Austria & Switzerland - the sound of music

Once Upon a Saga:
I am getting closer to something...I do not know what....but I feel it. I feel it in my bones, under my skin, in the air I breathe. I see it when the light shifts and when the wind blows. I sense it within me...I am getting closer...
Austria snow road
I have an absolute soft spot for Austria. Or to be more exact for Maria Alm in Austria. It is a little town in the summer with flowers, mountains, cows and a lot of charm. In the winter it grows into the perfect winter destination. People come from all over the world to learn how to ski, get better or simply enjoy their skills. It is a beautiful place on earth which has two completely different sides: a winter and a summer paradise.

So, if you follow the map to see where I am and how I got here you might look at the Alps and think: "Isn't that a huge logistics mistake??". And yes...for the untrained eye it might look like it...but this is what really happened. I am traveling on an Interrail pass which lasts for 1 month. Since I started traveling on October 10th I was running out of time. You cannot extend a pass but must order a new one. So I ordered a new one and had it sent to a person I trust in Austria. Also if I had gone from Italy to Switzerland to Liechtenstein to Austria (which would have made sense) then I would have arrived in Switzerland during the weekend and that is no good being that the Red Cross headquarters are in Geneva. So on that basis I switched Austria and Switzerland and went to get my new Interrail pass. Truth be told I had no clue that Geneva was that far out to the west of Switzerland!! Actually if you look at the map then I think it is possible that they made that little wiener and placed Geneva that far out just to screw with my plans.

Besides, my train out of Italy got massively delayed making me late for Liechtenstein. So that meant leaving Liechtenstein late the next evening and let me tell you this; the connections in the Alps do not get any better in the evening. So I arrived really late in Salfelden (Austria) and the last bus was long being true to the game I decided to walk into the dark night all the way to Maria Alm...about 6km from the station. Funny thing...when I look at myself in the mirror then I do not look bigger or stronger...but that duffel bag is definitely a lot easier to carry now than 1 month ago...then again, I might just have forgotten half of everything in various cities....

Austria hund

Struggling to get the "right" shot with a playful dog :)

By the way...when you travel with an Interrail pass then you must present your passport every time the conductor checks your ticket (but only if asked). 22 countries and where do you think they ask? Germany? No, wrong...3 times in Switzerland and once in Austria...and nowhere else :)

I had a great time in Maria Alm. I got to see a lot of old friends and my stay was sponsored by Hans Seifert so go and check it out:

But my stay was way too short and I quickly...after a really good night's sleep...and a lot of good food...had to go to Switzerland.

So this is how it works some times. In Liechtenstein I met William who was briefly traveling for a few days and we just happened to be in the same spot at the same time. But I got his address (he lives in Switzerland) and we wished each other good luck...but only spoke for a few minutes.

So, I end up couch-surfing at Williams place just a little outside Geneva. How perfect is that? And what is it with these hosts...a toilet in the front yard in Wales...a car door on the balcony in Switzerland? :) William is a great guy! He has done a massive amount of traveling and is cool and relaxed. I was lucky to met him.

Switzerland car door

William's car door and grand view

In Geneva I had a chance to stop by the Red Cross training center where Kathleen was working. I met her in Denmark and wanted to say hi. It was great. She was training a lot of different Red Cross workers from all over the world and they gave me a warm welcome and a meal :) I was even applauded so now I have to travel to every country in the world ;)

I got to see the Red Cross headquarters in Geneva. Quite impressive and very interesting considering what I am doing. I had a few meetings and had some fun with the receptionists where I possibly have my best Red Cross photo from. 

Switzerland Geneva reception

Red Cross reception in Geneva

Then some man who didn't present his name asked me the best question ever:

Man: (looking at my bag) are you going somewhere?
Me: yes
Man: where are you going?
Me: everywhere ;)

I dashed out of Geneva and all the way to Shaffhausen in the north east of Switzerland. Because that is where you have the Rheinfall. What is that I hear you say? Why that is the largest waterfall in Europe, my friend. And I am sure that it is breathtaking under the right circumstances and when the sky is blue and the birds are singing and a leprechaun is dancing. But I've seen Niagara this didn't impress me. But it could be fun to try in a kayak :) Also I was meant to meet a journalist in the area and give a small interview. But the newspaper ditched the idea. I guess they couldn't link up on a Red Cross Goodwill Ambassador traveling to every country in the world without flight or returning to home country while staying minimum 24hrs in every country...and a huge humanitarian disaster in the Philippines. They were probably more interested in writing about a lost cat or something...

Switzerland Rheinfall

Rheinfall, Europas largest waterfall...

But who are we kidding...what I have done so far isn't that hard. Most people could travel to 20-25 countries. But what happens after that? How many have done 50...or 75...or 100? And that is only halfway. I am not worried. The attention will come to this project and the more the better. Because I am promoting some good causes. The Red Cross Red Crescent for one...but also the connection between people and cultures all over the world. The world is far from a good place...but there is still so much good in it! I stick by it: "A stranger is a friend you never met before".
So, I had a million hours on a train from Zürich to Vienna in spectacular landscape...which I couldn't see because of bad weather. But at least there was internet available on the train...for the most part...
I was scheduled to meet with a host in Vienna through couch-surfing...but when I finally arrived I couldn't call her and after 40 minutes and more than 20 tries I headed to a hotel.
The following morning I had a meeting in Vienna and then off I go into uncharted land...I have never been to Balkans this is a little exciting :) Slovenia is the first "new country" that really feels new. Because of new countries so far I have been to Belgium, Luxembourg, Andorra, Monaco, San Marino, Liechtenstein and Switzerland. I guess that means I have been to more than 60 countries now...
 Map visualization
Visualization of the entire journey. Created by Parth Nilawar.
On one last note. Don't try to copy this. Traveling this fast through the countries is somewhat stressful. Don't get me wrong, I have met tons of great people and seen amazing things already...but you should give it more time. Traveling is not about going is about taking in the impressions and having time to enjoy it. But Europe is "easily accessible" from Denmark and I can come back. So I want to rush this thing and get to where the adventure really begins: when I leave Europe! ;)

Best regards
Torbjørn C. Pedersen - the only person in the world currently traveling to every country in the world without flight. Prove me wrong ;)
Once Upon a Saga
Made by Kameli