I seldom do narratives on this blog because I seldom pull them off, but I’m going to try anyway.
Yesterday I was in a cozy Stockholm suburb, today I am in Salzburg. There is something exhausting and comforting about transit. It’s kind of like scuba diving: long hours of relative peace and serenity peppered with moments of hurried panic (will I make the train? Shit, I’m on the wrong platform!!). And then you arrive, eventually, and the world seems still again.
From Stockholm I fly to Munich. I intend on staying in the city for at least a day; I have been there before, but it truly is a gorgeous place and the weather is beyond agreeable. And so I quickly book the cheapest hostel I find on the Internetz – Jaeger’s Hostel – and then I’m off.
A short flight, a quick layover in Copenhagen, and then another short flight. Although I spend a collective three or four hours sitting on a plane, it feels like much more. My knees are being bitches, you see. Recently, if I sit down for too long they begin to ache. A good problem to have, I reckon – I’ve probably walked over 100 km in the past week – but I’m definitely excited to be off the plane and back in the land of Oktoberfest .
The hostel is a short walk from the central station; I arrive around 10pm. The moment I step foot in the place, I regret it deeply. Drunk Americans buzz around the bar/lobby like flies who’ve managed to find their way into a room but cannot find their way out. They spot the newest addition at the door and excitedly invite me in. I make my way to the check-in desk where I am regarded rudely. I navigate my way through dark hallways to find my room located in the basement; I open the door to be greeted by forty beds – twenty bunk beds – arranged haphazardly in a large room with four sections. The beds squeak and shake when you climb them, as if the whole sad construction will unceremoniously flatten at a moment’s notice. I return upstairs to Skype with a friend who says she misses me dearly and that she needs some urgent advice; I would normally say something like the following: “I would love to give you advice on whatever matter troubles you, but only if you’re aware of the caveat that I don’t know what the shit I’m talking about”, but I didn’t even get to express this caveat, or any sort of ‘hello’ for that matter because the wifi is nonexistent in this huge, well-established backpacker’s hostel. I am confronted by more drunk guys, screaming and shouting “USA, USA, USA!”. I decide it’s time to turn in.
But I couldn’t turn in. The mattresses on these rickety bunks are paper-thin and the pillows formed of stone. I’m snuggling my backpack because they run out of lockers to rent (I ask them: “So what am I supposed to do with my stuff? Leave it in the open in a forty-person room?” The employees respond with: “uhhhhhh.” Thanks!) Someone across the room is snoring ferociously. People slowly but continuously pile into the room, each one with no regard for the people trying to sleep. Many of these people are European guys, and they walk around in tight and hilariously-patterned underwear. My head begins to hurt, and I dream of South American and Asian hostels, all of them wonderful. I go to Mongolia – lovely, empty Mongolia – my happy place.
I wake up early to get the hell out as efficiently as possible. I gather my packed things (I sleep in my clothes and I badly need a shower but I’m unwilling to unpack and do the whole song and dance here) and I move around on the squeaky bed. I’m loud about leaving, and I don’t care. On a whim, I decide I don’t want to be in Munich anymore. My main point of interest is Lake Konigssee, as per my bucket list, so I run to the train station and buy a ticket to Salzburg, a city thrice as beautiful and twice as close to the lake. When the ticket lady asks me about a return date, I say it’s a one-way ticket with a smug smile on my face. It feels so fucking good to say that.
Not the best hostel experience, I’ll admit, but it’s not like I regret anything. I was in Munich for less than twelve hours, and the whole ordeal reminds me how lucky I am to have options, to be able to do exactly as I please, to move around like a feather – quick, untraceable, free. I’m the master of my fate, the captain of my soul, the ultimate decision-maker when it comes to exchanging shitty places for amazing ones!
Such is travel – you find places you love, you find places you hate, and you keep moving until you find someplace so wonderful, so lovely, so enchanting that you might just never leave.
More on Austria later, I have a lot of hiking to do. I should probably also shower.