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Mike's Excellent Adventure to Europe 1993

Part 6: Innsbruck

Little did we know that Innsbruck would be the most eventful part of our weekend trip.  As we left Neuschwanstein, our boss and his wife said that they really wanted to see Innsbruck.  Having not been to Austria, we decided we would go with them.  Now, bear in mind that my boss and I were going to be going to Italy.  The significance of this is that we were the only people in the group authorized to be outside of Germany.

Going to Austria is no big deal.  They aren't part of the European Union, so they still have a border guard, but we flashed our military IDs at them, and we were in.  It was very easy.  Just after crossing into Austria, we stopped at a rest area that overlooked a lake.  It was the bluest and most beautiful lake I had ever seen (and still have ever seen). 

I could stay here for hours...
The beautiful blue lake.  I don't know the actual name of it.

Just beautiful.
The lake with the Alps in the background.  This is one of the most beautiful places on earth.

We tried to buy a soda from a vending machine, but the machines only took schillings (the Austrian currency).  There was no place to exchange marks for schillings.  (I was still better off than the other guys in the group - they only had US currency; I had about $100 worth of DMs.)

So, we got back into the car and headed to Innsbruck.  We stopped outside of town so I could take some pictures of the countryside.

Random Austrian Town
A random Austrian town outside of Innsbruck.

Innsbruck was the site of the 1964 and 1976 Winter Olympics.  Aside from the ski jump overlooking the town, it looked just like every other Bavarian/Austrian alpine town, just a little bigger.

Innsbruck ski jump
The Innsbruck Olympic ski jump.  Looks just like the one at Lake Placid.

So, we roll into Innsbruck at around 4:30 PM.  Our boss wanted to walk around town and get some sight seeing in, so we drove around looking for a place to park.  He was in Gary's Astra, which is much easier to park, as it was much smaller.  He parked in a spot, and we parked in a spot across the street.  As we got out of the car, we asked him if the post he chose was in fact a parking spot.  He said it was, and pointed to a guy behind him with a signal on as proof.

"That guy wants this spot, but I beat him to it," he said.  The guy eventually left, and we all started walking downtown.  We walked around for about half an hour, and then Innsbruck, like every other European town, shut down at 5:00.  All the stores closed, and we walked back to the car.

As we rounded the corner, I could have swore I saw the Astra on a flatbed truck.  I dismissed it, as there were dozens of red Astras everywhere.  But, when we got to the parking space, we realized that our car was gone.

Our boss immediately thought our car was stolen.  But looking at the scene, I saw big red "X" in front of the gate.  (We later figured that the person who lived or worked there wanted to park in the courtyard through the gate, and when our car was blocking the entrance, called and had it towed.)

Boss, where is our aut-o-mob-ile?
This is where our car was before it disappeared.  Note the gate, the ramp, and the big red X.

At the time, though, we weren't sure if it was stolen or what.  So, we decided to try to call the police.  The only problem was that no one spoke German.  Jim claimed he spoke German, but he didn't have any easier time communicating than the rest of us.

So, we all start spreading out trying to find a pay phone or something.  I found a small restaurant that was open and went inside.

"I need to call the police, our car was stolen," I announced.  Nothing but blank stares.  "Police?" I again said.  Nothing.  Then I remembered that on the side of the German police cars it said "Polizei," so not knowing how to pronounce it, I said "Pull-ee-zee!?"

"Pole-eetz-EYE?" an old woman asked.

"Yes, yes!" I exclaimed, "Polizei!  We need polizei!"  Then, these old people came over and started examining me.  I think they thought I was mugged or something. 

"Our car was stolen," I told them.  Blank stares.  I thought maybe I could speak to them in Spanish.  "Nuestro coche no esta aqui."  I said.  Still blank stares.  But, apparently, when they all thought I was attacked, the owner called the cops, who had pulled up outside the restaurant, and my boss was out talking to the cops.  I thanked everyone and left to go help talk to the cops.

Our boss was trying to talk to him, but the guy knew no English.  I was going to try Spanish, but before I could, the policeman told our boss they would go downtown where there was an interpreter.  He motioned that a crane had taken their car and it was in police possession.  Our boss instructed us to drive back to Garmisch in our car, and after they got their car back, they would join us.  Jim, still claiming to know German, hopped in the back of the police car with our boss, and they drove off quickly leaving John, Gary, and I standing there with our boss's wife.

When he left, though, he took his backpack that had both his and his wife's passports in it.  Without her passport, we couldn't get her back into Germany.  So, we went into the restaurant and had dinner and waited for them to come back.

We ordered the "super meat platter" which had about a thousand different sausages on it.  We sat down to eat, and then we realized that the car that was impounded was actually in Gary's name, as we had our boss's car.  We started to wonder what would happen if they were unable to get their car out or if they couldn't handle the paperwork.  My boss's wife was worried (she didn't have a passport and didn't relish the idea of staying in Innsbruck that evening), and Gary was worried, because his car was the one that was missing and he wasn't supposed to be outside of Germany.

Eventually, about almost three hours later, our boss and Jim came back.  They told us the story that occurred at the police station.

First, they said that the car was illegally parked and was impounded. It would take 120 schillings to get their car back (about $60 US).  Our boss had no schillings, and neither did Jim.  Our boss tried to put it on his credit card, but the police said they wanted cash only.  Our boss tried to pay him in US cash, but they said they wanted only schillings.  Then, our boss tried looking for an ATM, but he couldn't find one, and the cops didn't know where one was.  So, they sat there for about two hours pleading in broken English with a dozen Austrian cops, and eventually, the chief let them have the car back.  The chief said that the police would charge the rental car company for the parking violation, and when Gary turned in his car, he would pay the fine at that point.

So, this was great news to everyone but Gary, who was now dreading how he was going to explain an Austrian parking ticket to the rental car people and the government.

As we finished our meal, the bill came.  We were going to put it on the credit card, but they wouldn't take it.  Then, we were going to pay in US cash, but they wouldn't take that either.  Luckily, I had all of my DM, which they would accept.  I'm glad they did - otherwise, we probably would have been doing dishes in Innsbruck well into the week!

While our boss and Jim were away, they planned their activities for Sunday.  They decided to go to Munich.  Gary, John, and I, however, wanted to see as many countries as we could, so we instead opted to go to Zurich the next day.

Eventually around 11 PM, we left Innsbruck and went back to Garmisch and spent our last night in Bavaria.  We quickly went to sleep, with the memory of the morning's hangover and the evening's stress fresh in our minds.  Plus, we wanted to be well rested for our trip to Zurich the next day.

[Additional note:  When Gary turned in his rental car the following week, he was never charged for the fine.  The bill never came, and we don't know what happened to it.  We continued to joke with Gary until he transferred out of our unit a few years later that he better not go to Austria, as he is probably still a wanted man there.  The same goes for our boss - after all, he was the one who met with the police and was the one who parked illegally in the first place!]

Continue on to Part 7: Zurich