A Return to Linz
Looking to settle down and quit the constant travel for a bit, we boarded a nine-hour train ride to my former home, Linz, Austria. I was excited to show the others my favorite sites of the city (and my favorite bars), and to meet up with my friend Claudia.
What We Did
Day 19 (8/11/16): We arrived in Linz around seven in the evening, feeling good. The long train ride prompted some impromptu binge drinking of vodka while playing Screw the Dealer. Our gracious Airbnb host Karl picked us up at the train station and drove us to a small town called Gallneukirchen outside Linz where we would be staying fir the next five days. We thanked him, and proceeded to party in what Adam dubbed our giant Austrian mansion, complete with gym and sauna.
Day 20 (8/12/16): After waking up late and a little hungover, we headed into town to get some lunch at a local restaurant called Landsel. We then hopped on a bus back to Linz’s city center. After a minor mishap with Justin’s phone, which involved Katie and Justin having to run after it several blocks while Adam and I frantically searched for information about the bus online, we decided a beer was needed and headed to an old haunt of mine of the Hauptplaz called Walker. We grabbed a bite to eat and a few beers before walking over to the Chelsea, an Irish pub I frequented when I studied at Johannes Kepler, where we met up with my old friend Claudia.
Day 21 (8/13/16): After two days of drinking, we decided to take a break and chill at the house in Gallneukirchen. We also planned for our next trips after the Frequency Festival to Bratislava and Vienna.
Day 22 (8/14/16): Today, we did a proper tour of Linz. After some issues with the buses we made our way into the city and checked out Old Town and the New Cathedral, or the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. We also visited the Ars Electronica Center, a museum of technology-focused art exhibits that also showcased exciting new technologies including prosthetics, 3D printing, virtual reality, eye movement recognition, and more. For 9 euro, I thought it was really interesting and worth the trip. Additionally, we took a quick up to Postlingberg, which is the spot of an old church, series of beer gardens, and small children’s activity center overlooking the whole of Linz.
Day 23 (8/15/16): After seeing what Linz had to offer, we chose to venture out of the city to see some other parts of Austria. Claudia’s parents were gracious enough to allow us to borrow their car, and Katie and Adam were adept enough with a manual transmission to drive it. We first headed towards Rettenbachalm to celebrate Pfeifertag, the traditional flute festival. After a hazardous drive up a one-lane dirt mountain road, creating our own parking spot Cliffside, and hiking up into the valley, we arrived at the festival. While there, we enjoyed several beers and sausages at the various biergardens and listened to people playing flute songs from their tables. From there we ventured to Hallstatt, only to be thwarted from visiting the town by torrential downpours and dime sized hail. Turning back, we found the town of Bad Ischl and proceeded to stroll around and sample the town’s most famous chocolate treat before departing for Salzburg. While in Salzburg, we walked around old town, saw the fortress, toured numerous churches, visited Salzburg’s smallest house, and stopped for a beer at the Stiegel tap room.
Day 24 (8/16/16): We checked out of our Austrian mansion in the early afternoon, and headed into town to return Claudia’s parents car, and pick up some supplies for our journey to the Frequency Festival. After equipping ourselves with a tent and some pool floats, Claudia took us to a restaurant/tavern in her childhood neighborhood before we headed to an all-you-can-eat Chinese buffet in downtown Linz, to satisfy our intense cravings. We spent the night with Claudia and her parents.
What We Learned
- If you leave your phone on a bus in Linz, try to run it down. Adam and I spent about 40 minutes trying to contact the bus company. We found it difficult to even find a phone number to contact the company, and once we did, we were left with pre-recorded messages either saying the number was not in use, or messages in German which never gave you the option to speak with an actual human being and promptly disconnected the call when they finished their message. Also, the find my i-Phone app and similar apps for android are a must. Without that app, Justin would not have been able to get his phone back from the bus (and MAN is he fast!). I am telling you….you need it.
- Try to stay as close to the sites you want to visit as possible, even if you pay a little more. When we booked our accommodation in Gallneukirchen, we had discussed staying outside of main centers of cities in order to remain in budget. However, what we quickly discovered was that public transport into the downtown every day was expensive, and for the money we dropped on bus tickets, we could have stayed somewhere nicer in town. Also, in general, public transportation can be unreliable, and the google maps app does not always know when busses run (or stop running), and which buses go to which places on which days. At one point, we took the wrong bus into town and had to pay for a second. We also missed a bus home because google told us it ran later then it actually did. The apps did not also adjust for bus routes for random public holidays, which Austria has a lot of being a Catholic country.
- Uber and Lyft do not work in this city. Believe me, we tried after we missed the last bus home one evening.
- Do not be afraid to rent a car and drive sometimes. The road rules are very similar to the way they run back home in most countries, especially Austria, and you can cover a lot of ground for cheap when you have a couple of people. There are a lot of manual transmissions, but you can find automatics if needed for a slight upcharge. Also, at least in Austria, if you do not see a speed limit sign, the speed limit defaults to their highest highway limit of 130 km/hr.
- If you know a local, even if you weren’t friends like Claudia and I, but just met them on a cruise or through work or wherever and they have told you if you ever come to their country/area, to look them up, do it. Contact them immediately. For the most part, people seem really excited to show you their city or country and things they think are great or unique about them. You will also likely spend less money, get better food, and have a more authentic experience. For example, we would never have been able to find or get to that flute festival outside Bad Ischl without Claudia’s help and I thought that was one of the coolest things we did in Linz. Super unique, super fun, and super real.
- The Chelsea is still an awesome bar. Although the gradual wearing off of the sign outside makes it hard to find, it is worth googling. And, the owner has an extremely good memory, and provided us with a free sampling of schnapps to welcome us back to the country.
- Our first night in our Airbnb outside Linz, as I said, we were all feeling pretty good. So good, in fact, that as soon as we got off of the train, we made a beeline for the in-station grocery store and picked up two more bottles of vodka. On top of that, our amazing, yet foolish, host gave us a bottle of wine as a welcome gift. After further consumption and more than a few falls down the stairs, we hooked up the sound system and proceeded to have a personal four-man dance party, culminating in what can only be called Adam’s Austrian Mansion Party Dance. Some of you may have received snapchats to document this, and if you still have it, try to save that video. It needs to be shown to the world.
- While on the train to Linz, we began playing Screw the Dealer to pass the time. The only difference was that I insisted that everyone play in German. That required me to teach all of JANK the numbers one through twelve, and the words for bigger and smaller. Much mispronunciation and cursing ensued. However, everyone got the hang of itnby the time we arrived and now we all know a little bit more of a new language. It still remains unclear how much of the knowledge was retained after sobriety was achieved.
- Walker bar in the Hauptplatz in Linz has the biggest and best burgers in Austria. No joke, for like five or six euro, you can get a burger the size of your face covered with cheese, bacon, fried eggs, salsa, peppers, etc. AMAZING!!!!!