To start, we traveled _all_ the way back to Munich, all 4 hours. I gather that the official, supported, tour began at Prague and our visit to Munich at the beginning was a chance to hang out with Tito Eddy, Mama’s brother. I felt a tiny bit better once I understood this. A tiny bit.
So we go all the way into the center of Munich to see the BMW building we’ve passed twice already (from the hotel to the bus station, then from the bus station back past our hotel; this has been an interesting experience of deja vu all over and over (and over) again). We spent around 45 minutes there, though a good chunk of that time was too-ing and fro-ing. At least I could go pee for free. Pay to pee? What’s an American to think? How about this: water isn’t free either! Even plain old tap water costs money! Even the ‘free’ bathrooms expect a donation – to the keeper of the bathroom, I guess. Anyway, we spent a few minutes in the giant BMW building that seeks to extract money for kitsch and was successful in a couple of places.
Then began the odyssey. We left Prague around 7 AM and got to our final destination at 8 PM, for a 13 hour trip to cover slightly more than 550 kilometers, what should have been around 5.5 hours driving. Of that trip, except for potty stops (for reasons that escape me, they didn’t want us to use the bus’ toilet, except in an emergency) and the brief stop in Munich’s BMW store and another stop so inconsequential I can’t even remember for sure it happened three days later, we spent the rest of the time in the bus in stop-and-go traffic that makes the DC rush hour beltway look like a wide-open race track. Part of the issue, it seems, is all trucks are required to stop for some sort of inspection crossing from Germany into Austria (I guess the EU isn’t as open as I thought, though the passenger cars had no issue (I’m told getting back to Germany requires even passenger cars to be examined, but we won’t see that when we return)). The two lane road turned into what was basically a single lane road as the right-hand lane was almost entirely parked trucks. Yep, parked. As in not moving at all. Not that we were setting any sort of speed record, of course, spending a good chunk of that time perfection stationary. Wheee!
The AC wasn’t working in the hotel we stayed in Innsbruck and, get this, the windows had no screens. WTF? No bugs in Europe? Plus, we’d have to leave our curtains open all night, letting the glare of the industrial park in. Yep, industrial park. I took a couple of pictures of the amazing Alps, with an industrial park in the foreground. A word on pictures: I decided to wait until I get home to gin up a post with pictures. First, as I believe I mentioned, this POS Chromebook wants to mirror my wife’s phone (twice! Since it already did a mirror once – with, btw, no evident way to delete it; to think this steaming POS is built on Linux) rather than letting my copy selected pictures. Second, once emailed, I have to go through this rather idiotic chore of copying the files to the Google drive, then to my local hard drive, then run an app that lets me FTP the images to my webserver, only to then be able to make use of them. I’ll do a single post at the end with the pictures I took along with, perhaps, some select pictures others have taken.
Selfies. WTF is it with selfies? Every picture has the same big heads blocking the view of whatever interesting people set out to photograph in the first place. The ‘funny’ thing is they look exactly the same in every selfie, with, possibly, a change of clothes now and again. It’s evidently a human thing, I see everyone doing it no matter the culture. Here and there are people taking pictures without fat human heads in them and I want to shake their hands for daring to be different.
OK, enough digression… At Innsbruck I did something I actually enjoyed, we took a ride up the Nordkette Cable Car. First we took a funicular to get to the bottom of the cable car, then the cable car, to another cable car, to the top: Hafelekar. A rarified 2,700 meters (8,850 ft) above sea level. I felt light headed even at the intermediate station, even more at the top. The spectacular view was marred by some substantial haze putting a blue cast on everything. Oh well. Eliz didn’t care for the height and kept complaining her ‘butt was puckering.’ That being said, she did choose to ride at the window, so I guess she’s a closet adrenaline junkie. Speaking of which, our also height-fearing son only made it to the intermediate gondola station, though that he made it up the funicular and first leg of the gondola speaks volumes. My sister-in-law took a video out the back of the second gondola and I expect he’ll still get the willies when he watches it.
