Last post I was scrambling to write before an early train to Innsbruck. …I’d been planning a hiking trip for weeks. Matt and Kathleen were game for an alpine adventure, and the main problem seemed to be choosing one or more of the dozens of mountain huts/lodges (Hütte) available to hikers. However, we hadn’t foreseen that even at the moderate elevation of many of Austria’s mountains, winter is loath to leave and snow lingers into June, with many huts still closed till mid-month. Moreover, a streak of appallingly rainy weather for much of Central Europe boded no good for pleasant tramping. But, “where there’s a will, there’s a way,” right?
…After two hours uphill walking in a steady rain, we have discovered the inadequacies of our rain gear, the benefits of optimistic company, and the motivating influence of signage telling us we are just ten minutes from our hut. Images of dry (or drier) clothes and a hearty, warm meal have bolstered spirits. Just as we are reveling in seeing our overnight accommodations on a neighboring slope, we round a corner and find our path blocked by no less that an avalanche! With stiff fingers, I dig into my backpack, locate my cell phone, and call the hut owner. Yes, he’s at the hut; yes, we’re welcome to come; yes, it is possible to cross the avalanche — nothing is coming down from above at present…. But, he can’t take responsibility for telling us what to do. But, fog is moving in. But, if we cross, we should come one at a time…. Reluctantly, we turn around and head back down the mountain, hoping the hostel in Innsbruck that we’ve booked for the following night will have space yet for three wet late-arrivals. Part-way down, we meet a volunteer search-and-rescue vehicle and happily swallow our pride to ask for a ride back to our car. …After securing accommodations at the hostel; putting on dry clothes; and, oddly enough, discovering a long-jump/high-jump tournament taking place in the rain in the middle of the diminutive, historic town square, we are in the perfect frame of mind to enjoy a hearty Austrian dinner (including the best Wiener Schnitzel I’ve tried yet).
The next day we opted for a day-trip to southern Germany to join the tourist hoards at Neuschwanstein Castle (of Disney fame). As expected, we were wowed by castle elegance and opulence. We also got very wet again, as the rain kept coming and castle viewing demanded a fair bit of walking.
Monday we aimed at an early start, hoping the 5 or 5 1/2 trip back to Vienna could be expanded to take in a late morning stroll in Salzburg or a sobering afternoon visit to the Mauthausen Concentration Camp. As it turned out, our trip was extended, but now as planned. With the closure of the Autobahn due to flooding, we waited eons in piled-up traffic before taking a (scenic) detour through small-town Germany. How glad I was to be with friends, and optimistic ones at that! Helped along by mutual good-humor, plus some good old Jerome K. Jerome (if you don’t know his Three Men in a Boat, you have not laughed your year’s quota yet), we arrived after 10 hours of driving in Vienna.
Believe-it-or-not, before Matt and Kathleen left for home, we did get a bit of nice weather. We also took in three cultural highlights — the Imperial Treasury (the richly embroidered robes of the medieval Knights of the Order of the Golden Fleece stood out particularly), a performance by the Wiener Philharmoniker, and Puccini’s Tosca. (The opera was so incredibly wonderful that I went back a week or so later. A day or so after that, I had some snippet of music running through my head. I found myself trying to think what gripping movie I’d just seen, but then realized the music and its dramatic association were from the opera. It’s the first time I’ve been caught up emotionally in the story line of an opera.)
…Good-byes were said, and the Bowmans headed back to New York. As though summer had waited till they left, the sun promptly came out in full force. The whole city was catapulted from unusually cool temperatures to 90+ Fahrenheit, although no one dared complain too loudly. Schools, universities, homes, and much of the public transportation system are not air conditioned, so everyone just felt wilted. I decided that if the narrative of Jacob and Esau were being lived out today, Esau for sure would sell his birthright for a scoop of gelato.
Dropping by both schools in Mödling one day, I found students and teachers in survival mode. Stepping into one class at Bachgasse to say good-bye to a favorite class of 11th graders, I found them all eating popsicles. With testing done for the year and no AC or fans, school was basically a lost cause.
Note: The rose gardens of the Volksgarten, rather than wilting, prosper with the onset of summer! Flatmate Rachel and I enjoyed a scenic stroll on her birthday.
…The joys of living in Europe also mean celebrating happenings back home from a distance. Mid-June I missed the wedding of my friends Jessica and Paul. I’ve known Jessica 25 years! Emails to and fro the day of the wedding (thanks, Jessica!), photos and reports from family, and a somewhat distracting picnic with an Austrian friend helped offset feeling homesick that day! …It was fun that the bride and groom decided to use the guestbook I made for their new home for wedding guests.
…Summer’s arrival has meant lots of transitions! At the beginning of June I moved out of my apartment, which I am renting out for the summer. I spent a few weeks dog-sitting for friends traveling back to the States and will spend the coming weeks either house-sitting or traveling with Hannah. However, more reporting — namely, Hannah’s arrival! — deserves a separate posting. So, stay-tuned next week!