My Adventures Touring Europe in 1982 (10) Danube River
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Saturday, July 3
All too soon we had to leave Salzburg. That’s a major disadvantage of going with a tour group; if you want to stay longer in a certain place, you can’t. Hopefully I’ll get to return to Salzburg someday, maybe for a honeymoon. Most people think of Paris as the ideal romantic destination; mine is Salzburg, even though I haven’t been to Paris yet.
We were supposed to ride the Orient Express, but because of a problem with our visas, we sailed the Danube instead. This is what we missed.
We rode the bus for over an hour before we reached the boat dock. The bus pulled onto the double-decker ferry, and we went upstairs in the open air to enjoy the view while we sailed. The Blue Danube is not blue – it is actually greenish-brown – but it is pretty, in an extremely mellow way. The water barely has any ripples in it, and it is very wide. We sailed through a green valley past castles, farms, and tiny towns. A bunch of us sang Strauss’ “Pretty Blue Danube” waltz as we sailed.
Various other Europeans were on the boat, and an Italian man with a video camera filmed me, explaining he seldom saw blacks. I struck a pose, then took his picture. He thought it was odd I’d want to do that!
After about an hour, we docked at an empty-looking spot. I wondered what we would be doing here. We got off the boat and boarded our bus, and it started up a long, incredibly steep narrow incline. It was barely wide enough for one bus; I wondered what would happen if we met someone coming down the other way. In fact, the road was unpaved, so it was more like a trail than a road! Eventually, we pulled up to the Burgruine Aggstein castle ruin and parked. I heaved a sigh of relief; nothing had happened.
We all got off the bus. A wedding reception was just ending at the castle ruin, and when some of the guests saw me, they wanted to take pictures with me. Some of them were children, who gawked. “It’s not often we see black people,” one of the men explained. I obliged.
“This is happening all over the place,” commented Eve. “You should charge them!”
I wanted to take their pictures, but unfortunately I had already put away my camera and didn’t get it out fast enough.
It turned out we were going to be having dinner here. Most of the wedding guests left, but a few local tourists remained and hung out. We were taken to an open-air room that had wooden picnic tables set up. We were served a delightful steak and potatoes meal with one glass of local white wine. Afterwards, while they were clearing away the dinner dishes, some of us toured the castle. It had several chambers, and a dirt floor. One part, which was closed due to needing repairs, was entered through a long steep ladder.
After dinner was cleared away, we had a dance party. A man played lively polkas on an accordion, and the locals danced to it. We ISE-ers stood around watching; none of us knew how to dance. An elderly local man came up and asked me. I told him I’d love to, but didn’t know the steps.
“I’ll show you; it’s easy,” he said. So I agreed, and he grabbed me, and I wound up running circles all around him in an attempt to keep up! The others laughed, and after the dance was over, I joined them.
The old man bought me a second glass of wine. The accordion player started singing and playing a waltz, but I paid no attention; I simply gulped down my glass and flirted with the old man. It took awhile before I realized everyone was engaging in a drinking song and game; they kept putting their arms around each other, rocking from side to side, and standing and sitting while singing;
“Let us sway, let us sway, stand up, sit down, stand up sit down!
Let’s sway, let us sway, stand up, sit down, stand up sit down!”
Chris’ mother approached me. “What month were you born in?” she asked.
“September,” I answered, wondering why she asked. Then I heard them singing, “For those born in July, stand up, stand up, stand up!”
“That’s my month,” she told me. But I can’t finish this. You can have it.” She gave me her glass, which was half filled.
“Thanks!” I said, gratefully taking it.
“I already bought you a glass,” the old man told me. “How many does this make?”
“This will be 2½ glasses,” I replied.
“Be careful! That stuff is strong!”
I shrugged. “I can handle my liquor OK.”
The group rocked side to side then the song began again. I held on to my glass, deciding to wait until it was my turn.
“For those born in September,
Stand up, stand up stand up.”
I stood up, nearly falling over. That old man was right, after all!
“And while you rise and make your stand,
And lift your wine glass in your hand,
Drink up, drink up, drink up!”
I took a sip.
“Drink up, drink up, drink up!
Drink up, drink up, drink up!”
I was puzzled, then realized I was supposed to empty the glass. I took a gulp.
“Drink up, drink up, drink up!”
I took one final gulp, finishing the drink, then the song continued.
“Let us sway, let us sway, stand up, sit down, stand up sit down,
Let’s sway, let us sway, stand up, sit down, stand up sit down.”
I could barely stand during this part.
The song went through the remaining months, then the accordion player played a few folk dances and a waltz. I didn’t take part in any of those, because even if I’d known how, I could barely walk, let alone dance. At the end of the evening, the old man accompanied me to the bus, and gave me a good-night kiss before I managed to board.
I sat next to Chris, who for once, didn’t have a date. “I can’t believe you came on to that old man!” he told me.
“Why not? He was nice enough to buy me wine,” I responded. “I’m so frickin’ HIGH!!!!!” I screamed. “I CAN’T BELIEVE HOW HIGH I AM!!! THIS IS THE BEST WINE ON EARTH!!! I THINK IT’S GONNA BLAST ME INTO ORBIT!!!
Chris’ mother came over. “Quit yelling like that! You’re distracting Lakis, and he has to drive this steep narrow road in the dark!” she scolded me.
I’d completely forgotten about this trail that was supposed to be an excuse for a road. “Oops – sorry!” I told her, and remained quiet for the rest of the drive to Vienna.
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© 2013 Yoleen Lucas