Linz: Be There One Day
Trip Start Dec 16, 2007
42Trip End Feb 24, 2008
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Our train was scheduled to leave at 8:35am and we were rushing to get out of the hotel on time and avoid having to wait 2 hours for the next connection. Hotel Daniel was one of the few hotels that didn't require payment before arrival or upon check-in so I sent Belinda across to the station while I settled the bill on departure. As luck would have it we made it up onto the platform and onto the train just 2 minutes before the departure time. Our lateness had denied us the opportunity to purchase some breakfast and with no buffet or restaurant onboard our train the food and drink situation was looking grim.
8:35am came and went but the train stayed at the platform, without the slightest sound of a guard's whistle. An announcement sounded through the train notifying passengers that due to problems up the line the service was delayed for at least 15 minutes and that we would leave as soon as the line was clear. Breakfast was back on the cards. Belinda rushed off the train to visit a bakery at the station while I stayed onboard with the bags in case we left earlier than expected. During the wait I enjoyed watching the station signs flap about wildly in the very strong winds that the city was experiencing as a result of a nearby storm. The food did not take long to acquire and as we ate the train finally departed. Unfortunately in her rush Belinda ended up being served some random milk extract fruit drinks that were disgusting. Just because it has orange on the carton doesn't mean it's orange juice kids!
Our departure did not bring great news. With an 8 minute connection awaiting us in Selzthal our slow running on top of the late departure was worrying us. We made some unplanned stops before the guard informed us that the train was going to terminate at a random small town, where we would change to buses to continue our journey. Considering that it was a Sunday I was impressed with ÖBB's organisation as there were 2 buses waiting for us when the train arrived
With all of our bags and ourselves transferred to the buses we headed off along the expensive-looking freeways, along large viaducts and through long tunnels. The road roughly paralleled the railway and we were able to see the source of our problem: a fire descending a hill next to the line. The road passed the fire on the opposite of the river valley and after the group of women who should've been on their way to an anti-smoking seminar downed some alcohol - "Schöne Reise!" - and a little more travel we found ourselves disembarking at Leoben Hbf, the first scheduled stop of the train we were meant to be on.
A 25 minute wait was instore for us at Leoben as the train from Innsbruck was yet to arrive. It was going to turn around at Leoben and its passengers would be shuttled in the buses back to the train we had taken from Graz. Belinda grabbed some drinks from the Spar supermarket at the station but we decided against getting lunch because we were anticipating it being available at Selzthal station during our elongated stay there.
By the time we were leaving Leoben on the surprise consist of mainly DB NachtZug sitting compartment carriages we were running about 1 hour 30 minutes late and were planning to take the later regional train connection to Linz
Upon arrival at Selzthal it was apparent that the delays on the Austrian network were not limited to Graz or the Steiermark region. Most of the trains on the departure board were delayed, with amounts varying between 30 minutes and 1 hour 10 minutes. We were lucky that our train to Linz was the one with the short 30 minute delay, apparently related to its impending late arrival from our destination. This delay was not a huge problem except that Selzthal had no food on offer whatsoever. Sure, there's a bistro at that station, but who would think to open it on a Sunday for lunch? Sure, there's a vending machine there, but why would passengers need anything other than drinks? Belinda gets desperate when food is withheld from her so we explored the surroundings of the station, noting that there are no other vending machines and this small town is dead on Sundays.
Our train to Linz did end up departing 30 minutes late as advertised, while the other trains continued to get pushed back later and later. Even though there was no food service on this regional "City Shuttle" service we were relieved to be onboard, thinking it would be a relatively clear run through to our destination
Because the bus was replacing an all-stops regional train we had to keep exiting the highway to go to some tiny village stations. Eventually our bus trip came to an end at another random village station, where another "City Shuttle" train was waiting for us. During the bus trip we had not seen any obvious reason for the suspension of services so all we have to go with is the guard's announcement that had something to do with storm damage. The rest of the trip into Linz was relatively uneventful, bringing us into the Hbf much later than we had expected this morning, around 3pm.
