1999 ski trip to Kitzbuhel, Austria

If you have been reading my other stories, you already know that they would not be written if something unusual or weird happens. After all, Iím not going to put out a story that is just a narrative of boring events. If thatís the kind of thing you like, then you can go to Microsoftís site. What follows is the plan we thought weíd like to follow. Of course it never works out the way you want.

This trip involved flying to Munich Germany then taking a train to Kitzbuhel, Austria. I decided against purchasing German Marks as I can just pay for a train ticket by credit card, but did purchase $200 worth of Austrian Schillings, 2400 of them. I was leaving from Kennedy at Trok was leaving from OíHare as usual. He would land at 9:05 am Saturday morning, and I would land at 10:40am, surprisingly close to each other, given our previous trips. Iíll try to skip some of the crap that I start these stories with, so letís go right to the flight.

Friday Feb 19 (NY)/Saturday Feb 20 (Europe): I left on time. I had no idea if Trok did. Flight itinerary says eight hour flight, but the Captain said airtime would be 6.5 hours. My flight landed at about 9:15am. I went through customs, picked up my suitcase, and my skies. I walked out and there was Trok waiting. So the most difficult part of the trip worked out fine. I had Eurorail train schedules for trips from the airport to Kitzbuhel for times between 11am (our earliest possible train) all the way through 4:20 p.m. (in case of late flights, etc.) Being that I got in so early, I had no schedule for a train this early, so we went to buy out tickets and see what happens. The next train was 10:40, so we went for that one. Of course, we didnít realize that the ticket was good for 90 days, so it didnít matter what time train we took. During our train journey, me and Trok talk about our flights and other things of the previous month or so. I also inform him that we should claim we are from Canada, so that no one takes out their anti-American aggressions on us.

We got about 30 minutes out of the airport when I looked at the address tag on my ski bag. It didnít hit me that I donít have a tag on my ski bag. I looked at what it said. It didnít say Gary the assassin. It was Joann (surname suppressed) from Amityville. Uh-oh. Bad thing is that these were not my skies. Good thing was that it makes for interesting copy this early in the story. What do we do? Luckily she left her hotel name on her address tag. However, it wasnít in Kitzbuhel; it was in Innsbruck, a train trip from Kitzbuhel of just over an hour. So, do we continue on and call her hotel when we get there? That may soothe her mind that her skies werenít stolen, but what do I do about my skies? Did she take them as revenge? No, how would she know I took her skies? She could be very intuitive and think, "Letís see, my skies are missing and here is a ski bag that looks exactly like mine." Iíll take these skies as ransom. Or, was she so flustered she didnít think of this? Then, what do I do about my skies? If she doesnít have them, Iíll have to rent skies. Uh-oh again; I forgot that my one-piece ski suit is also in my ski bag along with some other random clothing items. If she does have my skies, Iíll have to go to Innsbruck, adding quite a bit of time to my first day before I get to my hotel.

Of course, all of this happened in my mind in a split second, as my brain operates at high speed. I decided we should go back to the airport and see if my skies were there and just drop hers off. We get to the airport and go to the Delta counter. I explain my dilemma to the woman and she says, "Oh-oh" in a threatening kind of manner. OK, I think I am going to a German jail. At least my story will easily be the most interesting one I have ever written. She calls someone over and he says, "assassin." Good, he knows who I am. Or bad, he knows who I am. He tells me he knows the whole story. He takes me to get my skies, and takes hers. I ask him if she was pissed about the mix-up, and he said something I didnít remember, but the one thing I did remember he said was, "Oh, she was pretty, very attractive." This could be my opportunity. She lives close to me, she skies, I have her phone number. Iím calling her when I get home to explain about the mix-up (more on this mix-up later in the story, plus the results of the phone call). It would make sense that I meet someone this way. After all, my two previous methods of meeting girls didnít work out too well:

First, running into moving traffic on the LIE, hoping to get hit by a car. This was doomed to failure, as the driver would have to have been female, single and pretty. I gave up after 9 incidents.

My second method was only slightly more safe. I used my car to crash into other cars. Here, I can pick the car of my choice, and I was surrounded by a large metal object. However, this method was more expensive, and I gave up after only 4 incidents.

