THE OVERNIGHT STAY
Hallo Österreich – Hello Austria.
I see in Wikepaedia that the Tauern tunnel in Austria which allows traffic to avoid the Tauern mountains, the highest mountains in Austria and the highest range of the Alps east of the Brenner, was opened in 1975. Well, either it was after September that it opened or our driver just wanted to avoid the toll but we suddenly found ourselves growling up mountain roads, squeezing around s-bends and generally taking forever to cross this daunting mountain range which we could have driven through in ten minutes using the tunnel. We were heading for Graz where we would spend the night in a hotel and right now after two days of sitting on trains, ferries and crammed into coaches, that seemed like having winning tickets to a night in paradise.
It wasn’t like that at all, of course. Night had already fallen when we finally reached Graz. There was an audible sigh of relief from the passengers when we saw the sign for GRAZ but then there was a slight delay because the driver couldn’t find the hotel…and then having found out where it was he got caught in a one-way system which was more like a none-way system and ended up going away from the place…we were getting mildly frantic by now; it was getting later and later which meant less and less time in the luxurious hotel bed we had been imagining. Now we were passing the hotel…no…there was a parking space…we stopped…. YES!!!!
What a sorry lot we must have looked as we debussed in Graz and staggered on legs which no longer seemed to respond to outside stimulus into the foyer.
Showers we wanted - and food - and beer – and a bed. Oh and erm…well…I wanted a sausage too.
You see when I had learned that we would be going through the Sausage Lands, Germany and Austria, I became determined to have a sausage there. We hadn’t managed it in Germany and now I wanted one here in this last outpost of the sausage zone before we were whisked away into whatever the next country might be. So after the shower and the food I ventured out into the Grazer evening with Deborah who gamely offered to keep me company on my quest. Around the corner there was a stand selling them!! And there I got my first taste of Bratwurst and mustard in a bun.
The hotel, like the coach, was not quite how it had been described in the brochure…oh no, just a moment, that is not strictly true. In fact the hotel where we should have stayed was regrettably and inexplicably fully booked that night - due to a mistake on the hotel’s part of course…the night before would have been ok and the night after but unfortunately, and they were really really sorry but they had had to find alternative accommodation at short notice and the only place available was this fucking dump, "The Grazer Grothouse".
Oh well, at least there was a bed. Well, I think it was a bed. It might though have been a slab of concrete being stored on a wooden frame. And I experienced Austrian bed covers and pillows for the first time. The mattress/concrete slab was covered with a sheet. On that there was a very thick duvet and another sheet and an incredibly thick pillow. Was it a very thick duvet or a relatively thin extra mattress - was it a pillow or a duvet for a dwarf? Did you sleep on the one sheet and under the duvet/mattress or on the duvet/mattress and under the other sheet? Were there no instructions?
I just made myself as comfortable as I could which was not very and lay there awake.
After what seemed like a few minutes there was a pounding on doors coming along the corridor and eventually reaching my door.
THUMP, THUMP, THUMP.
“Six o’clock, breakfast in ten minutes!”
Breakfast was a sad, tired affair…and we were tired too. A greying hard-boiled egg and a couple of packets of jam or honey to spread on slices of wood…and coffee that even I, as an Englishman who thought coffee came in granules in a jar, could complain about.
Ho hum…where are we anyway? Austria…next country Jugoslavia and then Greece…ha, no problem!
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