I clearly remember boarding the train out of Passau. I wasn’t sure where I was headed, but I do remember seeing the grassy fields of the Austrian countryside. Almost eleven years later, my husband and I would take the same route into Austria for a day trip, but in August 1997, I was heading east to meet my friends and wouldn’t be coming back to Passau. It was a Sunday and there was a handsome Austrian conductor cruising up and down the aisle, checking tickets. I remember looking at the pretty little chalets as we kept chugging toward Vienna.
I decided to get off in Linz, which is Austria’s third largest city. Linz is known for many things. Adolf Hitler was born near Linz and spent his childhood there. I didn’t know that when I got off the train, though. I just remember hauling my bag out of the train station. There was an Ibis just across the street. To my eyes in August 1997, it looked positively decadent. When I saw it again in June 2008, it looked like it was a couple of steps above a Motel 6.
I didn’t feel like wandering around, looking for a hotel, so I checked in. I think it cost about $80 or $90, which was a lot of money back then. But the room had air conditioning, Sky TV, and a comfortable bed with an ugly bedspread. I stowed my ugly backpack and started walking around the city. Most everything was closed, though, because it was Sunday. At some point, I ended up in a konditorei, which is sort of like a bakery. I had coffee and cake, because I figured that’s what people did in Austria. I had shillings, too, because that was Austria’s currency in 1997.
This photo was taken in Linz in June 2008. My husband and I had been walking around the city and I happened to notice this well-hidden biergarten… It was a lovely place to drink beer!
A few hours later, I found myself in a book store which had some American titles, including 9 1/2 Weeks, a notoriously sexy and kinky book that was later made into a horrible movie starring Mickey Rourke. I bought the book and stopped for dinner at a little restaurant, where a very friendly older woman waited on me. I don’t remember her speaking any English, but I do remember enjoying the meal, which left me stuffed.
I wasn’t impressed with Linz, so I decided to move on after one night. I hopped on the train and got off in St. Polten, which is sort of a suburb of Vienna… I don’t think there’s much to St. Polten, except it’s close to where Josef Fritzl lived. Anyway, I stayed there for three nights because I liked the hotel I stumbled across. It had a single bed with a fluffy duvet, a private bathroom, and a small TV.
I actually liked St. Polten, too. It was a cute little city. My first day there, I decided to buy a new pair of hiking boots because I figured I’d want something more substantial for my feet. I went into a shoe store and found a pair of blue suede boots that were made in Italy and had maroon accents. They were pretty. I put them on and liked them. I don’t remember how much they cost, but I had them for the next eight years or so, until the soles finally tore. They were really nice boots!
I also went to The Body Shop and bought nail and toenail clippers. I still have the toenail clippers. They’re very well made. And I bought two beautiful silk scarves that I have no occasion to wear.
At one point, I was walking around St. Polten and ran across a string quartet playing Mozart’s Eine Klein Nacht Musik in the middle of the walkplatz. I remember being very impressed by how beautifully they played that music and that I got to hear it for free, just because I happened to be there at the time.
I also remember watching an episode of Trapper John, M.D. dubbed in German as well as a very annoying ad for a cleaning product called Lemon Frisch (or something like it). It had a jingle set to the melody of “Lollipop”.
I was almost sorry to leave St. Polten, even though it’s not all that notable as Austrian cities go. But I had to get to Zilina, Slovakia. If I recall correctly, the journey took all day… I got to Vienna, changed trains to get to Bratislava, then once I got to Bratislava and got some local currency, bought tickets to Zilina.
Stay tuned for the next installment… Slovakia.