Hostess With The Mostest
Part 7

Maria slipped the car into gear and we started the drive down through the woods to the road, Stans and then the autobahn.

"Did you enjoy today Nena? The Gräfin couldn't get over how good you were"

"Er it was okay, I'm not sure I'd want to do it full time though"

"Yeah I guess wearing those costumes all the time could get a bit much. Mama wanted me to do it last year but I escaped to Griechenland for the summer"

Then it clicked, big car, same features, job last summer.

"Your mother is the Gräfin?"

"Of course, did you not realise?"

"Sorry I thought you were one of the staff"

"I am silly, I might be family but I still need to have a job. I suppose you get a lot of variety doing what you do, did you go to college to train?"

"Yes I went to Nottingham, I got a degree in travel management" I proudly told her then realised my mistake.


"Sorry, yes it is in England," I thought quickly, "I was on an exchange programme"

"Ah! Myself I was at Innsbruck University, I have the degree in Archaeology"

"Not much need of that at the castle" I mentioned

Maria paused as she checked the mirrors before putting us into the fast lane and accelerating.

"No and yes. Mostly I work in the shop but also I do other work on the estate, we are excavating at the old monastery up the mountain, the Gräfin is keen to have more 'attractions'!"

I glanced at the speedo and wished that I hadn't. You get used to trundling around at a hundred kph; we were doing nearly twice that! Maria looked like she was driving on a country road with not a care in the world. Of course at that speed we were soon past Innsbruck.

"You are German no?"

"Yes from near Trier, on the Mosel?" I decided to stick with Den's cover story.

"Ah yes, the Porta Nigra," she stated, "so how come you work with the English?"

Shit what can I tell her? Does she smell a rat? Best go with Den I guess.

"One of the regular courier's was taken ill, a friend from the university suggested that I could fill in" it was close enough without digging too great a hole!

"Not many nudists this time of night" she mentioned apparently randomly


"Down at the river, not many nature lovers"

"You mean naked?"

"Of course, in the summer there are often many on the beaches at the river. Oops nearly missed the exit!"

In a wild manoeuvre the Mercedes went direct from outside lane to slip road in about fifty metres, Maria let the slight incline scrub the speed some before we started the climb up the Zirlerberg towards Seefeld. My heart was in my throat.

"You okay Nena? You seem a little quiet"

"Just a bit tired" terrified really!

The big car made short work of the steep climb and within another five minutes I was directing Maria to the See Hotel in Seefeld.

"You've been to the moor?" she asked as we passed the lake.


"Yes at the bottom of the lake just back there. It is one of the largest in Europe"

"You mean like peat bog, heather that sort of moor?"

"Of course"

"It can't be very big" I mentioned thinking of the miles of moorland in my native Yorkshire alone!

"Several hectares! It is protected since fifty years" she proudly extolled.

"Here's the hotel. Do you want to get a drink?" I offered

"Thanks, but I'm meeting some friends at the University, that's why I got the job of bringing you back"

She pulled the car up by reception and took me by surprise by leaning over and giving me a light peck on the cheek.

"Teuss," she added gaily, "maybe we see you at Tratzberg again eh?"

"Er yes, thanks for the ride" I mentioned as I got out of the car.

"No problem, bye!"

She waved as she pulled back out of the hotel car park and with a toot of the horn she accelerated away with me giving a final wave.

I made my way into reception, having to lift the hem of my skirt for the steps.

"Hello can I help you?" it was Ingrid

As I turned she gasped.

"Ah! Nena I didn't recognise you" she exclaimed

"Well they're only different clothes"

"And hair" she mentioned.

My hand went up in a reflex action. Of course Katrin, the Gräfin, had put my hair into a 'medieval' style with plaits pinned up like bretzels.

"I'd forgotten about that. I'd best get changed for the Heimat do"

"You dare! You look absolutely fabulous, maybe a bit more makeup" she told me, "who was in the Mercedes?"

"Maria Enzenberg from the castle"

"You mean the Maria Enzenberg? The telly presenter?"

"I think you've got the wrong girl, she works at the castle and she's the daughter of the owners"

"That's the one! When you decide to mingle you mingle well Nena!"

"What do you mean?"

"That young woman is just about the most eligible woman in Austria, the Enzenberg's are very well connected in society, sort of royalty."

"Oh boy! I need a drink!"

An English voice broke the short silence.

"Chris?" it was Den

"Give over Den, Nena remember?" I dropped back into my mother tongue," look sorry about this afternoon I got railroaded and you didn't help"

"What did I do? That Katrin woman came and said that you'd offered to fill in for the rest of the afternoon did I mind"

"Why that..." I started

"Scheming bitch" Ingrid offered

"You mean?" Den queried

"Yep! She told you I wanted to stay, then tells me that you said okay"

"Well I did, but only because, " he got it then, "I thought that you wanted to. The scheming..."

