I am giving a paper at FME'97 (Formal Methods Europe) in Graz, Austria. The real technical work in this paper was done by Abdel Mokkedem while he was a Post Doc at INRS. I did not expect to go to Graz - it was to be Abdel's paper and trip. However, Abdel is now a professor at University of Utah and they decided not to pay for his trip so I have to go. The paper that I shall present will be very different than the one he would have presented.
In some ways, this is a trip home. From 1976 to 1978, we lived in Baden bei Wien, in Suzi and Rudi Kadanka's Floral Villa. I am going to spend my first night in Austria with them.
Today I am flying to Vienna via Zurich on Swissair. I am astounded at the cost of the flight. It is listed as about $1400 (CDN) which after a wholesaler consolidation becomes $1200. A couple of years ago it would have cost about $700. Mirabel also surprised me. The curb by the terminal was full of busses. This flight is decently full but not jammed. I gave up my aisle seat for another because my seatmate wanted to sit with his wife who was several rows in front of him. I really don't know what happened. My new seat does not have anybody beside me.
Dinner arrived again about 45 minutes after takeoff. It is nice to have it at approximately at my normal supper time rather than midnight. I again opted for the chicken for supper - Chicken Kiev - not as good as mine but quite acceptable. Today's wines were an undistinguished Cabernet Sauvignon from Vendange in Sonoma, and a better, but not outstanding 1996 Beaujolais from Bouchard, Père et fils of Beaune. The Sauvignon Blanc from Vendange was nicely flavourful.
I don't really know what movie was playing. I spent most of the trip talking to Wolfgang Sadée. He is originally from Berlin, although his folks were Huguenot refugees from France. Currently he is visiting at ETH in Zurich, but his full-time position is really at USF in San Francisco. Wolfgang is a research pharmaceutical micro biologist who seems to be in great demand. He was on his way back from a two day, $4000 airfare, trip to Montréal. He has a theory about addiction that is totally contrary to the micro biology's current wisdom. He believes that addiction, rather than being caused by the desensitization of receptors is actually a positive feedback mechanism. His colleagues think he is crazy. He was delighted that he was able to talk to someone who understood control systems sufficiently well to understand the concept. I pointed out that there must be a stabilizing mechanism or the system would blow itself apart. He said he thinks that he knows what it is. His description sounded like a classical saturating non-linearity. Although this would be simply understood by an electrical engineer, it is such a foreign way of thinking by micro-biologists that it has been dismissed. I told him that I was surprised at the risk aversion of his colleagues. They are probably waiting for the definitive result which will be either a failure and the reply ``I told you so!'' or the breakthrough positive result which will lead to ``Of course!''.
I am actually waiting in Zurich for my flight to Vienna. It is almost dawn and almost 7:00am. One disconcerting thing happened at Mirabel. The Swissair people added some red ``Short connection in Zurich'' tags to my bags. Hopefully it is not too short.
It wasn't - my bags arrived intact. I managed to trip the ``suspicion'' button of the Custom's officer as I was leaving. He accepted my word that my pack held my bicycle but he was suspicious of my purple bag. He put it through the x-ray and he asked what the big blob was at the top of the bag. I had no idea so he asked me to open it. The blob was my 1.5 kilo bag of trail mix - he was satisfied. I put the bike together with the normal amount of trial ... this time it was the back wheel not parallel to the frame. I have an insert and the hole for the quick release had gotten too big. I put a piece of twisty tie into the hole and it was finally OK.
At the moment it is about 3:30pm and I am sitting in the Schönbrun Castle Garden, listening to the fountain gurgle, pigeons coo, and some Austrian tourists pontificate on a nearby bench. The weather today has been superb - bright, sunny, and not too warm. From the airport I followed Schwechat Hauptgasse into Renweg, right onto the Opern Ring. The entire first district is inside the Ring seems to be mostly pedestrian walking malls - bikes walk too, with some help. There were crowds everywhere, especially so on Kartner Strasse. English seemed to be the most common language. I was somewhat reminded of Waikiki. There were lots of kids in period costume hawking tickets for a Mozartfest - a Luau in disguise.
After a couple of hours of nostalgic wandering around inside the Ring, I started down Mariahilferstrasse, one of the premier shopping streets in Vienna. I had two objectives - get some camping gas and a list of campgrounds. One of my guide books indicated that the ÖAMTC Austrian Motor Club offices had a list. I found the camping gas at Sports Experts on the third floor of Gerngros. I wonder if they are related to the Sports Experts in Montreal. Later I found the ÖAMTC. After a couple of false starts, they found a map of all the campgrounds in Austria. The one that I had hoped to stay in tomorrow night does not exist. I guess I shall have to modify my route.
After a few wrong turns, I ended up in a town that I knew, Mödling, but of course, discovered that I didn't know it very well because I had not ridden my bike there. I thought all the area around Baden bei Wien, where we lived in 76/78 was flat, perhaps because I tended to only ride my on the flat stuff to Laxenburg, and drive in the flat valley to Vienna. There is a long hill up out of Mödling, and to add insult and injury to poor memory, my chain broke just as I started up. This was probably due to an overshifting problem that I had been having all day that was causing my chain to jam in the wheel. The frame has been bent out of shape, by airline abuse, and now is cracked again.
I arrived in Baden about one-half hour late, made a few more wrong turns, due again to failing memory but didn't really ride very far out of my way. When I arrived at Suzi and Rudi's Floral Villa the gate was locked. It was never locked when we lived here. Suzi said that it was not as safe as it used to be ... still safe but perhaps worrisome. It was great to see them both, and to discuss our problems in making contact, especially over the Internet. We brought ourselves up to date with pictures and dined on a porch overlooking the Garden. I shall really see it tomorrow when it is light. Tonight, we were entertained by a firework display over the Kurpark, which Rudi and Suzi said was really just because I had come to visit.
** In 1977, all the signs to Bratislava said Pressburg, the old Austro/Hungarian name for it. I have been quite curious about whether they had been changed. It was clear, as I rode into Vienna from the airport that the had. The sign leading to the A4 said Bratislava, Budapest. When I mentioned it to Suzi, she said, ``Yes, we now admit that it exists.''
After looking at my map, I decided to go just to Pernitz, about 35km from here. That should make the next campground in Langenwang feasible for Sunday, and still allow me to go through, possibly in the rain, a deep, spectacular gorge, the Höllental. It might start raining sometime this afternoon. It also will allow me to spend some time in Baden, and try to get my bike fixed. I discovered, yesterday, that the brazing repair that I made before I went to London has cracked.
Baden has a population, now, of almost 30,000. This means that you would expect that there is good bicycle shop - there is. Suzi gave me directions. But today is Saturday, and the welding shop was closed. Suzi also sent me to the Bauhaus home repair supermarket. They had the brazing rods but not the torch to use them. I finally had to settle for a temporary epoxy repair - hopefully it will get me Graz.
Suzi, Rudi, and friend Heidi, left for Mariazell at about 11:45. I finally got all my stuff together at about 1:00pm. Pernitz is about the same distance south of Baden as Vienna is north. However, it is a much tougher 35 km. There were two possible routes; the shorter one that had a pass with an 11% grade, and the longer one that went south and avoided the grade. At the last moment, I opted for the short route. This took me through Pottenstein, a delightful little town stuck in a tight valley (depression between mountain ranges). The route from their rose softly through wide valleys until it hit a ridge line that blocked its path.
It was here that the 11% grade started along with the rain that Suzi insisted was coming. The rain started gently, and then became a full downpour. The climb was tough, but doable. However, I still was operating with the belief that the next switchback was the last. My map said the summit was 12.4 km from Pottenstein. At 13.5 km (based on the road signposts) I still was not there. At 13.7km, I finally arrived. It was downhill all the way from there to Pernitz.
The rain diminished greatly as I went over the ridge - a typical hill/rain weather pattern. It drizzled rather than poured on my way down. I found the campground in Pernitz. It is a semi-permanent campground, mostly inhabited by trailers, but with a few places for us transients. There was a nice lull in the rain as I put up my tent, but it still continues on and off as I write. I still have not had my shower, but I don't have the spirit to jump out in the rain to have it ... perhaps later.
