Getting to Bressanone/Brixen

by Joy Kamani
By Jim Spier I was prepared for the worst, as travel for me and others recently has been full of delays and cancellations. But things went much better than expected. I left Raleigh Durham on Sunday morning and had a three hour layover in Chicago prior to my Lufthansa flight to Frankfurt. Using my miles to get there, I was pleasantly surprised when I got upgraded to first class. Not just any first class, but first class in the upper deck of a 747! Joy Kamani, leaving from Houston, was to get to Chicago with less than an hour to spare, so I asked the Lufthansa agent if she could be afforded the same courtesy. She was a bit hesitant and said they she would "see what she could do". I boarded the plane early, with Joy literally about one mile away, coming from a far away terminal. To my surprise, Joy popped up in the first class cabin! Thank you Lufthansa! It was a seven hour flight to Frankfurt from Chicago, but went quickly because of the first class treatment. The food, of course, came nonstop. And the seats reclined into a true bed. (I was a bit more fortunate than my seatmate, a female manager traveling on business for the company, Qualcomm. She had come from San Diego and had a four hour layover in Frankfort before her ten hour flight to Mumbai, India). We landed in Frankfurst, and Joy and I walked the mile from the arrival gate to the Innsbruck departure gate. In between we had to wait on line for 1) passport control and 2) a further security check. Frankfurt is not my favorite airport. We got on a "puddle jumper" from Frankfurt to Innsbruck. In this case first-class meant being in the first four rows of the 20 row plane but not having roomier seats. It did mean a full course breakfast even for the 1 hour flight (just what we needed, more food!). The flight to Innsbruck was over the Alps, but we couldn't see any of it because of the clouds. The clouds broke just as we were landing, and we witnessed the magnificent valley in the Alps where Innsbruck sits. Miraculously, our luggage arrived at this relatively small airport. I decided to change dollars to Euros there, and it was brought home how horrible the current dollar to Euro exchange rate is (In this case, I received 56 Euros for $80.00). As bad as the European economy is these days, that of the U.S. is no better. We taxied to the Innsbruck train station. The taxi driver tried to talk us into driving straight to Bressanone (about 40 miles south), but we didn't bite. We were looking forward to the train ride. It was a 12 Euro cab fare (about 3-4 miles). We purchased first class train tickets and were therefore entitled to the first class lounge in the Innsbruck train station (much like an airport club lounge). That's where I lost my US-European electric converter. Luckily Joy had a spare. It would have been a disaster without it. The ride to Bressanone was spectacular, the tracks following a river one of the Alps' valleys. It look less than 1 ½ hours to get to Bressanone. (If we had it to do over, we would have flown to Munich, then take the same train to Bressnone, which takes less than 4 hours). There was only one stop along the way. But the train did stop in Brenner on the Austrian-Italian border. The Italian border guards boarded the train to check passports randomly. They didn't bother with us. (In this part of Italy most of the towns have two names — one Italian and one German. Brenner, where the train stopped, is also known as Brennero. Bressanone is also known as Brixen). We finally arrived in Bressanone. What a beautiful place! Like Innsbruck, it is situated in a valley in the Alps. Those are real mountains there! And this time of year the slopes are totally green. We taxied to the hotel (the Goldener Adler). Surprisingly there were no complications. (I was prepared for anything. In the past, having confirmed reservations did not necessarily mean that I had a room. In fact, in one case, I had paid for the room in full for a week only to be met with, "sorry, there are no rooms"). The clerk seemed to even know our names when we checked in. It was now about 2pm in Italy. I had begun my travel at 10am the prior day. So it had been a lengthy trip. We finally arrived. So, should we go to sleep? Of course not. We showered and began our tour of the town. Bressanone and the Stadium Bressanone is a town of about 20,000 people, the smallest ever to hold a World Championships. It was founded about 500 AD by Germanic tribes. It really feels like Austria and not Italy. The townspeople are trilingual — Italian, German and Ladin (Ladin is a regional language common in northern Italy and eastern Switzerland). But most also speak English. The hotel (Goldener Adler) is 500 years old, but is fairly modern. As is typical in Europe, there is no shower curtain nor soap. (Or irons or ironing boards, though they are available for the asking). And a substantial breakfast is included with the room (but don't expect eggs). The food is much like that in Germany and Austria. Speck (bacon, but really like Canadian bacon), cold cuts and cheeses are the standard fare. But there are also lots of pizza. And lots of fresh fruits and vegetables). The town itself has a medieval feel — narrow cobblestoned streets with a main square. And lots of small shops with clothing and regional specialties. It looks like nice place to live. We decided to go the stadium to get our credentials. It is about a 20 minute walk from the hotel along a walking trail aside a river (paralleled by a bicycle trail). It was a most pleasant walk. The stadium is relatively small with seating for 1000. But there are another temporary 4000 seats around the track. I have a feeling that this will be a special event. The organizing committee managed to get the 700 volunteers it wanted. And yet there is a waiting list. So the town of 20,000 really came through! (The youngest volunteer is in the second grade; the oldest is in his seventies). We got our credentials from a most helpful staff. And some pretty good seating in the press area over the finish line (what could be better!). I look forward to my daily reports. We met Mike Kennedy who arrived at about 5pm. He'll be covering for Dyestat. (We thought we had a long trip. Mike left Los Angeles Sunday morning, two times zones west of mine).
We returned to the hotel and went searching for dinner. After rejecting some fairly nice restaurants, we settled on a "hole-in-the-wall" pizza joint next to the hotel. With limited seating, we ordered "to go" and ate on a bench in the main square. The pizza rivaled some of the best I've ever had (not quite up to par with Sally's in New Haven, CT, but close). (After sampling "real" pizza, it's hard to fathom how anyone can be satisfied with Domino's or Pizza Hut. The crust should be thin, firm and crunchy — this place had it. Case closed!). We finished after 7pm, the closing time for most of the bakeries where we had intended on availing ourselves of dessert. So we decided to have apple strudel, the local delicacy, in the hotel's restaurant. It was quite good, a natural "feel", not overburdened by a lot of sugar. Then off to bed. Not having slept for a day, it was quite easy to doze off by 8pm, even with the sun still shining. I awoke at about 5am (which was really 11pm the night before, according to my body). I felt well-rested and, so far, not affected by jet lag. The activities today feature a press conference featuring some of the meet's athletes, including Prezel Hardy, the world youth leader from the US. Reports of today's activities are forthcoming.

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