Linz's tram system is a shadow of what I hope it used to be; there is effectively only 1 line through the centre of town, with 3 different branches outside of the centre. Our Novotel (great sale rates!) was on the main line south of the Hbf, only about 300m from the WIFI tram stop. Despite the lack of lines the system has benefited from tunnels from the Hbf south for a few stops, speeding up the journey without traffic
After checking into our hotel we were determined to see some of the town, despite the rainy weather and lateness of the day. A newer low-floor bogie tram, the same design as in Graz, took us past the Hauptbahnhof and up through the centre of the city to the temporary home of the Ars Electronica Centre. The AEC was one of the main reasons to come to Linz and, being closed on Mondays and Tuesdays, we had to visit this afternoon or not at all. Because Linz has been awarded European Capital of Culture in 2009 a lot of work is going on around the place to improve the city and make it more arty, this means that the AEC is in the centre of town intead of it's usual riverfront location.
The Ars Electronica Centre is branded as a "Museum of the Future" but I would say it is more of a digital discovery centre. There are a few floors of games and interactive displays where on can learn about computer technology and use this to make art. For example we drew pictures on a sheet of paper then the computer automatically separated the elements, allowing us to move them around digitally in freehand. We also experienced a 3D virtual reality room, a digital music composition board and many other cool things
We walked around the main part of the city for a while in the darkness before settling on dinner at a Pizza restaurant. Following this we took a tram across the river to enjoy views of the city under the cover of darkness. On our way back to the hotel we stopped off where a laundromat should've been but wasn't, meaning another day with not-so-clean clothes.
Our 2nd day in Linz was not a rushed one. We began with the usual tram trip into the centre of the city and located a suitable bakery near where we had dinner the previous night. We enjoyed menice pastries here, filled with marzipan and the local "Linzer" speciality jam. It isn't really that jammy; a very mild berry-looking paste that is also the basis of the Linzer Torte.
Tram #3 then carried us over the river and up a little bit to the lower station of the Pöstlingberg Tram. Claiming to be the steepest convention tram in Europe, these single-bogie, narrow gauge trams crawl up and down the hill overlooking Linz every 20 minutes. It is a truly old-fashioned, local setup and the old trams still use trolley poles (instead of more modern pantographs) to get electricity from the overhead wires
Once at the summit we circumnavigated the church and settlement on the paths and roads, taking about 20 minutes. An unexpected surprise on our walk was the deer enclosure, in which we found 2 female and 1 male, all of which seemed interested in our presence. Due to the weather and time of year it was very quiet on the Pöstlingberg; we only saw 2 other groups of visitors during our time up there.
We were joined by a group of primary school children on the trip downhill around lunchtime (there is a school near the top). Tram 3 returned us to the centre of town for some lovely gitterpommes at Maccas. Directly after eating we were heading off on foot to find a laundromat that the hotel had found for us. Unfortunately the slack girls behind the counter had just given us a wascherei (laundry service), not a waschsalon (self-service laundromat) so our long walk was fruitless. To get back to the centre of town we had to walk through crowds of home-bound high school students, which was just the icing on the failed laundromat cake.
Next on the list was a visit to the city museum, which sounded quite interesting as it was to focus on the city itself, not its people. Unfortunately we could not for the life of us find 1 at the Hauptplatz so we eventually gave up. Belinda had her heart set on a few shops so we made a few stops along the way, including a particularly painful visit to Esprit, where she bought some new jeans to keep her going during the laundromat shortage.
A bit of time was spent at the hotel doing blog stuff and preparing for the next travel day before we returned to the centre of town for dinner. A local Chinese restaurant served nice, reasonably-priced noodles and then we indulged in some McFlurrys for desert.
All-in-all Linz is a nice city but it doesn't have that much to do. The upcoming Capital of Culture is helping them to get their act together, so it should be nice for a short stay some time after 2009.