TAILS OF A TRAVELLING CAT
Greetings, humans! As promised, I will inform you about any exciting developments on our night train journey. The only unexpected occurrence was the train stopping for over two hours at a station somewhere in Austria where our cabin-mates got off and didn’t come back. Nice people that they were, it did mean Charlie and Jack had the compartment to themselves and could stretch out across three seats each. I mean, that’s almost as good as a bed but for the price of a single seat.
Now, onto today. What a morning! I woke up to the early morning light of 5:30 AM, stretching my legs and flexing my claws to be greeted by a beautiful sight – the Alps stretching high above us on both sides, green, covered in trees and small old Austrian houses; I can’t be sure but I don’t think we’ve crossed into Switzerland at this point.
Despite the beauty of this early morning scene with the mountains lightly coated in mist and Charlie’s best poking abilities, Jack didn’t wake up and so missed what I must surely argue is one of the greatest wonders of the natural world.
Well, that got a bit poetical. We went back to sleep for a bit and when we woke up, it was definitely over the border, the Swiss flags and number plates were a bit of a giveaway. But we were travelling through the German part of the country so, like in Austria, all the writing was in German. The fact that Switzerland also speaks French, Italian and Romansch confuses me slightly – why don’t they speak Swiss? And while I’m on the topic, why do they not speak Austrian in Austria and Austrian-German instead? I’m not sure that’s too important or relevant to my writings so I shall move on.
Our train pulled into Zurich (or Zürich to give it its German/Swiss name) and alighted for breakfast. In the train station, my personal humans found a shop selling vegan pretzels and shared a seeded one, although it was very salty and Charlie attempted to brush most of the salt off.
Breakfast over, it was then back on a train to Geneva (Genève in French – this city is in the French speaking part). This was a double decker train, one the three of us had long since watched and coveted at every station and here it was – success – we were on the top deck. Splendid views! What can be better than watching the Swiss countryside roll past than watching it from a whole floor higher up?
It was quite obvious when we passed into the French speaking part of Switzerland, obviously the signs became French, but the buildings were more often chalets instead of the farm buildings, both beautiful in their own way. We arrived in Geneva at lunch time and so headed straight to Aux Deux Ports, a vegan bakery, for lunch. Another new wonder of modern transport: the tram! After seeing them all around the cities we finally got to ride on one of these as well!
For lunch, the humans selected from the counter a large helping of spinach tart and a batch of freshly cooked potato crêpes with a side of salad and sauces. This was followed by the obligatory (as I have seen with my humans and thoroughly approve) dessert. This was strawberry cheesecake and a sponge cake with vanilla buttercream icing, coconut and lemon curd. Well, I’m going to call it lemon curd, that’s what it looked like, just not what it tasted like! Everything tasted good though, so I suppose that’s what’s important.
One of the café owners imparted wisdom to us – there was an area of Lake Geneva where swimming was free. Although not as blistering as the previous days, it was still pretty hot, and cooling in the lake would be much appreciated by the humans if not by me.
I thought they’d broken this deranged habit of heading to water like ducks!
We took the tram back to the station and walked from here to the lake. Part way there, the humans got distracted by a souvenir stall and then sat down on a grassy area. I thought perhaps the lake had been forgotten but, alas, no! They soon got up and carried on along the side of the lake looking for the place we had been promised. Before long we came across a small pier other humans were jumping off from a diving board into the water and swimming around. Oh what a shame, there was an entry fee to get onto the pier, looks like no swimming today then!
Oh darn it! These humans are painfully persistent in their quest for water. They kept walking and found a rock wall built around a small harbour, they walked out onto this and sat perilously close to the edge. Just when I thought things couldn’t get any worse, they took off their shoes and socks and put their feet in the water. Cold shivers are going up my back even now just thinking about it! At least they decided against swimming in it.
We stayed here for an awfully long time, looking across the lake, trying to guess which mountain was Mont Blanc (the one with snow on, of course) and taking pictures. Then a pair of swans with cygnets viciously and completely without motivation started swimming towards us and then… um… swam past us, so at least we were safe from them, the same cannot be said for the water.
And then, as if I needed any more proof that water is deadly, Charlie slipped on a rock and would have fallen straight into the lake if aforementioned rock hadn't been there! I nearly lost my scribe and cat-carrier! This would have been a disaster too terrible to comprehend, but did the humans realise the dangers of water now? Did they realise what I had been telling them all week? No, of course not!
