Day 12 in Zell am See, Austria:
The Alps, at about 1094km (680 miles) long, are the largest mountain system in Europe. This chain of mountains swings northward in a broad arc from near the Mediterranean Sea in France to form the border between France and Italy. They continue eastward through Northern Italy, Switzerland, Germany and Austria. Then they turn southward into Yugoslavia. Most travellers, myself included, consider the towering Alpine peaks, covered with ice and snow, the most magnificent natural sight in Europe.
Now remember the green apple that I mentioned I had for dessert in the chugging train the day before? I ended up throwing that up this morning. Here’s what happened.
1am, I woke up, struggling to get used to the rambazamba chugging of the train.
2am, I woke up. I was freezing and didn’t have a blankie. I think the one they provided dropped off my bunk.
3am, I woke up. I wanted this to be over, my head was spinning and pounding.
3.40am, we woke up, freshened up, I felt queasy and baby-barfed my green apple from last night. I’m used to baby barfs. You see, I have rumination syndrome. But symptoms usually cease after an hour to two after food consumption, so this was strange.
Bloated, uneasy, nauseous, light-headed, and feverish…
3.50am, the train conductor came by for our wake up call (he knew from our tickets that we were getting off at Salzburg for a train change) and gave us a bottle of water each.
4-something am, we alighted in Salzburg and sat in the warm waiting room. Salzburg was a cold 12°C and we were freezing. Definitely a stark difference from Venice, where it was warm and orange.
4.34am, we boarded our train to Zell am See. With a sudden stroke of diarrhoea, the urgency caused me to forget that doing a no. 2 while the train was stationary at a station is a BIG NO-NO. Oops.
4.45am – 6.22am, I spent the journey clenching my tummy and puking the green apple into a plastic bag. Oh and the train marshall fist-bumped me after checking my ticket! He was in such a good mood!
The familiarity of Zell am See brought some security into my heart. I could see the grey concrete spot in Thumersbach where my family’s home had been knocked down and was then being rebuilt, Kitzsteinhorn where one could ski (or snowboard if You will) all-year-round, the lake where I once paddled with Dad…
We were early for check-in so we sat outside, shivering and blowing warm air onto our cupped hands. Miriam had breakfast outside (I still couldn’t stomach anything) before the hostel’s technician invited us to come inside and check-in.
The entire day went by in a blur because the situation with my tummy and my head made me feel plain drunk. There were plans to hike and bike and even swim, but none of that happened.
I napped the morning away, being weak weak weak, while Miriam continued with her journalling.
I woke up at 10.31am to a ‘How are you feeling? There are so many kids playing around on the field outside our window.’
‘I’m feeling better, thank You,’ I managed.
Anyone who knows me well knows how much I despise medication so it took quite a bit of coaxing to get me to an apothecary to get charcoal pills, as advised by my Mum, Miriam and her Mum too. We guessed that I could have had food poisoning because symptoms were similar to Miriam’s when she had food poisoning in Burma. Part of me wasn’t sure though… Miriam and I literally ate the same things for the past 11 days… Maybe it could have been that one water tap that I drank from in Venice that Miriam didn’t drink from? Still, odd.
I almost fainted in the apothecary, was advised to head to the doctor’s, then from the doctor, I had to go back to the apothecary to get more medication because the doctor diagnosed my condition as a result of a stomach virus, and then almost fainted again in the apothecary. Back and forth, back and forth, back and forth we went.
My body was shutting down — vision was blurring, sensation in my limbs was fading. It was 1pm and I was low on sugar — my last meal was dinner last night! Thank the Heavens, I found apple juice in BILLA to drink before müsli back in the hostel. I needed something in my system. Other than pain, discomfort and a knot of nerves.
I felt so guilty. So guilty that, after having travelled so far, I was so ill I couldn’t let Miriam experience anything that made me fall in love so deeply with this place I grew to call home. We got to talking about how Miriam should come over once in the winter and maybe ski together, about the beautiful, brilliant white Grand Hotel, aka. the grandest hotel in this valley, and about the lake and how there is a running track around its perimeter that amounted to about 13km…
“13km? I could run that distance! It’d be like marathon training. And I could maybe spot Your house along the way!” Miriam excitedly pointed out.
I gave her my little camera (to snap anything she fancied), phone (to use the offline map if necessary) and blessings as she embarked on the lone run around Zeller See. I was lying if I said I wasn’t nervous about this — there was one bend I was worried she’d miss, the one I missed during my first run with Dad.
I also taught her a little German — How much is ___? I’d like to buy ___. Where am I? I’m lost. — so she could buy the pretzels she had been looking forward to and some groceries nearby if she wanted to.
Waking up two and a half hours later, Miriam walked out of the bathroom freshly showered and she told me how her day went: She ran around Zeller See, was not able to spot my family’s house, but she saw boats, swans and horses like the ones featured above (that’s a foal beside the Mama horse, almost hidden by the tall grass!). During the run, 2.7km away from the hostel, she had an urgent need to use a toilet… like a really urgent need to do a no.2. So she ran, flushed and sweaty, into the most lavish hotel in Zell Am See, the Grand Hotel, that just happened to be on her left! Both of us collapsed in laughter when she mentioned this.
She was such a champion, she managed to go grocery shopping to buy rice, lentils and lamb’s lettuce in an area of Austria with very few English speakers! And she got sesame pretzels from the bakery my family loves! She saved the packet to show me and it brought a smile to my face. It was so sweet of her. :’)
We shared a quiet meal as the sun sank behind Kitzsteinhorn. It’s funny, this trip was our 4th time meeting each other in person, but none of the silence was awkward.
Thank You for being so dear, Miriam.