Tirol is a ridiculous place. I’m talking fairytale ridiculous, with mountains, beautiful lakes, quaint villages and the relaxed pace of the countryside. I always feel like I’ve stepped into a Grimm Brothers tale when I visit.
The fairytale aspect is only enhanced whenever we spend time with the Misters family. His grandparents live in a traditional farmhouse. It was built by hand, there’s a burbling creek out the back with fish, a cow for your morning milk next door and a field backing onto the forest. I could not make it more stereotypically fairytale-esque if I tried.
But, like all great fairytales, there’s a flip-side. A terrifying, traditional, devilish flip-side.
They go by the name of ‘Krampus‘ or ‘Perchten’ (depending on your regionality.) They are truly horrible but put on the most spectacular show each year to serve a warning to naughty kids on the 5th of December.
While St Nikolaus is said to brings nuts, treats and chocolates to children who are well behaved on the 6th of December, Krampus is the scary devil who kidnaps naughty children from their families by throwing them into a coal sack and taking them to hell*. When they march into the village in their gigantic traditional masks, hand woven costumes and booming drums, while the fire pit burns in the village centre, you can almost believe you are back in fairytale-times and the devils will steal you away!
For the real impact though, you need to hear the drums, smell the smoke and have your heart skip a beat when a smaller teufel comes past and covers your face in black coal dust. The video below will give you a taste, but to really understand the fairytales of Tirol, you might just have to see for yourself….
*History nerd note – This is the colloquial version of events as told by locals in bars, on the village streets and when trying to terrify an Auslander like me!
If you happen to find yourself in Vienna during a summer heat wave, let me share a little insiders secret trail to heavenly relaxation.
First, take yourself to the famous Schönbrunn Palace and marvel at the resilience of tourists who insist on sightseeing in 36°C and beating desert heat.
Its basically a desert wasteland – with a palace in the middle
Take a left away from the palace, away from the famous rose gardens and meander past the Marionette theatre until you reach these picturesque gates on the right hand side:
Habsburg gardens don’t do understatement
Pass through the gates and don’t be disheartened by the long, dry and dusty path ahead of you. The trees to the left and right will offer some slight relief from the heat.
The snazzy Austrian man in green pants will definitely outpace you
If you stroll at a relaxed and steady pace for ten minutes, you’ll soon reach the following staircase, which may look insurmountable to your heat addled brain, but quite ordinary afterwards…
Your trek up the stairs will be rewarded with this magnificent view over the Egyptian Obelisk monument, the back of the palace and the simmering city skyline.
Take your breather here and admire the view
At this point you will start to see children skipping and locals carrying what looks suspiciously like beach and bathing gear.
Ignore the overly dedicated runner on the right, and follow the family with the swimming bag!
Suddenly, like a mirage (because who could imagine a swimming pool inside the palace grounds??) the Schönbrunner Bad will appear on your right hand side, and it will be a revelation.
A rolling hillside of green, a bright, clean and cooling pool, big enough for lap swimming, the occassional divebomb and lots of poolside lounging. Most importantly, it is cold and wet and so so soothing after your trek to get here.
Simply pick your spot, splay your towel, and kick back for an afternoon of sunshine and relaxation. Of course because this is Austria, there’s options for activity available…
This particular round got very intense – volleyball is not for the faint of heart
…but more exciting is the fact that you can order a drink from the on-site cafe and enjoy it while kicking back on the grass.
A secret royal pool including drinks and summery vibes? I’ll take that option any day of the week!