Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Gonna be a bright, bright sunshiny day

I had a good day. I saw some really cool things, took a beautiful bus ride up through the lake region, ate a finger-licking good piece of cake (I ate it with my hands) and bought a lamp. 

But the single best moment of my day came a short while ago, when I got into my room, took off my wet shoes and socks, hung up my rain coat and climbed into bed otherwise fully clothed. I plan to remain here until my toes no longer feel frost bitten. 

I know what you're thinking. How on earth can I be cold when I'm dressed like the Stay Puft marshmallow man? 

The mining accoutrements were only temporary. Unfortunately, I was not strutting around in those bad boys all day. 

But yes, for an hour I was a salt miner. Hallstatt is one of three salt mines owned by an Austrian company and the oldest salt mine in the world. I don't remember reading about it in my guidebook, but when I got here I discovered it was all the rage. 

I think the rage is largely because you slide down miners slides. On the second, longer one, the guide warned us we'd be getting pictures taken so look as stupid as possible.  


OK, it actually did get a little goofier. 

Today I was in Hallstatt, in the Salzkammergut Lakes region outside of Salzburg. It's mountainous and there are huge beautiful lakes around random turns in the road, and in general it is very pleasant. 

Is what I would say if it hadn't been raining all day, except for higher up the mountain where it was snowing pretty good. This unfortunate weather situation resulted in me not going up 2,000 meters to this glass viewing area that's supposed to be freaky/awesome. (I could have gone; I just wouldn't have seen anything but fog.) It also meant I've been cold for pretty much the last 12 hours. 

And not just a little cold. I went up the mountain to go to an ice cave. Interestingly, that may have been the warmest I was all day, until now. After trekking up and down there in the heavy snow and then going through the cave, I went to the mine, also not warm. Then I walked around town looking for sachertorte, this chocolate cake with apricot jam between the layers for which Austria is well known, and the Beinhaus, a church building wherein the skulls of people who have been dug up (they're running out of room) are decorated and put on display. It sounds weird, yes, but I'm learning that other cultures have much different attitudes toward death than does America. I suspect they're more normal too. 

I found the cake. I found the church too, but after it had closed. Fortunately, there are more bone churches in my future. 

Then, still in the rain, I headed back to the bus stop for a 5:30 bus. It never came. I realized too late that schedule was only on holidays. The next one was coming in an hour -- a very wet, cold, long hour. 

I realized anew today the pros and cons of solo traveling. One major pro, besides a diet consisting of bread, milk, fruit and chocolate cake, is that when I do stupid things -- stand in front of a non-electric door waiting for it to open, starting to get off the bus after the driver tells me my stop is the next one -- no one I know is around to witness it. 

The cons are getting lost alone and standing outside in the freezing rain in a tiny little Austrian town with wet shoes and frozen fingers wondering if your bus is ever going to come alone. (Except I wasn't technically alone. A half dozen of us were in the same boat.)

I spent my time alternating between thinking about how cold my feet were and formulating a plan for what to do if the bus didn't come. I'd gotten to step 3:
1: Start walking. 
2: Hitchhike to where my connecting bus was. 
3: Cry. 

Not a particularly good plan, but at least I had next steps. It didn't help that the bus was 10 minutes late and I was seriously debating the hitch hiking. (I didn't do it, Mom. If I had I never would have mentioned it here and would have sworn Rachel to secrecy.)

But, despite the uncooperative weather, I survived, even my toes. 

Oh, and here's the goofy:

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