Written by Sam-v on 20 Aug, 2005
The next day I went down to breakfast and a German tourist started talking to me. He said he had spotted me yesterday and wondered if I could give him a tour of Bad Gastein, as he was new to the place. I hadn't a…Read More
The next day I went down to breakfast and a German tourist started talking to me. He said he had spotted me yesterday and wondered if I could give him a tour of Bad Gastein, as he was new to the place. I hadn't a clue what I was going to do that day anyway so I agreed.
I was terrible at giving tours; I showed him the post office, the bank, and the train station (which he came from), so I ended up taking him on a hike!
While we hiked up the mountains with our ears popping to equalise pressure, I asked him what his profession was, and he said he was a Roman Catholic priest--"But don't worry--ha, ha--I won't convert you!"
He was very funny, and if it wasn't for him, I don't think I would've found my way up to the very peak of the mountain I had been climbing all week, because every other time, I would get lost or start at 10am and just get down to the city by 7pm.
We talked philosophy, he called me "a very wise man" from a point I was making about the terrorist bombings in London, and I can't remember what I said--I'm sorry, but it must have been good to impress him. Occasionally he would stop walking and outstretch his arms to present them to the great view or even the wildflowers on the side of the path, take a deep breath, and sigh!
As we were hiking, we heard someone shout, "YEEHAW!" in the distance. Martin, the priest, shouted back "YEEHAW!" as well, and at first I didn't say anything, as if it were a German thing, but I couldn't stop myself from asking again the next time he did it. He didn't exactly give a reason for his behaviour, but I suppose it had to be the closest thing I had heard that week to yodeling.
On the peaks of the mountains on either side of the valley were huge wooden crosses, marking memorials to those Bad Gastein soldiers who died in the First World War. We reached one just after midday, after escaping from a group of cows outside a wooden cabin in the forest and requesting safe passage from wild houses milling around on the rocky side of the peak. It was an adventure, to say the least, but we stood like free men whose conclusions were uncertain, in the clouds at the start of a much longer journey. He whistled a traditional tune, and I played "The man who would be king" theme music on my harmonica. We didn't need the crowns to be kings.
On the very last day, we went our separate ways because he wanted to explore the mountains further, whereas I had spent the entire week doing that, so I wanted to lie in and work on my story. He was fine with that and went to the local church in the morning, as it was Sunday and all.
In the evening, our paths crossed again in the restaurant as I was talking to the American girl I met the day before. I made sure I shook his hand one more time and that he had my email address to send me the picture of me on my harmonica. He disappeared to his room, and that was the last I saw of Martin the priest. I paid the waiter for my spaghetti bolognaise and beer and wished the girl "happy smoking" as she left for a fags machine outside
I awoke the next morning and made sure everything was packed before handing in my key and finding out that I actually owed them an extra night for my stay, then I left for the trainstation hoping to see more of Salzburg before heading for the Flughafen. I should've predicted that my bag would be too heavy to freely lug around the city in so I ended up catching a cab to go to the airport about 2 1/2 hours early. I caught the plane to Amsterdam, and I knew how it worked this time, so I headed straight for the departure lounge, as my tickets were telling me that the plane would be boarding earlier. I doubted this, as the screens didn't show any flights to Norwich yet, but I didn't want to take a chance.
I finally boarded the KLM plane to Norwich from Amsterdam. The Norfolk company certainly stands out from any other company. As we were about to land the speakers boomed, "Could you please make sure you don't have your mobile phone switched on as we land, thank you," and within about 10 seconds, someone (the woman sitting next to me) started playing with her loud ringtones as we were clearly breaching the clouds below. I should have shouted at her, but I felt too shocked by her stupidity to say anything.
We landed at Norwich airport and were walking towards the entrance. Every person who has flown anywhere would know that they should keep their passport ready until they had definitely left the airport, especially with the scare of terrorists recently. We walk through the doors and down a narrow hallway with blank walls either side of us except for the wall opposite with had two humungus yellow signs with thick black print spelling, "Please keep your passport ready for inspection." Well, of course, I thought, I have mine in my pocket right now. There was even a woman standing beside the signs whose job was specifically to remind us to get our passports ready. When we turned the corner, we found ourselves confronted with luggage inspectors and who also--surprise--wanted to inspect passports. This still came as quite a shock to most people there, as they started rummaging through to the bottom of their bags to get their passports. I was going crazy by the time I reached the luggage conveyor, but when I did, I grabbed my backpack and ran out through the doors to find Mum and Dad waiting directly in front of me to welcome me back to British soil.
