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After 12 hours of flying, 2 hours navigating airports and train stations, 6 hours of riding a train and waiting 3 hours for a train in a station oh! and 20 minutes with the Uber driver who picked us up at 6:40 am on the dot!

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View The Alps Bucket Trip on sstalpo's travel map.

But it's already great trip with some adventures and wonderful, nice, even a little crazy, people.

First a lesson everyone should pay attend to -- IF you want to fly and have a transfer in O'Hare Airport. STOP! Go back. Start again.. cause you do NOT want to go there. O'Hare was our first adventure and when my inner Dorothy noted "We are not in Boise any more Toto!" Seemed a whole lot of critical transportation things have been 'broken' there .. one significant one for awhile (the monorail between the terminals has been broken since early 2018).

That is how our first adventure started. Patrick got VERY little sleep the night before we left. When he doesn't sleep, and his blood sugar might be low, his thinking and motor skills are greatly impaired. By the time we arrived in Chicago, we had researched where our transfer gate was to get to our Swiss Air flight. Of course = international flight = totally different terminal. Pat wasn't doing well when we got off the plane. Plan B if that happened was to ask for transport help to the next terminal for him - like one of the carts or a wheelchair. Remember how I mentioned issues with broken transportation things? Well the carts were 'unavailable' (aka broken) so wheelchairs were the only option. I did use the plural there on purpose as they ordered not just one wheelchair but got for one for me too (um.. I decided not to fight this one. *grin* It would be faster on wheels for both of us.. though I did point out I didn't 'really' need one - he did - they still ordered two. OK then! I'm game!)

Wow.. what a ride that was! We were SO GRATEFUL for those two wheelchair drivers, and the amount of stress (both mind and body) they relieved --- we tipped them generously. Cause, as noted above, the interterminal monorail has been broken for a loooong time (I think I did see some rusting rails at one point. LOL) The only way to get to another terminal was to physically go to the street, get on a shuttle bus, and then get off at the next terminal. We knew we had to also go through TSA again. These were two very sweet wheelchair drivers (one very young guy and a middle aged women from the middle east -- I felt sorry for her as she had to push me around - but she was wonderful!).

Our O'Hare Journey

My driver knew all the short cuts and kept directing the young guy to the right door, the right direction. If you have never been pushed in a wheelchair through a very busy airport - its kinda like trying to swim amount Salmon going upstream in the opposite direction of you. Pat joked at one point "Its better if you just close your eyes". LOL So true! They even got on the Shuttle Buses with the wheelchairs with us and took us through TSA and to the gate.

The whole TSA thing was CRAZY world! This was when my inner Dorothy started speaking up. Sooo many people. So much chaos. None of my usual TSA PreCheck (cause its international) and of course the full body scans always think I'm carrying Berettas behind both my knees so I have to get patted down. The poor female TSA agent was clearly not happy in her line of work, or that day, or something... both wheelchairs had to wiped and I am now even more grateful I paid $85 and got a Known Traveler Number for my domestic flights!!! I barely had time to slide on my shoes before getting back into the wheelchair and off again through the maze of humanity to the Swiss Air gate!

I could not even imagine Pat and I figuring all that out, and me encouraging Pat (aka nagging) him to keep going. Even figuring out how to get through the street, let alone find the TSA in the International Terminal.. but they 'zoomed' us there. I wish I got a picture of them! And it turned out, even though the flight from Boise was 32 minutes early, we had to sit on the tarmac waiting for the plane in our gate was loaded and left.. so we got to the Zurich gate with 15 minutes to spare till boarding. WHEW!!

OK.. so economy seating on those big huge planes is still really tiny. Luckily Pat got the seats with extra leg room next to the emergency exit. (and yes all night I was scared to even bump the door LOL) It was the area where the Stews sit for takeoff and landing. So we got to chatting with "Melinda" who was our stewardess and actually hit it off. She LOOOOOOVEs the San Francisco Bay Area (was just there for the first time a couple of weeks ago). She is a native of Lucerne, which was great to get some tips about going there. She told us about a pub there where Patrick can go play his guitar. In fact this weekend, Melinda is going to meet up with us at the pub to hear him play. It was a pretty cool moment. She was a great, real, person and appreciated her down to earthiness. Also no picture.. it wasn't appropriate.