"Bitch" Ingrid helpfully added

"And what about my bag and stuff and why did you bring my clothes instead of leaving them?"

"That woman just came out with it all in a bag, said it might be safer if I brought your stuff with me, you mean your clothes are in there too?"

"Why else do you think I'm doing a Julie Andrews here?"

"Right" he nodded

"Hey you two less arguing, you have a Heimat to get to" Ingrid mentioned

Ever been to one? Folk evening? Now don't get me wrong, I'm sure a lot of people have a really good time. Me I hate 'em and in Germany, Austria and Switzerland they are all pretty similar! Beer drinking, horn blowing, some yodelling, folksy dancing, a bit of audience participation and don't forget the clappy, slappy business! The biggest differences are the costumes.

Here in Seefeld, weather permitting there's a performance every Thursday in the little auditorium in the park just back of the shops. In bad weather it moves into a nearby hotel ballroom. It being a pleasant evening we herded most of our passengers to the park for the free performance. (They do pass the hat later!) I got a lot of compliments on my outfit; I hadn't the heart to mention that it was hardly my choice.

Once we had them installed I was all for retiring to the bar but Den thought he'd watch the performance so I sat off to one side with him nursing a glass of wine prepared to be bored to death for the next hour or so. I guess if you've not seen it before it's good entertainment, the compere even did a fair translation into English! I knew the pattern and after three-quarters of an hour it was time for audience participation. First the players demonstrated the local dance set piece then they grab people in the cheap seats to participate.

"Fraulein? Tanzengehen?" my idle musing was broken

"Er" I looked for support from Den but one of the women was dragging him onto the stage already. The guy in front of me took my hand and led me to join the others

In German he asked, "you know this dance miss?"

"Afraid not, disco" I mimed a little hip swivel much to everyone's amusement, I just turned beet red!

"No worry" he said through a chuckle, "just follow me"

The band struck up and the singers started the accompanying song and Nena's first and hopefully last folk dance was off. It wasn't complicated like I remember from junior school; mostly it was shuffling about and slow waltzing. After a minute or two I was actually enjoying myself, even getting enthusiastic and didn't notice that after each reel one couple dropped out. Didn't notice that is until it was just me and Hans being clapped around the stage. The music ended and the audience broke out into rapturous applause. Embarrassed beyond belief I joined the group curtain call then joined everyone returning to their seats, more than a little flushed.

"Enjoy that?" Den panted

"I guess so," I admitted

The Heimat group moved into the last section of the performance and a little after ten the alpine horns signalled the end of the entertainment.

"You want to go for a drink?" Den offered

"Just a quickie, I'm knackered" I confided as we headed out of the park, " it's been quite some day" that, as they say, was a bit of an understatement!

"The hotel okay?" Den asked

"That'll do me. So the rest of the trip was okay? You stopped in Innsbruck?"

"Yeah, I walked them round to the Golden Roof, you know how many manage to miss it!"

I chuckled to myself. Just about every trip there's at least one.

'Where was the Golden Roof then?'

'You went to the square with the café's?"'


'Well it faces up into the town at this end'

'We didn't see anything'

Well I suppose 'golden porch' might be more accurate, everyone is looking for this spectacular big yellow roof but its really quite small and halfway up a wall!

"I gave them an hour, we were back at five thirty. How did you get on?"

"She offered me a job!" I stated, "the scheming..."

"Yeah bitch, you already said"

"Yeah well. Mind you she did pay me"

"How much?"

"No idea I didn't ask and I haven't looked, I'll check when we get back"

Well we were back. With nearly all of our passengers up in the town, the Stube was pretty quiet and we settled into a quiet corner. I recovered the envelope from my rucksack and pulled it open.

"How much then?" Den enquired

"Looks like one hundred Euro's, there's a note too," I said opening the folded paper. I read aloud translating direct from the German.

'Dear Nena,

Thank you so much for helping today, you helped make a lot of people's visit to Tratzberg Castle very enjoyable. I was serious about the job, if you want to take me up on it my private number is above. As promised I enclose pay for the afternoon plus a bit extra for being such a sport.

Karin Enzenberg (Gräfin)'

"She was serious then" Den mentioned

"Who was serious?" Ingrid asked joining us

"The Countess, she's offered twinkle toes here a job"

"Twinkle toes?"

"Later" I told her

"What job?"

