Sunday, November 22, 2015

Pauline's Attic

I knew getting ourselves to Austria wasn’t going to be an easy feat in any sense of the word. But in order to make the journey on time, some things had to be rearranged. We found ourselves getting on a bus from Plitvice a day early and heading to Zagreb where we’d sleep a bit before the giant trek to far away Austrian lands.  We crossed the border from Croatia to Austria, stopping at customs where the customs dude inspected my passport a little too long.

“Nevada? Las Vegas?” he inquired with a smirk on his face.

“Yes, I was born there.”

He produced a brief nod that I wasn’t sure was approval, amusement, or both. And that was all. I decided in that moment my passport must’ve made him recall a crazy weekend in Vegas or something.

We were in Austria! Nevermind that we still had a long way to go. Not only that, but every train and bus transfer needed to line up perfectly for us to make the next one. We literally had a one minute transfer between train and bus halfway through.  

We sat on the last train bewildered by how all four transfers had been seemingly seamless.

“Thank you Austria, for making today possible.” I said.

KJ agreed.

“I feel energized by Austria!” I declared with a minor movement resembling a cross between a fist pump and a popeye arm swing.

Just then I spotted something out the train window that halted my popeye-pump hybrid right in it's tracks. A stream/river thing. A fisherman. Fly fishing.

“THEY HAVE FLY FISHING HERE! I HAVE TO CHECK OFF ‘TRY FLY FISHING’ IN AUSTRIA!” I all but yelled with robust excitement. I didn’t know how but I knew I needed to start checking shit off my list, and this was where I would start. By fly fishing in Austria. Genius.

Our trek including no less than another two buses, 3 trains, and an unexpected 1.5 kilometer walk with our bags to our accommodations in the town across the lake from Hallstatt… Obertraun.  At least we’d finally be out of the scorching heat. At least it would be cool there.

We exited the train in the Hallstatt area to unseasonably warm weather. Warm as in 92 degrees. This wasn’t right. It was supposed to be high 60’s! The typical profuse sweating while trekking our to place of stay occurred. 

We finally arrived at our guesthouse; greeted by an older woman with full on hair curlers in.

She showed us up, up, up stairs to our room. Each floor was noticeably warmer than the last. We arrived. In the attic.

“I don’t suppose there’s air conditioning?” 

Pauline looked disappointed in me. 

“Or a fan?”

“No.” she shook her curlers. “Keep the curtains closed. It will be cool later.”


“What time do you want breakfast.”  Pauline asked. But it was 4:00.

“Umm” KJ and I looked at each other. We didn’t even know what we’d do for dinner yet. But at least there was going to be breakfast, so with that we silently agreed to 8:30.


And with that Pauline and her curlers were gone.

We were exhausted. And sweltering. Being in the attic wasn’t helping. I wanted to see the lake. Badly. I had many ants in my pants about seeing Hallstatt in person too.

So we went. We started the long walk back the way we had just come, but this time free of our backpacks and Lil Bea. We walked past the train station to the Lake just as the sun was starting to drop behind the towering mountains.

We jumped on a boat inquiring about halfway across about our return trip to Obertraun, after partaking in a sausage and beer fest of our own making.

“The bus runs late.” The young boat driver assured us.  He was a strapping young boy of at least 12 so it seemed like legit information.

Great, we were good to go. Sausages here we come.

A ten minute boat jaunt across the lake and we were in fairy tale land. Even in the early evening shadow cast by the surrounding Austrian Alps, Hallstatt managed to twinkle. Forgive my cliché, but it was, actually, enchanting.

We wound ourselves around the streets until our stomachs would allow no more wandering. We needed food and beer. Lots of beer was required after our long journey.  Also, I had to pee.

We stopped at a cute corner spot (despite the warning about the "vicious" cat) and agreed to start inside and snag an outside table as soon as one freed up.  

Cat looks super tough.
The waiter showed me to the bathroom, explaining that the men were on the left and the women on the right.

“Because women are always right.”

“Ha” I laughed. Now let me pee, kind sir.

Our first sips of cold, crisp beer was fantastic and super refreshing.

A nearby table became occupied by a group of four Asians who, seemingly, were in a rush of some sort. They approached the counter for the third time when the waiter quickly scolded them.

“You need to slow down! Take your time!” he was exasperated by them. I was thoroughly amused.

The waiter was quite sassy. I liked it. More entertainment for us.

“We need to stay on his good side.” I told KJ as we moved to our promised table outside.

There was a lot of hustle and bustle on the streets, packed with people dressed in lederhosen, about to attend some concert we saw being set up when we arrived on the boat.

“Who is singing?” we asked the sassy waiter.

“A stupid guy, he is not good, and everyone goes.” He explains loudly, while walking over to a table with a group of girls decked out in lederhosen, clearly going to the concert.

Maybe sassy waiter knew what time the buses ran until. 

"What time is the last bus?"

"About an hour ago"

"Oh. Really?"

"There's no late buses here. Not here, at the end of the world!"


So we weren't on a schedule to be on a bus anymore and even though we weren't quite sure how we'd get back to the attic, it didn't much matter while we wandered the streets of Hallstatt as dusk fell and the "bad singer" began to play. Even in the dark, Hallstatt held it's fairy tale status.

We were wiped. It was time to make our way back to Pauline's somehow. Luckily we found some very unbusy taxi drivers and one was willing to deliver us back to Pauline's. 

We returned to the attic filled with dread at the sauna that surely awaited to engulf us. But it had cooled off considerably. Well damnit. Pauline was right.

I finally drifted off to sleep wondering what Pauline would be serving us for breakfast the next morning...and, of course, what her curls would look like once unleashed.

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