Today was our last day trip out from our hotel in Salzburg, (we would be leaving the area tomorrow) and we were heading to Bad Ischl. It’s known as a “spa town,” left over from when the emperor and empress used it as a vacation spot. It’s small, and the shops are more upscale, artsy and definitely feels more off the tourist path than some of our other stops. The main attraction is a gondola that takes you up to trails for you to hike in the Alps, so that’s what we were going to do!
Nadia wanted us to arrive as early in the morning that would be possible, since it’s getting so hot here. We loaded the bus, drove a ways, arrived around 10:30, took the gondola up and then she gave us close to two hours to hike on our own. There were several small trails, but she said she was going to hike up to a famous cross at the very top that was about 40 minutes there, and 40 minutes back if anyone wanted to join her and off they all went in different directions.
I chatted with some students who were around to see what direction they were heading, sat for a moment enjoying the view with my colleagues, and directed my Alpine photo shoot….
before deciding that I came all this way…. I might as well hike for 40 more minutes to see the cross! Since the group had already left, I started up the mountain on my own, and was on maybe the second switchback before I thought “WHAT (the F*ck) did I get myself into?!). I was panting and sweating 5 minutes into the hike, when I turned another corner and saw two students sitting in the nook of a tree taking a break. I shared my (censored) feelings with them and they said they were feeling the same but maybe we could do it together…? 😌
It was just the push I needed to also be the role model for them, so up we went. We panted, sweat, and took water and shade breaks. We also kept seeing Austrian flags painted into rocks and trees and I think it’s because the trails are so vast they have the potential to connect and cross into other countries and the trail markers tell you which country you’re in?
Soon enough, we reached the top to find other students there: taking photographs, absorbing in the sites and watching mountain goats (!) scamper the steep cliffs. I told them how proud I was of them (and of me), and we celebrated our accomplishment.
(The cross, seen at the far right of the photo below, and much closer in the second one, is a memorial of some kind to the empress, and I’m assuming the same one who used to vacation here…? I’m sorry my brain was struggling for oxygen so it was difficult to hold the historical information. 😉
I was feeling pretty smug in this clearly amazing teachable moment that I was able to bestow on them. Then, as we were taking photographs, an elderly gentleman (I’m talking like, 70+) with just every days clothes and some hiking equipment, starting small talk with us, asking where we were from and how long we were staying. I asked where he was from and he said, “Here.” I then started to take in his gear and equipment laid out around him on the rocks and realized…… he had ROCK CLIMBED UP THE SIDE OF THE MOUNTAIN. So.
After the photo shoots and view- gazing were done, we made our way back down to the central meeting point and all took the gondola back to town. We had about 3 hours worth of free time, which sounds like plenty, but I tell ya, that always flies by. By the time you find a free toilet, all agree on where to eat, order your meal, it’s over halfway gone. And European cafes never bring you the check; it just has to be asked for. You can sit as long as you want, and when there’s no one rushing you, and you’ve been getting shampoo caps out of students’ clogged bathroom drain the night before, you are inclined to take a little bit of a breather. (Side note, we learned that when the cap fell into the drain and stopped up the bathtub, instead of telling a chaperones, the 5 girls in the room decided to “solve their own problem” and just bail out the bathtub water that filled to their ankles after each shower….. with the bathroom garbage can….)
There have been some stories that have made the chaperones giggle but other stories that have made me feel like yes, I am working and I am earning my keep here. We have had bloody noises, upset stomachs, period cycles starting over night, friend drama, missing wallets, lost phones, found wallets and phones, stinging nettles, theoretical bed bugs, bicycling close calls (not me!) and sun burns…,and the trip isn’t over.
It’s gone by really quickly, and the chaperones are telling me this pace is *slow* compared to other trips. We have only had one after dinner activity, so dinner is at 7, then room checks at 9, then we shower and then we sleep. But in case you were wondering, yes I’m almost always the last chaperone to breakfast….