We got up early (6:15) this morning because we had a bus to catch but wanted to make sure to take advantage of the breakfast buffet at our hotel. It was predictably wonderful—fresh breads and rolls, jams, cheeses and cold-cuts, and also a homemade Birchermuesli (a sort of overnight porridge with various grains and dried fruit) that was delicious. Then we checked out of the hotel and walked back through the train station and on to the bus parking lot where the famous FlixBus busses depart—they are the new competition for the trains, and it cost us a grand total of 22 euro per person to get from Zurich to Salzburg via Munich. We didn’t take the „express“ bus without stops to Munich, so that was a 5-hour trip—but in the front seats of a double-decker bus through a fabulous landscape with much to gawk at. The highlight of the bus ride was that we went across Lake Constance (the third-largest lake in Europe, after Lake Geneva-check!- and a lake in Hungary that I didn‘t know about) in a car ferry! It was only a 10 minute ride, but we got to be off the bus and stand on deck as we crossed, and that was just fabulous—it made the bus travel definitely worth it! In Munich, where we had to change buses and had enough stuff to grab a sandwich and a drink for lunch. The two hours from Munich to Salzburg, which sits right behind the German border, turned into three because of traffic jams near Salzburg, but again, the beautiful landscape around us made that much less frustrating for us than for our poor bus driver. But we were glad to finally arrive at about 5:30 and find our friend Michl pretty much right away. We parked at a beer garden near the Mönchsberg, outside of the Old City of Salzburg, and walked up to have a good look from afar at the actual Salzburg („salt fortress“) high up on the hill on the south bank of the river Salzach, on which the salt (Salz) was shipped from the salt mines in the nearby mountains, making Salzburg a wealthy city in the Middle Ages and beyond.
Mark only took a few iPhone photos because he was without his camera for once (“I thought we were just going to the beer garden”—famous last words since we always find unexpected stuff we want to take pictures of wherever we go).
After a half-hour stroll high up above the river around the Mönchsberg (we‘ll be back in Salzburg on Saturday!), we went back to the beer garden, the Müllnerbräu, so we could meet up with friends at a reunion/anniversary event on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the student exchange between the university of Salzburg and Bowling Green State University. There are events planned for the next four days, and I would guess that a total of 70-100 people are here for it from those 50 years. I wasn’t actually part of that exchange in any way, but almost all my friends from my year at BGSU (1989-90) were, since that was the major draw of the German program there (in fact, I sent a student from Hastings College to their M.A. program, and he spent a year in Salzburg with them as well). The people from my year that could come are actually all already living in Austria or Germany, and they are all people I’ve been staying in touch with over the years—Laurie, who lives in Berlin and whom we will see again in a few days, and our Austrian friends, Monika and her husband Walter from Vienna, and Michl, who is our host for the next few days, although we are staying with a friend of his instead, because things are a bit up and down at his house—Silvia, his wife, just had shoulder surgery, and his older daughter and her boyfriend are coming to visit her. But we‘ll spend tomorrow and Sunday with Michl and hopefully also see Silvia.
This first evening, we just had fun catching up with these 4 (and the emeritus professor who initiated this entire anniversary celebration in hopes of preserving the program, which was at risk of being shrunk to a stupid Maymester) among another 50 or so reunion guests, in a special room at the beer garden (despite the name, actually an indoor-outdoor place). It was a great, informal venue (even though we had to be indoors to have enough room for everyone)—we had to grab our food at various stands (we had various kinds of pork, potato salad, sauerkraut) and then the drinks from another line, which was a lot of fun. Mark had a beer from a half-liter stein, but I indulged in more childish pleasures and had a Himbeerbrause (raspberry fizzy drink), a classic thing to get at a swimming pool kiosk. We talked until about 10 pm (I hadn‘t seen Monika and her husband Walter for probably 20 years, although we had seen Michl and also Laurie 2 years ago on our last trip) and then Michl still had to drive us to our host for the night, Loisi, and himself home. Laakirchen, where they all live, is an hour from Salzburg, and since Michl works tomorrow (he‘s a teacher), he was in quite a hurry to get home. So I had to adjust to 90-mile-an-hour speed on the autobahn all over again. I think I‘ll sit in the back of the car for the next trip. We were at Loisi‘s at about 11 pm and went pretty much straight to bed. Looking forward to a slightly slower-paced day on our own tomorrow!