So, we now take the 12:46 train to Kitzbuhel, the one I originally thought we would have to take. At one of the train stations we had to switch trains, we noticed one unusual thing. There was a distinct diesel smell, yet all the trains were electric. Other than that, and the fact that Trok realized that the gloves he recently bought were womenís gloves, there is nothing else to write about/ We make it to Kitzbuhel at about 3:45pm. Tired and relieved, we get a taxi to our hotel.

We walked around town a little and popped into some of the shops. A quick summary of Kitzbuhel is that it is a tourist village, described as Tirolian (Tyrolian) in all aspects, whatever the hell that means. Sure, itís located in the area of Austria know as Tyrol, but saying it is Tirolian gives no helpful information. It looks like a quaint little European village, geared around skiing. Lots of little shops selling watches, shoes, ski equipment and the like. Also, plenty of places for souvenirs. Getting around town in a car seems quite difficult. The street system looks like spaghetti that fell on the floor, mostly one way, and fairly narrow. For the first time in any of our ski trips, the town is occupied by many tourists who arenít there for skiing, but for shopping. We also notice that there is a preponderance of 80ís music no matter where we go; Restaurants, shops, our hotel, etc., with Roxette and Starship being feature quite prominently. OK, enough about the general description of the town.

For our first night, we try to find an out of the way cozy café or something similar for dinner. We find a little place with a hostess reminding me of Dr. Ruth. Youíll notice that people in Austria are very nice but they seem to get there greetings a little wrong. When ordering dinner, she would always say, "Yes, please" after we told get what we wanted. This is not the only place this happened. Day over.

Sunday Feb 21: We wake up to rain. This is not desirable on a ski trip. We arenít skiing today, as we are wimps and need another day to adjust to the time change. We donít know if it is raining or snowing up in the mountains. We head down to breakfast, and happily they have Birchermuesli. Yes! One of the things I was looking forward to again. For lunch we head out in the rain looking for something open. Recall, almost nothing is open on Sundays in Europe, except for some food establishments. We determine that if a place says café on it, that means they donít have feed; more like drinks and maybe some desert-like food. Some nick-knack shops are also open, and we gather up some souvenirs for our friend's back in Ö Canada.

We find a place to eat right by our hotel, and I see chaudfroids on the menu. I donít know what it is but I like the name so I ask the waitress. She tries to explain with hand motions, but it does not help, so I avoid it. More 80ís music. We go back to our room and Falco videos are on TV. Not only an Austrian music artist, but an 80ís artist. During the rest of the day, the non-stop precipitation changes from rain to snow and back. At dinner I get the blood orange sherbet. The second item I was looking forward to in our Europe trip had made itís appearance; blood oranges. Add in the nude commercials after dinner, and my trifecta is now complete. Day ends with sleep.

Monday Feb 22: We havenít totally adjusted to the time yet, and wake up at 9:15. Shit. OK, ski today. Nope, but because we donít want to. Due to extreme weather conditions, all lifts in Kitzbuhel are closed. We find out that pretty much all lifts in Austria are closed. The reason we are given is that there are high winds and just general weather problems. We go back to our room to check the TV, which shows current conditions on the mountain. It says wind speed is 1 km/h. Now for those of you who donít know how to convert kilometers to miles, all I can say is that 1 is pretty damn small in any unit of measure. Maybe anything greater than zero is considered too high for Austria? What we find out later though, is that there are avalanches all over the Alps, especially in Austria. Maybe the hotel didnít want to scare us, or they are required not to advertise avalanches.

So we go shopping. We need a voltage converter for Trok laptop, so thatís priority number one. Why the laptop? My digital camera only holds 20 pictures of the high quality nature. Trok brought his laptop so that I can download the pictures every day and start all over. He forgot the converter back home. We couldnít find a converter, and as a matter of fact, one shop we went to, we were told you cannot buy them in all of Austria. This is a problem. We did, however, but an adapter so that and American-style plug can plug into the strange Austrian wall outlets. It only had two prongs, so we also bought an Italian-to-Austrian adapter, as it had the three prongs, which the laptop uses. During our shopping extravaganza, we pick up postcards, which of course I will not mail, blood oranges, pink grapefruit Fanta and a bottle of Merlot. I was a little scared when the only bottle of Merlot we could find cost only about three American dollars, and rightly so. The Merlot was even worse than the crap I mistakenly ordered at a TGI Fridayís once.

