I probably had my best night’s sleep yet on a sleeper train (not that that’s saying much) last night, so I must be getting the hang of it. Our attendant had said she would wake us in good time for our arrival in Munich at 0710, so when an insistent alarm went off I assumed that’s what was happening. But no; it was just the doors of the train indicating that they were about to shut. Presumably this feature had been switched off during the night, because although I was aware of the Sixth Man arriving (apparently at 1am) I don’t remember the arrival being preceded by a lot of electronic hooting. But in fact, for some of us, 5.40am IS STILL DURING THE NIGHT. And the train was delayed anyway so we could have had another half an hour’s sleep.
The delay was a bit of a worry, because it meant our revised arrival time at Munich was 0730, the exact time our Jenbach train was due to leave. Our attendant radio’d through to somebody (no idea who) and told us our connection would (1) be held and (2) be on the same platform (or possibly the same train … there is just so much German vocabulary I don’t have, and when it comes to trains the miming gets quite complicated). In the event, we made sure we were right by the door, threw ourselves onto the platform as soon as the train came to a halt, and strode incredibly briskly towards the train on the adjacent platform. The driver had his window open, so I summoned all my linguistic fluency and said:
‘Bitte – nach Jenbach?’
‘Jenbach, ja,’ replied the driver. Somewhat triumphant (because let’s face it, if the driver says the train is going to Jenbach, then it must be), we climbed into the train.
Oo-er. German trains are rather classy. They have compartments. We found an empty one and settled down to watch the scenery.
After a little while, during which the train didn’t move, and nobody attempted to join us or check our tickets or do any of those little things that reassure the foreign traveller that she is in fact sitting in the correct place, I wandered down the train to see if I could find somebody prepared to verify the train driver’s story. Because, as linguistic exchanges go, it was rather brief, and perhaps I’d asked if he came from Jenbach, or maybe he was finishing his shift and thinking of his aunty in Jenbach, or something. I found an attendant and attempted a slightly more detailed question:
‘Bitte … Diese Zug, nach Jenbach?’
And as I was still standing in the train at that point, I felt we were both crystal clear about what I was asking. Yes, we were on the right train. Good. I went back to my seat to watch the scenery. Pretty soon we were on the move, only a little late, and the scenery was sliding … past … very …. zzzzzz.
I woke up at Worgl and blinked. ‘Jenbach is the next station,’ I said (the station stops being the sort of useful thing I included in my cue cards). The train had made up its time so when we arrived at Jenbach we had plenty of time to visit the loo (another 50 cents!!! This time I put my boots back on.) and find a cup of coffee, and discover that we couldn’t buy the 7-day pass because it’s only available to people actually staying in Achensee (swiz). We decided to take the bus to Maurach, have a go on the cable car there, and then go on to Pertisau.
The bus was ages coming, long enough for two cigarettes, a mild panic about where it had got to, and a bit of rain. I successfully bought two single tickets to Maurach but my halting request for the driver to tell us when we’d arrived there was brushed aside somewhat. I hate buses. Trains have nice big signs telling you where you are. Buses don’t. I had to keep reading the road signs and although I would probably have done that anyway it would have been nice to have been relaxed about it.
The bus route from Jenbach was very definitely taking us up a mountain. There were clouds rising off the trees and eventually we were driving through mist and wondering whether we’d be able to see anything when we got there (assuming we knew when that was). Every so often the road crossed, or sometimes ran alongside, the ‘funny little mountain railway’ that is the Achenseebahn, which we would be taking for the return journey to Jenbach at the end of the day. So when we saw the train halt called ‘Maurach’ we thought, well, this must be it, and got off.
And it was Maurach. But if we’d stayed on the bus it would have taken us right to the door of the cable car place. Still, if we’d done that, we’d have missed the little gift shops.
The cable car was good. It holds about thirty, and there were just the two of us and an operator in there. When we got to the top of the mountain, we looked all the way back down to the lake and the valley, and we had a look around at what is presumably a bustling collection of inns during the summer months, and Hayley took lots of photos (because she has a proper camera instead of a phone losing its charge). And then, having visited what is supposed to have been the Sonnalpe in the books, we went back down the mountain. The cloud had thickened and at one point the cable car was plunging into murk – more exciting than it sounds – but we did get the distinct impression that The Sun Was Trying To Shine.
We had about half an hour to wait for the bus on to Pertisau, so we went to a cafe for some reviving hot chocolate and coffee … in Austria, when you order coffee, you also get a glass of water … and then we were on the bus again, with the same driver, so I didn’t even attempt to ask him to let us know where to get off. But on this journey he announced the stops, so we got off at Pertisau Information, as this sounded quite a helpful place to be (it wasn’t. They were on their two-hour lunch break).
It was the strangest thing, coming to Pertisau. It felt like coming to somewhere I already knew. Full marks to EBD for her descriptions. The lake and the landing stage, the chalets and hotels, the mountains and the trees – all just as I’d expected. We had a proper Tirolese lunch of nudel suppe followed by apfel strudel, went to look for the EBD plaque, failed to find it, looked at some other buildings (all very pretty and very Chalet), and then took the boat trip around the lake. The sun did come out for this, but the trip was still blowy and cold, and we now have the appearance of weatherbeaten Jack Tars. But it was good, too. We saw the collapsed lake-side, the Dripping Rock, Achenkirch, Gaisalm, and Buchau, and those are all real places, Chalet fans. Plus it was all terribly scenic.
The boat took us to Seespitz (another familiar name) where we caught the funny little mountain railway back down to Jenbach. Before we set off I was hollowly referring to this as the most expensive train ride I’d ever taken, but it turned out to be absolutely the best train ride ever in the entire history of train rides. Seriously. Open car, steam engine, chugging away in Ivor the Engine fashion and then the gradient suddenly turns one in five, and it becomes a rack and pinion line down the side of a mountain through the trees. It was brilliant.
We were quite tired on the way from Jenbach to Innsbruck.
And we are now in our rather luxurious hotel room (you can tell which overnight booking was Hayley’s job can’t you?). We went out earlier to explore Innsbruck by dusk, saw the Golden Roof, admired the buildings, bought provisions, and came back again. Really, we know it’s only 8.15pm. But our clocks are saying it’s 9.15pm and our bodies are claiming it’s way past midnight. And I have the length of a country to travel tomorrow.