Our tour kicked off in Munich where all the participants met over what would be one of many beers. In all, there were 30 participants from 11 countries on the tour with us South Africans making up the biggest group.
From the airport, we were whisked off to our first evening function hosted by RT27 Feldkirch. It was a huge surprise arriving at the top of a misty mountain pass and seeing the “Welcome to ARTSA 2004” banner flying proudly above the hotel entrance.
That night we were treated to a fantastic BBQ, whatever that is, and then a display of “traditional” Nepal dancing. That was our first introduction to Saurabh and Mayank, and boy was it memorable! This evening proved to be a fantastic icebreaker for all on the tour. As we say in Round Table we were all able to meet old friends for the first time.
The next morning we had an early start as it was going to be our longest trip in the bus as we made our way across the breadth of Austria. “South African Roulette” was also introduced and so to was the vast collection of Schnapps which had made its way onto the bus.
Austria really is a beautiful country and we saw some of the most picturesque scenery pass us by on our way to RT48 Amstetten who were to be our next hosts. Amazing engineering feats are the awesome motorways which connect the towns and cities of Austria. In fact, they are so spectacular that we decided to stop and study one at length!
During our “unscheduled” stop on the motorway, things started to get quite festive on the bus. The sergeant kept everyone’s “spirits” up, especially Mark Nichols (UK) who had earlier had an altercation with the paving outside the bus and thus living up to his reputation as one of the most hazardous Table travellers around.
We arrived at our overnight stop where we were welcomed by schnapps and wine spritzers – oh and some fantastic Tablers! Mark got some much-needed running repairs to his lip whilst the rest of us took part in a form of bowls. This was when the tour first got a glimpse at the most competitive man in the world – Grant Haarhoff (SA). Later that evening there was an epic Push-up compo and arm wrestling tournament between Grant and Vinay (India) – The end score was 2-0 to Vinay!!
The next morning we were back on the bus and on our way to Vienna. Vienna truly has to be one of the most beautiful cities in the world. We tried desperately to squeeze in as much of the city as we could, but we lost the battle in the end. I guess we are just going to have to come back to finish off what we missed!
Harry gave us a quick bus tour of the city which was incredibly interesting. It is amazing to see buildings that have been standing since before South Africa was discovered by Europeans – and still in such good condition. Schönbrunn Palace was a highlight for me – I finally know the direction the Durban 2 clubhouse should go 🙂
After Vienna, it was back on the buss and off to our next stop where we were to be hosted by RT43 Seckau-Murtal. An unscheduled stop just short of our destination didn’t dampen our spirits and soon another drinking game had been devised based on the colours of the passing cars!
On arrival, we were greeted by a great bunch of Tablers and some very old tractors. With a brief lesson as to how they worked (brake, accelerator, etc…) we were whizzing up the hill to one of the most beautiful vistas we had yet to see, and the venue to an amazing lunch, awesome fellowship, and some much needed R&R!
Tractors aren’t for everyone!
The trip back down was a little more interesting. This time I was the driver and I can now say that it isn’t as easy as it looks!! After a 500m or so stretch, and nearly killing everyone, I decided to hand the reigns over to Vinay who seemed to be much better at tractor driving then I was.
We then had an hour or twos rest before we went off to Wipfelwanderweg, and boy did we need it! This proved to me, and most of the Tablers, just how unfit we all are. Soldiering on one step at a time we slowly climbed higher and higher into the forest until we were eventually in the forest canopy. The views were simply breathtaking (even more so then the stairs). We stood silently taking in what has to be one of the most beautiful countries in Europe, if not the world!
That evening we were whisked up to a lovely restaurant in the hills called Groendahlhaus. This was a fantastic evening filled with good food, great beer, and awesome fellowship.
The following morning was a real treat for all of the guys. We were scheduled to have breakfast at Gerald Stubenberger’s “Garage” which sounded awfully seedy……………until we saw the garage! Some truly magnificent cars surrounded the breakfast table in the middle of the garage. My favourite was the E-Type Jag, but I would also have been happy owning any of the others.
After an amazing evening, and the long walk before that, we were all a little slow at rising for the continuation of our Tour. Slowly we all gathered momentum and soon were on the road again.
Today we were heading to the town of Völkermarkt where we were to be hosted by RT47. We met the Tablers from RT47 at the Burg Hochosterwitw that is a castle near Völkermarkt positioned on top of a 160m high rock. It was never defeated by any enemy, but it was no match for 30 or so Edelweiss Tourists! We were taken on an excellent tour of the castle, its history, as well as the history of its owners. It was a great insight into what life was like in the Area several hundred years ago.
After the castle tour, we headed into the town of Völkermarkt where we were given another fantastic tour, this time around the town. We were then met by the mayor of the town who jumped at the opportunity to have his photo taken with such a good-looking bunch. The photo made its way into the local papers about a week later, and the 2012 Edelweiss tour was immortalized!
The next day was a bit of an off day, and much needed. We all went to see Minimundus as well as the Lake that was a hive of activity since it was an Austrian public holiday!
As we wound our way into Kufstein the realization that the tour was almost at an end was sinking in. It had been an epic 6-day journey with 30 or so of the best people you could wish for on a tour such as this. We now had 2 days in Kufstein where we would just have to finish with a bang!
Our introduction to Kufstein was probably the most evil tasting liquid known to man – Krautinger! I made the mistake of letting about 1 ml of liquid touch my lips before putting down the glass and paying over my 10 Euro insurance that made me immune to being fined with it for the rest of the AGM.
After a late Friday night, we were all up early to go to the AGM. After being introduced to all the tables present the South African were then asked to sing Shosholoza one last time. It was a fitting way for the eight of us, six from the NNCA and 2 from the Western Provence, to make our presence felt at the AGM (The Brits were a little nervous – I think they thought it was Isandlwana all over again!)
Gala Dinner & Twinning
The Gala dinner was a glamorous affair and it was a great opportunity to put on our Number Ones – after all, we had carted them around for the week prior. The atmosphere was spectacular and all were intrigued to see what I was carrying in my little wooden box. I had with me the twinning agreement between the Natal North Coast and the Austrian association. This was the last year that the hide would be handed over as it is now full, but it was soon to be replaced by something very Austrian! I was invited onto the stage to hand over the hide to Florian Laad, the outgoing Austrian president. It was then that we were shown the wonderful pair of Lederhosen that would be used to continue our wonderful twinning agreement long into the future.
I truly had a wonderful time on this tour and have no hesitation in recommending it to anyone in Round Table, no matter where in the world you are. I made friends on this tour that I hope to keep in contact with until the bitter end. In total, we shared 10 magical days together and I must thank all of those who made this tour possible, especially Harry Koller.
To the participants of Edelweiss 2012 – Thanks for making it such a fantastic tour, and never forget that you have a place to stay when you are next in South Africa.