"Doing what I did today, tour guide cum actor"

"Don't you mean actress" Den put in


I stifled a yawn

"I'm ready for bed"

Just then I heard my mobile go off. I dug it out and answered

"Chris Hornby"

"That you Nena?"

"Oh hi Julia, what's up?"

"Just checking on my protégé. How did the Heimat go?"

"Ask her about the castle" Den shouted over

"What about the castle Chris?" Julia asked

"Well you remember...." I repeated today's events for her over another couple of drinks and barracking from Den and Ingrid.

"So she's a what did you call it?"

"Gräfin. Like a sort of countess, yeah" I replied

I could tell she was shaking her head at the other end of the line.

"I'd best got off this phone I suppose" she finished, "say goodnight to everyone for me"

"Yeah 'night Julia"

My companions chorused their own 'night Julia' at the phone before I closed the connection.

"I really did ought to get to bed now"

"Yeah me too" Den agreed.

I awoke with a bit of a start. By heck that was some dream! I checked the clock, urgh! Six o'clock! Ah well I'll never get back to sleep again now, might as well get myself ready! 'Well I've done it' I mused to myself, 'a whole week just about, some week huh?'. I decided to wear the skort again today, the weather forecast reckoned low thirties and they'd been pretty accurate so far this week. It was still only seven when I finished doing my makeup so I decided to go for a walk. I slipped my Global fleece on and the flat sandals, grabbed my bag and headed out.

With a good hour to kill I decided to have a walk around the Wildsee, the lake that the town takes its name from. There was a slight mist over the water as I walked along the shore towards the solarium and pool, the cool morning air sending goose bumps up my bare legs. Despite my fairly regular visits to the place I've never walked all the way round and I was a bit surprised when the path took me into what I guess was the 'moor' that Maria was enthusing about.

A bit further on a second path headed across what I would describe as scrubland; it was going my way so I followed it. Maria was right, I could see just about the full extent of the reserve from the middle I guessed at maybe a square kilometre. The path came to a fence and gate which marked the end of the 'moor', I read the old cast iron plaque hanging aslant from a telegraph pole. Not that I doubted her but it pretty much just informed the reader of the protected status of the Reither Moor. Thoroughly unimpressed I followed the sign back toward Seefeld up the backside of the lake, the sun breaking over the Reither Spitze behind me.

It was so peaceful, a few birds chirped in the trees and a gentle breeze moved through the sighing branches. I forgot how I was dressed until I passed an old fella walking his Dachshund.


"Morgen" I replied

"Es ist ein herrlicher Tag"

"Ja" I agreed

It must have been the way he looked at me but I became aware that I was dressed as a young woman and I was out walking on my own. Now I know it's silly and there's no real reason I should be overly concerned but I just was.

I was quickly back at the north end of the water; believe it or not I'd only been walking for about thirty minutes. Having previously seen a path I decided to go over the little hill to the town then circle back to the hotel for breakfast. The sun was no where near hot yet but it was just giving enough heat to make it pleasant. The path wound up across the little alm towards a stand of pine, what's that?

Flipping heck it's a miniature Stone Henge! Sure enough about a dozen rocks were set in a rough circle on the hill top, pretty much hidden from view until you reached them although the views from up here allowed excellent vista's across the lake and over to the old Olympic ski jump.

The stone circle above Seefeld

After taking a few minutes to appreciate the views I found another path that eventually brought me down to the church in the town square. The clock struck eight as I headed down through the shops back to the hotel and a breakfast I now had an appetite for.

"There you are, I've been knocking on your door for half an hour" Den greeted me

"And good morning to you, what's the problem?"

"Nothing really. I just wanted to make sure you were up, you ended up having a few last night."

"I woke up about six so I got ready and went for a walk" Den raised his brow, "yes I know, I didn't think alright? I only saw one old chap walking his dog anyway"

"I see your er chest has shrunk again" Den mentioned

"Well I was never supposed to have all day yesterday. Usual Friday?" I asked as I buttered a roll.

"Yeah, I've told them nine o'clock to give them plenty of time up the Stubai"


"Good morning everyone" I greeted the coach as we again headed down towards Innsbruck. "I hope you all had a good time last night?" I was answered by a good selection of positive comments. "We have a nice day planned for you today, this morning we go up the Stubaital then after lunch we head across the Brenner Pass to Vipiteno in Italy, so sit back and enjoy" I replaced the microphone and started the morning bus walk which, like the rest of the week took some time.

Before Stubai however another short stop was in order, I took up the mike as the motorway started climbing.

