English Girl in Vienna

Cultural Commentator

What is Fun?

I’m on a train travelling back to Vienna following my first ever skiing holiday. I went to a gorgeous little town called Ellmau in Tirol. I find myself wondering why skiing is fun. It’s such an absurd thing to willingly throw yourself down a mountain with blades stuck to your feet, yet despite my fear, tears and tremblings I quite enjoyed it, I think. Maybe the enjoyment came from not dying. Every once in a while, whenever I was brave enough to stop chanting out loud “no fear, nice big circles, snow plough! snow plough!” and actually look around me instead of down I was struck by the beauty of a snowy mountain. I tell you what isn’t fun; puking from bad food for two days. Another thing that isn’t fun; a seven hour train journey on your own.

The journey back started as a nightmare. It was the day of major ski races in Austria, in Kitzbuehel, a place I had to go through to pick up my connection to Vienna. When I got to the station at St Johan it seemed half of Austria was there enjoying a can of beer or two as a post breakfast treat. It was then I learned of the races and saw with horror the number of trains running late or cancelled due to snow and the sheer volume of singing people draped in flags. I asked the woman at the information desk if I could get on an earlier train seeing as the one I was booked on was bound to be late. I was told to get on the next one at no extra charge. I could’ve kissed her. I stood on the platform with hundreds of clueless others. When the Munich train came a few with suitcases got on and the race goers stayed put, but after a minute they all piled on too. Luckily, I spied the conductor and asked if the train went to Woergl. He seemed to consider it then decide yes. But it definitely said Munich on the train, so I asked him again in case he was trying to trick me and for his final answer he picked up my case and put it on board, leaving me no choice but to follow it. I stood crammed with the others feeling somewhat shy and outside the festival mood as strangers chatted to each other and the conductor. On seeing me observing meekly, not joining in someone realised I was an Auslander and asked “woher kommst du?” to which I replied “Ich komme aus England.” We all had a chat for the next ten or so minutes in broken English and German during which time I learned they were on a company day out entertaining sponsors. They gave me and the conductor a hat with their company logo on and I thanked them for the late Christmas present. I was quite alone when we departed from Kitzbuehel, apart from the conductor who didn’t speak English. It turned out that the train wasn’t scheduled for these stops, but did so out of need, again something I was very glad for. I felt we had an understanding, the conductor and me, as we stood in silence looking out the window at the snow which was falling, it seemed, in every direction.

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