Wednesday, May 22, 2013


Austria has lots of holidays in May. The first is May Day, and the next three are religious holidays, Ascension (Christi Himmelfahrt), Pentecost (Pfingsten), which this year fell on a Monday, and then we have Corpus Christi next week. Since we had no class Monday, I went to Salzburg for the long weekend. I took the relatively new and rather nice Westbahn train, which runs only from Vienna to a couple of stops shortly past Salzburg. It's sleek and roomy, they have jaunty conductors, free wifi that actually works, and it's cheaper than the ÖBB options. You can buy tickets online or directly on board. After once getting stuck with a €50 fine for buying a ticket on board an Italian train, I'm nervous when anyone tells me this can be done, but here it really is the case. Although (travel tip #1), be advised that you need a chip-and-pin credit card, or cash. A regular American-issued swipe card won't work. Travel tip #2 is that the Spar supermarket in the Salzburg Hauptbahnhof stays open on Sundays and holidays, which most other markets in Austria do not do. Judging by the number of people shopping for travel snacks, it must rake it tons of money.

I dragged all my camping gear with me on this trip, and figuring I better well use it for all that effort, stayed at one of the campgrounds in the Salzburbs. I will give it high points for cleanliness, but it catered mainly to caravan campers, and I thought €12 was a little steep for someone who showed up on foot with a dinky tent. I also think I should have received a refund for being subjected to the small child wailing at the top of his lungs in the very echoey bathroom while his mom was giving him a sponge bath. Before each wail, you could hear him suck in full lungfuls of air - then there was a slight pause of impending doom - and he would let rip. Having just finished a shower and wearing nothing but water droplets, I was trapped in a shower stall, unable to escape. It was truly awful. Maybe it was karmic payback; apparently as a toddler I once spent an entire flight screaming for no apparent reason, although I have no recollection of this event.

Other than having my hearing damaged, I don't have a whole lot other to report. I spent my time sitting in the grass by the Salzach river, letting ants crawl over me, wandering around town, and up the Kapuzinerberg and the Mönchsberg, where I did pass a rather fit-looking elderly nun charging down the path with hiking poles. Everyone uses hiking poles here, even on concrete. I was also passed by a group of cyclists on another path, most of whom were sporting lederhosen. I was unable to get my camera out in time to take a photo. There was quite a lot of lederhosen on display around town; it just seemed to be part of guys' everyday wardrobe. I didn't expect to see that, and it was kind of a nice surprise.

Right before I left there was a spectacular thunderstorm. I was waiting at the campground to pick up my bag out of luggage storage, and had been listening to the sky growling, watching it turn from blue to grey, and feeling the temperature drop over about a half hour. Suddenly it opened up and unleashed a torrent of garbanzo bean-sized hail which completely covered the ground before turning into a straight up downpour. Thirty minutes later all was clearing up and blue again, leaving nothing but piles of sturdy hailstones and a steaming pavement in its wake. Just in time for me to jog to the bus stop to head back to Vienna.

No comments: