Thursday, August 27, 2009

Ljubljana to Salzburg

In the Ljubljana train station, there were rejects from 80s hair bands milling around among the early morning travelers. Also, fashion accidents like the one below (notice the MC Hammer-esque white pants on the guy).

I locked my luggage in one of the lockers and spent the hour before my train’s departure wandering the streets near the train station, saying goodbye to the Hostel Celica and the playful graffiti.

I boarded the train with plenty of time to spare and found a spacious cushy seat in business class for only 15 euros extra. The train conductor stopped in to check on me now and then. He looked like a farm hand from my imaginary Slovenian winery: olive skin, blue eyes, brown buzz cut. He stopped by over and again before finally asking where I was from.

“America,” I said. “New York.” This was mostly true—for the last two years I’d been pretending that New Haven was an outer borough of New York. The Upper Upper Upper Bronx.

He said he could tell that I wasn’t from this continent. “Too beautiful,” he said, a line that surely echoed up the train as he moved from car to car. Still, he looked at me like I was an exotic creature from the mythical land of Atlantis. We exhausted the possible conversation topics with his limited English vocabulary (and my nearly nonexistent Slovenian vocab—how many times could I say “Hvala Lepa”?), and I went back to reading and watching the landscape pass outside the window.

Close to the Slovenian/Austrian border, the conductors switched and an Austrian woman with stiff cropped platinum hair came on. She did not shower me with complements or sidle up to my car and blink her wide blue eyes. She marched into my car and looked with disapproval at the state of upkeep. An empty water bottle leaned against one seat and the cloth covers from the headrests had fallen off. She replaced the cloth covers and plucked the water bottle away with an Austrian version of “hmph!”

In Austria, the views through the train window grew more dramatic.

We passed by towns nested between mountain peaks

and sheltered under wisps of clouds.

In Salzburg, I switched trains and the new train had smaller seats and more cramped quarters. Still, I found a compartment to myself and settled in. The mountains gave way to hills, but the green and the clouds stayed as the train continued on.

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