It rained on and off all night but had stopped by morning. Unfortunately all my nice-weather clothes were soaking wet so I opted for my only dry stuff - my rain outfit of Gore-Tex pants, and socks. My shows were completely soaked - still.
Austria has bike routes everywhere, but it is usually impossible to tell if they are going your direction. One exception is a route that goes through the centre of town while the main road bypasses it. This was the case at Gutenstein - and a delight it was. The road through town was a single lane crowded by simple, colourful houses and an occasional shop or restaurant. In the background, high on a hill was the tower of a castle.
From Gutenstein, I headed south towards the Höllental, or ``Hell's Canyon''. At about 10km, just before I had to climb out of the valley over a ridge, I stopped to refuel, and noticed that the rear packs were wobbly. I looked more carefully and discovered that my temporary repair of the crack in the frame had failed - in a big way. Not only had the part that had been cracked broken, the wheel was now completely separated from the frame. The wheel was being held on by the rear rack. This was moderately disconcerting. I was, quite literally, in the middle of nowhere Austria. I had some epoxy and some plastic cable ties so I put some glue in the joint, (it had failed before), and tightened the cable ties around the piece. I was still concerned because the plastic will stretch. I then tried to reinforce it with a thick copper wire that I carry (for other reasons), but, as I feared, the wire broke. Then I tried bending a spoke. My little pair of pliers could not really twist them. However, my wire cutters were better, and almost made the job. At that point I started out. The frame twisted a bit, but I made some adjustments and the shifting and brakes seemed reasonable - sort of. Occasionally, all day, the rear sprocket would jump, indicating that the wheel was not solidly in place.
Twelve km from the turn just beyond Gutenstein, I started up the side of the ridge, one switchback after another, finally reaching the top, after having been disappointed several times. Finally I started down, to the road that led into the Höllental. The Höllental is a deep (1000-2000 feet - 300-600m?) gorge cut by the Schwarza river. However, it is a little unusual. Instead of slicing between a single set of walls, It slices through the ridge lines that cross it, follows new valley for a while, and then slices through another ridge. This gives deep valleys that run 90° off the river, making spectacular ridges that come and stop by the river. The rock faces are, apparently, prime climbing territory. I saw several groups of climbers, either trying to get up their ropes, or examining their guide books to see where to go. From my inexperienced perspective, the rock looked a little rotten, not at all like Yosemite faces. Perhaps they really had to be careful. The Höllental does deserve its Michelin two stars - ``worth a detour'' - and even better from my perspective that I was going down.
At the end of the Höllental, there was supposed to be an intersection - straight ahead to Semmering, or to the right through Edlech parallel to the main road. There was no road straight ahead, so I turned right. I continued on until I hit the town of Dorfl. This meant I was on the wrong road. This one showed a grade of 11% but the road to Semmering showed nothing. I turned around and went back. The straight through intersection required a jog of 100m to the left rather than a right turn.
I started up the road to Semmering. This was exceptionally pretty, inspiring, and intimidating. The road would aim for an impossibly high ridge and then swerve to miss it. I kept thinking, and hoping that the next point was the last one and I was at the top. That, literally, never occurred. In fact, there was one section, fortunately going down that had a sign, 23% - it was not on my map. I think that some of the sections I went up were almost as steep.
I got into Semmering, at about 5:30pm. Even when I was in town, the roads seemed to go only up. The Lonely Planet says that Semmering is built on hills. In fact, it is really built on cliffs. Well before I got into Semmering, I decided that I was not going to get beyond it. I was just above the Bahnhof (train station) when I started to look in earnest for the pensions in my guide. I couldn't find the street, even with a city map right in front of me. I asked an old man on a bicycle where the Haus Mayer was. He didn't know, nor did he know where Hochstrasse was. He told me to wait, while he rode his bike down to the Bahnhof to ask. They didn't know either. However, they did know where a third choice, which was on the same street, was. He rode his bike with me, and guided me to the street. It was in a totally different part of town. The Haus Mayer was full. The lady owner suggested the Pension Edelweiss just around the corner. This had to be considered because my second choice, the Haus Toon had shut down. The Pension Edelweiss had a tiny room on the third floor for 360AS (about $40 CDN). I didn't really want to carry all my stuff up 3 flights of narrow stairs. Later, the lady running a house with privatzimmers that was full, aimed me to the Hotel Post. They had a big room on the second floor with a private bath for 290AS - and a place for my bike. I stayed.
