SWMBO ears perk up when she hears “free steam train”.
Day four of our Genusscard brought a 45 minute drive to Weiz to begin a 90 minute steam train journey. The train set off at 11:30 am and would return to Weiz at 6 pm. We arranged that Firstborn would take the train from Graz to Weiz and meet us at 6.
Our fellow passengers seemed more the pretzel-eating-day-out-with-the-kids type than real steam train enthusiasts. What gave that away? Well for one thing, they didn’t close the windows as we went into the first tunnel so the cars filled with smoke and we were all gagging. For another thing, no one brought their goggles with them. The kids thought I was joking about the goggles until the first few passengers got ash and debris in their eyes from hanging out the window.
First stop, Anger. Paris thought this was a hilarious name for a town. Next stop, Kogelhof. Lots of people got off here to spend the day at Somerradlbahn Koglhof. We weren’t going to do that three days in a row so we continued on to the last stop: Birkfeld.
We had a few hours in Birkfeld so we visited the Noise Museum. It was empty and very interesting but unfortunately for the rest of my family, all in German. The kids did get to try out some neat acoustic rooms and gongs though. Then, on to the Felber Chocolate Factory for a tour and tasting. Again, all in German but so well done. I learned so much and gave the family an abbreviated version after the tour. Where Zotter is huge and produces from bean to bar, Felber is small and doesn’t actually manufacture chocolate. They get high quality chocolate from Germany and then add local Steiermark ingredients to make their distinctive bars. At 4:30 pm the train pulled out of Birkfeld station and heading back to Weiz.
It was a beautiful hot day and we had a great time. I guess it was an omen when we pulled into Weiz and the heavens opened! The rain got crazier and crazier and then turned to hail. Thunder and lightening were everywhere. Passengers were scurrying to and fro trying to shelter at the station and load into vehicles. If only we had known that we were only half way through our day, I think we would have sat down and cried right then and there.
First, we discovered that the last train got into Weiz at 2 pm on Saturday. We weren’t expecting that and had no idea where Firstborn was. We hung around the train station, then drove to McDonald’s and spent the next hour messaging, waiting, eating gross burgers. It was pouring so hard that the ceiling was leaking at McDonald’s and they had buckets set out to catch the torrents of water. Fahbio drove back to the station to see if maybe she had gotten a ride there.
Paris had just surprised me with a peppermint tea from McCafe when Fahbio returned and waved for us to get into the car. We dashed out, me with my ceramic cup. I hope they forgive me. We finally had an address in Graz and arranged to meet Firstborn outside the apartment at 8:10 pm. We drove 45 minutes to Graz in the pouring rain but couldn’t find her anywhere. The people at the apartment building had never seen her. We didn’t know who she had been visiting.
We went to a youth hostel where they were so kind and let us use their wifi. Firstborn said she had been waiting outside her building for almost an hour, where were we? Where was she was the real question. We told her to walk to the main train station and meet us at the main entrance. It was now 9 pm and she said it was a 15 minute walk for her. We waited until 9:45 and then gave up. We really didn’t know what to do.
Then we saw that south of Graz was a town called Feldkirchen bei Graz. Maybe she was there? We drove to yet another McDonald’s and reconnected with her. She was indeed there at the exact street name and address she had given us. Another 10 minute drive to get her and what a relief it was to see her. Just before we got there, I suggested to everyone that we were all tired and frustrated but that wasn’t Firstborn’s fault so maybe we should just be kind to her when she got in. I am sorry to say that I was the one that had a bit of a freak out when she stepped in. Now, poor Fahbio had another 45 minute drive home in the pitch dark. We got in after 11 pm and all fell fast asleep.
With my youngest being almost five, it is rare that I get woken up these days but I was yanked from my soundest sleep by Venice. She had had some kind of reaction to a bug bite and her finger was so swollen that the skin was tight and it was throbbing. I decided to give her some strange Malaysian version of Tylenol that I bought in February. It was a stinky black liquid but it seemed to do the trick.
Surprisingly, my day still wasn’t done. Just when I had fallen back asleep, there came a timid little knock on the door. Lastborn had walked from one end of this large farmhouse to the other in the pitch black. What a brave little 4 year old. How she managed that without running into the wood stove or tripping on the many stairs I don’t know. Her bottom lip was trembling and she told me that there were no sisters in her room. Only Onlyboy was there and as caring as he is, she needs sisters in the middle of the night. I brought her back to her room and showed her that two sisters were in the bed right next to hers. They were so sweet and scooched over so she could sneak in with them.
It was one of longest and hardest parenting days of the trip but one of the very best also. Sunday is check out. We can use the Genusscard all day if we want but I am not sure that my nerves can stand any more free adventures.
NOTE: While waiting at the Graz train station, I had to pee desperately and decided, just this once, to pay the 50 euros cents to do so. There were five teenage girls standing there shocked about paying. One paid and her and her equally thin friend welded themselves together to make an average middle-aged woman and entered together. They discovered that they could pretend to exit and that would allow enough time for the door to swing open and another friend to run in. When all five were in, they said to me in German, “Come on. We’ll open it for you.” How sweet! I tried to give them the 50 cents but they said, absolutely not. It was their treat. A silver lining to a stressful few hours!