Despite my stomach troubles on the train, I arrived in Salzburg with my mother feeling much better than I did in Florence, but was immediately disappointed by the place. My assessment was, “not quite as nice as Innsbruck, and everything closes even earlier.” We did manage to stumble on some sort of vegan festival and a bakery where I got myself a pretzel, but we ended up calling it an early night yet again (I don’t even know what I wanted to be out doing other than watching TV in bed, but I kept complaining about it, so it must have been something. I am still a total night owl, in that I stay up half the night, but I don’t actually want to be doing anything other than sitting on my couch). The next day was a Sunday, so if we were expecting anything to be open, we were really out of luck! After determining that all the museums were closed, we decided to book one of the many bus tours on offer just for something to do. Although my mother and I both love The Sound of Music, which was the reason we wanted to visit Salzburg in the first place (you can see me standing in Mirabell Gardens, where some of the “Do Re Mi” scenes were filmed, above), for some reason, we decided not to go on The Sound of Music bus tour, and opted for a salt mine tour instead (my journal doesn’t record why this is, but I suspect my antipathy towards sing-alongs had something to do with it. I love singing, but not in front of other people).
Our bus tour was billed as a salt mine and Eagle’s Nest tour, so naturally we assumed we were going to get to go inside the Eagle’s Nest, the famous Nazi meeting place/mountain retreat (in retrospect, this seems like a really odd combination, but it was definitely prominently billed as part of the tour). So we were quite surprised when it was merely pointed out to us from the top of another mountain as we were driving up one of those winding Alpine roads over the border into Germany. I was already terrified by how narrow the roads were, having never really been in the mountains before, so imagine my reaction when a car slammed into our bus whilst we were taking a turn! Fortunately, no one was hurt, but it did delay proceedings some in addition to (almost literally) scaring the crap out of me. Once we got going again, we were taken to some tourist trap German village that the guide was clearly in cahoots with, because he very strongly encouraged us to have lunch in a particular restaurant and buy souvenirs in a particular shop. Neither my mother nor I were particularly impressed by this, so we chose to wander around a German cemetery that turned out to have a disturbing abundance of Nazi graves until it was time to go to the salt mine (even though I wasn’t particularly keen to get back on the bus).
The salt mine was a better time, when we finally got there. They asked us to put on these rad jumpsuits with a little salt man logo on the pocket, and looking at that photo of myself makes me wish I’d been allowed to keep it. I would totally wear that thing all the time! The entrance into the salt mine was a giant slide, and once we were inside, we got to ride a train, take a boat ride on a salt lake and a funicular back up to ground level, and they gave us a tiny souvenir salt shaker, which was adorable! It was honestly so fun, though the weirdness of the German village and the bus accident prevents me from recommending the tour as a whole. Maybe you can just visit the salt mine on its own? Once we got back to Salzburg, we were pretty hungry, having not eaten in the village, and for some reason we ended up in a Mexican restaurant, which I (rather cleverly I thought) referred to as “the wurst Mexican restaurant ever.” Mexican food in Europe back then was appalling (it still is in many places – I wouldn’t say it’s disgusting here, but I’ve yet to find a Mexican restaurant I really like in London. However, the Colombian and Venezuelan food here is fantastic – the arepa place at Maltby Street Market makes the best arepas I’ve ever had. God I miss them!), and the chips and salsa consisted of nacho cheese Doritos with a salsa that appeared to be made from hot sauce mixed with a taco seasoning packet. I was too scared to try proper food there after that, so I just ate some mediocre potato wedges before we returned to the hostel.
The next morning, I was as happy as a sand boy because my mother finally left to go back home, and I was on my own again (of course, that meant I was in for more weirdness from pervy men)! I had booked a hostel in Munich for that night, so had to head there at some point, but the hostel in Salzburg had a laundry room, so I decided to do some laundry first – I probably smelled terrible, since this was when I was going through a hippyish salt deodorant phase (doesn’t work at all, by the way) and had been wearing the same clothes over and over again without washing them since I got there. I met a nice British guy in there who I got chatting to (just as friends – we subsequently sent each other a few Facebook messages and that was the end of it), so ended up taking a much later train than planned and arrived in Munich in the evening. After eating some seitan kebabs in a vegan restaurant (not what I intended to order, but the menu was all in German and my waitress didn’t speak any English. They were fine though), I headed back to the hostel, and bellied up to the bar to claim my free drink. Even though I drank more back then than I do now, I was still a total lightweight, and a guy at the bar kept hitting on me and buying me beers, so I was getting drunk quickly. Eventually, the bartender starting hitting on me as well, and brought over a whole tray full of free shots of Jagermeister (I’m worried this sounds like I think I’m hot stuff or something, which could not be further from the case, but I seemed to attract loads of male attention on this trip – given the B.O. issue I mentioned earlier, I certainly can’t explain it!). I have never had a night that ended well after drinking Jager, and this was no exception. The guy at the bar was getting a bit handsy, so I went to the toilet just to get away from him. Four hours later, I woke up on the floor of the stall, with puke that must have been mine in the toilet, but no recollection of how it got there. I definitely don’t think I was drugged or anything – this is just what happens when I drink to excess, and this is why I haven’t had more than three drinks (and even that’s pushing it these days) at a time in many years. I somehow managed to drag myself up to my room where I passed out again, only to be awakened by the very loud family I was apparently sharing the room with (this was the first time I’d seen them, as they were obviously all asleep when I came in the night before) at 7 am, who took their good old time getting ready whilst loudly chatting the whole while in some foreign language that I was too hungover to identify.