After 8.5 hours, and 'some doozing' we arrived in Zurich. I thought I would be ecstatic but honestly was too tired for that. Going through customs was a piece of cake. Getting our baggage, also super easy. Changed our dollars into Euros (for Austria) and Swiss Frances .. for its obvious. LOL Got help to find the train station under the terminal - figured out the kiosk to get a train ticket which got us from the airport to the main Zurich train station. Where we picked up some Starbucks-like breakfast, found a place to sit and waited three hours. Amazingly we landed at 6:10 am and sat down in the main station at 7:35. Much faster than I planned for. Pat played his guitar for a while and I was annoyed by the two American couples sitting next to us and talking about house remodels and getting the BEST kitchen island ever. Sigh - I really hope never to look like that to others when I travel. I'm sure I have other annoying things about me, but that kinda of 'tone' just .. well... it annoys me. :)


Then off to Salzburg on the BEST train ever! (Well maybe the bullet train in France is better) BUT this train was sooo smooth, and quiet. You hardly felt that you were moving. We had amazing seats in first class. That whole car was provided private areas with frosted glass, so you would 'relax'. We had so much space! and the chairs kinda reclined - enough to forget the pain of the airplane seats. So.. we.. slept. As much as we could ... though we did get some time to watch some of the world go by.


I was impressed by these things the most:
- Super green - everywhere. Nothing was brown!!!
- I forgot what a mountain FULL (no space between them.. barely) looked like. Made sense to me how scary fairy tales started with fear of the big bad wolf in the dark, dark forest - yeah one can barely see a few yards into them and can't imagine trying to walk in there!
- Soo many people have solar panels on their home roofs. GOOD ON THEM! Very impressive!
- The weather was cloudy and a little rain here and there. It meant that the top of the mountains around us were full of mist. Which I actually really liked an appreciated. Make the view much more INTERESTING and mysterious... that is my picture...


The last transportation adventure was the taxi ride from the Salzburg train station to the hotel.. our driver had a black Mercedes sedan and was a female version of Mister Toad mixed with some Men in Black mixed in by the way she drove !! She was admittedly a born and bred Salzburian .. and I guess the pedestrians know that cars have the right of way when they are in a Ped's crosswalk. Go figure! The shocking part was when she used a little gadget that lowered a car barrier to the PEDESTRIAN ONLY streets and starting driving us through them. I was remarkable the same experience we had in the wheelchairs, but with a bit more concern for the pedestrians than ourselves. The embarrassing part was she insisted to drive us to the DOOR of hotel.. which just so happens has a restaurant too with tables outside the front with guests eating.. and here comes a big black Mercedes pushing her way past (some guests had to even pull their chairs in so she could get by) and staring at us like.. 'UH! Who is this jerk? And why do they rate?" She was character! She just rolled down her window and say 'Danka! Danka!' (even to the guy on the bike who had to move into a door entrance way so she could get by.. yes it was THAT TIGHT!!! So when we get out and go into that very hotel.. um.. let's just say I didn't look at anyone's faces. LOL Wish I'd gotten her pic too.

We are staying at the Hotel Elefant! (not a typo) A 4.5 star rated hotel on TripAdvisor, with an over 750 year old history! So far it is living up to it's reputation! Located RIGHT in the heart of Old Town --- steps from the most famous 'pedestrian' street in Salzburg (yes Men In Black Ms. Toad's Wild Ride took us on that - she made it a point that we knew it was the most famous street.. ) and steps from Mozart's birthplace. We have a really nice, large, room on the top floor (yay for elevators)!! So quiet and very comfortable.



So now that I need some dinner and the first 'day' is over - the trip is playing out to be exactly what I wanted:
A) beautiful scenery
B) nice people
C) even a little crazy people (who make life interesting)
D) and some comfort !!!

OK so dinner got cancelled.. in the end it's ok. Came home with dessert instead of chocolate cake with apricot jam covered in dark chocolate with a little cream to cut the sweetness. It's AUSTRIA after all..
We walked around town and it was really beautiful in the evening light and though overcast it wasn't too cold.
We stopped at the statue of Mozart (where a good violin busker was playing.. you guessed .. Mozart).


And at the fountain outside the cathedral..


Tomorrow is the Fortress, Mozart's birthplace and maybe the garden where Maria von Trapp sung (well when she was Julie Andrews)

Wish us well!
Miss you!

Posted by sstalpo 11:21 Archived in Austria Tagged salzburg

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Phew, now that’s an action packed 1st day of your trip! Love the pics and the narrative. Can’t wait for tmro’s adventure details ????

by Christie

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