Sunday, November 11, 2018


A train ride. A car ride. No hotel reservation. No decision where to go.

Hell for most insular Americans. A blast for us.

We grabbed some breakfast and the usual cappuccino at a cafe near our hotel and leisurely went to the train station in Vienna. We had to pick up the car in Oberndorf and slowly make our way to Luxembourg over the next three days. The only real plan was to see Heidelberg, Germany on Sunday before checking into our hotel in Luxembourg on Sunday night.

We had open-ended tickets for our high speed return to Salzburg, so we climbed aboard the first available train for the two and a half hour ride. But there were no seats. While the high speed train was rather expensive, reservations were separate. There were unreserved seats; however, they had filled up, as we had gotten on the train only ten minutes before our departure. The thought of having to stand for two hours after forking over so much for tickets made me lose my mind.

As I stood there fuming, trying to figure out a way to blame Chris though it wasn't his fault, I realized something. I had a phone. The train system had a website. So, with crossed fingers, I went to it, and, in an act that will become far too common when people figure it out, I reserved two seats starting at the next station. It worked! We got to kick two people out of unreserved seats at the next stop, all for a total of six euros. I felt like freaking Einstein.

There was something depressing about having to leave Austria. We had had such a fantastic week that I wasn't ready to leave. As I said before, I had viewed our trip to Austria as a trip to visit my friend, not actually to visit the country. I didn't realize I'd love the country so much. The people we had met were wonderful, and we stumbled upon so many things that itinerary focused people would have missed.

The original plan was to go to see the Bavarian castles across the border on our way back, but at some point on the train, I got it into my head to go to Innsbruck for the night, one more night in Austria. We arrived in Oberndorf in the afternoon to pick up our car, and we raced the darkness towards Innsbruck.

Before we left, we stopped at that borderless border to take some pictures. The old border guard building was an info center. That tiny building spoke volumes about the entirety of humanity. The Schengen Agreement eliminated borders within the EU (the ECC back then) in 1985. Borders are such a fake concept, anyway; it's amazing how people adhere to fake notions of tribalism and lines drawn on a map because they are afraid of The Other. Tell me why it matters that they are called Austrian on this side and German on the other side? It's a political distinction made by wealthy and powerful people. That's all. Belief in borders is for gullible cowards. (But if you believe that a "caravan" of destitute people "paid for by George Soros" crossing a border is a threat to America, you're not only a gullible coward who falls for propaganda, you're a goddamn antisemitic, racist asshole.)

the border

Germany, as seen from Austria

the old border guard post
And then we were off, one last alpine city before moving on to the rolling hills of Germany and Luxembourg.

The drive to Innsbruck was only two hours, but we stopped once anyway, in a town called Niederndorf, because the human bladder has a mind of its own. But I'm glad we stopped, because we had another blast. I pulled into a roadside restaurant chosen because it had easy parking, otherwise we would have continued on. It turned out to be a local hangout, and, it being a Friday night, all the regulars were there.

We ordered beers after shoving our way through the crowd to get to the toilets. (Beeline to the toilet is a universal language.) We started talking to one of the guys whose English was slightly better than our German but we had to talk around things. There's no real language barrier, especially in an age of smartphones and Google Translate. It was still early - maybe about 7pm - and the regulars began to trickle in. We decided to stay for a second beer.

The guy's daughter spoke good English and showed up a bit later. (I know they will never see this, but I'll still apologize for forgetting their names.)

Then things got out of hand:

And here was our problem. We had driven so couldn't stay any longer. But if we hadn't driven, we'd never have met them.

We still had an hour or so to go to Innsbruck, but there wasn't much traffic, so the drive was smooth. I *may* have gotten a speeding ticket...the speed was 100kpm and I was going 120 and at one of the signs there was a bright flash of light. I wonder how long it takes to find out.

We arrived to Innsbruck in total darkness, checked into our hotel, and went to find food. Not much was open - it was about 10:30 and restaurants closed at 11. We thought we had found a place but when we ordered, we were told that the kitchen had just closed. We had a beer or two and found a food truck outside with sausages and bread. It was enough. Pretty good, actually.

Here's the thing about mountain towns. You arrive in darkness unable to see anything but darkness around you. Then in the morning you wake up, and WOW, there they are:

And that's just the view from the hotel window.

We didn't have too much time in Innsbruck, but we did have the morning and early afternoon. It was four hours to Heidelberg, but it was enough time to wander around, have some lunch, and people watch.
our hotel

the museum and a giant apple


We found our way to the main square and had some lunch. We both had some delicious soups. I woke up with a couple of cappuccinos. It was the perfect place to watch people go by, and the sun grew stronger as the minutes passed.

we ate lunch as the sun was coming out


the queen of beers?

Medieval Innsbruck

Austrian UFO

stores under the train tracks

Unfortunately, we had to leave Austria and the majestic Alps. But not before driving through them.

To be continued...