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Mountain Train Ride to Feldkirch, Austria – Day 50
Saturday 19th September 2009 – Austria
This part of Switzerland is known as the sunniest part, it is the part that gets most sun throughout the year. It lived up to its reputation when I arrived yesterday, as it was the hottest day for me so far on this part of my journey. I was hoping it would stay that way.
Walking around in the evening was lovely and cool, it was exactly what I have been waiting for, but today brought with it a whole new weather system, one that would eventually bring rain cascading down upon us. For the morning though, it was fairly light. I showered and made my way to the breakfast room. Thomas was there so I sat with him. He couldn’t decide what to do today. At this point the heavens opened and made deciding more difficult for him. For me, it meant wearing my wet weather gear for the first time.
I had a lot of time to play with this morning, and this helped a lot in staying dry. As I waited until the last minute to leave the hostel, the rain had softened dramatically. It was fine to walk in without using my raincoat. I waited a while for the train, and in this time, I kept going over my route in my head. I had many changes to make today from train to coach to train etc, and I didn’t want anything to go wrong. As I waited, I watched the trees gently sway, and the flags on the poles dancing very softly. Even the traffic seemed to make little noise. I thought this was the calm before the storm. Then, without warning, the clouds opened up once again, and it poured for the best part of the morning. Clouds had engulfed the sides of the mountains now and it all looked very bleak. This was already my rainiest day so far.
I boarded the train for my first part of the journey, but hoped the rain wouldn’t delay any part. The rain still pelted down and I changed into my wet weather gear. As I left the train, the rain eased again, and as I walked outside it had all but stopped. I hopped on the coach after making sure it was the correct one, and sat with a little sigh. Stage 2 of the journey was about to begin.
It was roughly a 2 hour coach ride from here, and it might be the most visually stunning part of my whole trip so far. We ascended the mountain roads and began to see some incredible sights. The clouds were circling the mountains like tinsel on a Christmas tree, swirling around, gathering energy. The mountains looked angry, as if they themselves were creating this awful weather. Little towns beneath the mountains were powerless against the might of the huge beasts behind them. It was like the mountains were casting a shadow of doom over the village below. The cloud was so thick in parts that it resembled a blanket of snow hovering above the trees. Electricity pylons stood majestically on the open ridges, some pushing their way through the cloud. The valley ahead looked particularly threatening as we continued forward towards it.
I spent all of the journey rubber necking, and wanted to see more. I wished we could stop the coach so as to take pictures of all that I was seeing. The pictures I did get through the rainy windows of the coach don’t do it any justice. We travelled through numerous tunnels en-route, some closed, and some with one side open. The open side had pillars all along at intervals, and it was as if we were looking through open windows one after the other. Each window had its own image of the landscape behind, and each picture slightly different from the last, almost as if you were looking at a large movie reel, frame by frame. It felt a little as though I was on a ride in Florida, in the Magic Kingdom.
The rest of the coach trip brought other surprises, like a parade of hundreds of trucks, all shapes and sizes, old and new, some brightly coloured, all different from the rest. The roads were blocked in one direction because of this, and I was glad it wasn’t on a road we were on. We ploughed on up the roads, through ski resorts and small villages, stopping briefly to let a farmer and his wife cross the road with their herd of cows, before finally reaching my stop, Chur train station.
I was straight onto the train that had pulled up as I was approaching, and was sat down for a short while before reaching my next stop, Sargans station. From here it was another hop over the platforms to another train, then off on the final stage. I was happy to be sitting down on the last part, especially as it had all gone without hitch, and I was in a closed carriage all to myself. There was a little problem with the train and we were slightly later than planned, but I had arrived at my final stop, and jumped off very relieved.
In the quiet station I bought my next set of tickets, and used a map the ticket man gave me to find the hostel. It was only down the road. It was very warm now, and the sun was making me sweat, wearing my jeans and a long sleeve top.
I checked in at reception and was surprised to see how different it looked from all the others so far. This was a quieter place, and had a very old feel to it, like it had a history. The reception guy was very helpful and I put my things on the bed before setting out to grab some food from the nearby supermarket. I used the rest of the afternoon to do clothes washing and to write my diary. It was a 10 bed dorm and most of the beds were taken, so I’m not sure if I will sleep too well tonight, but we’ll see.
I also read the leaflet the reception guy had given to me about the history of the building. It turns out this building was used to house a leper colony, and people who contracted the ‘Black Death’. People who had the disease were given their own funeral while they were still alive, but not buried, cremated. I can sense a lot of pain and suffering went on between these walls, and it must have been very frightening. I wondered if some of the cracks in the timber beams across the ceiling held any secrets of stories, whether there was any ounce of the past still soaked into these walls. Now would be a good time for the walls to start speaking, and I would listen intently I’m sure.
I used the kitchen that was located down in the cellar region of the building, and wondered whether I should be there at all, but the signs on the doors assured me I had a right to be here. You can definitely get a glimpse of how things might have been. It was still the original building, and during restoration, builders were given strict instructions to use all of the original structure if possible.
My meal this evening was a microwave meal from the supermarket, but only now did I realise what I had bought. It was a rice dish wish sea shell creatures and muscles etc. I cooked it anyway, maybe I might like it. As the microwave reached the end of its cycle, a girl entered the kitchen. She was quite butch, and was obviously very annoyed about something. She refused to return a greeting at me and even blanked me altogether. It turns out she was annoyed that I was there at all, I was in her way when all she wanted was to come in, get her food and go. Here I was making her wait about 20 seconds, how outrageously unkind of me!
Anyway, the first bite of the meal I had for myself made me squint with the saltiness of it, and I knew right then I wasn’t going to eat it all. A quarter of it down my gullet, then the rest in the bin. It didn’t matter. I wasn’t really hungry.
After dinner I layed down before going to bed. It was late and no-one else was in the room yet, strange!
Written by Daniel Stevens,
Founder of Roundtheworldtrip.org.
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