Thursday, June 28, 2012

wicked wanda and bad ischl

Wanda didn't know about this, apparently

Lesson of the day: just because you punch the name of a town into your high-tech, German-engineered GPS system, doesn’t mean you can relax and follow directions and expect to get there.

Our plan was to leave Partenkirchen first thing after our morning muesli, and head to the fairy-tale castles by 8:50 to get our reserved tickets. The hostess of the Fraundorfer assured us that no matter which way we went, we’d end up at Neuschwanstein in an hour and five minutes.

Two hours later, we were hopelessly lost somewhere Southeast of Munich, three maps and a Rick Steves book all unfolded and bookmarked and crumpled on my lap, while Kirk, whose scratchy throat has turned into a full-blown cold, was nervously negotiating the single lanes through black forest and green glen.

At one point, after our GPS Lady (Wicked Wanda, we’ve decided to call her) commanded us to make a U-Turn, leading us the wrong way down a one-way street the width of dental floss, we frantically punched in some alternate towns—getting us even more lost. Here’s something we learned: “fastest” and “shortest” are very different options. Here's what we also learned: do your homework the night before. Foreign travel by the seat of the pants is stupid, risky, and likely to bring out Mrs. Crabby Seat-of-the-Pants.

Of course we missed our ticket time, and with a three-hour drive ahead of us into Austria, southeast of Salzburg, we scrapped our castle plans in favor of the Autobahn. Wicked Wanda recalculating our route periodically so we could avoid “traffic hazards” that magically cropped up every twenty kilometers or so, sending us off the A-route and onto various B-routes. Her circuitous plans for us took us through some incredible scenery as well as a few less stellar burgs whose prominent features included abandoned overhead electric lines.

Our trip continued to Bad Ischl, the Imperial mountain burg where the fated Franz Joseph-Sisi engagement took place. I'd booked us a cheap room in a pension on the far end of town, and Googled up some directions before leaving the States. Stupidly, though, instead of following my printed directions, I convinced Kirk to give Wanda one more shot, and when she ordered us off the main road, and onto an assortment of charming goat paths, there I was, like the girlfriend of a notorious womanizer, believing the curt, no-nonsense voice as she weaved us along precarious roads, around haystacks, and down more skinny lanes. She promised that our "destination will be on the right," but all that was on the right, before the road block, was a rusty fence, where we parked, got out, and wandered around heavy machinery for the next hour, hoping that our Pimsleur German and frantically waving map-wielding hands would lead us to a person who'd point to our destination.

Meanwhile, Wanda was back in the car, telling all her GPS robot buddies what a pair of idiots we were.

Eventually, we found our digs, retraced our steps and negotiated the rental Ford "Kuga" around several detours, narrowly missing a tour bus and a Mercedes cement truck going about 60.

I’m also happy to report that Kirk and I have not quite killed each other yet, though testier words between us have never been sprechen

I promise to post some pretty pictures soon--and report on the more lush, lavish and lovely aspects of this spa town that has haunted me since I started my Empress Elisabeth obsession. First, though, I have to convince my travel partner to get back on that horse. So to speak.


  1. Anonymous2:31 AM

    The usual is for the male not to stop and ask directions with the female pleading the opposite. Yours is complicated by a GPS wicked Wanda who is taking the many pre digital years revenge out on you. Reminds me of the time your 18 y/o father was conscripted to ferry your grandmother around what was then called western Europe in a Renault Dauphine. No GPS, no navigator.
    At one point, I parked the car and walked down the road since it was inappropriate under German law to litter the roadside with bitchy old women back seat drivers. It could be worse. You could be driving in southern France on a motorcycle with side car in leather jackets wearing a Hakenkreuz. Now that would be fun!

  2. Hi Dad! Too bad you weren't here this morning when we toured the Kaiser Villa with the German frauline tour guide--you could have translated the funny jokes.

    We're about to head up the gondola for a view of the Salzkammergut. Wish us luck!

  3. one of the worst fights i've ever had with my husband in a car was over GPS directions (he wanted to follow what the GPS was telling us--in the middle of nowhere, alabama--and i wanted to go with the map i had printed from google maps the morning of our departure). if he would have stopped the car, i would have gotten out and ran as far away from the road as i could to keep him from finding me.

    i'm sitting in my usual coffee shop reading this and as soon as i pulled up your blog, the guy at the table next to me took a phone call and has spoken nothing but french. i know you're in germany, but still, i've been coming here every morning for years. this is the first time someone right next to me decided to have a full-on conference meeting over his phone in an european language. while his loud conversation has the potential to be annoying, i find it the perfect backdrop to reading you. it's funny how with your stuff, often times i'm given a nice background music accompaniment. like the time "down on cripple creek played"

    thanks for sharing your travelogue. i wish you a mystical, magical trip to princess sisi's homeland.

  4. Oh Josephine, you are a jewel. Thanks for sharing that coffee shop story. You just made the world a little bit more perfect.

  5. You are brave brave married people, Suzy. This is a lot to ask, especially with that bitch Wicked Wanda trying to weasel her way between you. You never know who (whom) you need to keep an eye on.

    I'm guessing some good strong beer or a bottle of wine (each!!!) might get you and Kirk back on the road, so to speak, to recovery.

  6. Hey Teri, I am happy to report that we've more than kissed and made up. And yes, various alcoholic beverages were involved. As was a good alpine climb.

    Lots of chuckles, too--the irony of those Deutschlanders and their scurrying up the mountain and scrambling back down for a smoke and a dunkel. No Austrian mt top is without its benches and ashcans for the ciggy breaks.

  7. Anonymous9:03 PM

    Fucking GPS. Drew and I had a sexy one the last time we were in town for the house hunt. Every time we missed a turn, she would croon, "Recalculating. . ." Now I see the word seeping into our daily lives: "You didn't like my supper tonight, darling? You better recalculate that comment before bedtime if you expect to get lucky."

    It sounds like you're having a blast in Europe. Eat some brats for me.

    1. I love that. A quotidian GPS for non-driving related wrong turns. Imagine the possibilities! Especially in the bedroom.


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