Tunbridge Wells, United Kingdom
January 12, 2003
The walk took an hour, but the views made up for it, and we deserved our gluwein and Ovalmaltine when we got to the top. The piste-bashed path demands stout shoes, and watch out for your companions slyly tying their sled on to the back of yours. The cousins took their "bumboards"--these discs of plastic with a handle are sold cheaply in the town’s toy shops. Small people spin down hill on them and it saves wear and tear on the seat of their trousers.
Leave your sled on the ski racks outside the hut. Use a bike chain to secure it so no one picks it up by mistake--one toboggan looks pretty much like another. Perhaps you could mark yours with a bright scarf.
The hut, which I think is far and away the best on the mountain, was full of people--big groups of teenagers as well as families and couples--playing cards, drinking beer, eating chips, and hoping the wind would drop. It is a solid log cabin, mysteriously bigger on the inside than on the outside--you might think there’s nowhere to sit, but keep going round the corner. . . The windows are tiny and have friendly red-and-white curtains, so it’s very cosy in bad weather. On fine days, you can sit outside at long tables, or lie on a wide lounger to take a sunshine cure. Today the staff were stacking the outside tables under the deep eaves as if they expected more bad weather.
When we ordered in German, our waitress said in an accent we couldn’t quite place: "Speak English if you want."
"How did you guess? Where are you from?"
She told us she was Swiss, but her heart was in England and that she had a boyfriend living twenty miles from our home town.
Gluwein is mulled wine with bits in it. The bits vary--here it was raisins and slivers of almond. Very warming, and as with most mulled wine--I don’t know if this is just my problem--it goes to your head a lot quicker than you think. Ovalmaltine is malty, milky, and a little bit chocolaty--in Britain it’s called Ovaltine.
Coming down takes about ten minutes. The run is separate from the walking path, which is just as well because you get up quite a bit of speed. My cousin was blown away at one point – she rolled down the hill, her bumboard acting as a sail, and had to be rescued by a couple of walkers. We were able to sled right to the door of the hotel. Once you get on to the road, it seems the thing to do is to shout "Achtung!" (danger) to clear your path.
From journal Christmas in Arosa