Yes. Go ahead and do it. Get the Eurail pass and see this continent by train. Oh, this little slip of paper makes the world seem so small. For a brief moment I considered going to London to see the closing ceremonies. For a less brief moment I pondered a detour to and through Croatia. For a long moment I considered Warsaw, but concluded I didn’t have the time. I am, however, grateful for the opportunity to dream. This pass makes it all possible.
I hopped on a train around noon and sped off across the south of Germany to the hills of Austria. Beautiful scenery pulsed in waves up and down as our train cut between hills at a blistering pace that made the whole thing look and feel like a well-paced movie. I spent about four hours reading but at least another two tracing the horizon with my eyes and appreciating how effortless Bavaria and Austria make this beauty seem. From the air you would not think much of the land, and if you are truly vacationing as you should be, you should take your time and move leisurely. Yes, the Eurail pass is a fantastic investment and I would recommend it without a moment’s hesitation.
Same as always: I arrived at my hostel and promptly got lost in search of food. I had some delicious noodles from a dirty Chinese joint (I am calling the restaurant dirty, not the Chinese) and napped through most of the evening before answering some emails and going to bed. An uneventful day, as all travel days should be.
I woke up early today to head out to the historic district and take some photos. My hostel gave me a “One Day in Vienna” guide and I followed their path for a few blocks but then threw it out because in fact everything in Vienna is beautiful. You absolutely cannot make a wrong turn once you are in the historic district or museum quarter. I followed the horizon from one massive monument to another, between churches and Roman fountains, and opera houses and theaters and it was all grand.
Vienna is done up like a girl who makes you wait downstairs for her to finish getting ready: you spend some time bored and frustrated, but upon that first glance you know what you have been waiting for was worth it. Not a hair out of place. Flawlessly beautiful in a way that makes the whole thing look like a fantasy. I used the word grand before, but I will repeat it here because it captures so much of what this city is.
I spent the afternoon in Sopron and Szombathely, Hungary with a former colleague of mine, Sandor. His girlfriend and family hosted me for a very relaxing lunch and afterwards gave me a brief tour of their town. It was good to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life and relax peacefully in the country side. Thanks again, Sandor, I had a great time!
I then took a train to Budapest, once again arriving in an Eastern European metropolis after dark, and once again not thinking much of it. You think I would have learned my lesson by now. If history is any guide, things will improve tomorrow. Looking forward to it.