Nothing arouses playfulness like the first experience of snow.
From Gare Paris Est, I took an 11-hour train journey to Vienna, crossing Germany (Strasbourg, Stuttgart, then Munich), then Austria (Salzburg, Linz, and Wien Mielding). Taking this ride, with the greenery and quaint German houses and snow-capped Alps in my view, has been one of the best decisions I’ve made for this tour thus far—never mind the hipster-looking Frenchman behind the information counter at Charles de Gaulle who, when he asked me how long I was staying, to which I answered, “Just for a few days, then I’m taking the train to Vienna,” couldn’t stop himself from saying F***!
Of course, the rest of my decisions were already pre-determined by the advice of my well-traveled friends—the Bocobo sisters, Ate Liw, Minori (who had spent some time in Paris), Renan (who goes to Europe once in a while, as if it were a nearby mall) and my brother—whose traveling tastes and must-do’s I consider almost dogmatic.
The train ride led me to my first experience of snow—incessantly floating white specks that fell from the sky, like ice scraped from the fridge, but finer—as we passed through the first German towns. I didn’t see this coming, of course, because I had mostly prepared for spring weather. Ten degrees, Google said last week. I can manage that, I thought.
But snow kept falling, though it may have skipped Munich, because there wasn’t any snow there when I had coffee and sandwiches, but the weather was nevertheless freezing, my cheeks getting numb after 15 minutes. On my 7th hour of train ride—the third I had boarded in (Munich to Wien Mielding)—I saw fields covered in clean snow, with no man walking in sight, and the occasional swans and horses. The places looked lonely, isolated, and very European, a stark contrast to the generally vibrant, noisy, population dense areas in Manila. The sights made me feel sleepy, but I couldn’t shut my eyes up: here was snow. And then I was filled with gratitude—I still am—that God has granted me this experience a few days before I would turn 30.
Finally I can tell Viktor, my friend from Siberia, that I had finally experienced it.
Snow still falls from my window. I’m overlooking the Wüllenweber-und-Jordan-Platz crossing, because, yes, I did manage to get to Austria unscathed (the train routes are friendlier, even for a non-German-speaking creature like me) at 10 pm. I write this with Kaffee Melange bit Schlag—brewed coffee with a bit of steamed milk, for which the Austrians are known—and what looks like croissant with sweet cheese.
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After the freezing, walking tour with Katerina—the wonderful guide who spoke about the Hapsburgs like they were Hollywood superstars and who made me realize that cappuccino is, in fact, Austrian in origin—I treated myself to a good cup of Kaffee, my second for the day, at a shop near Ringstrasse. A middle-aged Austrian couple, roughly the age of Tito Jun and Tita Ging if they were still alive, asked if I was American—or was I British? It must've been the English from my big mouth, but I said I was Filipino. I told them I was expecting spring weather in April. "This month is unpredictable: as if winter and spring are at war," the lady said.
(Two days ago, while I was killing time at Boulevard de Clichy in Montmartre, a random brown-skinned man looked at me, smiled like we had known each other, and called me, "Kabayan." I don't remember him of course; I don't remember a lot of things.)
Winter is winning; winter has come—even from my bedroom window, where I snuggled for two hours with all my walking clothes on plus a thick comforter, with all the blinds shut tight.