Sunday, May 13, 2007

Vienna to Klagenfurt, then Bled

KIM: The flight leaving Vienna for Klagenfurt was on a little puddle jumper prop plane operated by Tyrolean Air. The passengers boarded a bus from the terminal which headed out to the nether reaches of the airport. About a half mile out, several planes were parked on the tarmac ready to board and, you guessed it, ours was the smallest. There were some gasps from the Japanese tourists when they saw we were actually going to board that particular plane, but they got their cameras out and began to take pictures of each other in front of the plane and with the gorgeous Vienna sunset in the background, and they were happy. The flight attendants and most of the passengers were German-speaking, but the international safety speech was given in German and English (for my benefit?). The sun had just set when we took off, so as we climbed the sun came back out over the horizon. It was blood-red and made me wish I had my camera out. No such luck… that plane was so small I barely got my camera on much less out. The Austrian countryside was beautiful from the air and as it got dark, we flew over Graz and then descended into the tiny little airport in Klagenfurt. Our bags were quickly unloaded and the passengers all headed for the CUSTOMS sign, but the agents had all gone home for the night! So I passed into Austria without anyone batting an eyelid! Outside, the drive was paved in cobblestones and several taxis were lined up, but I waited for Sašo. And waited, and waited. Fortunately I had a nice conversation with a taxi driver named Charly and passed about a half hour without being too concerned. After a while I decided to call Sašo’s cell phone number to see hour we had crossed our signals. No answer. Well, at least I was learning how to use the new European GSM cell phone! I waited another 15 minutes and tried again. In perfect English, Sašo answered and explained that he had been caught speeding by the Austrian police and didn’t have the money to pay the fine on the spot, so the police took his passport as collateral while he headed down the road to the nearest ATM. After turning around to pay the fine and collect his passport, he was able to pick me up and we had a nice ride and conversation over the mountain and into Bled.
Sašo dropped me off at Hotel Berc (sounds like “Bairts”) where I met Luka, the nice young guy who owns and operates the place. He showed me around and was full of energy even though it was nearly midnight. My room is tiny, big enough for a single bed, a dresser, a small desk and chair and a bathroom, but it has several windows and is paneled in T&G pine and smells great! I went out for a walk along the lakeside main drag in town and heard music from three different places. Two were “clubs”, but the third was a large recreation facility, like a community center, and they were hosting an Oberkrainer band, kind of like an “oomph” polka style group. I sat out in the empty courtyard just listening for a while and it turned out to be better than going in. Pairs of people coming out or going in walked by several times, talking and laughing. But the last pair were two twenty-something guys, definitely tough-guy-straight, talking (in Slovenian, of course) and telling knee-slappers. When they realized I was sitting there, right in their path, they got a little sillier and grabbed each other and began an awkward polka. It only took a moment, but when they were through and stepped apart, I applauded. They laughed, bowed, said “Hvala, hvala!” (thank you, thank you) and sauntered into the night.

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