunching sound of compacted snow. Unfortunately the weather has not been kind to show the northern lights as it has been cloudy and not cold enough.

Early morning post-Drinking snacks - Finnish Style... the meat content is printed on the pack... which was (in this case) slightly disturbing
So I now have a good set of flights to get down to Salzburg. Rovaniemi - Helsinki - Berlin - Salzburg. Will be looking forward to sleep tonight!