At the top I was so light headed I was just going to sit and enjoy the view. Then my nephew (once removed, I believe, as the son of a niece, though we tend to just ignore all those issues) Kaelan decided he needed to climb to the top. Which challenged my wife too much, so she headed up, which, of course, forced me to go. I was huffing and gasping as I did my best (but still terrible) mountain goat jog up and, surprisingly (nay, shockingly), my dizziness went away when I finally caught my breath. At the top we saw what looked to me like sheep, but surely must have been goats (the grass was cropped quite close) and crow-looking birds with bright yellow beaks and orange/red feet. I sent a picture to a ornithophile friend of mine for identification.
After that we visited the Swarovski art museum. Not very interesting to me on the inside, but they have a park/garden I relaxed in. More whining about people taking pictures: why not actually stop and experience the thing you’re documenting? The sunlight prisming off the crystals can’t, in my mind, be captured by a still photograph. I believe, at minimum, it must be a video. But I feel a video still does it gross injustice and the proper way to ‘capture’ it is to simply sit and watch for a while. Which is exactly what I did.
Fortunately, leaving Innsbruck was nowhere as painful as arriving, though we still spent a lot of time in the bus. We went to Salzburg where we did that typical human caterpillar thing I hate so much (flashbacks to bootcamp, perhaps) where we all crept along extending and collapsing. Eventually we wind up in the city center where about a third of us simply planted our asses and waited for the rest. Interesting old-looking European architecture, but, frankly, seen one, seen all. We had drinks and desserts at a little cafe (I was totally carb loading!) then headed to visit a little town called Kitzbuhel. There we got out of the bus and went downhill for a very long time to get to the city center, where some sort of holiday was going on. The weather turned and we lost our sunny day in favor of cold and windy. Which started raining the moment we decide to head back to the bus. The highlight (for me) was the race pushing the wheelchairs back up the side of the mountain we descended. Surprisingly, I wasn’t sore the next day. (I believe I won, but probably only because my nephew didn’t realize we were competing.) That night we stayed in a hotel without even non-working AC. So we slept with the door open (non-screened door, btw) until I finally started to get cold in the very early morning. The dinner was very good and I was shocked I didn’t suffer regurge that night. I did stick with a single plate, though, perhaps that helped.
We drove around a number of lakes, stopped at one where I once again pushed a wheelchair up a steep-assed mountain (no racing this time). This takes us to the next portion that didn’t suck (notice I’ve been avoiding breaking out a thesaurus to describe the various ways this trip has been miserable): a boat ride across one of the lakes. Some beautiful scenery and the ability to relax and either sit or stand or even move around, as I liked, instead of being trapped in a bus seat.
As a btw, we watched “Sound of Music” on the bus (spread over several periods, or ‘seasons’ as our guide joked). Clearly I’d never seen it before. I thought I had, when I was very young, since it seems I know all the music, but I had no idea of the plot and it seems at least some portion of it would have stuck. It was interesting, but I felt rushed. The love story really hammered along, with barely the token of conflict from the Baroness. Indeed, when she bowed out and the whole wedding montage started I was sure it was some sort of dream or something and Baroness was going to get back into the action somehow. I guess plot takes back seat in a musical.
We’re in Vienna now, in another hotel that has poorly working AC. It’s set below 15C and I should have icicles on my nose, but I’m in shorts and a TShirt and quite comfortable. Breakfast was OK, but I’m writing a blog post instead of a script because I still need to decompress from the stress of the trip. Tonight we’re taking a night train to Zurich, today is the official end of our guided tour. Tomorrow the family explores Zurich and perhaps I can do some writing (a sleeper car for us, so ideally I’ll arrive refreshed) then we take a train back to Munich for the night in the same hotel we started in. From thence a non-stop flight from Munich back to the states. I expect this will be my last in-country post and will do the wrap up when we’re back home (along with the pictures).