when i finally achieved the austrian border there were a bunch of lone young travellers milling around trying to figure out how to find the last quarter of the journey, in to innsbruck. it seems i have the best german of the five of us so i rounded them up to follow someone who knew what to do, thus i ended up on a train to innsbruck and with someone to follow home to a hostel. it was all so delightfully easy, we paid the bilingual, understanding inspectors for our not-too-steep tickets on the nice shiny train and it let us off in the centre of the city with no fuss. john was making a mess of finding a tram to the hostel and i let him, entirely unconcerned as he had an address, of sorts, and it looked like it would take five minutes to walk if he gave up and let me do it. i restricted myself to translating bus drivers for him, ridiculously delighted to be able to do so.
it started raining quite seriously as soon as we got in, but the hostel was full of australians who had just finished school, and other friendly types so we were all kept amused. when the weather cleared a little i dragged john away as he was the only one expressing interest in leaving the room at all. we wandered around, across the noisy river and into the old town. i have never met someone so eager to ask directions, we were lost to the extent that we should’ve walked to the nearest street sign and looked at the map, but instead got asked sharply ‘how can you possibly get lost in innsbruck?’
we saw the golden roof that is in every german textbook ever written, it’s an awning as i thought. the buildings are pretty and well maintained, many with graphics and illustrations stuck on an empty face somewhere, unrelated to the architectural details. it was wet and noone was about except other australian tourists looking for cheap food.
we finally found good kebabs on the edge of the new town, and ate them listening to some distorted concert nearby. all the supermarkets were closed, so we headed back while the weather held, seeing what we could on the way. piles of hard rubbish in the middle of the pristine city, antifa stencils, drinking fountains, people playing bowls with rectangular wooden blocks. i think.
in the morning i set off to the bus station with some recommendations from the friendly hostel owner. i checked the trains, but the price from the italian border was an anomaly and everything else in austria is expensive. i waited for a bus to the shopping centre near my road, it came and went before i could get myself and my bag on, then i realised it really wasn’t the best choice anyway and journeyed through the city to a different bus stop. the shopping centre was big enough to get lost in but i did manage to buy two buttons to replace the velcro i removed from my sleeping bag at least four years ago! eventually i found my road and from there things went so fast that before i knew it i had passed both salzburg and linz, with everyone having taken me out of their way. even my last truck, where i was squished between a fridge and another driver for part of the way, took me all the way up the highway past linz because he didn’t like the intersection where he would’ve let me off, had he continued straight to vienna. my last ride was even more hospitable, offering me a spare room, dinner, internet, phone and – gasp – a washing machine and dryer in freistadt, a beautiful little walled city where everyone living there has shares in the local beer ‘commune’. they get dividends in beer, but the community feeling seems to extend beyond that.
i walked out to the road in the morning, and the first car i stuck my thumb out for, took me all the way to the czech border. i couldn’t complain, as the czech republic was my next destination, but some day i need to get back to austria and see all the bits that i missed.