Eventually they left, but I still had to force myself out of bed much too soon to check out – even though I already had a night train booked to Paris for that evening, I very strongly debated paying for an extra night just so I could sleep off my hangover. The foreign family had left me the wonderful gift of wet hair clumped all over the bathroom floor, which made me gag, but I managed to get down to reception without a further puking incident. Happily, the hostel had a lovely indoor garden with giant beanbag chairs in it, so after I checked out, I headed straight there, where I promptly fell asleep for another few hours. When I woke up, I was still mildly hungover, but felt well enough to get up and at least try to eat something, so I headed to a supermarket to buy some bananas and Rittersport (they had all these exotic flavours of Rittersport I’d never seen before, which was exciting, though I still think I like milk chocolate cornflake and the white chocolate ones with cornflakes and crispies the best) and after eating those, finally had the strength to go and explore Munich a bit. I was really hoping to visit this pop-up museum I had found online that I think was meant to be just an assortment of weird crap collected by artists, but I could not find it for the life of me, so I think it had already closed by the time I was there (I have subsequently not been able to find any evidence of this anywhere online, which makes me wonder if it ever really existed. Was it some Hostel style trap to lure innocent tourists into a torture den, and I narrowly escaped certain death? I guess I’ll never know). I tried to get more food before boarding my train, but I ended up buying the grossest falafel I’ve ever had in my life – instead of forming the falafel mix into balls or patties and frying it, like any other falafel I’ve ever seen, this guy smeared raw falafel mix into a pita, and grilled the pita, so it remained totally raw inside. It was so so gross, and I don’t know if it was his first day on the job, or if this was standard procedure at this shop, but I still don’t understand it.
Having had a less than great experience in Munich (capped off by trying to order chips at the train station, since I barely ate the gross falafel, but I was pronouncing pommes in the French style (like pom, all one syllable) rather than what was apparently the German way (pom-mess, said as two syllables) and the guy pretended not to understand me, even though chips were literally all he sold. I’m pretty sure he was just being a jerk), I boarded the night train, which unfortunately didn’t have any couchettes, so I was just stuck in a normal bench style seat alone in a compartment with a German man who started asking me all these creepy questions, beginning with “did I have a boyfriend?” which disturbingly and rapidly progressed to “did I enjoy bondage?” I was shit-scared at the thought of being left alone in a compartment with this guy for the night and was trying to think of a way to make a getaway when a Mexican guy around my age poked his head in and asked if he could sit with us. I don’t think I’ve ever before been eager to have someone sit next to me! Clearly the German guy did have some sort of ill intentions, because he left pretty soon after the Mexican guy (whose name was Pedro) turned up and we didn’t see him again, so I basically thought of Pedro as my saviour. Since no one else joined us in the compartment, and I felt safe with Pedro, who was lovely, we both laid down on our respective bench seats and tried to get some much needed sleep. Unfortunately, the train had more stops in the night, and people started waiting outside our compartment for one of us to move so they could snag a seat. Sensing this was happening, I kept my eyes firmly shut and pretended to sleep, but poor Pedro moved a bit, and some guy saw that as his opportunity and asked Pedro to sit up so he could sit next to him. I managed to feign sleep until we were almost in Paris, but as the benches were quite hard, I didn’t end up actually sleeping that much either, so we both faced a sleepy day in Paris, where we had agreed to meet up later to see the Louvre. As I’ve already rambled on quite a bit, and I’ve got loads of stories from Paris (it was one of the most eventful parts of the whole trip), I’ll leave it for next time (and also explain my slightly odd circuitous route, since if you’ve been reading along with the trip, you will recall that I had already been to Paris and may be wondering why I went back!).