10th August, Wednesday

On the three-and-a-half-hour train journey to Innsbruck from Verona, a north German family of three shared our compartment most of the way. They had just spent ten days hiking south over the Alps. The wife was a pigtail blonde, a bit literal but kind and young in spirit. Early forties, I imagined. The son was about ten.

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The husband mentioned seeing the Cliffs of Moher on the Irish west coast last year and then the only other occupant – an Italian woman – suddenly produced a picture of the cliffs on her phone. I hadn’t the heart to mention that they had become a notorious suicide spot.

The card worked without the pin here. The lady at the Schwarzer Bär took the matter in hand and processed the payment. [The pin of my credit card had somehow been locked during a transaction at a hotel in Verona and I couldn’t change the code until I got back to Ireland.] Nonetheless I need to compile a few choice phrases for my review inspired by the Verona incident and the charmless reaction at the desk this morning.

My mother and I had an OK meal in the Altstadt this evening but by the time we emerged the odd drop from the grey sky and foggy Nordkette had turned to rain. In short sleeves, I hadn’t even brought the blue mac.

Tonight I was sent back out for some liquid supplies. This time the rain had stopped and the mac was a bit warm. Passing two dark, empty Spars and no Billa, I thought the station might have something open the latest. The supermarket lights were on there and I could see a girl tidying up inside but it too was out of bounds. The Würstelstand back on Maria Theresien Strasse gave me water and a couple of cans of beer.

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11th August, Thursday

In the morning at a post office over the bridge I got the €500 sent by my brother via Western Union. It rained again in the late morning after we went over to the Altstadt.

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Nevertheless it surprisingly then cleared up to make a sunny day. Seeing the last of the cloud lift off the Nordkette meant we went up to Hungerburg on the funicular in the afternoon. I made a panoramic short video of the view but stuck my own head into it and later discovered something black had stuck between two of my front teeth during lunch so it only looked like a visit to the dentist was on the cards.

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My mother later did some shopping and I bought Joseph Roth’s Radetzkymarsch in the Tyrolia bookshop. I do like Innsbruck.

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I didn’t care for Graz, a couple of months ago. I can’t speak about Klagenfurt but from what I’ve seen, Graz is the charmless sister of Austrian cities. My mother is really impressed by the river here.

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A lot of Italian can be heard and a surprisingly large number of Spaniards are in town too. A few too many dogs. Canines. I don’t think they’re all local. Why do people travel with dogs? We had a nice lunch on Maria Theresien Strasse and indeed we had a nice dinner in the Goldenes Adler across the bridge quite late this evening but my arms got cold.

12th August, Friday

Raining again this morning. We won’t be visiting anything else before we leave Innsbruck. Killing an hour now before checking out. The flight from Munich is not until 20.20 tonight.

We had trouble finding seats on the train but eventually got into a compartment with two young blondes unknown to each other. When a middle-aged English couple with too much luggage later boarded our carriage and couldn’t find seats, it led to talk in our compartment. These two Brits caused the good-looking girl at the window to roll her eyes at me as she retook her seat after a quick smoke on the platform.

Ja, ich habe gehört,” I said, in reference to hearing the woman loudly laughing and then swearing, down the carriage (“Farking hell… This is farking ridiculous” etc).

Die sind Englander. Wir kommen aus Irland.”

The girl was interested and happy to hear that, as was the gorgeous student with the pigtail and the anatomy book near the door on my mother’s side. She beamed as she closed the book, took off her black-framed reading glasses and asked in German if I’d liked Innsbruck. Having explained that I’d been there before on my own too, I went on to outline the Verona hassle to both of them. They were very sweet and also curious. The one beside me had lovely varnish on her toenails – somewhere between pink and orange – and expensive sandals. The girls were open-mouthed again when I explained that we lived on the south coast and so I’d have to drive 200 km after Dublin Airport.

The girl with the anatomy book got off at Kufstein and sweetly said Auf Wiedersehen not just to us but also to the one beside me, who softly replied with Tschüss. There was a fella in boots on my left who never said anything except a whispered “Fuck” at his phone but he didn’t look like another Englander. He even smiled once or twice, for example when I had to stick my head through the compartment doorway to call back my mother who had walked past after a toilet break.

We got off at Munich Ost and the girl at the window bade me farewell twice as I stood in the corridor with our bags. All the hours in Munich’s maze of an airport weren’t as bad as the endless corridors in Dublin before the passport check. The drive was OK but by the very end of it I was tired and starting to see things. Home at one in the morning.

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