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Trip Report Motel One and the Wolfgansee

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My second country on my recent trip was Austria. I had a meeting in Vienna, but have visited there before, so I left Switzerland (see separate trip report) for two nights in Salzburg enroute. The only way I knew I was in Lichtenstein was that Verizon told my cellphone the cost of making calls while in the country. The mountains and valleys of the tiny country and the Tyrol were beautiful. I think I could easily have enjoyed the scenery hiking in any of these as much as the Engalin valley in Switzerland. I also admired the scenery around Kosters, Switzerland, enroute, but it looked like a bustling metropolis after Murren.

After several nights of little sleep due to jet lag,elevation, and traffic, the Motel One Mirabell was heaven. Soundproof room, comfortable bed and pillow, and great air conditioning for the heat the city was experiencing. Highly recommended budget choice near the train station and not too far from the old town.

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    Oops. My husband walked in and interrupted my typing so I posted without previewing and correcting Wolfgangsee.

    What a difference a day makes. Sunday evening I walked along the river to old town among couples sitting on benches, a few folks sprawled on the grass reading books, others walking dogs with the old town in the background. The next evening just after 7 I walked the same route amongst young adults chugging wine from the bottle, tossing beers to each other, and just hanging out.

    I found Salzburg's old town small, but nice once you crossed the busy surrounding streets. Cemetery was interesting as well as the various facilities that were designed for or about horses. I was ambivalent about visiting the castle, but really wanted to see the marionette show. I dropped by the theater, but no shows on Sunday, so i picked up the brochure that listed the shows for Monday.

    I found a shopping area on the new town side and chose an outdoor table to order goulash and wine. The temperature was hot and most restaurants not cool, so a sidewalk cafe with umbrella and breeze offered the best location for comfort. However, the outdoor tables are also the smoking section. I always tried to get a corner table or sat apart from others if empty tables were around, but I am sure the number of smokers contributed to my loss of voice and now sinus infection upon return home. Although it was easier to find non-smoking hotels in Europe this trip, older hotels that were previously smoking still retain the stale smell and, I am sure, smoke residue that I breathed in throughout much of my trip. That's another reason the Motel One was so great--new and always nonsmoking.

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    Originally I had planned to visit the Wolfgangsee area on this trip, but decided I had too much planned, so I had booked one night in Salzburg as a stopover with possibility to extend to two. With the rain and clouds in Switzerland encouraging me to move on, I added the second night in Salzburg, but after spending the first evening walking the old town, I decided I would like to go to the lakes after all the next day. Because I had cut it from my trip, I had not compiled tourist information on the area, so would be working off my memory of what I had read about the transport and tourist options.

    Catching the bus at the Salzburg train station was easy, though the driver wanted me to buy a roundtrip ticket and I just wanted one-way to St Gilgen because I didn't know how/from where I would return. The last stop before the St Gilgen bus station was on the highway by a shopping center and large TI office. I considered getting off the bus to get my tourist information, but I didn't know how far I would then have to walk to town, so I decided to continue to wing it. Turns out the distance was easily walkable.

    I hadn't had time to eat breakfast, so I took the pastry and drink I had carried down to the waterfront and sat on a bench to eat, which attracted the interest of local ducks. The bench was by the boat dock, so I picked up the boat and cog wheel train schedule. I had passed the gondola enroute from the bus, so a plan was forming. Back up to the gondola, I bought a ticket and found one brochure in English, so I could understand the trails. The views riding up were great. I opted for the easy panorama trail (like many other folks) with a stop at a bench or two to enjoy the views. Unfortunately, the lovely tinkling of cow bells in the pastures also means you get to share the trails with cows, their droppings, and the resulting swarms of huge flies. Some benches were not inviting.

    The skies were clear, so I considered a longer walk that looped down and back or a walk to the base, but in the end decided I would be lazy and ride back down and check into the boat/cogwheel train combo on the other side. I was getting used to letting the trains and cable cars tackle all the elevation gain/loss for me. A quick walk through town to the boat dock gained me a ticket and admonition to go straight to the boat, it was time to leave.

    It was the last week of school in the area, so we had two school groups on the bus from Salzburg to St Gilgen (some standing). A younger group joined us on the boat, jostling for the railing, then any place for a perch or seat, constant chatter and exclamations, spitting into the boat spray. Children on school trips seem to never change.

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    My lack of trail info hampered my decision about the Schafberg train. I remembered reading about a nice hike either here or elsewhere in my research, but couldn't remember if it was at the top or the middle station and the ticket seller said I couldn't get off/on, just once up and down. So, I opted for the top. The ride up was scenic, but really rough--maybe it should carry those disclaimers used on rough rides at the amusement parks. Everyone was energetic, taking photos, chatting as we chugged up at noon. At the top there was a recorded announcement insisting one obtain a reservation for return, so I delayed view gratification and climbed up to the ticket window to pick a return time--one hour? two hours? The agent said most people spent one hour, but I wanted the option to walk around, to I chose 3pm. The views were great, if hazy. I basically wasted a couple of hours walking around the hotel/restaurant, over to a viewpoint, back to the station and down to a bench, etc. until time to return. I thought I would buy lunch at the terrace restaurant, but the heat discouraged my appetite. As 3pm grew near, people gathered by the arriving train. Cars were reserved for tour groups; people did not have reservations; families were being split up; panic seemed to be ensuing among some of the passengers while the train crew remained stoic. Some people filled in available holes while at least one family opted to wait an hour for the next train. The atmosphere was completely different on the descent. Hot, tired travelers slumped in their seats without looking out the windows; babies cried. Once the train slammed to a stop and everyone on the uphill side of the seats slid into those on the downhill side. The engineer jumped out of the engine, checked something for a few minutes, then got back in and we took off.