It was awesome!!! I felt like a little boy next to his dad, but with an oversized backpack strapped to his shoulders as I checked in the luggage and bid farewell to Roy, but as soon as I was being frisked by customs after the…Read More
It was awesome!!! I felt like a little boy next to his dad, but with an oversized backpack strapped to his shoulders as I checked in the luggage and bid farewell to Roy, but as soon as I was being frisked by customs after the metal detector bleeped me, I felt like a new man!
Everything seemed so easy after that, like I didn't even have to think about finding the right gate, getting on the right plane, getting on the bus to take me to the airport in Amsterdam, and then getting on conveyor belts all around the airport to get to Gate 23 or whatever.
I did feel distressed and panicky when I was on my own, unpacking in the hotel. I remember that I first rushed out with my daypack and headed for a nice-looking restaurant.
I was speaking more German than English to everyone, so naturally I was surprised when and American asked me if I spoke any German yet and that he hadn't spoken any! I later found out that if you speak English to them, they'll speak it back and vice-versa, so that probably made me think that so few people spoke good English. I loved it anyway! Trying to communicate to people was one of the best things about it. Once when I was hiking in the mountains, I stopped by a wooden cabin restaurant that overlooked the mountain valley behind a cloud of mist, and a German couple started talking in English to me. It turned out that they seemed to know about as much English as I knew German, and it was hilarious, because they were so eager to keep talking, even if it was very difficult, but we were speaking English, German, and using sign language. I even used, for the first time, my German line, "When the cat is away, the mice come in and play on the table." I obviously got it right, because they burst out laughing!
I spent most of my weeks hiking, once going to Salzburg, which was amazing, and once hiking to Bad Hofgastein (a little city about 3 miles away).
When I went to Salzburg, I finally found out where all the English-speaking tourists went. There were loads of Americans and probably English, too. There were lots of music players on the streets playing traditional music, portrait painters who would paint your picture for so many euros, one poor lady trying to sell wooden chicken puppets on strings for 12€ (good luck!), and a free concert of these amazing English children musicians playing kind of jazzy music like "Tequila." I've got a video of them. They were playing next to the Mirabel Gardens, which I, of course, had to see
I hiked to Bad Hofgastein in 30°C, which was amazing. I walked through a rich neighbourhood with expensive houses and gardens and swimming pools. I crossed and went under bridges that went over a rough river, and later I hit the dirt track and was properly in between cities like a proper wonderer or vagabond. Huge mountains peaked from the left and right all the way down the valley, and there was a hazy, snow-capped mountain in the distance in front of me. In between the cities were grassy meadows and farm land with these gorgeous basins that had mountain water pouring from a pipe inside, for sweating travellers like myself to wash their faces with icy-cold water in the boiling sun. I found these all over the hiking trails, too.
When I returned from Bad Hofgastein, I reached my hotel just in time for one heck of a barbecue. I hadn't even released that the hotel had a restaurant for the evenings, but they did, and had one amazing chef and cheapest prices for the best meals in all the restaurants I had been in here in Bad Gastein. Two sausages wrapped in bacon, grilled steak, a salad with cold juicy tomatoes and baked potatoes, and a large beer was around 8€!!! Something like that in any other restaurant would've cost 13€ at the very least.
I spoke to a man sitting by a table outside, "Ist der plaz heir frei?" "Yah, bitte," so I sat down and we started talking in English. He was perhaps the most educated person I've ever met. A travelling musician on an amazing contract in Bad Gastein, he said he would rather return to England, where he had last been working. He was Austrian, but spoke amazingly good English and was a professor in this, professor in that. He had been taught under many different professors in many different universities all over the world in different instruments, and he was in his 40s when he looked like he was in his 20s. As I was talking to him, an American girl sat next to me and we all started talking. She was 18 and doing a Europe holiday before carrying on in her studies. She had been travelling for 2 months and thought it was ridiculous for me to be travelling for only a week, but then she thought it wouldn't be so bad living closer to Austria than here.
That was one fine day by anyone's standard. I was sweating like a pig. On the way to and back from Hofgastein, I could drink any amount and it would all drain as sweat. It was great.
I was so thin by the end of the holiday that I would've needed new trousers and belt if it wasn't for my money pouch.