Open returning to our hotel room, Trok makes the discovery that his IBM laptop transformer says "for voltages 110 to 240." Hmmm, maybe itís a built in converter. Letís see what happens. What do you think happened? Wrong! It did work. Now lets test to make sure that Photoshop can still extract to photos from the camera (I loaded on the program into Photoshop when Trok was visiting back in November). After all the trouble we went through, it seems Trok accidentally deleted the drivers, so we are shit out of luck. I am thinking maybe we can log onto the internet and download the drivers if we could find them. Maybe weíll try that tomorrow, so it is not important right now, since we havenít skied, there were no pictures to download.

While checking the TV channel, which gives current ski conditions and status of lifts, we see that one lift is open in Kirchberg, about a half-hour bus ride. Should we go? Hey, we came here to ski, so of course we go. We decide to go by taxi, so that we donít have to make all the stops. It costs us about $20, but we get there at about 2:30pm to ski for the 1.5 hours that we can. We go to buy our tickets, but are informed that the lift is now closed. We came all this way, so we are not going back to our hotel without skiing. So we do the asinine thing and climb the mountain on foot. It took us half an hour to get about 200 feet and we skied down in about 10 seconds. That was fun. Not! We take the bus back, but it stops somewhere and we have to get off and wait for the next bus. We get back to our hotel and hope that wasnít our only ski experience of our whole trip. We rest from our agonizing day of skiing and ask the front desk for a recommendation for an Austrian dinner. The extremely friendly hostess makes a reservation for us at a small place very close by. Trok get Grostl, a strange dish of potatoes, meat, and a sunny side up egg. I got turkey (itís safer), with some strange vegetable that looked like what mold would look like magnified 1000 times. For those who want a less disgusting description, it looked like a cross between broccoli and cauliflower.

We go to the casino later that night, where we both go through about 22 American dollars, but it was fun. Austria doesnít have the same silly rules as Switzerland, so you can actually win money here. We go back to our room, and the power goes out. I look out the window. Pitch black. It seems Austria is out of power. Interesting. If not for the laptop on battery power, weíd be stuck. Here we are, in our room with the door locked and we donít know where the key is. When I say it is pitch black, I mean it is pitch black. There is no way we would be able to find the key without light. I wonder how the other people in the hotel are getting out of their rooms. We go downstairs and steal a candle we find in the first floor, which is there for decoration. We go back to our room and the power comes back on. What next?

Tuesday, Feb 23: We wake up on time today. There is no lift listing on the TV yet. I think it is only posted at 8:30, the opening time of the lifts. We come back from breakfast and see that the Maerle lifts in Kirchberg are open again, along with a lift in Wainstatt. Weíre not going to fall for that again, so we decide to go to Wainstatt, a 30 minute bus ride in the opposite direction of Kirchberg. We get dressed for skiing and look at the listing on TV again. Now no lifts are open. We decide to go to the information center in Kitzbuhel to see what we can do. During our walk, we come up with some plans. If there is going to be no skiing, why should we stay here? We should just go home and get our money back on the remaining nights in the hotel. At the info center, we are told it will snow today and tomorrow and that everything should be fine on Thursday. We didnít come to ski only two days, so we think about altering our plans. Instead of going to Munich on Saturday, we will ski Saturday, take the latest train back to Munich and sleep in the frigginí airport like the homeless. This way we will be right there when we wake up, save a hotel cost and get an extra day of skiing. Weíll work out calling Andreas and Jonathan about or plan to skip the Munich tour.

We decided to walk to the train station to see about the train schedule for Saturday and for Innsbruck today, since we cannot ski. We can take a 7:51 train to Munich Saturday night, so weíre all set. On the walk back to the hotel, we friendly Americans help out a car that is stuck in the snow/ice. We go to our room and check the TV. There are lifts open in Wainstatt. We go to the front desk to make sure that they are open. We donít want to take another bus ride only to find out we have to walk up the mountain. The hostess says that if the TV says it is open, then it is. We tell her that the TV said Wainstatt is open. She gives us a puzzled look and says she never heard of Wainstatt. She then asks if we are talking about what sounds like Vagshtat. We say, "yeah, that must be it." She calls over to find out they are open. We go back to our room to make sure that her pronunciation is the same place we are thinking of. We donít want to have a miscommunication because of the language difference. The TV says "Wagstaet." I donít know where we got the "N" from. And we all know a "W" is pronounced as a "V" in these parts.

