We are on the bus from Prague to Nurnberg, almost done with our travel in Europe. There is so much to write about, but I'll keep going in order.
After Siena, we returned to Florance to drop off our rental car and catch the train to Austria. We bought some grocery store preprepared risotto with squid and marinated veggies for lunch. The drive was uneventful except that our lunch turned out to be spicy olive oil and anchovie-stuffed peppers. We settled into our cheap, clean hotel, which was packed with Americans, and went out into the city. We had to hurry to catch the Duomo before it closed. The church was rather empty, as the masterpieces have been moved to museums, but the sheer size of the dome is absolutely incredible. Growing tired, we stopped to have a glass of wine and cheese in a piazza in the leather district. After this refueling, we hit the trail through the main square, past the David replica, across the Ponte Veccio, and up the hill to Michelanglo square. When we crested the hill, the sun began its colorful journey to the horizon, which would take much longer in these northern lattiudes than we were accustomed. The city of Florance shown in red and orange splendor below us, the Duomo dominating the skyline with its enormous dome. We found a table at the cafe and enjoyed pasta and wine. As the sun concluded its presentation, we walked back to the river, where we came upon the smooth notes of jazz music. We entered an upscale restaurant and took a table to enjoy some limoncello and dessert wine while listening to a talented jazz trio. After a long day, we turned in.
We woke up early on Saturday for our long journey to St. Johann im Pongau (not to be confused with several other Austrian towns of the same name). After a pair of train switches, we found ourselves on the Little Engine That Could, chugging through the Alps along brilliant green rivers through tree-filled valleys surrounded by craggy, snow-capped mountains. Slowly but steadily we gained elevation until the train stopped at our station and we were greeted by crisp mountain air. The chill we felt because of our inappropriate attire soon disapated as our hearts rapidly beat to make up for the lack of oxygen in the air and support our short walk uphill to the town center. Although we had failed to write down the name of our hotel, Anna spied a sign which rang a bell. We soon found ourselves in our beautiful condo, our porch overlooking a green mountain dotted with Austrain houses decorated with wood trim and colorful flower boxes. Our Alpine vacation had begun.