Sunday, January 06, 2002

Innsbruck, Austria

Innsbruck, Austria

The train for

Innsbruck was at the station on the other side of Budapest. Fortunately, the subway system is well defined here and with only the laptop on my back and a carry-on suitcase, it was not a struggle to get to the station at 8:00 am. Our first train was from Budapest to Vienna, which is only 2 ½ hours away.

In the Vienna West train station, I went to the bank machine with great anticipation. This was going to be my first Euro experience. It was like playing the slot machines and know you were going to win. Those beautiful, crispy, brand new bills came sticking out of the machine at me like a colorful tongue and with haste; I snatched them out of the machine’s mouth. They are prettier in person and their pictures do not do them justice.

Now with bills in hand, it was time to get coins to admire as well. Ron was very accommodating it this way, since he was ready for coffee and a pastry. Vienna’s train stations have some of the best bakeries I have seen. The selection is vast and it is so difficult to limit your choices to one selection. It is like the old commercial, “Bet you can’t eat just one.” At that moment, I was more interested in the coins then the pastries and coffee. They are really beautiful coins and I started holding back one each of each denomination of Austrian coins. My goal will be to have a complete collection of each of the twelve countries’ coins. The denominations are two Euros, one Euro, fifty cents, twenty cents, ten cents, five cents, two cents, and one cent. The last being the smallest and smaller than a U.S. dime. The twenty-cent coin has extra ridges around the edge.

From Vienna, we boarded another train for a five-hour ride to Innsbruck. The snow capped mountains were a wonderful sight to see. This was part of the Alps mountain range and Innsbruck had hosted the Winter Olympics twice in the past. It is undeniably a winter playground.

Stopping in at the tourist office to collect his map, Ron came alive once again. If there were a Map of the Month Club, I would buy him a membership to keep him continually happy. We were told that we could take the number three tram for eight stops and it would drop us two blocks from our hotel. The tram cost three Euro twenty cents for the two of us, so it may be a good idea to invest in the 72 hour Innsbruck Tourist card with the unlimited travel for eighteen Euro and eleven cents each.

The hotel was a three star, four-story establishment that was family owned and run. Each floor had at least eight rooms on each side, making it quite spacious. The lobby was done in light marbles and the bar/breakfast area in dark woods. It was exceptionally clean and appealing, but the owner went to the same charm school as the owner at the London B & B. The real welcome came when we first turned on our television in the room and the screen had the message, “Welcome to Binder’s Hotel Mr. and Mrs. James. We hope you enjoy your stay with us.” Mrs. James did not appreciate the sentiment and Mr. James as much of a technology lover as he is thought it would have been more appropriate if said in person.

Since it was now close to 8:00 pm, on a Sunday night, we asked for dinner recommendations and were informed that most restaurants were closed by this time. We did have the option of an Italian restaurant a couple of blocks away or an Austrian one around the corner in the opposite direction. We opted for the Austrian one and went hunting around the corner. What we found was the old Olympic Stadium, but no restaurant. We walked for blocks looking for this gastronomic wonderland that was supposedly just a stone’s throw from our bedroom, but we did not see it. The reason being evident when we headed back to the hotel, the restaurant was darker than the tunnel we crawled through in Turkey last year. We could not see our hands in front of our faces in the tunnel. Going back to the hotel, we asked again about the other options and felt like we were bad students that did not pay close enough attention the first time the explanation was provided. The beauty of the Alps did not let the dour tone of our hosts deter us from being thrilled we were in Innsbruck.

The Italian restaurant was longer than the fifty meters we were told, more like four times the distance. We thought we had passed another closed opportunity for food since we had walked for so long without a positive outcome. We did strike gold. It was open and we each had a pizza. They make some of the best pizzas outside of Italy that we have ever tasted. We left with full stomachs, complements to the pizza maker, and in awe of the mountains at night.

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