Alright, I’m typing this on my phone, because we have no time on the bus today, and therefore need to improvise a bit.
Breakfast was good at the German hotel. They had lots of bread goods, German sausages, prosciutto and cheese, cereal, and other stuff. The croissant I grabbed at the last minute was one of the best I’ve ever had. Conversation revolved around everyone’s nights, considering a lot of us had gone off and stayed out despite Matt’s suggestion not to. My favorite story was from the group that tried to go to “Milk Bar,” apparently one of the hotter clubs in Munich. They got there and the bouncer pointed at each one of them and yelled “NEIN!” denying them entry for arbitrary reasons. After most of the party had been denied, he let in Michael, a handsome boy from Australia. Apparently he fit the bill for being cool enough for Milk Bar.
We hopped on the coach and started making our way to Innsbruck. As per usual, the not-so-awake all fell back asleep, and the very much awake were all chatting. I was writing. It’s all good. Suddenly, as we were driving, we found ourselves surrounded by rocky mountains, beautiful charming old towns, and meadows dotted with flowers. We had reached Austria. The Sound of Music has not lied to us, this place was almost unrealistically picturesque. The sleepy people started waking up, the chatty people quieted down, and soon it seemed the whole bus had their noses pressed to the windows to take it all in. Chrisleen from South Africa joined me at the front of the bus to take pictures, and then after a while, switched to “mental pictures.” I supported her in that. There’s a fine line between the desire to capture the sights and take them home with you and the desire to soak in all the beauty mentally. Following the photo session, the two of us spent quite a while discussing South Africa and how amazing it is. She is from Cape Town after all!
Soon we were in Innsbruck, one of the smaller cities in Austria. The outskirts of town were modern as we drove in. We parked the bus and were led on foot through another section of town cornered off by an old, palace-like building. This new area was much more old world than the modern city we had passed through. The buildings painted with murals, colorful flags hung from windows, al fresco dining was available at every cafe. It actually had a very similar vibe to Quebec City. We snapped a few pictures and decided to go exploring.
Our first stop was at the Swarovski store. Swarovski is actually an Austrian company, and its flagship store was right there in Innsbruck. It had an attached gallery and museum full of crystals in many varieties, from a model of a fly with giant crystal eyes to showgirl costumes from Vegas-type cabaret events. Upstairs they have the store, which offers crystals from 30 euros to amounts of money I probably can’t fathom. I bought a pair of earrings there. They cost 30 euros.
Outside the shop I came across something I hadn’t yet seen on this trip, something I had been keen to find since Amsterdam: a street artist! He was selling all of his watercolor prints of Innsbruck. I looked through his collection and noticed quite a variety of art styles, from impressionist to abstract. I asked him how long he’d been painting, and he answered, “In Innsbruck? 12 years.” How long before that? Who knows. I bought a watercolor with a gold leaf Golden Roof painted on. Time to add it to the collection. I will need more frames.
I also bought a flag and a postcard but those are items that are less exciting and don’t deserve full paragraphs.
Now, the next thing Drew and I obtained was something I’d been looking forward to the whole trip: strudel. As someone obsessed with the movie Inglorious Basterds, I have been waiting for some good strudel in my life, with crème on the side. If you’ve seen the movie, you know that the scene in the restaurant with the strudel is one of the greatest scenes in movie history. Now, I was a little worried because I’m not a huge apple pie fan. I thought there was an off chance I wouldn’t like strudel either. Pardon my German, but that was some good scheize. It was flaky on the outside, gooey on the inside, and mind-blowingly delicious. Again, we need more German cuisine in America, and those restaurants should all have Austrian sweets.
We walked around a bit more and popped into a few more shops. The area was crammed with tourists from all over, so it was a bit hard getting by. We came across a pair of living statues that were both very talented (and also an imitation Mickey Mouse who was scary). After a mere two hours, we boarded the coach and were back on the road.
We drove for another three hours and spent most of it talking with people on the bus. We crossed into Italy soon after leaving Innsbruck. Everyone was awake and energized so it was good conversation. We stopped at a rest area and I found them: Kinder Surprise! The real deal from my childhood! I bought two with the intention to smuggle one back into the states, but it had already started melting. So I ate both. The blend of white and milk chocolate was as delicious as ever. One had a dog figurine inside, the other had Kung Fu Panda. Cool.
We arrived at our hotel, which is nice, though somewhat cramped. Kelsey, Charmaine and I took some time to just lay on our beds and deflate before heading off to dinner.
Dinner was included, and took place in a little cafe down the street. I sat at a table with Chrisleen, Shane, Ashley, Brendan, and other Ashley. Most of us opted to try the Bellini, the famous Venetian cocktail of champagne and peach juice. It was delicious. We started with bread and salad, then the main course was rigatoni bolonaise. Now if you know me, you know I don’t like ground meat, it weirds me out. But this sauce was so light it didn’t bother me, and in fact it was quite delicious.
After dinner we headed across the street to a local bar. The poor waitress running the joint was an absolute saint for dealing with us, as we were being rather loud and kept coming back for more drinks. We got more bellinis and limoncello, which is just as gross as I remember. We all crowded around a table in their outdoor bar, playing games and buying beers for TJ, our bus driver, whose day off was the next day. A special shout out for the guy who makes the trip possible: TJ.
Today was just a taste of Venice, tomorrow we get the real deal. It’s my second time around, hopefully it’ll be fun!