"We are just about to cross the Europabrucke, the highest road bridge in Europe, we will pull in at the services on the far side so that you can walk back for photo's and look at the views. Just twenty minutes please"

To be honest crossing this fantastic engineering feat is a bit of a non event, just another motorway bridge. Even the view from the little chapel by the services doesn't do it justice but we'd be seeing it again later! We were only one of about a dozen coaches stopped for the reason at the services, just about every tour from any country that is going this way stops, it's always busy.

"Tea?" I offered

"Please" Den passed his mug over then followed me up to the kitchenette.

"At least I can't get roped into anything today" I mentioned as we waited for the water to boil

"That's true, mind you we have got the dinner tonight"

"Oh bum! I'd forgotten about that"

"It's only a meal"

"I know but everyone gets dressed up, what am I going to wear?"

"Well you did buy a dress on Wednesday" he mentioned

"It's a bit revealing"

"Women!" he rolled his eyes heavenward and I gave him a gentle shove

"Okay, I guess it's the dress then" I replied passing him his tea.

We got caught in a traffic jam leaving the services but no sooner were we back on the autobahn than we were leaving again to join the Stubaital toll road. They obviously spend the income on the road, it's wide and well maintained and this time of day, ten thirty on a Friday morning, quiet! I've been up here in the winter and it's like the M25, nose to tail all the way up the valley. The road suddenly steepened and we entered the first part of the new all weather tunnel. We got held up for a few minutes half way through, they are still working on it, then breaking out into the sunlight again, the end of the road, Mutterbergalm hove into sight.

I'm always amazed at the huge car parks up here miles from anywhere, but this is one of the most popular ski areas in the Tirol, the Jochdole. Time for instructions again. I unclipped the microphone and started as Den parked us in the top coach park.

"Can you all hear me?"

The usual chorus replied in the affirmative.

"Okay, this Mutterbergalm, we are here for two hours thirty, so we leave at, "I checked my watch, "one thirty"

"Psst!" Den hissed, "make it two"

"Sorry everyone, Den says we can stay a little longer until zwei heure, two o'clock. You can go by cable car just here to the glacier, there is a restaurant and shop up there. Or if you prefer there is a café here at the bottom. So two o'clock please" I finished.

"What are we doing" Den asked, "I fancy going up, I've never done this one"

"Okay, we can eat at the top"

Den locked the bus and we walked over to the ticket office where most of the passengers were still stood.

"Everything okay?"

"Hi Nena," Mrs Stubbings said, "no ones sure what ticket to get"

"Hang on then"

I went up to the bemused clerk

"Wievel kostet fur rundfahrt?"

"Alles?" she indicated the party behind me

"Ja" I did a quick count up, there were a couple missing but I heard them talking about walking up past the waterfalls.

"Funf und dreißig"

"Funf hundert Uro"

"Moment bitte"

I returned to the waiting group

"I've got a group rate, it works out at fifteen Euro's each for the round trip. Is that okay?" there were various muttered conversations but there was a general consensus.

"Okay, I'll pay, we can sort the money out later on the bus"

"Thank you Nena, I don't know how we'd cope without you" Mrs Stubbings stated and several more muttered agreement.

I returned to the clerk and did the deed, paying with my Visa card, it was only afterwards that I realised that my card said 'Mr Chris Hornby', luckily the clerk only checked the signature. Phew! Close call.

"Okay, you have a Fahrkarte each, just put it in the machine for the gate"

"Turnstile" Den supplied

"Yes turnstile, you will need it also to return. Go up the stairs to the, er how you say car hall?"

I passed the tickets out and Den and I followed them around to the turnstiles, which operate like those on the underground in London, eventually even the inept worked it out and we congregated in the boarding shed. The cars are pretty small a tight six, but comfortable four seater. After a few minutes Den, the Stubbings and I were in a car and jouncing out into the sunshine.

"Ooh I'm not sure I like this!" Mrs S mentioned

"Bit late now missus, you can't get out" her husband informed her.

The poor woman looked petrified.

"It's okay Mrs Stubbings, nothing to worry about, look up rather than down, here swap with Den" so Den and Mrs Stubbings did a seat swap so that she was looking up the mountain rather than down. It was eerie as the car silently climbed up the almost vertical face of the moraine then we popped out onto the first plateau and we could see the first stop ahead framed by the Jochdole behind.

On the cable car at Stubai

The station proudly proclaimed it was at 1900 odd metres, our destination, still a further five hundred metres higher. Mrs Stubbings was much calmer and less green as our car joined the queue in the interchange before once more popping out to continue the ascent. The sun was blinding where it reflected off the still fairly abundant snow above us and I was glad I'd brought my fleece up with me. When we left the little cocoon at the top and emerged from the building, we were greeted by a spectacular vista, little dots moved over the snow from up towards the peak, skiers of course, the whole landscape makes you lose any real sense of scale.