Tonight I decided to eat supper - out. After a short tour of town, I ended up in the Hotel Post dining room/bar. I was the only tourist in the place. Everyone else knew the owner, who would sit down and drink with them. Occasionally, they would go into the bar and draw their own glass of draft wine. I had full meal, with vegetable cream soup, Wiener Schnitzel, and salad. I declined the dessert, and didn't eat all of the potatoes. After a day's riding, I can really only eat a snack. I eat a banana and trail mix almost every hour on the hour. By the time supper comes, I am still full. Today was no exception.
It was a short, but exhausting and interesting, 69km (45 miles)
The B306, just outside my window has been continual traffic all night. It looks as though I can go around, on some smaller roads which have grades of only 14%, at least on the map. This all depends on whether I can find the road that turns off the B306. In fact, there is one that runs parallel to Spital. It was recommended to me by the old man last night, but I didn't know what he was talking about.
At the moment I am at the top of the 14% grade in Pfaffensattel (1368m high). Although the Semmering pass is 968m, I dropped at least 300m before I started up. I think that the map does not bother to put on short steep pitches. This climb was at least 3km and about 20 switchbacks. When I was down in the valley I saw this huge ridge in front of me. I couldn't see where the road could go round it. It didn't! It climbed right up the side. Interestingly, the sign at the top here says 20% grade for 5km, instead of the 16% on the map. It has been a beautiful, sunny crisp morning, a delight to ride, and hear the cowbells, and see a domesticated herd of deer. Now its down!
On the way down, there was a break in the trees. As far as the eye could see, there was a jumble of huge hills, with no obvious way through, or around. If you will pardon the antimony, each one seemed higher than its neighbour. My immediate thought was, ``I am riding my bike through that!'' These make the Green Mountains of Vermont and the Black Mountains of North Carolina seem like gentle hills. It turned out that ``that'' was the beginning of about 40km of mostly down. My major problem, initially, was controlling my speed. It was quite exhilarating and beautiful. About 15km or so later, the sharp hills became more rounded, and eventually quite agricultural. I was astounded at the intensity of the green of the fields. It was sensory overload, and delightful.
Ratten was one of the many towns that dotted this valley.
The end of the 40km was the town of Angers. There was a campground here and that was where I had intended to stay. I didn't see the campground, or any indication of its existence, and it was only about 2:00pm - all the stores were still in the midst of their afternoon Austrian lunch break, so I decided to continue on. The next 40km to Graz ran east/west going over the ridge lines rather than around them. That was one of my original reasons for thinking about delaying this section until tomorrow. This was small town Steirmark, with Weis, with its church with two pink and white spires, perched on top of a hill, being the prettiest.
After up and down, being passed by all the other bicyclists, only occasionally with a greeting, it was nice to have the last 5km into Graz downhill. In fact, the last 5km into Graz, where actually in Graz. Graz started in the middle of farms and fields.
Since I was one day early, I needed to find the campground. My maps of Graz did not go far enough out of town so I headed for the Haupt Bahnhof to find a Tourist Office. When I got there I looked first at my Lonely Planet Guidebook to see what they said. The key thing they said was that the Tourist Office closed at 6:00pm and it was now 5:59pm. I found the office at just after 6:00pm and it was still open. The girl had a good map of Graz and showed me exactly how to find the campground - take Eggenburger Gurtel right in front of the station and turn on Kartner until you pass the Wien autobahn. I found it easily, after a brief stop in a Julius Meinl for some provisions. I started putting up my tent as it was getting dark, had my shower and cooked some of my dry salami to go with the Tarragon Mustard that I had just bought at Julius Meinl. Today was a good day - 105km (63m).
Unfortunately, my bike is showing signs of my temporary repair weakening. I shall look at in more detail in the morning - maybe I can even get it fixed.
