7 December - Bulls on Parade

We were up between 01:00 and 04:00 yet again, and we were pretty much over it.  We wanted to get some normal sleep.  Justin went outside to take some sunrise photos, but alas the clouds had returned.  At least we got a few hours of decent weather during our time in Hallstatt.  We ate a light breakfast at the hotel and chatted a bit with the owner.  We told him the Krampusnacht was way beyond what we were expecting, and he said it was the most crowded he’d ever seen.  We asked if it was perhaps because of the 3 year wait, and he said that was definitely possible.

Down at the ferry dock with Clarita and Dewey, we realized our champagne wasn’t a normal cork, so Crystal quickly went to a restaurant right by the dock for a bottle opener.  The bottle was decently cold from being put by the window overnight, and we poured as much of the champagne into the water bottle as possible, with Crystal finishing what was left in the glass bottle.  On the train, we found out the tickets we’d purchased involved a bus from Bad Ischl to Salzburg, which wasn’t what (we thought) we wanted.  After a fruitless conversation with the ticket agent about how to purchase new tickets, we just decided to talk to someone at the Bad Ischl station.

At the station, however, we were informed that the bus wasn’t that bad (it had a more direct route), so we just decided to do that, but we saw the bus pulling away literally as we walked out from the ticket office.  So we had to wait 30 minutes for the next bus, and we lamented how we’d not done enough diligence prior to arriving in Hallstatt regarding how to leave.  Once finally on the bus, it was comfortable, and we went through a bunch of smaller towns, past lakes and ski lifts.  We saw the Red Bull headquarters again, near Wolfgangsee.  As we got closer to Salzburg, we determined that even despite our 30 minute delay, we might make our original train from Salzburg to Innsbruck, since it was slightly delayed.

At Salzburg we rushed to the train, got there, saw the train, pushed the button to get in, but the door didn’t open.  Immediately thereafter the train pushed off.  We weren’t having the best travel day so far, but we regrouped and tried to make lemons out of lemonade.  We originally intended to get lunch in Innsbruck, but checking the trains from Innsbruck to Trento, and looking at the times of the trains from Salzburg to Innsbruck, we realized we’d be eating lunch quite late and also arriving in Trento two hours later than originally planned.  So we decided to grab lunch in Salzburg instead, such that we’d be in Innsbruck for just a bit, and we’d arrive in Trento as originally planned.

We found a place that looked halfway decent in the southwest corner of the train station (Johann), ordered quickly, and paid right away.  To our delight, the food was surprisingly good - for anywhere, let alone at a train station.  Crystal got goulash soup, Justin and Dewey got goulash stew, and Clarita got fried chicken.  We got in and out of the restaurant quickly, and got to the train about 5 minutes before it departed.  On the train, there was a baby crying and parents basically yelling right across the aisle from us.  Crystal started laughing when Justin put on his headphones; he’d put on “Bulls on Parade” and turned it up so loud that she could hear from across our small table.  As we continued towards Innsbruck we saw that we were supposed to arrive at 13:47 and that there was a train from Innsbruck to Trento at 13:49, so that gave us high blood pressure for the trip.  But a little later we realized that the 13:49 train wasn’t direct, so we gave up on that idea and chilled out.

When we arrived at the Innsbruck train station, we confirmed at the ticket office that we should get on the 15:24 train, and then we went to a cafe in the train station.  Piecing everything together - the train/bus timetable from Hallstatt to Salzburg, the train timetable from Salzburg to Innsbruck, and the train timetable from Innsbruck to Trento, - we realized that unless we’d gone straight through, without eating lunch anywhere, we weren’t getting to Trento until 18:02.  Again, we wish we would’ve done a bit more diligence on this beforehand and avoided learning things on the fly throughout the day.  At the cafe, we had some boozy drinks, with the exception of Clarita who had a ginger ale and passionfruit non-alcoholic cocktail.

On the train to Trento, the seating was different on the first car we walked in, with “rooms” of about 6-8 seats and a very narrow aisle on one side of the train car.  We ended up in a different car, near one another but in 3 different rows (Dewey and Clarita, then Justin, then Crystal).  The ride, not surprisingly, contained a lot of mountain scenery.  We kept waiting for the big tunnel that we’d seen a sign about in the Innsbruck Station, but eventually we determined that the tunnel is still under construction.  Connecting lower Germany and upper Italy (via Austria) is apparently a big deal for the EU economy, so when the tunnel is done it will be significant.

Both Justin and Dewey got WhatsApp messages from the proprietor in Trento, wondering what time we’d arrive - we guessed 18:15 since we were supposed to arrive at 18:02 and the train station was very close to our hotel.  Someone - we never figured out who - was playing something on his/her phone at very high volume, apparently assuming that the dozens of others on the train car wanted to hear that crap.  Justin walked up and down the aisle looking for the person, but thankfully (probably mostly for Crystal’s sake) he never found them.  Justin finally got around to listening to “Songs in the Key of Life” by Stevie Wonder, which he’d downloaded weeks before.  He quickly realized why it is so iconic and famous, and lamented waiting so long to listen to it.  

We arrived on time, and there was a large ferris wheel just outside the train station in a small park.  We walked across the park, went just 3 or 4 blocks after that, and found the spot where the hotel should be.  We saw no door, despite being in the “right” spot, and were about to get concerned when someone said “Mr. Barnes?”  We found out that the hotel (Casa Marchiodi) wasn’t a full-on hotel, but more like a guesthouse, with no markings on the exterior.  The owner took us up one flight, then showed us to our rooms.  We asked about being close to the Christmas Markets, and then he took us out on the balcony of one of the rooms, which was literally right above the market.

We’d booked this room so long ago - and also booked so many rooms and restaurants and tours in so many different cities - that we’d forgotten this.  Dewey and Clarita again kindly gave us the larger room, and they took the one next door, which also had a balcony (albeit smaller) over the market.  The owner showed us a list of restaurants to consider, and seeing the first entrance on the list Justin exclaimed “oh, we have reservations for dinner there tomorrow.”  This made us feel a little better about our choice.  Once situated and slightly unpacked, we went downstairs to explore the market.  It was more crowded than we would have expected, one of the more crowded per-capita markets we’d experienced.  There were lots of stalls with tasty looking meats and cheeses, and in hindsight we should’ve bought some.

We walked south to the other main Christmas market, just a 10 minute walk, give or take.  The city, whilst small, was very vibrant, and packed.  By the southern market, there was an enormous wall - maybe from Roman times?  [It turns out no, it’s from “only” the 13th Century, a remnant of the city walls.]  The second market was even more packed than the first, and we worried about losing Dewey and Clarita in the crowd.  We got some Vin Brule (gluhwein) and cold sparkling wine.  We also got some bombardinos, which we weren’t familiar with, but which seemed to have chocolate and rum with whipped cream on top.

At 19:30 the market quickly shut down, and everyone was ushered out - we hadn’t experienced that before, and certainly not that early.  We tried to find a place to eat, but literally everywhere had no availability - we were flabbergasted.  Eventually we just gave up and went back to the room and had the Pringles and a bottle of wine that we got in Innsbruck but didn’t drink on the train.  Worried that this might be a portent of things to come, we decided to get reservations for Venice so we wouldn’t be spending good portions of each day wandering around in search of food.  Between The Fork, WhatsApp messaging, and various emails to certain spots, we got lunch and dinner reservations for Venice, plus also for Pisa when we’d be going between Florence and Rome.  Separately, we looked at some apartments in Vienna, and Justin shared with Crystal the curated list of apartments he’d found over the last couple of months.

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