27 Mar 8480km // LINZ // AUSTRIA
As we traveled through the Austrian countryside on our Westbahn train, we had no idea what to expect from Linz. Would it look like Salzburg (the only reference of an Austrian city we had)? Would it be almost as chaotic as Amsterdam on New Year’s Eve? Don’t ever go to Amsterdam on New Year’s Eve. Would it have a traditional feel like Munich, with a “who wore their Lederhosen best”?
Well, it only took an hour and a bit to get to Linz, so we would shortly find out. We then heard the familiar sound of an Austrian woman shouting at us over the intercom: “Nächster Halt…Linz,” so we packed up our gear, and stepped off the train into freezing conditions.
With only one backpack between us, we had to pack as light as a stowaway hitching a ride to the US. One shirt, one pair of pants, three pairs of jocks, and if I was lucky, some thick socks. Linz looked grey and not too inviting, but the weather was shocking, so I didn’t let first impressions sway my vote.
The first point of call was to find our Airbnb. It was the first time we had used the App, so we were (honestly) a bit nervous. Would we find the apartment that we had already paid for? Would the owners be serial killers who send all guests to “grab some wine” from the cellar, never to return? Would they have a small irritating white dog that steals your one sock, and then acts all innocent in front of the owner? None of the above actually. Airbnb is a gift to travelers. It was a big room and a bed. All we needed.
After checking that off the list, we headed for the main square for the real reason we came to Linz – the 11th Worldwide Instameet #WWIM11. As some of you know, we are obsessed with Instagram, and any opportunity to join an Instameet is sold on the spot. For a day, Linz was the capital of Austria’s online photo society. We had a time, a place, and a lot of strangers to meet. I don’t like meeting strangers, so this was going to be fun…
When we got to the Hauptplatz (main square), we saw about 15 people with iPhones out, snapping away. I guess this was our group of ‘gramers, already doing what they do best. There were a high number of Asians though; not be be judgmental, but this was supposed to be an Austrian meet? Anyway, we approached the group and asked them if they were part of the Instameet – the first few just ignored us (we were used to this), until the one guy said “No. Have fun.” Turns out they were just tourists, which makes me question what an Instagramer looks like. After asking a few more strangers and getting a few more blank looks, we found our group. What a cool bunch of people.
After introducing ourselves, we got given some Instagram memorabilia and set-off with a free train ride to the top of Pöstling mountain, to overlook the city of Linz. We took some shots and then ventured into a weird gnome cave. Imagine a series of tunnels all filled with little gnome people that you can’t trust. Some digging, some singing, some drilling, some chilling. “How did I end up here?” I kept asking myself. It was very cool, in a strange way none the less. Igers Austria had many activities planned for us after that – from a tour of the old city and a 3D multimedia exhibition about Earth and deep space at Ars Electronica, to a 360 degree view of Linz from a massive wooden lookout tower (which, once you get to the top of the +- 80m platform, you find out sways in the wind). “Don’t worry this is built to last a few years,” said one of the Instagramers. After hearing that, all I was looking for was a sign that said, “built a few years ago”.
To cap it all off, our amazing hosts had organized a private function hall, fully catered (though the only thing I really noticed were the two ice buckets packed with Gösser beer – it’s good stuff, I recommend it, especially after a day where you clock up over 18km on foot). After panic-drinking my fair share of beers, we said our goodbyes and left, but not empty handed. They gave us enough food for the next two days! Rolls, rolls, and more rolls – either we looked very malnourished, or it was just the European hospitality that we had become accustomed to over the last month.
So if you ever have a chance to join an Instameet in a foreign country, I suggest you hop on the next train, bus or car, and take a camera.