"Are they skiing?" Mrs Stubbings asked

"Yes, there is snow up here all year" I told her

"I've never seen real skiing, only on the telly" she confided

"Look here Agnes, it's twenty five degrees and we're 2345metres high. How much is that in English?"

"Nearly two miles" Den supplied

"Phew, so how high is the top up there?"

"I think about 3500 metres"

"Lets take a walk Agnes" Mr Stubbings suggested

"Okay Stan, thanks again Nena, we'll see you later"

"Ready to eat?" Den asked

"I hope everyone enjoyed themselves" I mentioned as we set off for the drive over the Brenner.

By the looks on all the smiling faces they had, good enough. I took the strappy sandals off and with a good hours drive started a drinks round. As passes go, the Brenner is nothing special at just 1300 metres but it's importance as a cross Alpine route means that the motorway is very busy and as we dropped towards Vipiteno the traffic started backing up until it was at a crawl. Eventually we entered the town and parked at the top of the town. Mind you I did have to collect everyone's cable car money, so I ended up rather cash rich!

"One hour please" I advised the passengers, "cross over the road and down the lane to the shops" that magic word again! After herding our charges in the right direction we locked the coach and Den fetched ice creams from the café before we started a leisurely stroll into the town ourselves.

If you want to buy presents this is the place, cheap wine and cheap leather goods, the town doesn't have a great deal more to offer! Don't get me wrong, it's pleasant enough but there's no fancy buildings or town walls, you know what I mean? Den and I didn't go as far as the clock tower, our destination was our preferred wine vendor and leather store.

I left Den to get our booze order filled and wandered upstairs to the leatherwear.

"Güten abend"

"Abend" I replied smiling to the cashier

I wandered around with no real intention in mind but found myself looking at a rail of clothing.

The assistant came over.

"Can I help at all?"

I slipped into full German Nena mode.

"I'm just looking thanks"

"We have other sizes if you see anything you like"


I wasn't even sure why I was looking but a creamy white dress in gorgeous soft leather caught my eye. I pulled it out; it was enough to get my loins excited just holding the empty garment.

"You like?"

"I like a lot!" I told her. I looked at the price. Ouch! Two fifty Euro's. "It's a bit expensive for me though"

"You are Reiseleiter?"

"Yes, for Global from England"

"But you are German yes?"

Well why not?

"Yes, I am just temporary for this tour" well that was true enough.

"You try the dress, the changing room is just at the back"

Do I want to do this? More to the point why? I took the dress and headed to the changing room.

I thought that the red dress felt good the other day, this was something else! I have no idea why, I mean after the weekend I'll be back to Chris Hornby male tour host, but I had to have this dress! I reluctantly changed back into my skort and t and returned to the clothing rail.

"You like it, the size is good?"

"Yes to both but" I simply shrugged my shoulders

"For you the price is one hundred seventy Euro" she offered

I bit my lip, ooh was I tempted!

"One fifty?" I tried

"One seventy five with the shoes"

Well they'd make excellent presents!


Ten minutes later I rejoined a toe-tapping Den in the wine cellar.

"At last, Sergio will give us a lift back to the bus"


"What have you been buying, not more women's stuff?"

"Might have" I countered

He did the eye-rolling bit again as we followed Sergio out to the Alfa estate that was to be our taxi. Five minutes later and we were loading our alcohol into the crew locker; I tipped Sergio a twenty note, all parties happy.

"So what did you get?"

"Another dress and shoes"


"Hey remember me, Chris!" I mentioned

"Why the hell did you buy more women's stuff?"


"Whatever, here come the punters"

Well they kept their hundred percent time keeping record allowing us to leave Vipiteno at five past four. Instead of using the autostrada we headed out on the old road, it would take longer but it's a nicer ride. The little border town of Brenner is totally forgettable but the succeeding towns and villages are much more pleasant. The other reason for returning this way is that if you knew how the motorway clings to the mountains you might not want to be on it! In places it is cantilevered for the full six-lane width, scary!

Almost unnoticed we drove under the Europabrucke, Den pulled into the little kiosk just afterwards. From down here the bridge really does look impressive.

"Fifteen minutes please" I advised them before they descended on the kiosk for ice creams! Apparently they do bungee jumping off of the bridge, way scary! From here we had less than an hours drive back to Seefeld, arriving a bit before six.

"Dinner tonight is at sieben heure, see you all later"

Maddy Bell 11.02.04
Photo's © Maddy Bell 2002
© 2004

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