As an uneasy flyer, I prefer trains whenever possible. You not only have more comfortable seats, but you have a great view of the area you are passing through, enabling you to see more than the cities you are staying in. As I write this, our train is passing through fair Verona, and I am looking out at vineyards crisscrossing the green hillsides of northern Italy and naturally looking forward to the glass of wine I will be enjoying at dinner tonight. To digress for a moment… tonight Madison and I will be celebrating three years together (crazy!) with homemade pasta, wine, and I’m hoping tiramisu. Beef goulash, schnitzel and pretzels were great, so thank you Austria, but we are definitely looking forward to Italian food.
Today we began our journey with a two hour train from Salzburg to Innsbruck with views that, when not concealed in the distinctive Austrian fog, revealed green pastures and hillsides, grazing cows, and rivers running through the valleys. The homes are exactly what I imagined – all tucked in together in patches where someone hundreds of years ago decided to build a town.
The train to Venice from Innsbruck is 5 hours, but the time is flying by. At times we were at a very high elevation, and we could see snow topped mountains in the distance as we passed through forests and towns resting almost vertically on the green mountainsides. We saw several bridges where people go bungee jumping, with huge concrete pillars stretching down to the valley floor. It looked so intense for a moment I asked myself whether I should come back and do it, but I think maybe I should just go hiking and enjoy the sights that way…
Besides the amazing scenery, (which we were told was under 2 meters of snow just two weeks ago and is already completely gone) we met some interesting people on our trip. We sat in a cabin with a couple from Oregon, Mike and Sue, and a German fellow from outside Munich, who did not give us his name. It’s always great connecting with other travelers. Our German friend was hilarious, and had a lot of opinions about politics and economics which he had no problem in freely sharing. He is a huge Obama fan (duh, he lives in Europe) and is crossing his fingers that he wins again in 2012. We went back and forth on the current financial crisis in Greece and marveled at how many unsustainable benefits Greek citizens receive. Before he left we had a good laugh at Berlusconi too.
It is refreshing to speak with people who live outside the U.S. and to hear their opinion of Americans and their own countries. For the rest of my ride, I am going to relax and read another chapter of Thomas Friedman’s newest book, “That Used to Be Us: How America Fell Behind in the World it Invented and How We Can Come Back,” a book I so far highly recommend.