It looks like another beautiful crisp fall day. I just had a visit from Gerd Kayser, the owner of the only other small tent in the campground. I saw his tent last night but there was no one there. He is from Stuttgart, and has been touring on his bike since August 22. He first went south into Switzerland, across into northern Italy and then into Slovenia. At Trieste, his two friends left him to go back to Germany, either to be married, or to attend a wedding - I am not totally certain. From Trieste, he came north to Villach, in Austria and is finishing here in Graz. Today he takes the train home. He has a few nice innovations on his bike. His bicycle trip computer is actually built into the handlebar post. He was also quite proud of his very bright, lead/acid battery front light.
I was examining my bike when he came over to talk and have just discovered that my ``temporary'' frame repair is holding out ok. The problem is that my rear axle is broken. This is the second time I have broken a rear axle. The first was in California, just beyond Ronald Reagan's estate, while going up the Refugio Pass. That time it was a solid rear axle and I had to hitchhike into Solvang to get it fixed. This time I have a quick release so the outer axle broke but the shaft for the quick release just bent. I was able to ride into Graz to try and get it fixed.
I rode into Graz back to the Haupt Bahnhof to ask at the Tourist Office about bicycle shops. The nice lady did not know of any but after consulting the yellow pages found one at 46 Bahnhof Gurtel. I looked and looked but could not find it. It should have been just outside the station.
I thought that I had seen a bicycle shop on Keplerstrasse as I had come in, but I was mistaken. Just as I was turning down by the River Mur, towards her second choice, I saw a wall with a big painted bicycle. This was my place. They only did repairs, and had about six people working there. They fixed the rear axle, but on my way to find an ATM to get enough money to pay for it, my temporary frame repair completely died. I walked my bike back and showed them the problem. There was no dismay, and they took the bike. I then walked into the centre of town to find an ATM. The first two were purely local networks but the one at the Bank of Austria was on Cirrus. I withdrew 2000AS and went back to retrieve my bike and passport. It was all fixed, hopefully better than original, and now I am back at the campground, having lunch, writing, and about to break camp to find my hotel.
My hotel, the *** Hotel Rosen, is actually a student dormitory but school has not yet started. I hope the students pay less than I do - 575AS ($63cdn) per day is a little steep.
Graz is a beautiful small city. The centre core is the best preserved medieval Germanic city in the world. It is medieval rather than baroque because Graz became eclipsed, and downsized, because all the power of the Holy Roman Empire, and the later Austro/Hungarian empire, moved to Vienna. It has an imposing Schlossberg (Castle Mountain), 123m (400¢) above the Hauptplatz. The only remains of he castle is part of one wall and a clock tower. The castle survived all its sieges, including its last one during the Napoleonic wars, only to be dismantled, by a diplomatic agreement, the ``Treaty of Vienna''.
Behind Herrengasse, the main street through the old town is the hidden Inner Stadt. This is approached by narrow alleys off Herrengasse and is a quiet and rewarding discovery. The eastern Inner Stadt has the Glockenspiel and the Domkirche. It is a little more modern than the western side which is more medieval, but it still has a cobblestone, jarring charm.
The Technical University of Graz is spread around the city. The Hotel Rosen is near one section that is quite a distance from the Physics building where we were having the conference. This was a real advantage for me. I rode a different way every day, discovering new parts of town as I was getting lost.
During this time I had two quests. My first was to find some Pink Cakes to take home for Peggy. Pink Cake, known in Baden as Punsch Torte, is day old cake soaked in a rum and kirsch liquor. I bought three, for 8AS each in Baden for breakfast on my ride down. They were sweet, soggy, and quite liquorish. I thought about carrying a collection for Peggy on my bike but Suzi said they would get squashed, and that I could get them in Graz. The last one I had for breakfast was indeed quite good and squashed. Graz does not have Punsch Torte but they do have Punschkrapfen. These are the same idea but of considerably inferior quality compared to their Baden counterparts. They are dry, have little liquor, and only about 1/3 rather than about 80% of the cake is actually soaked. Even that 1/3 has only a tiny bit of liquor. The three samples I have tried so far are remarkably, and distressingly consistent. In addition, they all cost 20AS rather than 8AS.
