On the road again

12:30 midnight
Hopfgarten, Austria

Drive. Drive. Drive. That was today. We traveled through three countries: Switzerland, of course, where we started, then Liechtenstein, then our destination, Austria.

So here’s some more random facts about Switzerland we learned from Pete along the way. Switzerland, though one of Europe’s smallest countries, would have the largest land area if the Swiss Alps were rolled flat. But the Alps still tower high, so it remains one of the smallest. The tiniest European country, however, is Liechtenstein, home of the Adam’s family (Da-da-da-da. Snap snap.) We stopped here for a bit of lunch. I had a kebap, which everyone raved so highly about. Basically, it’s a shaved chicken sandwich with like a taziki and chili sauce atop a huge bun. Delicious!

From lunch we then we moved quickly into Austria and made a surprise stop at the Swarovski Crystal factory store. Now, I told myself that I wasn’t going to buy anything, that I could get this stuff back at home if I even wanted it at all. But just a little piece of advice, don’t lie to yourself like I did. Though Austria is not a shopping hub like say Paris or Venice, I think this stop might have made Austria my most expensive country on the trip. I controlled myself, though, and bought only a necklace for myself, some earrings for my Mom, and some key chains for my friends. But if you want some good crystal, this is the place to get it because not only is it authentic, it’s way cheaper than you’d find it in the States. I think I only spent about 50€ for everything (though I could have spent a whole lot more).

But Austria is also a beautiful country. We’re staying in a tiny village called Hopfgarten that has a population of about 3,000. (That would be just slightly larger than the population of my old high school.) Our residence for the next two days is a 400-year-old house complete with grandma. Yes, a grandma who lives upstairs. She’s so cute, waving from a shuttered window as our coach pulled up the driveway. The room I’m staying in is cozy, fully carpeted with a desk, chairs and shelving. It’s so welcoming! One of my favorite stops so far.

Dinner tonight at the house was family style. Hans and Helga (a.k.a Pete, our tour manager, and Aaron, our driver, dressed up in Austrian drag) served us and we helped clear the tables. Dinner itself was very hearty and greatly appreciated by our group. We had schnitzel (which I guess is usually a pork dish, but ours was chicken) and potatoes with apple strudel topped with a creamy custard for dessert. Oh, and we all had to take a shot of Autria’s famous Schnaps, Austrian style – pinky under the glass and thumb on top. (Apparently you flip you’re hand, thumb on bottom pinky on top, after midnight to make things interesting).

Tonight really is an early night because tomorrow is our big bike ride!

Auf wiedersehen!

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