We take the bus to Wagstaet and since it is the only life open in the country, you can imagine the crowd. We skied for the rest of the day, encountering plenty of powder, since it is still snowing; hasnít stopped since Sunday night. Because it is snowing all day, and the sun begins to go behind the mountains a little after 2pm, the visibility is quite low. There are times during our adventure when I swear to you, I cannot tell if I am going downhill, uphill, traversing flat terrain or even at a standstill. It is pretty much a white out. We also did one run too many, as by the end of the day with the visibility being low because of the light, it as really starting to snow hard now and we didnít know how to get back to the main lift for the bus back. When some skiers finally passed us, and I wanted to stop to adjust my gloves, Trok told me "NO!" and that we must follow them because here is our chance to get back. We made it back.

Our bus ride back had an unusual character on board; A very pretty blonde girl, about 20 years old who was speaking perfect German to her ugly friend. She struck up a conversation with some American sitting next to her and now changed her language to perfect British English. Normally, you would expect someone German to speak with a heavy German accent when speaking English, but this brings just goes to show that her teacher in her German school was a Brit, and not some German who taught them English. It was quite an unnerving experience.

We got back to our hotel after making way too many stops on the way back. Weíre tired. We flip on the TV and there is some wacky game show where three contestants are dressed up in Star Trek uniforms, all from different shows. I was able to answer one question, even though it was in German. Tonight we go to the Pizza/Pasta restaurant. Again, asking for a dark beer gets unusual looks and an explanation of what dark beer is doesnít get me anywhere. Trok points out that the people in the table behind us, look like terrorists. A man and woman, both in dark outfits of the leather kind. I tried to eavesdrop but couldnít make out anything. Hehehe. I order a dessert of chocolate mousse, which the waiter tells us is an exclusive to Kitzbuhel.

Wednesday, Feb 24: We wake up to non-snowy weather, but itís still cloudy. Just before we are ready to walk out the door the phone rings (?). It is Jonathan. Wow, how did he find us? He said he called my parents after responding to my email, but failing to receive a return to his email. He figured we already left for the trip and now there was no way to contact us. How one tracks down a comrade in a foreign country is a puzzling thought that I didnít feel like figuring out at this time, being that my mother didnít have the name of my hotel written down anywhere. So, Johnny is going to meet us at the Munich train station on Saturday, which it seems we will now be able to do, as we skied on Tuesday, and we will be able to ski through Friday, since the weather has held out. As soon as we hang up the phone, we are treated to another event; A German version of the Flying Pickets acapella version of "Only You" by Yaz. Itís exactly like the Flying Pickets version, only in German. Time to ski.

Since all lifts were open today, we took the short 3 block walk to the Hahnenkamm lift, an enclosed gondola to take us up to the top of the mountain. Since no one has skied in this area since Sunday and it has been snowing since then, there was plenty of powder, an almost unheard of condition in Europe. Of course, most of it was off-trail, where it seems, most people fear to try. We stupid Americans, I mean Canadians, ignore the trend of course. There are some areas that look so pristine we do not want to ruin the beautiful look of untouched snow. Buy hey, weíre pissed about the whole situation of not being able to ski that weíre are going to do things our way now. There is one particular area we keep skiing in, leaving our mark by turning a perfect powder area into our own playground. Trok wonders if he should put on his powder cords to prevent the disaster that occurred in Alta last year. He declines. Then what happens?

Right before lunch he takes a pretty good tumble under one of the lifts (sound familiar) and loses a ski. I am only about 5 feet below him, so I take of my skis to try and help, but the snow is so deep, every time I take a step, I sink up to my chest and fall two steps back. I am helpless, so I pull out my Nutella chocolate spread and start eating. Of course, since this is right under the lift, people are laughing at us, in German no less. I open my bag of tricks and switch my funky hat with a more standard wool hat so that when we go to lunch, we wonít have some moron say, "hey, gibt es die amerikanischen Verlierer, die verloren ihre Skis." I come prepared.

Since we are off trail, and the Europeans donít do that, we will probably never get someone to come by so we can try giving our sob story. Finally, someone comes by to help. Heís an American of course. So our theory is still holding true. I also have now mastered the snow and am able to get up there to help them. Trok finally finds his ski after about 40 minutes of searching and we go to lunch, quite a bit later than we wanted. We are quite famished at this point.