My second quest was to add to our collection of traditional Austrian wine glasses that we had brought back with us in 1978. Our collection has been quite decimated through breakage. The kind I wanted are very nice traditional style, with a wide dark green base, made by Stözle Glas. I looked in several places and could not even find any of the inferior tourist style glasses. Frau Pichl, one of the conference administrators, suggested Klammerth on Herrengasse. One of the sales ladies said she had been working there for six years and had never seen them, and another, said that Stözle had stopped making them. Frau Pichl offered to make some phone calls, and gave me some more names. None of these places had them but they directed me to other places - still nothing. Perhaps they are indeed not made any more. Unfortunately I didn't look in Vienna because I didn't want to carry them all the way down here on my bike - after all, Graz is Austria's second largest city.
John Rushby noted, as we were looking at or email last night, that the clouds were rolling in. ``Ugh, just as I am about to go on vacation!'' was his comment. It did indeed rain most of the night, but had stopped by morning. Now, 8:30am, it is still not raining, and is even brightening a bit - perhaps the rain has stopped.
Today I shall continue my quests, and also, probably, visit one of the Michelin Guide's other ** attractions, the Schloss Eggenberg or the Austrian Open Air Museum, a museum village with houses from all over Austria.
The Hofbäckerei Edegger had two Punschkrapfen. I tried one. It was not up to Baden quality, but it was quite decent, and had about 3/4 of the cake soaked in liquor. There is indeed a significant range in quality here in Graz. That may also be true in Baden but I don't know. I will take the second one home to Peggy.
I got to the Schloss Eggenberg at about 11:30am, with the next tour starting at noon. The grounds of the Schloss are famous for its wildlife. I didn't see any of the various kinds of deer but there were plenty of ducks, several peacocks, and their accompanying peahens. They felt sufficiently safe that I could get to within about 8 feet of them. That was close enough to notice their individuality.
The tour of the Schloss was a circle around the second floor - about 40 or so rooms. The woodwork on the floors and some of the furniture was quite amazing. The other amazing thing was that in all the rooms there was not a single bathroom or washroom. The residents were truly accomplished people.
I stopped on the way back at the Merkur market and restaurant. I tried their Cordon Bleu for lunch. All the rest of the luncheon menu were various types of schnitzel. In fact, the Cordon Bleu was really just a cheese schnitzel so it was really not out of place.
I was finished lunch at about 2:00pm, and came out to have the sun shining and the rain clouds apparently gone. However, it was too late to go up to the village museum so I shall leave that till tomorrow. After stopping to have my Schwechater beer in the Freiheitsplatz, I came back to my room to work - I have to prepare my class for next Tuesday.
This has been a night of continual activity here, both inside and out on the street. The students are moving in.
I left at about 8:30pm heading north to the Austrian Open Air Museum. It is a beautiful morning, and, although I don't know exactly where I am going, I will just follow the road by the River Mur until I see a sign. The road was quite easy, going up river through a flat valley with ridges rising about 1000 feet on either side. After only 10km (the guide books said 15km) I saw the first sign. It sent me off the main highway into Gratkorn, and then Gratwein. In fact, I wound my way around and along the other side of the river for another 8km. For the last 3km, I wondered if I had somehow missed it - but couldn't see how.
The museum is built into a valley that rises and runs perpendicular to the main Mur valley. It has houses from all over Austria, but most are from Steirmark. There are about 80 different exhibits. The first set came from Burgenland, and the last from the mountains around Bregenz, far to the west. The last house was an Alpine dairy house that was built in 1649 and was in continual use until 1977. It was originally at 1700m (5600 feet) and must feel slightly let down to be here. There was also a farm saw mill from Burgenland whose water wheel really worked. In fact there were several mills, and a corn grinder that were all working - with water wheels. One really delightful aspect was to see the flowers in all the flower boxes that typically surround the railings of Austrian country houses. All the gardens were in full bloom, and there was even a live spice garden with peppermint, that I and several others could not resist squeezing. Almost all of the houses were rural and agricultural. One neat touch was one of the complete farm complexes (several had been brought intact from their original locations), with their own sheep. The most unusual building was a barn that was a real work of art - a skeletal set of carved pillars and beams with the boards on the inside. A large number of the farm houses were home/barn combinations. Some were for the cattle, others for storing the hay, but the one I found most surprising combined the house with a commercial threshing business.
