Thursday, June 2, 2011

Austrian Hospitality

I am in Austria for the week with some Masters students for a Summer Seminar class.  Each student has 4-6 weeks to work on a paper about a particular finance topic that they choose.  This class has about 12 students in it, and each of the 4-5 ‘Mitarbeiters’ (PhD students) help coach the students and grade their papers.  For this class, I have 3 students that were willing to write their papers in English on Momentum Trading Strategies. 
Each student hands in their paper 3 weeks before the trip.  That gives us time to grade the paper, give each student feedback on their results, and give them 2 weeks to prepare a presentation to share with the group during the trip, which counts for 40% of the grade.
That means, we are ‘working’ this week and not totally on vacation.  But it also means we have plenty of time to have fun.  

Achensee, Austria

We arrived in Achenkirch, Austria (located in the Alps and on the Achensee/lake) Sunday morning after riding in the bus overnight.  After breakfast (and a 45 minute nap) we took a 6 hour hike to the top of one of the mountains.  Achansee is located about 900m (3000 feet) above sea level.  We climbed to about 1900m (6000 feet.)  The mountains were beautiful and it was perfect weather.  By the time we ate dinner, I was done.  The bed felt really good and I slept like a rock for 11-12 hours.  

Hochplatte was our highest point of Sunday's hike.

This morning after breakfast, I decided to travel to some of the nearby cities alone.  I received a guest bus pass from our hotel, which meant I could ride any time for free.  I had the bus schedule in my hand and knew I needed to get on the 4050 headed to Maurach, the nearby city I wanted to visit.  

When I came to the bus stop, the Bus 9850 was arriving.  The bus said “Maurach,” but I figured I should wait for the 4050, just to be sure.  The 4050 was on the other side of the street, and I assumed that it would turn around and come to me because we were on the last stop of the route. 

He never turned around.  We just looked at each other for a while.  I finally said, “I thought the 4050 would be here.  Aren’t you the 4050?”  He explained something in German that I didn’t understand. 

Finally, I understood.  He wanted me to come with him on the bus.  Ok, I thought, now we are getting somewhere.  Maybe he was taking a 5 minute break and we would resume the trip when he was ready.  It never occurred to me that I was the only person sitting on this bus. 

Instead, the bus driver drove down a side street, pulled over and turned off the bus.  Uh-oh, I thought.  What is he going to do with me?  He then instructs me to get off the bus.  We head over to a smaller transporter car.  “Very economical,” I thought as we walked over there. I figured maybe they take a smaller vehicle if they don’t have a lot of people riding.  I was wrong.  It was the bus driver’s car. 

I assumed that I was getting a personal lift to the destination that I wanted.  Unfortunately, I didn’t really have a destination.  So, I looked on the map and told my personal chauffer to stop at the first stop of Maurach.  He asked why that stop, and I told him, “I don’t know.  I am just looking around.”  We small talked (all in German) and we drove to the end off AchenKirch (the city where we are staying.)  He said, ‘this is my house’ and stopped the car.  For a minute, I thought there may be a chance I will never be heard from again.  

As we got out of the car, we were a few yards/meters away from the bus stop.  We had gotten in front of the 9850 bus headed for Maurach and he was dropping me off so I could take that bus.  He waited with me at the bus stop and spoke to the bus driver about where to drop me off.  Now that’s service.  

Unfortunately, the stop I randomly chose was not in the city and worse, there was no walking path to get there. The bus driver of the 9850 insisted that I get off at this stop and convinced me this was the right place.  I waved my hands, ‘no’ and tried to explain, ‘I know, but I would like to stay on longer.’  After some back and forth we continued on to the city center of Maurach.  There, I was able to get a cup of coffee (that’s really all I wanted) and walk around the Lake (See).   

Austria is a beautiful place. I will keep you posted as more interesting stories come along. 

The Hotel we are staying this week.

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