No sooner had we gone to sleep then we had to wake up - little did we know this would be a recurring thing over the next two weeks. Asleep at 12 or 1 am, a few short hours of tenuous sleep, then awake at 4 am to get to San Diego airport at around 6. We came to appreciate American Airlines' priority boarding, by which we also breezed through security without waiting in line. Quick calls to the parents to let them know that, yes, we *were* still alive as of 15 minutes after they had said goodbye, already through security and waiting patiently in the terminal. Our flight departed on time at 7:20 am. Our flight was truncated by a layover in Dallas Fort Worth (one can only presume just to pass the time)
and we resumed our flight to Frankfurt a few hours later:
Landing in Frankfurt some 15 hours after we woke up, we immediately collected our bags in preparation for the next leg of our trip. Yes, there is more. Like 6 hours of train ride more. After the technically-shorter-than-it-could-have-been but still interminably long 9 hour 55 minute leg from DFW to Frankfurt, such a train ride, we quickly realized, was going to be grueling. At least we had scenery to look forward to. And what scenery it was: little idyllic towns built along the railway, interspersed between fields and meadows and rivers, etc. Frankfurt to Munich, then a train switch - a hectic bolt from one platform to another, jumping on the train Mr. Bojangles style as it chugged away from the platform - catching another train to Salzburg. The city we were travelling to was Sankt Johann im Pongau - that is, in English, Saint Johann of the Pongau province. We later learned there are some dozens of "Sankt Johanns" throughout Austria. The area approximately spanning Salzburg and our particular St Johann is home to the real life residences and filming locations of Fraulein Maria and the Von Trapp family of Sound of Music fame. More on that later.
Frankfurt Airport Train Station
After fitful sleep on the train, Natalie and I made it to St Johann, with an elapsed time of travel totaling some billion hours. Equipped with the diminished sensibilities of sleep deprivation and a map of the small town clearly showing our hotel no more than a few hundred meters from the train station, we egged each other into the decision to walk to the hotel with our 6 (six) bags into which our entire life for the next year is stuffed, despite taxis waiting at the ready right outside our little train station. At this point it was probably 4 pm local time - a time, we quickly learned, that was a rather unforgiving time of the day heat-wise for the little hamlet, when the sun, in its daily death throes, slinks down the horizon and casts a glaring, angled, harsh light directly on the area, apparently out of spite simply for it being the end of the day. Also, the walk was mostly uphill... did I mention that?
After such a long train ride, Natalie and I both needed to use the restroom something fierce, having foolishly neglected to use it between Salzburg and St Johann, and were definitely unprepared for the level of heat and uphilledness of the trek. As a couple local teens buzzed by on a motorbike hooting in derision at us for the amount of bags we had, we realized the bad decision we'd made. And we couldn't help but ponder with ever such sophistication: "Why the hell is it so hot in freaking AUSTRIA??" We literally could *see* the alps! I'm pretty sure I waved to a yeti at one point. And where there are yeti, there should never be 90 degree heat (something like high-30s celsius)! Oh god, I fear the lack of sleep was more severe at this point than I may ever realize... among my checklist assessing my personal sanity is included, among other things, "talking to or interacting in any way with imaginary creatures, particularly those who may or may not appear on Disneyland rides and/or in mid-20th century stop-motion animation Christmas specials." Not all the bullet points on my checklist get this specific, but sometimes it's necessary.
Finally, after walking for about 15 minutes, we just stopped dead in front of a shop, desperate for water, a bathroom, someplace to cool down, but most of all we dreamed of a taxi. As the gauge on our "bathroom emergency" meter moved closer to "critical," we became desperate. We were at the point of no return - we couldn't turn back to get a taxi from the train station, and were fairly certain the hotel was *just* up that hill... only we weren't exactly sure *how far* up that hill, and not completely sure we were on the right street. All the little lines and silly German writing on the map looked all blurry and was just so hard to read to our bleary, tired eyes... Like a knight in shining minivan-shaped armor our savior taxi appeared. We flagged him down like... well like two people who were in such desperate straits as we were would flag down a taxi...
Saint Johann Train Station
A 30 second ride up the hill (which would have translated to another 10 minutes at our walking pace) and we were at our new home, Alpenland Sporthotel: the Alpenlandiest, Sporthoteliest resort/hotel this side of Hohenwerfen. At only 5 euros the taxi ride felt like a steal - little did the nice man realize we would have paid the rest of our allotted monies for the next two weeks for him to take us to our destination.
We rushed to the counter, rushed to get our room keys, rushed to the tiny little itty bitty cramped elevators, rushed to our room on the 3rd floor, rushed to the bathroom, rushed to do our business, and leisurely took cold showers to cool down. Shortly after this, and after fighting the urge to just sprawl on any fairly lumpless surface and be engulfed in this luxury we call sleep, Natalie and I found the nearest restaurant - an annex of the lobby with mediocre quality Italian food - and ate. We returned to our room just as quickly as we appeared and PASSED OUT. End of day 1 in Austria. You may now insert disc 2.
View from our hotel room
P.S. That scenery from the train? A little precursor to our adventures later in the week:
|Hohenwerfen Castle - more on this later in a later post|
|Beautiful train scenery|
|For Steven :)|