In the above picture, I think I’m wearing my Grandfather’s shorts. They looked better on Poppy.
Before we boarded our water taxi and headed back to the Lido and Villa Mabapa, Joseph hands us his card.
Our plans were to make our way back to Paris, spend the remaining days there and then back home. ”You must!” said Joseph and Verena. ”You must come spend a few days with us at our home in Saltzburg!”. ”We’re going to Greece for a couple of days, but give us a call and we can make arrangements”.
“Sure!”… ”No” Tim and I said in unison. Tim is a trusting person. He isn’t blindly trusting, but Tim can read people like open books (or even when they think of themselves as being closed books). He’s the best judge of character I’ve ever known. Again, one of the hundreds of reasons I fell in love with him.
My being trusting? Not so much. Maybe I’d seen, heard and witnessed things in my younger life than one little girl should, but maybe I’ve just watched too much of 20/20 and Dateline. If John Stossel says not to leave the coffee pot plugged in or your house will burn to the ground, well that’s written in stone for someone like me isn’t it?
(“Why, these people seem nice on the surface” I thought “and then get us back to their house and do unspeakable things to us!!”) (“Maybe do experiments with us, switching our brains with monkey brains and…and….”)
We then decided to go to Switzerland for a bit before going back to Paris for the flight home. We boarded the train and were off.
“Well, this is a snore”, I thought ”Sure, Geneva is all fine, well and good until you tire of buying chocolate, looking at an endless array of timepieces and taking in the view of the huge honking fountain on the lake”.
For some reason I can’t begin to fathom to this day…..I turn to Tim and say “Let’s go visit them”. ”Let’s just do it!“
So Tim calls Joseph and they arrange that Joseph would pick us up at the station the following evening in Saltzburg.
And here we are, next day, being picked up by Joseph just before the sun goes down and he proceeded to drive us to his home in his little car.
Darkness fell. Hard. Complete darkness. I couldn’t see a thing. There aren’t any street lights this far out-of-town. My vice grip on Tim’s arm translated my thoughts ”I told you they were serial killers!” ”They’re going to put us in the basement and kill us or do experiments with us or worse!”
Although I couldn’t see, I’m sure Tim was doing a huge eye-roll (paranoid drama queen) *sigh*
Then I felt us going from smooth pavement turning left onto a very bumpy gravely road. This stretch of road seemed to go on forever….twisting here bump…ping ..bump. And there ping…crunch… bump. My glutenous maximus tightening with each crunch….ping!
After what seemed like a lifetime, we finally saw something in the pitch dark. A light. A lone, single bulb dangling from its plain wire in front of what seemed like a relatively nondescript door. Joseph pulls the tiny car up to the building…. here we go…here we are….
After the trip from Venice by train, to Geneva, Switzerland and then from Geneva to Saltzburg, Austria we had gotten hardly any sleep. We could do nothing but crash. Verena was already asleep upstairs, Joseph explains and guides us to our room in the back of the house past the kitchen near the rear door. We completely fell onto a strangely small pull-out bed or day-bed with feather bedding under and duvet over. Tim begins his cacophony of snoring noises before he hits the pillow.
We stumbled out of bed in a kind of haze, still having fatigue from the “road”. And then………..wait for it……..we exit the back door just steps from our bed…………Alps. Us, standing in Joseph and Verena’s fricking huge backyard. We’re doing 360 turns: alps…alps.. alps …..right gob-smacked in the middle of “The Sound of Music” scene. I distinctly felt as if the Von Trappe’s would come around all blonde, singing and waltzing right through Joseph and Verena’s yard. I could almost see Julie Andrews spinning herself around on top of a nearby snowy peak. ”The hills are aliiiiiiive………”
“Oh you must meet the Americans!” Joseph and Verena must have said to their friends and family, for the next thing you know they showed up in droves. Among them was Joseph’s sister. A bit stocky, with an olive complexion just like her brother. She had thick black wavy hair way past her shoulders. She’s bear-footed and not as elegant as her brother. She walks toward us wearing a small-flowered dress and an eager-to-meet-you friendly enough expression. Next to her, also approaching us was her husband. ”Do you know Ahnaud Swazzaneggeh?!” he bellows through his very large square teeth, a face which resembled Mr. Swarzaneggar himself. ”Why, yes of course all Americans know each other”. (I thought sarcastically to myself.) “Oh no, he lives in California and we live in Texas which is about a thousand miles away. The States are huge, you know”.
The next evening Verena informed me that their friends Tim and Heiner are coming for dinner. ”Are they bringing their wives?” ”No” she said, barely hiding her grin. *face palm, duh Dawne, very duh*
Tim was a musician from Nashville, an American ex-pat. He and Heiner were partners. They met on a cruise ship .
Heiner was the Cultural Director for Saltzburg. How can I possibly introduce you to him? He loved to tell stories of his travels. He absolutely relished it.
Tim grinned at us with an infectious ”Just wait till you hear this one!” expression while and Heiner told us his tales of hijinks, mostly containing practical jokes involving vulgarity or taking tourists’ photos for them (but only zooming in on their crotches or cleavages).
One thing they did on the cruise ship was break into the mailroom and “embroider” the postcards. The postcards that some sweet unsuspecting someone would get stating emphatically: “You can be assured your Grandmother was the best ____ I’ve ever had! What enthusiasm, the old girl!”
He and Tim told story after story. That is the only one tame enough to tell you. (Some of the others involve pot, a spinning piano stool and a really bad case of diarrhea).
The next evening we were on the way to meet Verena’s mother. She was very beautiful and elegant (like Verena). Verena’s father had long since passed on. He was the Musical Director for the City of Salzburg, the hometown of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Not too shabby, eh?
The mother wanted us to taste her apricot preserves. ”Bring some ice cream, we’ll use it as a topping”.
We stopped everywhere and no shops were open on Sunday night. Joseph drove to MacDonald’s and went in to quickly pick up the greatly needed dessert. ”I’d like one large container of ice cream” he said to the young girl at the counter. “We can only serve the ice cream one serving or one cone at a time. That’s the only way we can serve it. We don’t have any large containers”. Joseph smells a challenge. She and Joseph went back and forth several times, apparently, each arguing how it can or cannot be done.
Once back in the car, Joseph slams the car door hard. He tells us of his back and forth with the girl and had no ice cream to show for it.
“So I told her…..you can keep it all yourself…..you daughter of a bitch“.
I fell in the floorboard in the back of the car laughing so hard I almost choked! You see, Joseph doesn’t curse. Ever. Ever. To hear him say that was effing hilarious!
The day we were to leave Saltzburg, Joseph and I took a walk to the local dairy. ”You must! drink milk right from the cow!” ”Nope” ”Oh, but you must!”. Again I turned down that experience. “Not me. Nope. No way”.
On our walk back I felt comfortable enough to tell him the wild things that were going through my head before we arrived……how crazy it was to go home with strangers. He chuckled at me and shook his head.
“You are, I think, the Pampered Princesss”. Joseph said to me.
“You have no idea”.
I’m pretty sure I’m wearing my Great-grandmother’s shorts in the picture above.
It’s the places you go, yes. But it’s really the people you meet. We’ve been to Europe 12 times and I’ve never had a dull moment.
Post Script: Verena and her mom have passed on. They both went one right after the other in about 2000. Don’t smoke, please.