Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Luck of the Irish

The luck of the Irish was with me on Sunday's adventure. (Or the luck of the Mostly English, a Little Bit Scottish, and a Little Bit French, as the case may be.)

I left home at 8:10am, ten minutes late because I always forget that the last two-minutes worth of things I need to do before leaving the house actually take ten minutes, not two. But when I got to Westbahnhof and went to buy my train ticket, the queue didn't grow exponentially until just after I joined it, and I discovered that my train left 10 minutes later than I thought it did. Score. I had time for a stop at the washroom. I put €1 in the machine, and it gave me two €0.50 pieces back in change. Double-score.

I arrived in Melk, and it was awesome. No luck there; just Melk being awesome. First, I went to see Stift Melk, a beautiful old Benedictine abbey.

I went through a museum section, then out onto a balcony overlooking the Danube, and then into the library. I carefully ignored the sign that said photography was verboten and snapped a quick picture, because that library was something that needed to be remembered in detail. I took a camera from a Chinese tourist and snapped a picture of him too before the guard noticed and ran over to say no photos. But we both got our pictures.

My main concern about the day was whether I would actually make it from Melk to Aggsbach-dorf, 17 kilometers away, or take a wrong turn and end up in Switzerland or Slovenia. Given my experience thus far with navigation in Austria, this was a serious concern. Just outside the main gate to Stift Melk, though, luck struck again in the form of a bright yellow signpost pointing me in the direction of Aggsbach-dorf. Triple-score: I could wait till I was outside the town limits to make my first wrong turn.

The landscape changed quickly into farmland, and layers of translucent purple hills appeared in the distance. I continued onwards and upwards. And upwards. And onwards. I stopped for lunch. Eventually, I found myself at a fork in the road. A yellow sign indicated that the left fork was a wanderweg and the right fork was a wanderweg. One would lead me to Schönbühel and the other would lead me to Switzerland. But which was which? I feared my good luck was failing me.

But failing me it was not! Just then, my savior appeared in the form of an old man sporting an Alpine hat. He was perched on a bench just outside a nearby barn. He didn't seem like much of a savior at first; in fact, when he summoned me over, I was afraid he might eat me up. He said some things to me, and I said "ich verstehe nicht, mein Deutsch ist nicht sehr gut", and eventually we got around to him telling me I was a "beautiful girl" and sending me off in the right direction.

I made it to Schönbühel. From there, it was another couple hours up through the woods to Aggsbach-dorf. I consider it a great feat of endurance and more than a little lucky that I made it through those woods without collapsing in a heap of exhaustion. It might also have had something to do with the mosquitoes. There's a rumour going about that there are no flies in Austria. This is false. I found the flies. They are all living in a boggy region of the woods near Hohenwarth and feasting on the blood of innocent hikers.

I stumbled into Aggsbach-dorf just before 5pm, drained the rest of my water, and collapsed in a heap on the nearest park bench. It was nearly two hours until the next bus back to Melk railway station, which was unfortunate, but there were still two strokes of luck in store for me. First, the downpour didn't start until about 15 seconds after I got on the bus. And second, while it took two trains to get me from Westbahnhof to Melk earlier in the day, one single train brought me right to my front door that night. (Spittelau station, which is basically my front door.)

On my next adventure, I think I should probably bring raingear, extra change, and ALL THE MAPS, because I may have used up all my luck this time.

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