A 20-hour journey from Los Angeles to Gaschurn, Austria on planes, trains, and buses.
My journey to Austria began on Friday afternoon, July 12, at the International terminal at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). Well, technically, it began with an Uber ride to the office that day, but that’s probably more detail than necessary here. I am traveling solo, meeting my friend Allan at the first night’s hotel in Austria. Allan is travelling from Canada a few hours ahead of me.
After clearing a very short security line (thanks TSA PreCheck) I proceeded to the Oneworld Lounge to feast on caviar and champagne. Actually, just business-class snacks.
I have had a life-long affection for the Boeing 747, the Queen of the Skies. We lived on the north side of Seattle in my childhood, less than 10 miles from the Boeing 747 plant in Everett. I remember laying in the grass watching them fly and wondering to what exotic lands do they travel, and if I’d fly on one someday. My family traveled occasionally but only in the US, so we never flew wide-bodies. It wasn’t until I was in my 30s until I finally had an opportunity to fly on The Queen: a brand new 747-400 (B744) to Tahiti. I still get a little excited when I find a 747 assigned to an upcoming flight.
The smaller upper deck is quieter, with the additional perk of abundant storage for bedding, jacket, electronic devices with batteries and cables, etc. below the windows.
This flight departs LA in the afternoon and arrives in London in the morning. There is dinner service in the evening, and breakfast in the morning. As usual, I slept for only about an hour; even lying comfortably on the flat bed I only dozed, trying to hold my eyes shut before eventually giving up.
On the approach to Heathrow we flew directly over the City of London where I could clearly see the Tower of London, Tower Bridge, The Gherkin and the Financial District, and City Hall.
I had only about a half-hour before my connecting flight. One thing I dislike about Heathrow (next to the intense crowds) is that departure gates are often not assigned until 30 minutes before departure. And the gate could be anywhere in the main Terminal 5, or out in the A, B, or C satellite terminals. So it’s always a scramble to get out to the gate once they finally announce your gate number.
The flight from Heathrow to Zürich takes about an hour and a half.
Map of travel from Zürich to Gaschurn
From the Zürich Flughafen (airport) I took a train to the Zürich Hauptbahnhof (main train station) and changed trains to an Österreichische Bundesbahnen (Austrian Federal Railway). The train traveled along the south shore of the Zürichsee (Zürich lake), along the shore of the Walensee, across Liechtenstein, to my destination of Bludenz, Austria. Allan and I were texting back and forth, giddy with excitement at the beauty of Switzerland.
The train followed the south shore of Zürichsee (Zürich lake), through a mountain valley, and then along the shore of the Walensee before crossing the border into Liechtenstein and then into Austria, eventually arriving at Bludenz in the western state of Vorarlberg.
From Bludenz, I took a smaller local train up the Montafon valley to its terminus in Schruns.
From Schruns, I took a bus further up the Montafon to the village of Gaschurn, my destination for today and from where we will begin our hike through the Silvretta Alps tomorrow.
I met Allan at the Hotel Monika, checked in, and dropped off my pack in my room. We walked into town for dinner and thought we’d try the Stoba 7. The manager asked if we had a reservation, and upon hearing that we did not, he asked us to follow him down a hallway. I figured he was leading us to another room (perhaps for people without reservations) but he ushered us out through a side-door telling us to go down to a bar/restaurant down the street. I suspect he meant to say that we should go have a drink and that they’d have a table for us when we returned. But instead, it felt like we just got the bum’s rush out the back door.
We walked up the street and found a restaurant in a hotel. I had a delicious Weinerschnitzel with brown onion sauce, and an Apple Strudel (I had not yet discovered the fabulousness of the Kaiserschmarrn). We returned to our hotel and got a good night’s sleep after what was for me a 24-hour journey (with less than an hour of sleep).