Monday 11 August 2014

European Adventure: Day Fourteen - Travelling to Maria Alm

I wouldn't recommend the Astoria Trend Hotel to anyone visiting Vienna. Sure the location is amazing and it’s a very historic building but that’s all it has to offer. The three nights we spent there were uncomfortable in terms of the room layout, the bed, the room becoming an oven, the super tiny elevators and most of all the staff. There were only two people we encountered that were pleasant and nice. Everyone else was miserable and rude. I think it's tied with Club Domogomajor with worst accommodations of the trip. So naturally we were all happy to check out on Monday morning.

I left early and wandered for an hour visiting the shops I had wanted to see the day before. I found some stuff Dad had run out of, as well as a few souvenirs I wanted to get for myself. I also found the Jo Malone perfume I wanted from the Toronto Airport but the salesclerk was arrogant and rude, so I opted not to buy it there. I met Dad at Starbucks and we sat outside for a bit talking about the rest of the trip plans. We both decided that as much fun as we were having, we were getting tired and ready for the trip to be over. Three and a half weeks is probably a little too long for a vacation. 

It didn’t take us long to get packed up and checked out, then we had the hotel called us a taxi. What showed up was an unmarked cab with a flat rate. When I asked the doorman if this was a licensed cab he blew me off, so likely this was some friend or family member of him or another staff member. There was no company name, badge or anything indicating he was legitimate. Rather then waste time and argue we just took this van to the airport where we had to pick up our rental car. I guarantee we got ripped off a bit with the price but it was one of those situations where we just wanted to get going. 

The rental car was a lot better then the last one - it was a Kia with much more room and cool features like GPS and Bluetooth synching. We had been worried we would get a tiny compact, so this was a pleasant surprise. There was a cemetery just outside Vienna that Brian had wanted to see as many composers like Mozart, Bach, Strauss and countless others were buried. We made that our first stop and headed there. There was an accident on the highway so traffic made things take a bit longer, but we reached the cemetery without issue. It was right behind a railway station that we had passed on the train ride in. It was similar to the famous Hollywood one, as you could buy a map from the guard with the grave sights. I kept dad company in the car while Brian got out to do it. This place was huge and full of tourists coming in and out. Initially Brian said he would be 45 mins to an hour, but the place was much bigger then he expected so it took about an hour and a half. In that time dad and I listened to music, read and talked. At one point he joked it was a good place to teach me to drive standard, but when I agreed he quickly backtracked. He did give me a lesson in the concept and at that point I decided I would be fine sticking with automatic cars... standard just seems confusing!

Once Brain was back we programmed the GPS and headed toward the Alps. We were staying in a timeshare in Maria Alm, a small Austrian village popular for winter activities like skiing. It was a good home base as it was only a few hours drive from Salzburg and Munich, two places we planned to visit. The drive was nice - it didn't seem like 4 hours because there was so much scenery, especially once off the Autobahn (main highway) and onto the smaller roads leading us up the mountain.

We arrived at the timeshare just before dark and were happy to see how nice it looked - much unlike the last one. Just like with the last one however we had a problem checking in as they wanted to give us one unit with two bedrooms. Despite us making it clear we wanted what we had ordered - and paid fees for - we were led to this unit. When dad refused, the clerk brought us back to the main building and figured out an alternative. Brian and I ended up in a standard hotel room in the man building whereas dad got a one bedroom unit in the other building. He would have preferred a hotel room, but apparently due to being a hotel for multiple bus tours they were booked. 

Wifi had to be bought here, so we each got a wifi pass for the 5 days, plus we each bought laundry tokens. It had now almost been 2 weeks since we left, and much longer then anticipated away from laundry facilities. I had emailed the hotel and checked with them and confirmed we could do laundry here. Dad and Brian said I was being obsessive, but Brian had already had to buy clothes, Dad was a day away from being out and I was two days away from being out and I am a known over packer! The first ting I did after getting into the room was gather a load and head to the basement. 

The basement area was long and creepy, with a small laundry room consisting of one washer and one dryer. The instructions were in English but not too helpful, so I guessed my way through it. I got the first load in, and met Dad and Brian at the hotel restaurant for dinner. We had pizza.... It was the most appetizing thing on the menu. Needless to say we opted not to eat here again. I think if it wasn't off season the restaurant would be better -- there are two of them (one was closed for the season) and there is a much larger menu normally. However in the off season its either pizza or pasta or the set menu the bus tour gets. The waitress - the only server who spoke English - was great though. 

After dinner I showed Brian and Dad where the laundry room was and how to use the machine. Dad was going to do his stuff the next morning, and Brian was switching loads for me. We had to call the manager down as the door to the washer wouldn’t open. He showed us how to open it and we started our next load. In the meantime we met a nice lady from Kitchener, Ont who was staying in the hotel as well. This was the first Canadian we had encountered on the trip.

We had a drink at the bar among a large group of loud German tourists. The hotel had a large bus group of Germans and another of Italians so it was a packed place. Afterward I went upstairs and Brian went to swap the load. When he came up he looked mad, and was carrying piles of wet clothing. The dryer wasn't working. The guy at the desk was unhelpful and basically told Brian - oh well. We did end up talking to the manager later in the week who assured us she would talk to him, as he could have just put it in the hotel dryer for us. We tried to hang clothes around the room but there weren't too many places, and the outside drying rack was useless as it was pouring rain. I called Dad and we made plans to leave early and find a Laundromat. 

Laundromats are not that common in Europe, and even Iva said Croatia has very few of them. Fortunately I was able to find one listed in the town we planned to visit - Innsbruck. The website was in German, and I couldn't tell if the location was still there but we opted to take a chance and hope for the best. 

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