Right after an exciting lesson on commas and when to use them, I headed off for Reutte in Tirol. Why Reutte, you may be wondering? Reutte is a tiny, tiny town in the middle of the mountains, just over the border from Germany's Neuschwanstein castle. And, actually, I wasn't going to Reutte, I was going to Wängle. Population: 300. Kathryn, one of my roommates from orientation was placed there and we had gotten along so well, kept in touch, and now I was going to visit her.
The only problem: Reutte is a bit hard to get to. You see, I had 2 choices: 1. Go to Munich by train and from Munich take the train to Garmisch and from Garmisch take the train to Reutte and from Reutte take the bus to Wängle. 2. Go to Slazburg, transfer in the direction of Innsbruck, once in Innsbruck take the train to Germany to Garmisch, switch to the train to Ruette and from there take the bus. I chose option number 2 because it was cheaper. Only I didn't know I would have quite so many problems.
First of all, I missed the train I intended to take...watched it leave right in front of my face, and had to wait 2 hours for the next train. Riannon did make the train I happened to miss and called me about an hour in to the ride with bad news. The train's engine had stalled. Once I was on my train, she called again...there were 4 giant trees down on the tracks in the middle of the mountain pass and they had to wait for buses to take them to the next train station, where they would be able to get on a train heading in the right direction.
We reached Spittal, so about an hour and a half out of Klagenfurt and our engine stalled for a good half hour. Then, we reached the mountain pass and the trees were still there on the tracks...probably wouldn't be moved until the next day.
So we all made our way through the snowy-slush to the buses and were bumped from bus to bus, as each driver told us he was not the "ersatz" (extra/fill-in) bus. At last we all found the right bus and boarded, but there wasn't enough room for the whole train, luckily I had made it on the bus, as the rest were left to wait in the cold.
We zoomed up and down and over snowy, twisting roads through the mountains until we had cleared the damaged track. Then, we were told to board the waiting train. Only, there was no waiting train. And one conductor told me to take the regional train to a small town outside of Innsbruck, while the other told me to stick with the train to Salzburg and then transfer to Innsbruck. After switching back and forth between trains, missing the regional train and almost missing the train the Salzburg. A conductor literally pulled the door open for me and shoved me inside. It was all chaos and confusion on the platform.
I made it to Salzburg, just in time to wait 2 hours for the next train to Innsbruck. Finally, arriving in Innsbruck, I had just missed the train to Garmisch and had to wait 2 hours for the next one. At last I was on that train, which was the last one of the evening and the conductor told me my ticket was no longer valid. Kathryn had mailed me her unused ticket and since it was a Reutte to Innsbruck and then Innsbruck to Reutte, the conductor was telling me I couldn't use it. He let me pass and the nearly empty, ghostly train continued onwards along snow-filled tracks. At the border, the Austrian conductor left and the German one boarded. He had no problems with my ticket and merrily informed us that there were seven trees down on the line between Garmisch and Reutte, so we would have to take the bus the train company would provide.
As I was exiting the train in Garmisch I met a university student, who was on her way home to Reutte for Christmas. We stuck together and chatted. She was shocked to learn that I was an American. Ha, so maybe my German isn't that bad...take that Christmas market lady, who started speaking to me in English.
Anyway, we waited a good hour to hour and a half for the bus, which finally came. Then it was an hour of fast driving, stopping at all the tiny towns along the way and the bus attempting to drive down narrow alleys to the snowed in train stations.
We at last reached Reutte and Kathryn and the two of us stomped our way back to Wängle, where we ate pumpkin soup and defrosted.
The next morning, our great explorations began...
Wängle in the snow
and the sun comes out at last
the dramatic looking mountains
We marched through ankle deep and in some places knee-deep snow. Soon, we found ourselves at Kathryn's favorite restaurant.
Naturally, we just had to share Kaiserschmarrn for dessert. Best so far in Austria!
We headed back to Kathryn's after our epic hike and a visit to the Green House Museum, which was filled with the history of Reutte and olympics in the area, as well as skiing.
We stopped to admire the river on our way.
Once back at Kathryn's we baked 2 different kinds of cookies, which I brought back for my students the following week. Kathryn and I both love to bake and Kathryn hopes to open a bakery in the future, but first to finish her masters thesis in German.
The next morning, we took a walk before I headed to the train. The trees had still not been cleared, so once again I was on a bus. The bus was slower than the train, apparently, so we didn't make the connecting train to Innsbruck, even though our conductor argued on the phone for the entire journey with the head train people. So, with another 2 hour wait in store, I headed off the explore the two adorable towns of Garmisch-Partenkirchen. Nothing was open, as it was a Sunday, but the architecture just screamed Germany and the mountains in the background were just breathtaking. It made my wait much more pleasant.
At long last I was on my way to Innsbruck, then Salzburg and finally Klagenfurt. The rest of the trip went well...not more downed trees or stalled engines, thank goodness.