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Travels with Georgia and zig
Overseas Trips

Episode 10 -- 5/22/10 On the Way to Salzburg, Switzerland, Austria, Bavaria 2010
Episode 10—Saturday 5/22/10: On the Way to Salzburg


After breakfast of bread, cheese, meat, yogurt and coffee we said goodbye to our dinner companions and wished them pleasant journeys. Walked to the tiny train station along the gravel path beside the creek. It was a cloudy day, but not raining. Bought a ticket to Salzburg via Munich. Two very muscular men from Jordan were having a terrible time buying their tickets from the outdoor ticket kiosk. I tried to help and gave up when the train arrived. I told them to just buy their ticket from the engineer or conductor. They were going to Munich for the day. We sat across the aisle from each other. They were attending the NATO school nearby. Easy to believe. They looked very military, even in their expensive civvies. They said they were returning to Oberammergau that evening to see the play. One was saying his prayers with prayer beads. I assume they were Muslim, though I guess it was possible they were Coptic Christians. I should have asked, but overseas it’s easy to be unintentionally rude and we try to be especially careful. I wonder what they thought of the Passionsspiele.
Had to change trains in Munich. It was a long hike from one gleis to another. About half way along Georgia got nervous and started jogging! I couldn’t believe it, and tried to stay up with her but started falling back—I’d been given the job of pulling the suitcases, after all. We got to the train with about 15 minutes to spare, and sat there feeling sort of foolish as people we’d passed on the platform sauntered on board cool as cucumbers. It’s hard to act casual as you are gasping for breath.
The train rolled through lovely fertile farmland covered with a lush green winter crop of grass. We ate the sandwiches we had made in Fussen and were glad to have them. Shared the lemon cookies we’d bought with an elegantly dressed older woman sitting across from us, and with a college student sitting next to me. There were two college girls sitting a few rows ahead of us. One was a lovely redhead with uncombed hair. She looked longingly at the cookies and I offered to toss her a little pack. She looked surprised, blushed, and shook her head. Even “worldly” 18-year olds are afraid to accept sweets from strangers, I guess. Two cute boys, getting off the train later, walked past the girls without paying them any mind. The girls exchanged glances and sighed. The redhead absentmindedly traced her collarbone and toyed with the top button of her blouse. Ah—young unrequited longing!
Salzburg is an ancient city with a “salty” attitude.
The Banhauf is under construction and our walk to the bus terminal took us along a hundred yards of caution tape and excavation. Georgia had printed out directions to the youth hostel and got us on the right bus with no trouble. How in the world could I possibly manage without her? I Couldn’t! But even on the right bus our hostel was still quite a haul from the bus stop. Especially when pulling carry-ons along the cobbled streets.

Round behind the cathedral, past statues remembering the city’s favorite son, Wolfgang Mozart, the hostel was in a house dating from the fourteenth century. How cool is that? The woodwork and door hardware were amazing. I estimate that the outside wall at 15” thick with two sets of windows—one on the outside of the building and one on the inside. Early “thermal panes” I guess. Nice clean room with a sink and shower. The WC was just around the corner on the same floor.


There was interesting heraldic glass in the window at the end of the hall. I noticed that somewhere over the centuries one of the windows has been re-installed backwards. The painted side was facing out—though I guess it doesn’t matter since the exterior glass keeps it from weather damage.

While resting in the room the bells started ringing: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15. . . . I thought of the third-grade joke: “What time is it when your clock strikes 13? Answer: Time to get a new clock. We had to see what was going on, and hurried out to sit at the fountain in front of the Cathedral. And still the bells kept ringing. We were engulfed in sound from all the surrounding churches. Light rippling bells, melodic alto bells, tenor bells, and one huge sonorous base tolling out a sound so deep I swear the fountain was vibrating in sympathy. It was 3 o’clock on a Saturday afternoon and all the churches in the old city were remembered the day and hour tradition says Jesus died. The ringing lasted for 15 full minutes.

We looked in the Cathedral afterward but there was no stained glass to speak of—just simple lozenge windows with six-sided panes. It looked like honeycomb in glass. We decided to take a look at the other churches. None had any art glass. Happened on St. Blaise’s Church where there was some sort of “Life Teen” or youth celebration in the crypt beneath the sanctuary. We stood at the back and saw that all the pews were full, and most of the floor as well. Two large-screen TVs up front and eight flat-screen TVs attached to the ancient pillars let people see what was going on. There was only one entrance through an ancient iron grille at the back. Kids were pouring in. I’ve never seen anything like it. The floor continued to fill while a band on the “stage” warmed up. Surely the fire marshal wouldn’t let this many kids in here. There wasn’t room to stand let alone leave a fire aisle. And only one door!

