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Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Good morning crew,

The morning after Oktoberfest in Munich was our first real chance to relax on the trip. We were staying two days in Matrei, a little town about 15 or 16 miles south of Innsbruck, Austria, which meant we could sleep in until a slothful 6:30 a.m. on the second day and enjoy a leisurely breakfast at the hotel.

Most of the tour group went on an all-day excursion to see the Linderhof Palace back in Germany, but a small group including myself, the wife, the wife's parents, and a few others decided to skip that little adventure for another day in Innsbruck.

We had made a brief stop in Innsbruck the day before on our way to Matrei (you can read more about Innsbruck here), and we were all eager for a closer look.

The tour bus was off with the rest of the tour group, but as luck would have it a train runs right past Matrei in between the arms of the mountains all the way down to Innsbruck, and there was a train station just a hop and a skip from the hotel.

So after our morning cold cut hoagie and coffee we found ourselves riding the rails with the majestic alps climbing thousands of feet over our heads right outside the windows.

As I mentioned before, most of Innsbruck is a modern city. The train station was big and crowded, but organized. After disembarking the wife immediately found a large kiosk with the train schedule on it and soon identified a train returning to Matrei at 5:30. That gave us about seven whole hours to explore the city.

After wandering around downtown for a half hour or so we finally found the sixteenth century Altstadt we had visited the day before.

Once again it was like stepping back in time 500 years. It was very odd, because one moment we were walking down a 21st century street, paved in asphalt and lined with office buildings, and then coming upon an unremarkable archway in the wall of a building, we stepped through onto cobblestone streets and buildings dating from the time of Emperor Maximilian I.

This time we had plenty of leisure to poke around in storefronts and do a little shopping. The wife and her mother made a return to the Swarovski Crystal store where they both paid tourist prices for couple nice pieces of jewelry, and even I found a couple of little souvenirs to throw some money away on.

But the most fun, I thought, was lounging on the main street, the Herzog-Friedrich Strasse. I found a little open air cafe, which wasn't difficult seeing as how practically every bar and restaurant had one, and sitting in the shade I ordered a glass of wine, lit a cigarillo, and watched the people walk by while the sun glinted off the Golden Roof at the end of the street. The wife and her parents joined me after they despoiled the Swarovski store, and we spent a very enjoyable hour sipping wine, smoking and talking with the locals. I felt so European.

But, the day wore on and eventually we had to make our way back through the city. The town is really not that big, and after a brief detour through a casino that my mother-in-law could not resist, we were back at the train station with a good fifteen minutes to spare. Unfortunately, after checking the train schedule, it appeared that our train disappeared.

I asked the wife, "Are you absolutely, positively sure you saw a train scheduled to leave Innsbruck for Matrei at 5:30?"

After she swore on her mother's life (which was a little uncomfortable since her mother was standing right there) that there was indeed a return train on the schedule that morning, I walked over to the information desk to see if I could figure out what the hell was going on.

The poor guy behind the desk, he only spoke a little English, but combined with my few dozen words of German I was able to weave the words zug (train), zeit (time) and the name Matrei into a question he could comprehend.

He finally nodded in understanding and then said, 'Cancelled.'

"Cancelled?" I said. "The whole train?"

But he just kept repeating, "Cancelled."

Eventually, we got the idea that another train was leaving for Matrei in 30 minutes. I know the poor guy was doing the best he could, but he was speaking to me like I was a cocker spaniel. "Gleis einundvierzig," he said slowly and deliberately. "Ein-und-vier-zig. Verstehen?"

"Track 41?"

"Ja," he breathed in relief, "41. You valk trew tunnel ober dare."

Following his finger we navigated the tunnel underneath the train tracks soon found ourselves on the platforms, but search as we might we could not find track 41. At this point my mother-in-law was getting more than a little nervous. I don't want to use the word 'hysterical' but I think she thought we were going to be stranded on the outskirts of Innsbruck overnight and would be reduced to begging people on the streets for schnitzel money.

My father-in-law found a bench and lit a cigarette pragmatically while the wife and I sprinted back through the tunnel for another labored conversation with the information guy.

It was getting close, but eventually, by questioning a few bystanders, we found our way to track 41, all the way at the end of the last platform where the numbers inexplicably jumped from 12 to 41.

There was a train sitting there, but checking the engine I noticed it did not say 'Matrei' on it. However I looked at my watch and told the wife, "I'm getting on. If this is the train to Matrei it should start moving in five minutes. And if it doesn't go to Matrei I'm sure wherever it stops will have a bar."

As it turned out, it was the right train, and in barely a half hour we were right back where we started. But I don't think my mother-in-law completely trusted my navigation skills after that.

Laugh it up,


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"Tomorrow we will elect either Biff from 'Back to the Future' or one of the robots from 'Westworld.' You will decide." -Jimmy Kimmel


"This weekend, aides to Donald Trump have finally wrested away his Twitter account. What?! You can't take away Trump's Twitter account! That's like taking away Batman's utility belt! All you're left with is a billionaire with anger issues." -Stephen Colbert


"A new survey found that 46 percent of doctors have used Google or Yahoo to diagnose their patients' symptoms. Yeah, last time I got sick, my doctor was like, 'I'm sorry to tell you this, but you have 'Server Not Responding.'" -Jimmy Fallon


A young man had just graduated from Harvard and was so excited just thinking about his future.

He gets into a taxi and the driver says, "How are you this fine day?"

"I'm the Class of 2012, just graduated from Harvard and I just can't wait to go out there and see what the world has in store for me."

"Congratulations," said the driver reaching back to shake the young man's hand. "I'm Mitch. Harvard Class of '79."

*-------------- Guaranteed to Roll Your Eyes --------------*

A fellow is getting ready to tee-off on the first hole when a second fellow approaches and asks if he can join him. The first says that he usually plays alone but agrees to let the second guy join him.

Both are even after the first couple of holes. The second guy says, "Say, we're about evenly matched, how about we play for five bucks a hole?"

The first fellow says that he usually plays alone and doesn't like to bet but agrees to the terms. Well, the second guy wins the rest of the holes and as they're walking off of the eighteenth hole, and while counting his $80.00, he confesses that he's the pro at a neighboring course and likes to pick on suckers.

The first fellow reveals that he's the Parish Priest at the local Catholic Church to which the second fellow gets all flustered and apologetic and offers to give the Priest back his money. The Priest says, "No, no. You won fair and square and I was foolish to bet with you. You keep your winnings."

The pro says, "Well, is there anything I can do to make it up to you?"

The Priest says, "Well, you could come to Mass on Sunday and make a donation. Then, if you bring your mother and father by after Mass, I'll marry them for you."

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