Week 6, part 1
Friday, November 16, 2001
To our relief, and to the relief of many readers, we have no computer horror stories to report on this week. The cyber-cafe we found in Prague made up for our nightmares in Munich. We had to jump through the usual hoops to get mail out through Earthstink, but we're getting the hang of it. We are now officially shopping for a new Internet Service Provider.

As we finished week 5, we were leaving Munich on Monday, November 5. After finally completing our business of on-line communication from the InterCity Hotel, we dashed into the Bahnhof to catch the 4:30 train for Salzburg, Austria. We must have missed the train, for on the platform was a train bound for Freilassing. It turns out that Freilassing is right on the Austrian border, about 7 minutes from Salzburg. We got on the train and waited for it to move while other passengers gradually found their way on board. It was dark by the time we started moving, even though it wasn't 5 yet. As we move east and north, afternoon darkness has been coming earlier and earlier.

We had to wait for about 20 minutes in Freilassing for a puny little train to pick us up and shuttle us to Salzburg. By the time we got there the TI was closed, but they were kind enough to leave out a pile of local maps that included a complete listing of local accomodations. We set our sights on a two-star pension across the tracks, and located the hostel as a back-up plan.

We had a lively debate over how to get to the other side of the tracks from the station, and confidence was not high as we trudged into the darkness across a raggedy steel graffiti-encrusted footbridge. We then made our way along a street with ordinary boxy apartment buildings on one side and billboards on the other. One billboard advertised a radio station that, apparently, played nothing but Frank Sinatra. It sounds like we didn't miss anything by not being exposed to Austrian radio.

Ten minutes after we left the station, we found our penzion and were greeted by a nice friendly lady who showed the wear of too many years smoking too many cigarettes. She spoke very good English and she had a room for only 480 Schillings (about $32) that included breakfast. There was also a shower in the room, which was a very interesting appliance. It was a box about the size of a phone booth tucked into a corner of the room. A narrow pipe brought the water supply, and it was plugged into an electrical outlet (which, like all European outlets, was 220V). The floor of the shower was about a foot off the floor of the room, to accomodate the shower's built-in water heater. There was a switch for the water heater (which we were asked to leave alone), and a switch for the pump (which we turned on and off to use the shower). Obbie took a shower to rinse off the stink of the sweat from dealing with computer problems in Munich, but the flow was just a trickle ... a fairly lame shower by our spoiled American standards.

This seems to be a good place to discuss some of the furnishings and plumbing we've been finding in these parts of Europe. Double beds have been hard to come by, usually they're just twin beds pushed together. Our beds have come with two (one for each of us) thick feather blankets, which are wonderfully warm, though having two seperate blankets is a challenge for cuddling. Central hot water heaters are rare ... no sense wasting energy keeping a big tank of water hot. What is more common are on-demand water heaters, which are installed close to where the water is used (e.g. kitchen sink, bathroom). For instance, when you turn on hot water to run a bath, a burner kicks in in the heater mounted on the wall. Water runs through a coil of pipe above the flame and becomes hot instantly. So energy is used to heat only the water that is needed, when it is needed. Electric versions of the on-demand water heater are common in showers in the British Isles, but they don't seem to work as well ... hot water comes in a trickle, or cold water comes in a gush.

We wanted to get an early start on Tuesday, but we got caught up in conversation with a couple of other guests. Tina is a German native now living in America, and Tammy is a musician who attended UW-Eau Claire about 5 years after Obbie did. They had spent the previous day of their honeymoon in Salzburg, and were catching a morning train for Venice. After taking photos of each other and exchanging addresses, we saw them off to the train station; and we packed our bags to leave behind the front desk while we spent a few hours walking around Salzburg.

Part 2 ... A Mozart pilgrimage to Salzburg.
Part 3 ... Taking the back road from Salbzurg to Prague.
Part 4 ... Arrival in Prague.
Part 5 ... Petrin Park and the western approach to Prague Castle.
Part 6 ... Prague Castle and St. Vitus Cathedral.
Part 7 ... Wenceslaus Square.
Part 8 ... The John Lennon Wall.
Part 9 ... A weekend tracing family footsteps around Ostrava.

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