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Salzburg and Vienna

Our train is just leaving the Salzburg station for Vienna. Today it’s raining and dreary. Yesterday was a beautiful day and the scenery from Oberstaufen to Salzburg was spectacular. Oberstaufen is in the Alps and the entire train trip bordered that mountain range. In Salzburg we walked from the train station to our hotel pulling and carrying our 730 pounds of luggage. It was only 3 blocks. We checked in, dropped our luggage and walked from our hotel to “downtown,” the old part of the city, across the river. Lynn wanted to walk to soak up culture but culture was at least 3 or 4 kilograms away and I was tired even before we got there.

The movie The Sound of Music was filmed in and around Salzburg, so if you remember the gorgeous scenery in that movie, you will know what we were looking at while we were walking.

There was a Christmas market in downtown Salzburg. Most of the booths sold Christmas tree ornaments. They were pretty, but pricey. They also had Glühwein, but served it in paper cups, not the nice mugs we were used to in Germany. Lynn refused to drink it. She can be such a snob about some things.

While Lynn was soaking up culture, I was making observations. I observed that an amazing number of people in both Germany and Austria have either bright purple or orange hair. It didn’t look natural to me, but to be sure I asked Lynn, who is a great authority on hair color. She said she thought the color was artificially induced. It looks peculiar. I doubt that I will try it. I also observed that there are probably very few people left in Japan. They all seemed to be in Salzburg.

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Back on the train--The train today is the epitome of what trains ought to be: our compartment is private and, although it has 6 seats, we are alone. The seats are big and comfortable and the armrests will fold up to make a “couch” about 6 feet long. That’s long enough for some of us to lie down and take a nap. There is a dining car right next to our car. I went there briefly, but it was so smoky that I couldn’t stay. I think they must pump cigarette smoke in from a compressed smoke canister. Cigarette smoking, which I gave up in 1979, is a very bad habit. Cigar smoking, which I took up only recently, is, however, a very fine hobby.
While I’m typing away, Lynn is reading the guidebook on Vienna. She just asked me if I wanted to see the world’s largest kidney and gallstone collection. I don’t know how I could miss that. I might even make a personal donation.

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We’re now in Vienna and so far I like it. We abandoned our policy of staying in the small, charming mom-and-pop hotels and went for the big time: the Marriott—Lynn had some coupons. Our room is on the executive floor and you have to swipe your credit card-looking room key through a device in the elevator to even get to the floor. It’s pretty cool. There is a lounge at the end of our hall that has a great view of the city and serves drinks and snacks all day long, all included in the price of the room.

The nice young lady at the front desk recommended a nearby restaurant, the s, which serves traditional Viennese food. It turned out to be much better than I expected. I had Tafelspitz (its real name), which is some root veggies and 2 big slabs of beef cooked in a bone marrow stock. I didn’t realize until I looked at the picture of a cow provided by the restaurant that Tafelspitz comes from the very back part of the cow, right above the Fledermaus. Even knowing that, it was still good.

The first course was the soup that was ladled out of the stockpot. I ate all my soup and started to fish the beef out of the pot. A waiter came rushing over yelling something like, NEIN, NEIN, SEI DE GLOCKENSPEIL DER WASTEN BRUKISKER, which I discovered means “don’t eat the meat yet, stupid.” I didn’t realize that it was a 2-person production number to serve the main course. The meal was so good that we reserved a table for 2:00 this afternoon for lunch.

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It’s now the next day, Monday, I think, and it’s raining hard so I’ll stay inside for a while and write about the rest of yesterday. In the morning we took a hop-on hop-off bus tour of Vienna. There are some really incredible sights here. I guess the thing that impressed me the most is the antiquity of things. Many of the buildings and monuments were older than our beloved local physician, Dr. Hal Conwell. For instance, we passed a coffee house, the Landtmann, which was 920 years old. Dr. Sigmund Freud used to have coffee there with Dr. Conwell.

Our second lunch at the Plachutta was as good as our first. We met two U.S. couples, one of whom was from Birmingham, Alabama. I mentioned that I had taught for 25 Years at Auburn University. The guy from B’ham immediately inquired if I had found any students there who could read or write. I assured him that most could. One or two graduated without ever learning, but they got elected governor of the state. The dude was obviously a graduate of The University of Alabama. I could not resist mentioning the outcome of the Auburn/Alabama game this year. I also noted that Alabama lost its coach to Texas A&M. That pretty much ended the conversation.

Last night we went to hear the Residenzorchester play a half Mozart, half Strauss (both Johanns but not Richard) concert. Just before the concert started, a big guy from Oklahoma tripped over a chair and fell down with a huge crash. We and the appreciative Austrians applauded lustily.

I wasn’t expecting much as we had bought out tickets from a guy in knee pants and a cape outside the opera house. I was blown away by the performance. Most of the musicians played the entire concert with no music in front of them. The sound produced by the 7 musicians was incredible. I can’t remember when I have enjoyed a musical performance so much. Lynn and I agreed it must be very difficult and take a tremendous amount of talent to be a musician in Vienna, Austria.

The rest of the today will be spent shopping and mailing the fruits of that effort back home. For my evening’s entertainment I am going to the Marriott Cascade Bar for 1 Glas VSOP Remy Martin und 1 Havanna Zigarre, after which we’ll board a night train for Hanover, Germany and then back to Amsterdam for Christmas.