Friday, June 12, 2009

On The Train

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Thursday, June 11

There’s so much to talk about, it’s hard to know where to begin. John & Mary, Yvonne & I reassembled at the Zurich train station about 7 AM this morning for our long train ride to Split. Today was largely overcast and rainy, but it in no way diminished the visual impact of the trip. Five countries we’ll cross before it’s over (we’re currently in Slovenia). This train takes us to Zagreb, Croatia’s capital, whereupon we get on our final leg, the overnight one, into Split, arriving about 9 AM tomorrow.
We started out traversing the western shore of Zurichsee (Lake Zurich) making our way to the first of 3 train changes, this one being in Feldkirh, just after we passed from Liechtenstein into Austria. This one had me just a little nervous, since we had all of 8 minutes to make the change, full regalia of luggage in tow. Angst blossomed as I began to sense that our train was late leaving Buchs, the station prior to Feldkirh (we’re talking a full 4 minutes late), cutting our transfer time in half. Stampeding off the train, we bolted across the platform, fortunately it being a small station, and onto the train to Saltzburg. You think that train would wait a little? ‘Not a dog’s chance. We schlepped down the aisle of three cars, train rolling out, before we found seats.
The countryside is spectacular, with fertile green valley’s populated with quaint small towns, fast flowing rivers and streams and fields sprouting crops, corn, sheep and cows. On each side the Alps tower, rising probably 4 to 5 thousand feet above the valley floor. They seem to alternate between steep rock outcrops and cliffs, not unlike our Rockies except much more lush and green! The other look is fully soil covered and vegetated to the top, like our Appalachians, except much taller& steeper. Gorgeous!
Now, about some of the people we met on the train. Most of the trip so far has been in 6 person compartments, 3 across. We sat with an Austrian lady on the leg from Feldkich to Salzburg. We conversed with her very little. She got off the train at Sckwarzach-St. Veit, where Mary also got off seeking to wash the apple she’d purchased earlier. Discovering there was no available potable water, she was vainly trying to ferret her options when the Austrian lady from our compartment rudely interrupted, speaking to the attendant in Austrian; the attendant left. A little put out, Mary waited. Soon the attendant returned, shiny apple spotless on a napkin, thanks to our traveling companion, intervening on Mary’s behalf.
Later, on the same leg, Yvonne and Mary were approached by a lady attracted by what she correctly perceived to be other Americans. The conversation warmed and we began to compare notes. Eric and Opal are from Mississippi, she being a teacher and Eric in the Corp of Engineers in Afghanistan. ‘Similarities we discovered over the next 30 minutes or so were remarkable:
• They also were going to Zagreb.
• They also were changing trains to Split, including sleeper cars, as we are.
• They too are sailing the Dalmatian coast From Split to Dubrovnik.
• They said they were staying in a UNESCO protected villa in the old town of Split. (At this point all were on the verge of freaking), but a quick comparison of Villa names ended the coincidence …. They were not the same but apparently very close to one another.
All had no doubt our paths would cross again somewhere in the next week.
PS: As I conclude this, we have crossed the border into Croatia, having our passports stamped by the border guards!

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