Tuesday, January 08, 2002

The Hills Are Alive

The Hills Are Alive

There is something about these mountains surrounding us that makes me want to burst out into song. Ron and the few people on the street would be the worse for wear on their ears if I did, but the impulse is there. If I had the proper amount of caffeine this morning, it may have provided the needed energy to thrust myself into impulsive behavior. The air is cold, but pure. The surreal surroundings continue with the streets still vacant of mobs of people.

Ron needed to make his third trip into the tourist information office to gather yet more information. When he was finished playing twenty questions, he herded me to a bookstore, where he found they sold books in English. He needed something for the train. He targeted a selection, but we decided to return to purchase it so as not to have to carry it around. In the back of my mind, I had the same idea about shirts.

Our passes gave us access to the ski slope on the south slope of the mountains so we needed to see this view also. This one is so steep; it takes two funiculars to ascend to the top. The first ride is about twenty minutes at which point you disembark on a waiting platform and then enter the funicular on the other side for the completion of the ride. This took another twenty minutes. Of course, my mind is working overtime on possible tragedies that could occur during this part of the travel experience, so I had to pay particular attention to my body, so that it would not react. It is like trying to concentrate on an opera, why watching that your four year old child is not squirming in their seat next to you.

When we reached the summit, it was not as well developed as the northern peak. There was no lodge per se. The boarding station for the funicular was the only building with the exception of a glass dome out on the edge of the peak that served as a small bar. Non-existent were the creature comforts of a table and chair from which to view the panorama while conserving precious body heat. Our or rather my only option was to stand out on the ledge of this mountain to drink in the view hoping that the intoxicating effect did not bolster me in being whisked over the side. They do not believe in guardrails. After twenty minutes and on the verge of hypothermia, I was ready to make the descent while fighting off the possible perils that this could involve.

After kissing the flat ground, we went back to the center of town to a quaint teashop within the Tirol (also spelled Tyrol) village. The downstairs has an enormous selection of teas, while the upstairs hosts a teahouse. We went upstairs to have a cup of hot tea to try to stabilize our body temperatures and to reminisce about our most recent death defying adventure. To think that some actually go down this mountain with only a pair of skis or a snowboard is beyond my comprehension. If I had ever tried it I am sure that I would immediately see my life pass before my eyes and heaven knows it did not get great reviews the first time, why go into re-runs?

Looking out the window from the teashop, we noticed one of the main attractions of Innsbruck was just across the courtyard. The Golden Roof, which is the cover for where the Maximillian Museum is housed, shined brilliantly in the afternoon sunlight. Although we had noticed it yesterday, we did not realize that this was something of importance.

With our blood circulating once again, we returned to the bookstore and bought Ron’s selection. Then it was time to do some serious shirt shopping. We went to every store that I had previously scoped out as having bargains. Each of the stores had the most hideous colors of shirts on sale. It was no wonder they were on sale at all, they should never have encouraged the manufacturer by purchasing them in the first place. The shirts in the window were a type of a shill and were only in sizes that would fit a Ken doll. Persistence does pay off, however. Ron spotted a department store and so we went to see what their offerings were. On one counter they did have some reasonably attractive shirts that could be accessorized with a tie if need be. The trick now was to translate European sizes to North American sizes. The salesperson did not speak English, so we did the whole charades routine and then went on blind faith. We bought two shirts figuring that they were so heavily discounted, if they did not fit, they would be a donation to the Hungarian version of the Salvation Army. Both cost us under $28.00, marked down from $32.00 each.

The Minister of Economics started whispering in my ear that we were getting dangerously close to the time when cheap eats evaporate and the pricey ones appear in their place. As much as we do not like to eat at 6:00 pm, we forced ourselves to consider an early evening meal. Going from café to café, we decided on one that looked tempting and would not cause the Minister of Economics to suffer undue stress. We walked in and seated ourselves and the waitress appeared. We asked for menus and she sympathetically responded, “We are not a restaurant, we are a café. We stopped serving food at 6:00, but I may be able to get you something.” She then handed us small menus, which we gave our undivided attention lest the food be put into cold storage until its reappearance tomorrow. When she returned, we gave her our selections. With even greater sympathy in her voice, she cooed, “I am sorry, but those things are all done for the day. I can get you a platter of wurst with goulash dressing and rolls.” We gave her the go ahead for two orders of her recommendation and then proceeded to question why she teased us with a menu in the first place. Perhaps it is an Austrian joke for tourists. To make matters worse, the Minister of Short Term Memory mumbled his admonitions about learning the lessons of cafés versus restaurants the hard way, just yesterday. We each ate a roll to keep him from spouting off the obvious.

When we left the restaurant at 7:15 pm, they were locking the doors behind us. They are serious about closing times here. The streets were even more vacant then during the day, which was starting to give this town a do da, do da, Twilight Zone feel to it. With the sidewalks rolled up so early, there was not much point in hanging around, so we went back to the hotel.

Ron suggested we go to the hotel bar and have a coffee before retreating to a long evening of CNN and BBC on the television. When we entered the bar, the hotel family was eating their dinner there. It appeared they had company for dinner. This struck us a strange since they do have their own residence attached to the hotel, however, it seems that Mom was on the evening shift, which fat Papa reminded her of with a stare. She reluctantly came over to see why we were interrupting her meal and then went to get our coffees. Plunking them down with the grace of a hippopotamus trying to water ski, she returned to her meal. Silently I was hoping that no new guests were going to check in in the next hour or we would have to worry about their safety.

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