    After a bottle of water and an ice cream, I walked into St Wolfgang. Looked like a nice town with shops and restaurants. Once again, my lack of information left me unsure about how to get a bus back to Salzburg. I saw the busstop sign by a parking garage, but couldn't make out the direction, schedule, and had no idea about price. The city hall was closed and no TI in sight, so I chose a nice hotel to enter and ask for help at the desk. The clerk eventually was able to give me a bus timetable and said the stop was by the tunnel. I saw the tunnel by the parking garage. She also said I would need to take a local bus to Strobl and change to get to Salzburg. Ahhh, now I was remembering the complications and choices for hiking and sightseeing in the Lake Wolfgang area. Too tired to consider finding out about boats and other options, I picked up picnic food at the grocery and sat on steps by the parking garage for the bus, still bothered by the direction of traffic at the stop. 15 minutes ahead of schedule, the bus pulls up and I ask the driver about Salzburg. I get a long answer in German, gestures and pointing at the watch. OK, I will wait 15 minutes. Sure enough, 15 minutes later the same bus/driver cruises by in the opposite direction, so I jog across the street and follow around the curve where he is waiting for me at another, less visible bus sign. The 3 other people who had been sitting at the stop also got up and crossed the road, but then disappeared. Where did they go? The bus driver must be used to non-German speaking tourists and was probably shaking his head in disbelief at my lack of understanding. I attribute my inability to reason out the proper bus stop location to lack of signage and the heat. With my bus timetable, I knew when we were arriving at the transfer point, so the rest of the trip went smoothly.

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    I was faced with a dilemma.
    Arriving back in Salzburg around 7pm, I looked, smelled, and felt like I had been hiking and sitting in un-air conditioned trains all day. I was tired and hungry.

    I didn't remember what time the marionette show was and the brochures was in my hotel; I didn't have a ticket; I needed a shower; the brochure said "appropriate attire appreciated"--did that include dirty hiking clothes?

    The bus stop was probably half way in between the hotel and theater (I wasn't quite sure where I was when I got off). I decided the shower and clean clothes were not optional, so I headed to the hotel for quick shower and change, found the brochure, which said "7:30pm", looked at my watch, which said "7:30pm". Oh no! The puppets were starting without me.
    I decided to try my luck, walk again to the theater, and see if I could get in.

    A bored young man (usher) listened to his iPod and a middle aged lady sat behind the counter (coat/bag check?) at the theater. The conversation went something like,
    "Can I get a ticket and go in late?"
    "Do you have a ticket?"
    "No, I didn't know if I would make it, so I meant to buy a ticket before the show. Can I buy a ticket?"
    "If you had a ticket, you could go in late."
    "Can I buy a ticket? I am leaving Salzburg tomorrow, so this is my only chance to see the marionettes."
    "The box office is closed."
    "May I pay you for the ticket and you give it to the box office when it opens? Are there seats available"
    "The box office is closed."
    "Is there any way for me to get a ticket (thinking electronic)?"
    "The box office is closed. You can come tomorrow. (checking schedule) It is the Sound of Music. At 7:30pm."
    "I have to be in Vienna for work tomorrow evening. Is there any way I can get in?"
    "If you had a ticket, you could go in."
    I thought about hanging around until intermission to see if I could buy a ticket off someone who wasn't going back in, but I wasn't sure she would let me in knowing I hadn't bought a ticket in advance.

    Tired and disappointed, I found a cafe and ate an entree salad with grilled chicken--glad these are generally popular in many European countries these days. The sort of light dinner I would have at home on a hot evening.

    I had to deal with some work problems the next morning that delayed my departure to the train station. Sort of a comedy of errors. I asked the staff about the Westbahn train (half the cost of Austrian rail) and they recommended it with purchase of ticket on board. I knew they ran about once an hour. Once the work crisis taken care of via Internet, I packed up and checked the train schedule. There is a two hour gap late morning, so I could sprint the 10 minutes to the station and just catch a Westbahn train, else pay double or wait 2 hours. I briskly pulled my bag along the street, crossing with the light to find...SIDEWALK CLOSED! Without breaking stride, rather than backtrack, I turned down the street that should be parallel to the station. I see a woman cutting through an opening beneath a building, but resist the urge to follow--she might be leading me into a blind alley. Eventually I turn the corner and recognize where I caught the bus in front of the station the previous day, so just a block past the entrance. I weave between the pedestrian traffic, head for the track listed on the web to find...ESCALATOR CLOSED! Quick decision to turn around to the elevator rather than lift bag up the stairs (I can do, but avoid if possible and I have hurrying and getting hot). Quick elevator response, riding up glass elevator...TRAIN IS MOVING...gone when door opens. With resignation, I purchase my ticket and board the next RailJet to Vienna.

    What I didn't know at the time was that a colleague in Vienna would ask me a couple of days later, "I have a ticket to see the marionettes at Schonbrunn Palace tomorrow and I'm looking for someone to go with me. Do you want to go see the marionettes after our meeting if I can get a second ticket?" The Magic Flute was magic after all.

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