I’m working overtime, again. It’ll be past midnight when I finish, and I’ve eaten rubbish all week – Dominos, sweets, creme eggs. Gutted about the inevitable weight gain but do you know, I needed sugar late at night to keep me from toppling over the balcony in a sleepy daze. I have no photos or recipe with me at work, so it’s sheer text pleasure for you all! So, here we go again – the next part of our blog post! You can see the last four entries here, here, here and here.
How’s this for a twist? After our day of sleeping and eating burgers, we both woke up around 11pm and decided on a whim to visit an underground salt mine in Austria, which was only a two hour train ride away. The tickets were booked and the alarms set before the half cows in our bellies started turning into poo.
We awoke bright and breezy – well, as bright and breeze as you can be getting woken up at 4.45am by eight separate alarms. I feel bad for our room neighbours, they probably thought the sky was falling in although, if the apocalypse comes, I don’t think it’ll be heralded by a calypso version of Ode to Joy. After a quick ride on the U-Bahn, we were at the München Hauptbahnhof by six just ahead of our early train to Salzburg. Munich, so early in the morning, was gorgeous, but there was no time to admire it as we were whisked to our first class seats where there is nothing more eventful to report other than we slept most of the way, with me only waking up whenever I heard the buffet trolley coming. I swear I can hear a Kitkat being snapped from over 300 yards – I was like the world’s most corpulent meerkat peering over the seats. I like to get the full benefit any time I travel first class – if there’s a little lamp, I’ll flick it on and off, if there’s a doily on the back of the seat I’ll be sure to rub my forehead with it. Although, given how excellent standard class is in Germany, first class was an unnecessary frippery. Still, it did extend me the chance to say ‘Well, it doesn’t look any bigger than the Mauritania’ when I stepped aboard. The train sped us into Austria and we were in Salzburg in no time at all.
Our first impressions? Not great. Salzburg had a curious bland square when you stepped off the train, full of people begging for money and smoking cigarettes that smelt like burning hair. We slipped into a McDonalds (so cultural – but it was the only place open) for a bit of breakfast and I thoroughly enjoyed my crappy croissant – the stress of having my wallet stolen and my pockets pinched only adding to the flavour. We decamped to the bus-stop to wait forty minutes before the bus to the salt mines rolled in. I barely had enough time to admire the fact someone had taken a shit into a tuna can and left it on the bus-stop seat. Disgusting, but I couldn’t help but admire his technical prowess. It’s the little things you remember.
The bus ride was just lovely – rolling forest hills on one side, crystal clear blue streams on the other. It felt like I was in an advert for aftershave. The illusion was only spoiled by a little old lady next to me who seemed to have packed enough food and snacks for a bus journey to Krakatoa. She just didn’t stop eating, smacking her lips together and fishing around in her endless bag of treats – she was like Mary Poppins but with saturated fats. First there were sandwiches, then biscuits, then crisps, then boiled sweets, then a banana – it was a shame we had to get off the bus when we did because I was sure she was about to pull out a pan and a cylinder of Calor gas and rustle up some bacon sandwiches. Ah well.
Naturally, being us, we managed to get to the salt-mine precisely one hour before it opened, and, being in the middle of Nowhere, Austria, there was nothing to do or look at. Indeed, the only movement was me doing the hop-back-and-forth piss dance. Paul is like a feral cat, he’ll happily piss anywhere and everywhere, but I’m very British and like to do things properly. Alas, with the sound of the babbling brook and Paul’s impressions of a waterfall ringing in my ears, I could hold it in no longer and had to nip to the side of a service road for a tinkle. Of course, no sooner had I got my cock out than a coach full of French school-children came barrelling around the corner like the bus from Speed. I almost re-circumcised myself in my haste to put it away and not be arrested for indecent exposure. I wish I knew what the French for Gary Glitter is. Well actually, it would be Gary Scintillement, and that sounds quite charming and non-threatening to children.
The hour passed by in no time at all – nothing makes time pass quicker than being surrounded by a litter of French schoolchildren, all screaming and shouting in French and smoking Gauloises. Thankfully, the doors crashed open at 11am and we were in. First task? Change into the type of jumpsuit last seen on Sue, Computer Analyst from Burton-on-Trent on The Crystal Maze. Thankfully, I was given the correct size and was straight into it, but Paul was handed an M. There are no conceivable circumstances where Paul could be considered an M unless that M stood for ‘Muffintopped’. He had to go back to the stern, moustachioed lady on the front desk and explain, with him speaking no German and her speaking no English, that he was altogether too fat for an M. She gave him an L and a sneer. It was still like trying to stuff a settee into a bin-liner so, exasperated, he went back and she finally threw an XL at him with a loud ‘Mmmff’ sound. Bless him, it was tight, but he managed to get in, even through the denim was see-through across his arse where it was stretched so tight. She was horrible – awfully judgemental for someone who was keeping the backs of her knees warm using her tits.
Dressed to depress, we were herded up into a group by a very stern looking man and taken to a tiny train (it looked like something you’d see in the Borrowers) for our trip into the side of the mountain and into the mine itself. It was brilliant! Despite feeling like I was going to be decapatitated at any given moment by a low beam, the train chugged along in almost pitch black until we were around a mile into the Earth. There, we were given translating tools which we promptly pocketed and forgot about. The leader was the very personification of dourness but he did try to make things interesting. We ignored him entirely and spent the first part of the tour looking around the mine. It was brilliant – but it gets better.
To get to the next part of the tour, we had to descend eight stories. You were given a choice – either walk down a twisty turning path for about ten minutes or slide down on a proper wooden slide! Well look – we’re two gay lads, we’re not going to turn down a slide down a shaft on a decent sized bit of wood, are we? Oooh nasty!
Now deep into the mine, we spent a while looking at mining equipment and following the story of salt, before the next amazing part – crossing the underground lake which they called a ‘mirror’ lake, because the water is so clear and undisturbed that it creates a perfect reflection of the ceiling above. Of course, being British and cynical, I spent a good ten minutes telling Paul that it wasn’t a lake at all, it was just polished glass and a special effect, until he got tired of my cynicism and splashed his hand in the water. Well honestly. What do you get in terms of special effects here in the UK at outdoor attractions? Impending bankruptcy and Hepatitis B. I was enthralled. As we crossed the lake, they played a tasteful laser show (the first time in history that the word laser has ever been prefixed by ‘tasteful’ I reckon) and some music. Without wanting to sound cheesy, it was magical. There was a bit more chat and then we were in a funicular back to the surface in no time at all. I can say, with all honesty, no-one has ever had more fun deep underground in Austria since Josef Fritzl got himself a Screwfix catalogue and a tape measure.
You have no idea how long I’ve been itching to bust that gag out.
Now, I wish I could tell you that after the mine we spent a merry afternoon exploring Salzburg, but we didn’t. We’re not a fan of Mozart, we’re not a fan of being asked for change and the whole town is on a gentle slope, so we were back on the train to Munich quicker than you can say Siebentausendzweihundertvierundfünfzig, which is the German word for 7,254. Obviously. Back in Munich, we were off to bed to sleep off the excitement and ahead of a lovely day exploring Munich the next day…