On the first day we discovered the Mexican boy beneath the staircase. He said his name was Alpuerto but his friends called him ‘Mono’ on account of his deafness in one ear. He told us about his life and said that the German Austrian lady kept him prisoner and that she would not allow us to leave the cabin alive. I took fright but counted my blessings. After all, it’s not every day you meet a real Mexican boy with good English.
He said that his family lived in the valley and that if you were to lie down on the eastern side, the tree-tops on the western valley spelled out the word Mexico in bold italics. We quickly nicknamed him ‘Pedro’ and ‘Ped’ became an uninvited guest at our table during our often turbulent and fractious meal times. Pedro’s affection for us was limited only to Neil. He tousled with his hair and said he would be Neil’s monkey come rain, wind or shine. In exchange for sweets he taught us enough German to enable us to escape the clutches of the short faced Austrian-German lady unscathed.
Austro fact: In Austria the weather leaps from the skies, banshee like.
We took a coach ride up the famous ‘spag’ road to the greyest, deepest and most staunchly figurative mountain I’ve ever seen my life. It is the rightful home of Spanish ice-cream and to celebrate our arrival, Lee gave us a stirring and delicate performance of ‘Ave Maria’. The natural reverb from the surrounding mountains meant that the tourists were treated to a moment - and I quote: ‘sent direct from god’. Global warming? I think so!
Most of the locals were peasants and they ate directly from the land. Half of Austria is owned by the ‘All American Gold Star Sausage and Hotdog Industry’ (AAGSSHI). AAGSSHI factories present a daunting opposition to the Austrian countryside and the timid mountains seem to cower before the all-encompassing conglomerate. Tourists flock to the underground salt mines in the region to see livestock seasoned alive before being fed into the AAGSSHI meat plants via an underground shuttle. It costs 7 Euros (that’s about 18 US dollars or 14 yen). It’s a good place to try out some of the local cuisine. We opted for one of the main courses. It was a rich dish full of fruity with textures that dissolved like bitter barley on the tongue. We had both a vegan and a vegetarian in our party - because we’re in touch with those kind of people too.
Austro fact: I think I probably saw about 5000 people. I’d say about 2 percent of these were black.
The Greek god Zeus lives in Salzburg and shop-faces are unashamedly adorned with his robust face on chocolate boxes, toothpicks and leather shorts. We had reached the mid-point of our stay and the days and nights were rolling by effortlessly – one after the other, followed by another one…two, three more followed, then four, five – possibly 2 years passed. I had decided to ship my entire belongings to Austria. I demanded a business class seat for my more precious belongings and an in-flight meal for my oak chest of drawers. It was my intention to purchase a terrace of homes from the peasants whom I would then employ to work and feed from my land. The deal was almost at a fingertips reach when I made a discovery that would ruin both my life and the lives of my wanton, woeful peasants. Like Saint Nicholas, Bob Hope, and Stalin, the single greatest source of the regions wealth and the inspiration for my self-imposed exile from my homeland was in fact, a dead man.
Austro-fact: Most Germans live in Austria.
Austrian nightlife is dominated by the sex industry, with locals offering lewd dances or ‘performances’ in exchange for alcohol and ‘tobac’. Advances from male prostitutes are frequent and are as unwelcome as they are unavoidable as they are unpleasant. I paid for a young girl named Amber. She cost 7 Euros and the session lasted for 1 hour.
They’ve all gone home now. The Austrian–German lady won’t return my calls and Pedro choked to death on sweets. So it came to an end. Our own slice of paradise was eventually eaten by the hand that fed it. My favourite memory? Walking barefoot through the desert, compass in hand, feeling like I was in a place I thought only existed in my imagination.
Overall rating - 4 American Stars. Dankeschtnurn.