Upon arriving back at the hotel after our excellent day of skiing, we pick up our key. But wait, we have three phone messages. It seems our Momís called us to see if we survived the avalanches. We get back to the room and Trok tries to call his mom. He has a tough time because he is using some calling card and it asks to press the letter "P" but the phone in our room has no letters on it. After a minor struggle he makes his call. I call my mom and she said she had to call my travel agent to get the name of the hotel, which then entailed a whole other process of trying to get the phone number. After ensuring our safety to those back home, we head out to buy some needed items, like powder cords for me, and some drinks and noshes.

When we get back, we decided to try to use Trokís laptop to log onto the Internet. It would be quite expensive to call back to America, I mean Canada, but maybe we could find the drivers I need to download the pictures to his laptop, and we could see what messages people might have sent us to see if we were alive. Not only does Europe have silly looking electric outlets with an inefficient 200+ volts, they have some absurd looking phone outlet on the wall. No luck, weíll just have to wait until we get home to see what people are saying about us. Tonight I decide to sleep on the floor, since our bed sucks, and at least I can good some good back support. Since our blankets are quite thick, I use that as my mattress, and use the bedspread as my blanket. I feel like Crocodile Dundee.

Thursday, Feb 25: Sunny today; finally. We do a lot of off-trail skiing today. We head back over to the untouched area that only we have made track on. I get a little daring at try to do the run without stopping to catch my breath or give my legs a rest. I take a nice tumble, but when you fall in powder, it feels like you just float to a stop. Where are my skis? Good, one is still on, then other is one foot away. But wait, one pole is missing. There is no such thing as a powder cord for a pole. I start digging. Ah, there it is, 15 feet up the mountain. Itís not easy climbing, but if Trok hadnít lost his ski yesterday, I would not have mastered the art of climbing via the crawl. I have to take of my other ski, and upon retrieval of the pole, I am too tried to pop my powder cords back up my pants legs, so they are trailing behind me as I finish the rest of the run. I go to tuck them back in when we reach bottom, but one seems to have fallen off. Those goddamn Austrians donít know how to make powder cords. Shit! Now I have to buy another pair, but Iím waiting until I get back to America, I mean Canada. No more off-trail skiing for me. I canít bear to lose my skis and search for them.

Today is the first day that outdoor lunch is available. With the sun glaring and a nice temperature, we enjoy a restful meal while catching some sun. We are also treated to an unusual musical interlude. We have noticed this before, but I didnít mention it until now; The music playing is a very familiar 60ís song, in German, and then the second half of the song is in English. This goes on for our whole lunch break. Some of these songs we havenít heard for years. It is quite amusing. We try to figure out what the songs are while still in German (not an easy a task as you may think). The culmination was "Hitching a Ride," which I think was by a band called Vanity Fair from the late 60ís/early 70ís. Nothing of interest occurs in the rest of our skiing day.

While watching the weather forecast on TV that night, we realize that Europe, or at least Austria does not have the technology we have here in the USA, I mean Canada. Instead of nice big weather maps with graphical niceties, this one weather guy is holding up a picture of the local area. It is a drawing made with crayons. It is quite amusing listening to a German explanation about weather fronts, with this silly crayon drawing of the sun, a bunch of arrows, and what looks like some clouds. Multi-colored, no less.

At dinner this night, we go to a place we passed the other day that has Fondue, one of our favorite dishes from Switzerland. We decided against the fondue. Trok orders a meatball something. However, even though it does specifically say "meatballs" on the menu, he gets what appears to be meatlogs. No, not sausages or frankfurters, but exactly what I said; meatlogs. Back in the room that night, there is no English TV entertainment, so we stoop down to the level of watching Major League II in German. Then a funny thing happens; Major League I is on next. I wonder if thatís the way they do things here in Europe? Movie seriesí in reverse order? Why not go a step further and play each movie in reverse?

Day ends.

Friday, Feb 26: Sadly, our last day. How am I going to make it through this day? I have never skied four days in a row before. A more traditional weather pattern of sun then clouds is present today. It is also warmer, and quite pleasant out, which also usually translates to more sweat. Upon exit from the Hahnenkamm gondola, I attempt to take off my "cat tracks" from my boots before putting on my skis, but alas, I only have one! So now I lost another item of minor consequence. I wonder if I can strike a deal back home and buy on powder cord and one cat track?

