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10 August 1999

On the Train to Austria
First thing in the morning, Monika and Dieter drove us to the Mannheim Hauptbahnhof, for our trip to Austria. This train ride was not along the Rhein and therefore was not so scenic. But we did go through Ulm, Stuttgart and München. After we passed through München, we had 1½ hours before Salzburg, so we took advantage of the long stretch and went to the dining car for a meal. We took our time eating and relaxing, and then took our seats. At Salzburg, the train station has two sides - one that connects to German lines, and another that connects to Austrian lines. We quickly got our bearings found the ticket information and sales counters, bought a ticket to Ebensee and rushed through the station to the train about to leave. I showed the conductor our tickets, he confirmed that it was the right train and motioned us to hurry. Dad got on right away, and Laura had to jump onto the now-moving train. Phew!

Traunstein Mountain
After a simple train change at Attnach-Puchheim, we started south along the Ebensee. Those towns we had only seen as photos on the internet were suddenly real. Gmunden. Altmünster. Traunkirchen - with the picturesque little church on the peninsula. And then Ebensee. At Ebensee, we got off the train alone. A pretty small town. From the station it was a short walk to the information office. It was abuzz with eclipse talk and questions, and special eclipse brochures all around. We picked up a couple of brochures and asked for directions to a bank and to the cable car. The bank was easy to get to. We exchanged some dollars for schillings and went on to look for the cable car. It was uphill, about a one-mile walk - and made a little more difficult with our baggage and the light rain. But we made it, bought our tickets, and waited. The departure was somewhat delayed while they performed some mechanical checks. We struck up a conversation with a couple from Scotland and Australia.

Naturfreundehaus am Feuerkogel
Finally on the cable car, we rode to the top and immediately spotted the Naturfreundehaus. Even though the 1km walk was downhill, the gravel path and light cold rain made it a bit more difficult. And when we got there, we found the doors locked. Soon, a jeep came down the path. It was Hans from the Naturfreundehaus. He drove our bags to the Haus, made a couple of phone calls, and offered us some mountain schnapps. We talked a bit, he showed us our room - and Alex called from the Edelweiss. He'd had a double room come free, and wanted to know if we wanted it. After some deliberation with Hans, we accepted Alex' offer. He came down for the bags, but didn't have room enough to drive us to. So it was another hike up the mountain.

Berggasthof Edelweiß
Our room at the Edelweiß was super. A beautiful little place. After freshening up a bit, we went downstairs for dinner. Immediately, Alex saw to it that we had some of that delicious mountain schnapps. For dinner, Laura had a goat meat ragout, and dad had ham steak. From the dining room there were beautiful views of the Traunsee lake, the Traunstein mountain and about 20 miles to the south, the awesome snow-covered Dachstein mountains.

Cows on the Mountain
After dinner we took a walk into the mountains, on a wide gravel wanderweg (path). Stupendous views! About one kilometer along, we discovered what was making all those cow-pies that we'd been seeing on the mountain. Cows. Each with their own bell. When we ran into a group of 10 cows, the sound of tinkling cowbells was harmonious and sweet. This is Austria!

On our short walk back to the hotel, we talked with a man from Holland who works for Nike. He brings his family to the Edelweiß every winter for skiing. For Austria, he says, this is a good ski resort, but it is Alex and Claudia that make it really special. Once back to the Edelweiß, Alex introduced us to the local weather man - Wolfgang from the mountain weather station right behind the hotel. He told us that the weather did not look good for the next day, the day of the eclipse. More schnapps, compliments of Alex. This time it was bitters - I think in retaliation for the Texas Pete hot sauce that I brought for him from Texas! Ha ha! Up in the room we had a quick look at the maps, and we were off to sleep, high in the Austrian Alps.

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