Saturday, July 10, 2010

Europe 2010 - Salzburg - Day 3 of 12

It was time to see more of Salzburg. And benefiting from my body’s convulsed circadian rhythms I figured I’d have an easy morning climbing up to the Festung Hohensalzburg, the eleventh century fortress that dominates the city skyline, before breakfast. So I made my way through the town’s outskirts.

Festung as seen from city square
I had no clue where I was going, but I somehow found paths that ascended the hill. Then I saw them: a line of steps that arched achingly upward to the fortress. I'd come this far, so I began my march, grateful that I'd recently begun jogging. The alpine air and the steep climb made for a tough slog. Still, step after step, I continued. Right up to a locked door. Of course, the fortress is closed to tourists this early in the morning. A bit annoyed, I turned to sweep my eyes across the city square. Bells peeled and I had to admit, the hike was still worth the exertion.

Wandering through the town below, my clothes soaked with sweat, I learned to appreciate the opportunity to share a pleasant Morgen to passersby. And at the nearby Salzburger Dom, a seventeenth century baroque cathedral, I considered how nice it'd be to return the next day to attend a Catholic Mass. Before long, though, I began to regret my tendency to ignore maps. I'd left my guide at the Schloss, assuming I could take a straight path to the Festung and back. By now I was thoroughly lost.

View from Festung hill
Bereft of orientation, even with the Alps and the fortress providing impressive landmarks, I stopped at a gas station. I wasn't yet ready to ask for directions, but I was primed for some breakfast. In the States I might have found a pile of doughnuts; here I breathed the aromas of freshly made bread. Feeling my morning enthusiasm return, I dropped a couple Euros for a salty torpedo and some red-orange juice. I'd stroll the river and find my way back to the Schloss somehow.

Salzburg University seen from across Salzach River
A half hour later, even after receiving a danke schön from a priest who appreciated my habit of picking up litter, I realized that all my positive energy and good intentions wouldn't change my situation. I was more disoriented than ever. It was time to abandon the pretense of dignity. I would ask for directions. I'd just left a Billa market when I spotted a woman leaving with her car. Motioning with an expression that attempted to convey pathos without panic, I earned a judgmental "Tsk" for failing to pack a map. Then the woman demanded that I get in her car. We chatted, sort of, and she drove me back to the Schloss with just enough time for me to take a quick shower before the morning meeting. I promised my new friend that I'd offer a ride to any Austrian in the States who looked lost. She replied that the deal seemed fair.

Leopoldskroner "Allee" - heading toward town
Settling into a routine of guest speakers and meetings, each divided by coffee breaks that were so sumptuous, they seemed organized to fatten us up, I eventually joined my "theme group." These smaller teams were meant to provide an environment where we'd discuss ways to apply what we'd learned at the seminar. My group was composed of about ten folks, each wanting to explore how sustainability intersects with the "global commons." It seemed like a terrific opportunity to work on interesting problems with a cross-section of academics, some from New York, some from Louisiana, and others from California.

Meeting in the Marble Room
Yet I quickly grew frustrated by our collective tendency to drift on and on without reaching consensus or implementing plans for a presentation we'd have to deliver in a few days. And the more I sought to bring some focus to the group's deliberation, the more I found myself talking excessively, as if I could whip things into shape with words alone. When a tough-talking dude from the Bronx finally told me I was talking too much, I knew that my efforts to effect a mellow persona had failed. Perhaps, I began to wonder, this trip might not be so fun after all.

Day 2 | Day 4

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