Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Proving That She Was Still Not a Master of Travel

I grew up sharing a room with my sister, who valued her sleep and was not happy to be prematurely awoken. Imagine an angry lion. Thus, I learned how to get up in the mornings with the utmost stealth. This ability is useful when you're staying in a hostel dorm and want to avoid waking up your roommates.

Sometimes, however, I feel a curious indifference to whether my roommates wake up when I leave at 7.00. Sometimes I find myself wishing that I had a foghorn or some other means of ensuring that their wake-up is as unpleasant as mine was when they came in all slamming doors, turning on lights, laughing, and shouting three hours earlier.

I have said it before, but I will say it again, and this time I mean it: I am totally over hostels.

Despite the lack of sleep, I set out bright and early for Werfen on Saturday morning. The plan was to see Honenwerfen, hike, not get lost, and perhaps see the ice caves if I could find them. Hohenwerfen was built bit by bit over the course of about 600 years. Part of it burned down in 1931 and was subsequently rebuilt. Your entrance ticket today gets you a guided tour, admissions to the grounds and museum, and a seat at the falconry show. The latter was pretty awesome even though I didn't understand a word of what they were saying. They brought out, among other creatures with large wingspans, a bald eagle. Instead of following instructions and flying where they wanted him too, he took off for the back end of the castle and it was several minutes before they could get him back. Sneaky devil. From the look on his trainer's face as he carried the birdbrain back inside, I had a feeling someone was on his way to the time-out chair.

The hike was nice. Excellent views, a bit of forest trail, and entirely uphill. And the Eisreisenwelt ("World of the Ice Giants") was brilliant. I was selected by the English-tour guide to be first in line after him, because I was a native English speaker and could be trusted to do as I was told. This meant that not only did I get to lead the group from time to time - striking off into the darkness with only my oil lamp for light, pretending to be an intrepid ice cavern explorer, while the guide looked after the stragglers - I also got to pepper him with questions. I learned, among other tidbits, that the oldest ice in the cave is 5,000 years old, it is 25 meters thick at the deepest point, and they spend two months a year clearing fresh ice off the tourist steps - first hacking it to bits, then salting. Sadly, only mind-cameras were allowed, no physical ones.

Sunday was my day to see everything in Salzburg that I had not yet seen. I started with a walk in the Kapuzinerberg, along the old city walls. There was a Sunday market on the Salzach that I stopped to see next, and then it was on to Mozart's Geburtshaus, some churches, and Nonnberg Convent (another Sound of Music filming site).

As evening approached, it was time for me to catch the train back to Vienna. I picked up the bag I'd left at the hotel, grabbed a bit of dinner-to-go at the station grocery store, and hopped on the train. As the doors closed, the conductor said something in German, and then repeated it in English. "Please be aware that OBB tickets cannot be used on this train."

Wait, what?

Apparently there is a random privately-owned train that comes through sometimes, sneaking extra ticket fares off of ignorant tourists. The ticket agent who said sorry, you can get out at the next station and switch trains but I still have to charge you for a ticket, and no, your train discount card is no good with us, also said that confused backpackers end up on that train all the time. Because yes, it would hurt to put up a sign and make the announcement (in English) before the train doors have closed.

My sixth country of residence, and I continue to land myself in dodgy hostels and get on the wrong train. Clearly, I still have much to learn.

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