After a lot more sitting and contemplating of the holiday, such as discussing the best city and the food they would most like to have again, my humans finally discovered it was time to leave and get the train to Paris. Well almost, they managed to squeeze in a bit of time sitting in a final park.
We then boarded the train which took us to Paris where I am writing this. We walked through the city to our final room. After much confusion regarding the English translation of what exactly we were supposed to do (this is basically a self-service room), we finally settled down for the evening.
Well, I did very much like Switzerland, waking up to the mountains may have been the only time in my life I enjoyed waking up. The countryside and the housing styles were beautiful. I think I would have liked Geneva too if it hadn’t had such a big lake in it, I mean, it is so big it is practically a sea, they might as well call it Ocean Geneva!
Paris, on the other hand, I could get to grips with, old buildings everywhere, even the metro signs are stylish. Small streets, big streets, winding streets with those old lampposts like that one in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, just perfect, especially for a stylish cat such as myself. Perhaps I should have been an Aristocat.
Well, goodnight for now folks, bed time for me. Tomorrow I shall relate to you my final instalment, the Tail of my return to Britain by Eurostar.
Until then, Chesh.
Greetings, humans! So, did we make it to Vienna? Well, I told you yesterday we did so that ruins that surprise!
I’m sitting in the same park as where I related the second part of yesterday’s adventures to you, I’m just going to keep writing and fill you in on the story so far today.
I woke to a terrible occurrence! It was truly traumatic, it may be several years before I am fully recovered! My poor back right leg was coated in some horrible viscous bubbly stuff which Charlie said was probably shower gel, but we could not find out how this had leaked, the bottle itself appeared intact. It was horrible, I had to be given a bath in the train toilet wash basin, using wet loo-roll. Bubbles went everywhere and I feared my beautiful pink fur would never be the same again!
We eventually made it to Vienna HBF (Central Station) two hours later than expected and instead of heading out into the city, we did what any good travellers would do and headed straight to ticket sales to fill out compensation forms. Ok, we didn’t go straight there. We went to Information first and they told us to go to ticket sales, which slightly ruined the narrative but let’s just go with it.
The task of filling out the compensation form was made considerably harder by the fact that the forms were in German, but with the help of Google Translate (other translating services are available) and the Austrian sales person who gave us the form, we managed to fill it out and could expect 25% of our fee back, well hopefully. Although as we have an Interrail ticket and so really only paid for the reservation on this train, who knows exactly what it will be 25% of that we’ll get back!
Charlie and Jack were each given 8€ compensation in addition to this 25%, which was used to buy food, water and souvenirs (not necessarily in that order). I wasn’t given any cash but decided not to assert my rights, my reasons were three-fold. 1 – I didn’t pay for a ticket, b – I have no use for any of the three items mentioned above and numero tres – I don’t really understand the concept of money as I have mentioned on at least one previous occasion.
Our first stop was, surprisingly, a park. I’m sure you’ve noticed by now that these humans of mine spend a lot of time in parks. I cannot fault them there.
This park was at the Belvedere Palace, or Schloẞ Belvedere to give it its native name. Well, technically I believe these would be called gardens, not a park, our first clue being that we were told off (in Austrian-German) for sitting on the grass – who knew that was even an offence, certainly not me!
The huge fountains and sculptures of sphinxes and topiary trees were our next clues, as well as the neatly gravelled paths.
We sat and admired the views, then after a short walk through the city, took a U-train (we are getting quite expert at these things now) to Schönbrunn park. This (apparently) contained another palace which once belonged to the Austrian royal family, but we are yet to find the giant building. Despite this, lunch under the trees was what one might term a ‘pleasant affair’ and we watched someone practice slack rope walking, an interesting spectacle. We also managed to capture the elusive crow-pigeon on film, the humans were very pleased with themselves.
You’ll be pleased to hear my poor fur has recovered from its hideous encounter with the shower gel, it seems as good as new.
I then took a cat nap and Charlie accidentally joined me, and why not? Us cats are geniuses (or should that be genii?) after all, maybe more humans should take up our ways.
Actually, on second thoughts, don’t! You would all be too busy sleeping to fulfil the roles I need you for while I’m sleeping!
When we awoke from our nap, we visited an organic supermarket because someone (Jack) didn’t bring enough food for the week and had to replenish, we almost passed for locals (I’m joking, my humans could never pass for locals). I’ve never been to an organic supermarket before, or a supermarket come to think of it, my humans left me in our room in Oslo whilst they visited Rema 1000, I was happy, I had the amazing view remember?
