We learned an important lesson today: plans are helpful.

Up until today, we had every one of our overnight stays reserved in advance.  We did not go with hotels, pensions or even hostels.  The Internet has provided opportunities that we are taking full advantage of – apartments for rent by owners.  The web gives people who own one or two apartments the ability to find people like us to use them.  This has served us pretty well.  OK, the place outside Vienna is an example of the process going poorly, but at least we had a place to stay.

Today, however, we did not have any reservation.  We knew we wanted to be in Venice tomorrow night, but did not want to drive all the way from Vienna to Venice in one day, especially since there is a road that is “one of the most beautiful, if not intimidating” drives in the world that we want to take between Salzburg and Venice.  As a result, we decided that we would “wing it” and stay somewhere around Salzburg.

This, my friends, was not our best idea.

The day started inauspiciously.  We woke with the lights out (Susie eventually found the breaker) and the bathroom still less than fully functional.  We went to the grocery store to get our supplies for breakfast and lunch and then headed out.  We pulled into a gas station to fill up and buy and map.  [Note: gas is around $7/gallon.  They Europeans are not big car people in general.]  While there, we required everyone make one final bathroom stop as the gas station’s facilities were a European rarity: clean and free.  We all completed our assigned task except for Virginia.  The rest of us decided to move the car because a line had started behind our car for the pump.  We went to an area below the station and parked in a large, empty parking lot waiting for Virginia to reappear (we told her where to find us).  An angry Austrian started to yell at Susie who was sitting in the driver’s seat..

While I do not speak German, his urgency seemed to suggest that we were standing on hallowed ground.  We then moved to another, less exciting spot.  We then realized that Virginia had still not reappear.  Just as we decided to dispatch a rescue team, she appeared bearing this tale.

Within this particular bathroom, there was a button to flush the toilet AND a bright red pull string.  You know the shade of red – the one that is associated with stop signs, defibrillators and emergencies.  In any event, Virginia (happily locked into the bathroom) opted for the string.

Alarms promptly sounded.  Concerned and confused gas station employees begin to knock on the door.  Virginia assumed they were simply someone that REALLY needed to go.  Too shy to yell while in the privy, she remained silent.  Lets upgrade employees from “concerned” to “frantic”.  Knocking becomes hammering.  Ever the lady, Virginia remains silent.  She does not even offered the universal “occupado”.

At this point, I picture them searching for an axe or other implement to smash in the door.  Perhaps they started to grab cases of beer or Red Bull [very big here] to charge the door and save this helpless victim.

Meanwhile, Virginia – still uncharacteristically taciturn – is washing her hands.

She emerges just as the knocking volume has escalated from “frantic” to “help, I am not trained for this”.

She smiles at the employees and walks to us.

Yep, that pretty much started the day perfectly.

It was raining all day, so it was an ideal travel day except bad weather makes European drivers even more exciting.  Susie did a marvelous job and we arrived around Salzburg with no plan other than to go to the Hallein Salt Mines.

We arrived at the Information office at 12:05 to find the note explaining that the information team would be back by 2.  We still had no internet signal, but they did have an internet-enabled travel guide for the area.  We found a map, circled 8 different options and went on the prowl.  We went to every place on our list.

With each “we are full” or “we have room for 2, but not 6”, our spirits flagged.  The last place that seemed even a possibility was the Pension Weinletner.  As we arrived, two hyperactive lap dogs charged us.  They were followed by the most lovely of hostesses.  The pension has only two rooms – both triples.  Success!

We are now checked in, have visited the Salt Mines and are about to go to dinner.  We have already scoped out the restaurant to assure that we have an internet connection.  Sadly, the Pension Weinletner has none.  It, however, has a roof and comfortable beds and breakfast, so who is complaining?


Steve Sir


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