Out of Italy, into Austria, and into Couchsurfing!

Trip Start Apr 07, 2010
Trip End Oct 11, 2011

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Flag of Austria  , Austrian Alps,
Friday, May 14, 2010

I have finally made it out of Italy! Whilst I definitely enjoyed my time there, it is good to be moving on, heading to new places!

I was very surprised that I did not even notice the border between Italy and Austria - I expected at least a good sign, but I didnt see a thing!

Innsbruck feels like such a modern place - it has taken me this long to find my first shopping center! Even so, it is not a big one. I actually feel like it was sort of nice though, not having shopping centers. It makes things more fun, because it is a challenge to find what you want! In a shopping center, everything is to convenient. And also, in this one you could even play mini golf...

As I was exploring Innsbruck, I happened to just, 'discover' the International World Music Festival! However, it seemed more like an accordion festival, there was nothing much else there at the time I was there other then accordions. (the Europeans really do like their accordions). It is amazing the random things you just run into when wandering around a city.

Innsbruck is a city nestled in a valley, surrounded by high mountains - or so I was told! I didnt really get to see any of these so called mountains, because, of course, they were hiding away in the clouds! Despite the miserable weather, I decided to go and walk up a mountain, hoping that maybe the clouds would rise and I would have somewhat of a view. They didnt. It rained solidly for the whole 4 or 5 hours I was out.

Now, in Innsbruck, for the first time, I tried out something that is called "couchsurfing." Basically, it is a global network of people who offer their 'couches' for fellow travelers to sleep on, and the travelers get to meet new people, and experience the real culture of a place. In return, the host gets out of it a positive experience of learning about the surfers culture, and a new friend! If you want to read anything more about it, here is a link which explains it.

So, I was keen to try couchsurfing for the first time, here in Austria. I sent out a few requests, and finally I recieved a reply from a person named Romana, who lived here in Austria. She told me that her couch was free, and that I could come and meet her. Now, I am sure that for lots of people, this whole idea of randomly meeting with, and staying with a complete stranger is a very strange idea. But, I guess travelers really stick together!

So, the next day, I met Romana in front of the train station. It is interesting, 2 people arranging to meet without really knowing what the other person looks like! But, we managed to find each other (a massive blue backpack does help people identify me.) We walked back to her place, and had a good chat. She was able to recommend some places to go, such as the castle, and so I went there for the day. At the castle there was a huge armory museum which I checked out, which was interesting.

Something that I have noticed about other travelers, is that they are all very trusting people! take this for an example. I asked Romana if I could stay 2 nights, "sure," she said, "but I am going to visit my parents for a few days, leaving tomorrow, but you can still stay here." I couldn't believe it! This person I had only met a little while ago, and had hardly gotten to know, was going to let me stay in her apartment, whilst she was not even going to be home!! It was going to be the exact opposite of everything I had been used to for the last 5 weeks or however long I have been traveling. I had gotten use to sleeping in rooms with as many other people as possible, to save on costs, to having practically no privacy, sharing bathrooms, people snoring, people farting...

And now I was to have a whole apartment to myself!

But, to be honest, I didnt really like it that much. I had also gotten use to the constant presence of awesome, fun and interesting people. There was always, always, somewhere to talk to to keep yourself occupied - but now, there wasnt. However, that said, it was nice to have the place to myself for the day, but I would not really have wanted to spend any longer then that - if I wanted to sit along in a room on a computer, or watch tv and movies, i would never have left home!

So, back to what I did in Innsbruck. The 2nd day I was staying with Romana, and had the place to myself, I decided to go back on the same hike that I had done on my first day here. This is because it had snowed the other night! It usually stops snowing 2 months before now - it is almost unheard of to snow in May here in Innsbruck. I had also heard that so far, this May had had the lowest ever recorded average temperature. So, the snow line was way down, so I thought it would be good fun to try climb up and go for a walk through the snow!

The snow was down incredibly low, it only took like about 1.5hours of walking up to reach the snow line. Unfortunately, today there were loggers, who were blocking the path, so I could not keep walking up. However, there was a treeless, cleared area on the mountain, which probably rose about 300m up, which had a little goats trail climbing up, so I decided I would walk my way up that. I probably climbed 200m up, and decided to stop when the snow got about shin deep - and it started snowing!!

It was also good today because, at times, the clouds came and went away from the mountains, so I was able to get some shots of some of the snowy peaks.

I spent about 5 days in total in Austria - I was still waiting it out for the weather to get better before I head of to Switzerland. But, the forecast, STILL, is rain for every day of the next week! I decided then, to make another stop over before Switzerland, in the hope that I will be able to arrive in the Swiss Alps in glorious sunshine. So, my next stop will be Liechtenstein, a tiny little country, landlocked between Austria and Switzerland.
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