No matter, my humans enjoyed the supermarket (probably) and bought some food, which is important to them. No food = hungry humans = dead humans, not the case with me. I’m not sure how long humans can actually survive without food, but based on the frequency of meal times I guess it can be no more than 5 hours, longer overnight while metabolism is slower. Sometimes I surprise even myself with my scientific reasoning.
Food purchased, we returned to the park (we still haven’t found the palace) and enjoyed the shade of a different tree in another area of the park. It was another blisteringly hot day and, none of us having slept well on the train, a lazy day in the park was just what we needed. We also happened to have chosen a spot next to a drinking water pump (these are relatively common in Germany and Austria, I have noticed) so the humans were cool and refreshed all afternoon.
I took offence at this arrangement for, firstly and most obviously, the presence of water, and secondly, the constant stream of dogs playing with the wet stuff.
Right, we will soon be off for dinner and then catching our second and last night train to Geneva, so I will catch you up on these later… or whenever I can be bothered… I can’t let writing get in the way of napping!
Part II – we are on the train! In a very long tunnel, I believe. If not, all the lights in the world outside the train must have gone out.
And I learnt why we didn’t find the palace – we were in the wrong park, not in Schönbrunn, but another park across the road from it, called Hadikpark. These humans do make me worry. Well, it doesn’t really matter, we saw most of the same sights, you know, the important things like U-stations and construction work, which seems to follow us everywhere.
Our next journey was to dinner. Three short trips on three U-trains and a slight detour when we missed a turning later, we were at the Swing Kitchen.
Dinner, I’m reliably informed, was absolutely splendid once again – the Swing burger and the Vienna (schnitzel) burger with a side of huge chunky chips and onion rings for the first course. With the exception of our previous schnitzel burger in Berlin, this might be the only time we’ve eaten food native to the country we have been in, schnitzels are a famous German and Austrian dish, usually made with veal or pork (you probably knew this already), but can also be made from chicken, or soya in Charlie and Jack’s case. This was followed by a hazelnut crunch ice cream ‘burger’ – ice cream sandwiched between two chocolate cookies, the circumference coated in hazelnut crumbs – and a triple layer nougat cake with chocolate sauce icing, a blob of cream and a chocolate spoon (not too eat with, for decoration only) – both, again, were apparently fantastic. My humans highly recommend Swing Kitchen to vegans and non-vegans alike spending the time in Vienna.
This was the end of our Vienna trip, back on the U to Wien Meidling Station this time. I say, Charlie and Jack have really got the hang of this U-train business. Oh, schnitzels, I said I was only going to praise them once. Pretend that didn’t happen, let’s start again. This was the end of our Vienna trip, back on the U to Wien Meidling Station this time where we discovered the washing up liquid had exploded in Charlie’s bag. This is the true cause of that horrible substance which had coated my leg earlier. As well as myself, other less important stuff such as food packaging had also been mercilessly attacked. This tidied up, we were ready to board our second night train to Zurich, for the change to Geneva.
Vienna has been a fascinating city, not speaking Austrian was an unexpected development although Charlie did know this wasn’t a language. I would have loved to spend more time here, perhaps to actually visit the Schönbrunn Park and maybe even see the palace. Then I could give you another of my riveting history lessons. I will tell you that the palace was the summer residence of the Austrian Habsburg monarchy, built in the 1740s-50s and has 1441 rooms (thanks Wikipedia). Anything else you might like to know, you’ll have to find for yourself, seeing as we didn’t actually go there, I don’t think I can justify too long a history lesson.
Anyway, as I said, I would have liked to spend more time here, but the train timetable people wouldn’t let us, the two hour delay also didn’t help.
Yesterday I didn’t take much time to describe the train, and as it is the same type of train as last night’s, I will discuss them both together. If you’re not interested in trains or suffer a nervous disposition where description of vehicles is concerned, you might want to skip this bit.
The seats are in compartments of six and can be set back to recline, almost completely flat, although this does take a bit of manoeuvring and assumes, of course, there is no one sitting opposite you who would also like to lay flat. Or has legs. There was the option to have gone in the sleeper car and have an actual bed, but in a highly responsible yet completely idiotic money saving initiative, the seats were opted for by the humans to sleep in. The compartments were air-conditioned, but this only worked when the train was moving and also had a dial for speaker volume, not that we ever worked out what it was that we would be listening to.
Ok, it’s safe to read again now, we are settled into our compartment for the night. I can’t imagine anything else exciting will occur, if it does, I’ll tell you about it in tomorrow’s entry.
Until then, Chesh.