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The 60 degrees of Austria

July 18th, 2009

We left sweltering Vienna Saturday morning, having learned that the temperature in the city as we walked around had topped 100 degrees, with a fair amount of humidity and at times not even a whisper of a breeze.

It is now Sunday morning, and at our campground in Innsbruck, below a snowy mountain top, it dipped into the 40s. It is wonderfully refreshing.

The trip here on Saturday was mostly through a steady rain. The skies were grey (so photos will suffer) but the scenery was nonetheless stunning as we drove up into the Alps.

I think the line in that movie soundtrack — the hills are alive with the sound of music — is a bit inaccurate, frankly, but maybe the word “hills” was necessary for the cadence.  These are not hills. These are majestic mountains in every  wonderful sense of the word, with steep sides and unmistakable peaks. And more amazing: the pastures and forests that frame the mountains are every color of rich, vibrant green.  This is quite a sight for a couple from Las Vegas whose measure of green is the fake grass in the back yard.

We spent three or four hours Saturday in Salzburg’s historic (yeah yeah, everything in Europe is historic) old town. We were almost sucked in to buying a beautiful chess board with characters representing medieval Europe, but thought better when we realized we already have two chess boards at home and we don’t play chess.

In Salzburg we lingered around a church cemetery unlike any I’ve seen: the burial plots were  individually covered with all types of flowers, versus just grass or stone work. And the headstones were not stones at all,  but custom-crafted metal works and other materials. Each burial plot was distinctive. No CC&Rs here.

Our search for authentic Austrian food took us to a hidden dinner house where, between the four of us, we had ham, sausages, pork, schnitzel, steak, mushrooms, potatoes, sauerkraut, dumplings, soups (mine had a marvelous fried-cheese dumpling floating in a clear broth with tiny pieces of carrot and chives), and dessert of warm apple strudel with vanilla sauce and whipped cream.

My health coach, Monica, is going to kill me.

The final leg of the day was to get to our campsite in Innsbruck before dark.  As we pulled up at 9 p.m. Saturday, our stomachs tightened, and I don’t think it was because of the pork, ham, sausages, sauerkraut and vanilla sauce. The campsite was under reconstruction. Three different camping and tour books had mentioned this as the only campground in Innsbruck, and it didn’t exist.

We stopped at a nice hotel 50 yards away for advice, and the desk clerk said we had two options: stay there (a double room with breakfast, 80 Euros) or she could refer us to a campsite three miles away that had not been mentioned in any of our books. I asked Daughter and Fiancé if they wanted to stay at the hotel to get away from us for a night. They asked us if we wanted to stay at the hotel and get away from them for a night. We all agreed that we were getting along grandly so we would stick together and go to the other camp site.

Well, that might have been a misnomer, calling it a camp site.  The place was a pizza house with a large swatch of grass behind it, large enough to hold maybe 50 campers and tents, and the proprietor put in electrical power outlets and a dinky small bathroom facility (one man’s shower, one woman’s shower, you get the idea).  He did have a great pizza menu, though.

So we spent the night and this morning we woke up to the sight of snow above us.

We’re not in Vienna any more.

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