Once again, we head to our favorite area of untouched snow, which by now is quite touched, but by us only. Today is the day I take it a little easy to prevent injury from overdoing it. On the way down through what precious little powder is left, something catches the corner of my eye. Could it be? Yes! Itís my powder cord I lost yesterday, slightly off my current path, but I quickly adjust my trajectory and head over. There it is. Itís either mine, or some other helpless fool has lost only one powder cord. Finding the cord gives me a thrill. Itís not the fact that I donít have to buy new oneís, but more of a sense of accomplishment of completing the daunting task of finding a lost item in the snow. Suddenly I have gathered the strength to continue. Itís the little things in life that bring so much joy to my existence.

Around noon, we try a set of groomed trails (gasp!) nearby that really tax the legs, as the are long and quite steep. I am still taking it easy but Trok wants no part of that. We agree to meet up by a small hill we see half way down the mountain. I get there, but usually Trok beats me, but not this time. I am there first. Iím waiting, but no Trok. Did he fall? Is he dead? Did he beat me and wait, then got impatient and left? Or most likely, he couldnít find our predetermined meeting spot. I wait and wait, but no Trok. Way up near the top of the mountain I see a horizontal body with skis and poles scattered nearby. Could that be him? He doesnít fall in such a manner on groomed trails, unless he is more tired than he is leading me to believe. I try to pick out Trok idiosyncrasies, but this person just looks generic. I know Trok doesnít have red boots, and from my distance it looks like this person does, but sight cannot be trusted from this large of a distance. It must be him as he is taking way too long to put his skis back on. Finally, I can wait no longer and head down to wait tat the bottom.

I get to the bottom and wait. I take off my skis and knapsack and make a chair out of the snow, right at the ski lift. There is no way he can get past me without me seeing him. I am waiting over 10 minutes and realize, oops, I am waiting at the lift that takes people up to a different set of trails. Shit! Now I have to climb, or walk up to the lift that we originally went up. I decide to go up one more time, ski down and then eat, and if I cannot find him, go back to our hotel. Upon my descent down the trail, Trok easily spots my ridiculous hat whilst up on the chair lift. I tell him to meet me at the food place, which he does. We eat, and head back towards the center of the ski area. At this point I inform Trok of my desire to end my skiing. Itís after 2pm, quite sufficient for me on my fourth straight day (plus one ridiculous attempt to walk up the mountain). He continues as I head back.

I go back to our room, take a shower and go to the hot tub, Ahhhhhhhhh, quite relaxing, but they lack the proper hot tub protocol here. The hot tub is warm, but not hot, but it will have to do. I go back to the room and call Andreas, leaving a message asking him to call me back. I give him the phone number of the hotel, which is some weird-ass looking number with one of the numbers in parenthesis. To me, with a math background, this means it is an optional number. I inform him in the message that he probably knows what it means, and to try to figure it out himself. Star Trek: Next Generation is on, in German. Itís the silly one where stupid Wesley jumps into a flower patch trying to retrieve a ball and is sentenced to death. Maybe in the German version they actually kill him? No such luck. I take a nap. Trok returns. I wake up. The phone rings. Itís Andreas. We make plans for our arrival tomorrow.

At dinner that night, I order Grostl, but our waitress hears it as "gulash." I quickly remedy the situation by pointing to it in the menu rather than trying to use my German accent and try again. Upon returning to our room, an episode of Star Trek: Voyager is on. Sleep time.

Saturday, Feb 27: We do a little souvenir shopping be we have to check out and catch the 11:57am train to Munich. A mildly amusing event occurs. While walking through the streets, a car pulls up and Monica Lewinsky jumps out. Letís try againÖ A car pulls up and some guy wants to know how to get to the Hahnenkamm gondola. Itís quite obvious he isnít German and attempts to say Hahnenkamm by stating only one word in query format: "Honnikerban???" Now, at this point I can start spewing out what few German words I know (if he doesnít speak German, he wonít know itís just unconnected words), or I can surprise him and I can say in perfect English, "Where the hell do you want to go?" Iíve had enough fun on this trip, so I just say, "English?" He is relieved, and I explain to him how to get there.

I pick up some pink grapefruit Fanta and a jar of the Nutella to take back to the States, I mean Canada. I but a souvenir stein (quite lovely) and we check out of our hotel. We have the front desk call a taxi and go outside to wait. We wait 10 minutes but there is no taxi. Trok goes in to inform them that the taxi hasn't come yet and they say it is on it's way. We wait another 10 minutes and I go in, and am a little more forceful. They call again to have a taxi come down. I go outside and a taxi shows up. Of course, Trok has already found a taxi and is negotiating a drive down to the train station. We hop into my taxi and drive off. The taxi Trok flagged down doesn't seem to happy, and there is also another taxi on it's way. Three taxis for us, but hell, they were unorganized. Not our problem.