The MC came on the loud speaker from time to time obviously asking the kids to scoot around to leave a walking path down the “aisles.” They tried, but as soon as anyone cleared some space, someone else came along to sit. The band started playing, and the kids got all excited, stood up and started bobbing and hopping to the music. “There’s no God like Jehovah” became “There’s no one like Jesus!” and still the kids poured in until there was absolutely no room on the floor. We couldn’t see a lot because the pillars were so huge, but I would guess there were 100-150 kids shoulder to shoulder, wall to wall, and 70 or 80 “rows” plus the pews. There must have been about 7,500 kids in this space that was probably 60-70 feet square. The energy was amazing. Three teenaged boys got up from their pew and made their way over to where we were sitting against the grille. I have no idea what they asked. When they realized that we spoke English they got into an animated conversation with each other and struggled to tell us that they wanted us to take their seats on the pew. How charming! I thanked them but declined. As I age it’s easy to distrust the young, but isn’t it just the way that the wheat and the tares, all flourishing together, wait for the harvest when they will be separated.
After the songs we all sat on the floor again, or at least tried to sit on the floor again, but it takes more floor space to sit than it does to stand. A lovely young woman stepped up to the microphone. She must have been 23 or 24 and began giving a testimony. I don’t know German but this being the vigil of Pentecost I could understand the heart of her message. She’d always been a “good” girl—a “Charlie Brown” she said, who’d led a boring life, and went to church because Mommy and Daddy did, but felt nothing in her heart ‘til she met a nun named Katherine who was really cool. She took Katherine home to meet her family. Her brother said “You’re really cool; why do you want to hang out with my sister?” That got a good laugh. She had the crowd in the palm of her hand. Heart speaking to heart. The kids identified with the family issues. But then she started talking about her decision to become a nun herself and I saw lots of kids start to squirm. They could identify with the problems she faced, but not with the solution she chose. Most wanted something less radical. They wanted family, jobs, pleasure, whatever. But it was clear they did admire her and so they accepted the “nun-thing” as a viable, if not immediately attractive option..
We left after the testimony as the music started to heat up again. The space behind the grille was also packed. When we got outside we found people standing 15-20 deep outside the door. It was all very heartening for me. I guess I’m a pessimist at heart seeing signs of impending collapse wherever I look. It feels SO good to see signs that the world is not spinning out of control. A little glimpse of heaven, I’ve heard it called.
Walked up the mountain to the Augustiner Brau Haus for supper. Monks running a brewpub. How neat is that? I like Salzburg—attitude and all. I picked up two one-liter beer steins and rinsed them in a very cold fountain then handed them to the Monk who was working the tap. Wonderful foamy head, and pale amber liquid gold! We went out to find a table in the garden. Ate crème horns, BBQ ribs, sauerkraut, baked potato with sour cream and chives. MMMmmmmm. Balanced diet! It started to rain but they had a covered porch. After supper and another beer we caught a bus on the corner and it dropped us off near the Hostel. We crashed into bed like twin meteorites.
Sunday 5/23/10: Pentecost in Salzburg

We woke up early. I get ready quickly in the morning and decided to head over to the Cathedral for the 8:30 Mass while Georgia took her time getting ready. I wasn’t planning on receiving communion at this Mass but wanted to see the church before the crowd arrived at 10 am. At that service there was to be a Haydn high Mass with the organ Mozart played on, a full orchestra, chorus, and soloists. I expected that there would be a crowd. For this earlier service there were maybe 100-150 people. But the interior of the Cathedral was so huge we rattled around like B-B’s in a box car.

About halfway through the first reading one fairly well dressed young man in a brown coat, nice hat, and a neatly trimmed beard strolled down the center aisle looking around as though he were a tourist. He carried one of those large beer bottles they sell in Salzburg. Every few steps he would stop and take a healthy pull on it, then stroll on. Eventually he reached the altar, where he stood, swaying slightly and staring at the Priest reading the gospel. I was close enough that I could hear him mutter under his breath. It was very disquieting, and all eyes of course were riveted on him.
 (to be continued)