Danube Tour, day 5

I was pretty exhausted when the tour ship arrived in Linz but I had three full hours and I really wanted to get my shoe repaired. Only the strap was broken but my feet were killing me from having to wear my " good " shoes on the tour of the Stift Melk, with its amazing library but oh, so many stairs.

My German was terrible but I had a map from the steward and the approximate address of the shoemaker from Eva, the woman on board who talked incessantly over lunch about her long stay in Linz some years previous, during a passionate love affair with someone she had met at the train station.

I hurried off as soon as we landed up towards the bridge where I had been told the street leading directly to the "Hauptplatz" began. This was the city centre from where, according to my map, it should have been easy to find my way to the shoemaker.

However, it was Saturday morning and there was a large busy flea market in the main square and I became immediately distracted with the table full of old record albums and musical instruments. I spent too much time digging through the boxes of 78s to see if I could find the particular copy of Wagner my nephew wanted.

When I became aware of the time, I also became aware that I no longer had my map in my hand, and frantically went through the many boxes again. But it was no use. I figured it was hopelessly lost between the piles of cardboard album covers and I had no time to keep looking. I would have to ask someone.

I went out of the central area, past the Wolfinger Hotel which Eva had told me was "their" special place, past the next street and around the corner to the right, remembering only the general direction I needed to go, and stopped on a street called the Promenade. I dug in my purse for the small "German For Travellers" I had been carrying for the last two weeks, and looked under the section called, "Finding Your Way". Wo meant where, so..."Wo ist der Shoe-maker ?", I mumbled under my breathe to practice, and at the same time scanned the busy street for a helpful looking face. No, I better check the word for "shoe" in German. Schuh. O.K. I was ready.

I looked around and at that moment a young woman came out of a Coffee house beside me, carrying some books. The " Traxlmayr" was the name of the Cafe and I recognized it as the place Eva said she and her lover had discussed living together. I wanted to go in but resisted in order to ask for directions.

"Wo ist der Schuh Reparierer ?" The woman looked startled for a moment, and I realized she was in a hurry. "We Bitte?" "Wo ist der Schuh Reparierer ? Ich need my Schuh repariered ", I said, and blushed with embarrassment at my bad German. " You want a shoe repair?", she said in English, apparently aware that I was a tourist, and showing mercy. "Yes", I blurted back with a sigh of relief and as grateful a smile as I could muster in my embarassment. "Ja,ja...You must...", she began, and then quickly gave me detailed directions, pointing and gesturing , first left, then straight then right, then ...? I was thoroughly confused by the time she hurriedly ran off, with a quick, "Auf Wiedersehen", and something else I didnt understand.

Left, straight, right. I reviewed her gestures, and began walking in what seemed to be back towards the Danube. However, I found myself going further and further uphill. I past a Theatre, and tried to remember if I had read anything in the tour books about the arts in Linz. I could only recall something about a Bruckner opera or something. My feet were throbbing.

Scheiße! (the one word I could say and think in perfect German), I realised I was actually walking out of the shopping area. I knew then that I was headed the wrong way. I also was getting very angry at myself for being in such bad shape. These Austrians probably bring everyone out of the retirement homes to jog up and down this hill every day before tea ! I grumbled at myself as I hobbled back down the hill, with feet, ego and national pride now all hurting!

I could see the Danube on my left and considered going directly to the ship, but by the time I got back to the Hauptplatz I decided to ask once more.

There were outdoor tables in front of the hotel, and I appoached a waiter. I was too tired to try the German again, so I asked him in English.

The waiter smiled with that certain European charm that melts foolish North American woman and answered me in perfect English, " There is a Shoe Repair shop very close to the river , if you walk a little to the left when you pass the Art University and down the hill you will see it on your right."

Danke Schön", I said with as much enthusiasm as I could manage and turned to try again. However, thoughts of the cold beer he held as he talked to me along with my sore feet made me stop. I turned around and found an empty table. As long as I make it in time to get through the gate in time to catch my ship, I can get the stupid shoe fixed in Passau, I rationalized.

The smartly dressed waiters went nimbly from table to table, and I drank my beer, gazing at them and lost in reverie... wondering if Eva and Adolf ever drank beer together here?