In the middle of the complex was a small, brand new museum, dedicated to the history of the wheel and related farm implements, like plows and rakes. It was very nicely done. I left at about 1:00pm to go back to Graz. The detailed access map for the museum showed a bridge just to the north across the Mur. I thought it was about 500m away. It turned out to be about 3km - but no matter, I was not in a hurry. It was an uneventful, trip back to Graz.
Although there might be an improvement in Austrian shopping hours during the week, almost everything is shut down on Sunday. I had seen a Wurst Stand on the way up to the museum. It was closed then, and still was when I passed on the way back. However there were a couple of open Wurst Wagons in the Hauptplatz in front of the Rathaus. This was a very quiet Hauptplatz. Everything else was closed. Sunday is a very different time in the Hauptplatz. There is no traffic. The kids, and especially their dogs, chase the pigeons. Another kid is using his two-wheeled bike to practice unicycle tricks - impossible when there is traffic. And then there was the guy waiting for his friends. He had just walked down from Guntramsdorf, a small town just outside of Baden, with some friends, but had split to take slightly different routes. He said they should arrive in about a half hour with his dog, and their dog. They were all on their way to India, by foot, with perhaps, the occasional help from a boat. They were intending to go through Iran, but his two friends had been to the United States, and the Iranians would not grant them visas. They had only one pack amongst three of them - I wonder how they were managing.
I left Graz at about 3:00pm and arrived at my pension by the airport at about 4:00pm. There is no one here. Like the rest of Austria, it is shut down. I did say that I would be here at about 7:00pm. They promised someone would be here. I am early so I shall wait and write.
At 6:55pm a lady arrived on her bike. I was deemed legitimate and let in.
The airport was only about 500m from my pension. My flight leaves at 6:55am so I arrived at about 5:00am. It took me about an hour to put my bike together. It was not too hard, except that I had to work really hard to stuff everything into my purple bag - worse than normal.
Tyrolean Airlines has a full plane to Zurich. This is not to surprising as I was wait-listed on this flight for about a week. The headlines in this morning's paper say that there were 135,000 fans were in Graz at the Austrian Grand Prix that just finished yesterday. I guess they were all leaving. A few on this flight were on their way to Japan for the Japan Grand Prix. The flight was uneventful - I was on the aisle - and breakfast was excellent.
We arrived in Zurich, essentially on time, and I have four hours before my flight home. This gives me time to find the Duty Free Shop. The big one in the transit lounge did not seem to have the variety that I remember in 1985. In fact, I regretted I didn't buy something more in Graz.
I waited by the flight announcement board in the main lounge for some indication of my flight. Because all the jointly operated flights, it is now impossible to get even the next hour of flights on the board. Each joint ``codeshare'' flight requires two or more entries - and the airport is quite busy. The boarding time on my ticket said 12:20 (flight departure was actually 12:50) and by 11:30 there was no indication of the gate. Last November, I left from an A7? gate so I decided to gamble on that section of the airport. Our gate, A75, was listed on the local monitor, but the gate was still in use by a 45 minute late Delta flight.
My seat was 40B, on the aisle, only because it was the last row of the plane, and the ABC seats had become AB. My seatmate was from Ghana, on his way to Vancouver. He immediately disappeared under his headphones and was there for the entire flight. My first trauma occurred just after they had closed the doors, and the captain announced that we were going to Dorval rather than Mirabel. I thought there must be some mistake, I had left from Mirabel on Sept. 11. There was no mistake. On September 15, all the regularly scheduled transatlantic flights started coming in to Dorval. This was problem - Virginia expected me to come into Mirabel, and would be almost certainly going there. My ticket actually said Dorval, but I didn't notice.
At 35,000 feet over England, I phoned Selwyn House and left her a message. Airphones are really only for urgent problems. This one cost $11.00 US per minute, anywhere in the world. It went via satellite from the plane, and was routed, I would guess, through the land network after it had landed. The line quality was quite decent but the background noise in the cabin made a reasonable conversation almost impossible. However, it did the job. Virginia got the message and met me at Dorval. My bags arrived intact, albeit slowly, but the customs and immigration was incredibly fast and efficient. There were even separate lines for Canadian citizens, just like in Europe for EC nationals.
It was a good trip, fraught with the appropriate degree of interesting difficulties.