We take the train and switch at Worgl (the "o" has those 2 dots above it but I can't seem the friggin' figur out how to put them there, so just imagine it). We get to the German border and for some reason we stop for longer than the usual one minute. We are stopped about 15 minutes, but no one seems to be agitated, so it must be normal. Ten more minutes go by and there is some announcement in German, so we don't know what it says. Someone finally says something. There is some banter back and forth with some official looking person outside the train, but still, no one seems to be annoyed that we are stopped, so maybe it's just some stupid argument about that stupid sport soccer. Finally we ask someone what is going on and they tell us they the train is waiting for the driver. Driver? Then how the hell did we get here??? Another ten minutes or so go by and we finally move on and finish our trip into Munich, 40 minutes late. Upon arriving, we find Johnny, and someone resembling Andreas (after all, I only met him once, seven months ago). I introduce Johnny to Andreas but they say they have met already. It seems that they were both waiting for our scheduled arrival at 3pm, but after everyone got off and we weren't there, they were the only two people left waiting to meet passengers. So Andreas went to Johnny, an American, I mean Canadian looking guy and asked if he was waiting for Gary. Imagine the surprise for Johnny. Here he is in a foreign country and someone comes up to him asking him if he knows me. It never fails; my reputation precedes me wherever I go. We tell them of our train ride fiasco and Andreas explains that the Germans don't like Austrian driving trains in their country and that is why we were stuck at the border waiting for a new driver.

We drop our stuff off at the hotel that Andreas booked us at (more like a bed & breakfast without the breakfast) and head on over to the Biergarden. Andreas explains that this is a place where young Germans go to do one thing; drink beer in huge glasses. They do nothing else; no relevant or meaningful conversation, just plain drink and pointless banter. Andreas and Johnny also point out that this is the first day since October that the weather has been nice. This, of course, was arranged by me. Andreas and I share in the drinking custom, sitting in one of the many picnic tables right on the lake. Andreas teaches me the drinking custom of saying "prost" before guzzling down our beers; a German word for "cheers."

We head on out and walk around the pedestrian area of Munich for a while, waiting for a good time to go to the Hofbrauhaus, a Bavarian food and beer place that Andreas says we must go to, or when we go home, people will yell at us for not going. We delight in some Bavarian food and this time, I finally find a dark beer! So to take advantage of it, I get it in one of the German glasses, a huge monstrosity that looks like a glass vase, measuring one liter in size. Burp! At this point Johnny must catch his train so he heads out and we go to Andreas' apartment before deciding where else to go. He gives us a travel alarm clock, because our hotel accommodations lack everything except a bed, sink and lamp. He also calls a taxi to meet us at 7:40am in front of our hotel.

We go to a local café, which is empty at the moment but fills to capacity by the time we leave half hour from now. It is local, so it's not "touristy." At about 10:30, we decide to call it a night. The ski trip has taken its toll on us and we do have to wake up early to catch our planes. We part with Andreas and go to our low-budget hotel. We don't trust the travel alarm clock, so we try to set up Trok's laptop to wake us up. There doesn't seem to be an alarm program except for Lotus Notes, but it only pops up messages; no sound. So Trok writes a Visual Basic program to make an annoying tone. Half hour later we are ready for sleep.

Of course we wake up the next morning before either alarm goes off. We take showers, minus the soap or shampoo. What did you expect from a low-budget hotel? We go downstairs and our taxi is waiting for us. He gets us to the bus stop at the train station, running a red light and seeming very nervous. Munich is allegedly the most police-laden city in Europe. We get to the bus and ask when it leaves. Two minutes! If he didn't run that light, we may have had to wait another hour for the bus, a most unfortunate dilemma, as we planned our airport arrival without designing for any unforseen circumstances. Oh, and Andreas suggested we take the bus as opposed to the train as Sunday morning may not have frequent trains to the airport, and that there averages about one bomb threat per week on the Munich trains.

Nothing more to write about that wasn't expected. I called Joanne when I got home to apologize You remember, the chick who's skis I stole, ahem, accidentally walked off with? She didn't seem to mind at all, and since there were avalanches all over the place when we got to Austria, I may have saved her life.