Travel Tips Part 13: Salzburg, Austria

Here you are about to fulfil your childhood dream of coming to Salzburg; the town where you’re all-time favourite film was shot: The Sound Of Music. Unfortunately you will not be able to join an upper-class family of singers, nor fall in love with the handsome-brutish man of the household, but you’re still able to bask in the awesome beauty of the town. You arrive early in the morning and are instantly greeted with the soft falling of snow, which although is very romantic, becomes stressful when your Doc’s slip on the icy ground. After a couple of near falls, you finally reach your hostel and gladly spend the afternoon chilling out – something you’ve become quite accustomed to as of late. At lunch time you walk into the main street and order a vegan meal at an overly-friendly restaurant, before texting an old friend to catch up for drinks.

You met Alan 5 years ago when you went on exchange to Reunion Island for a month, back in year 12. You got along with him well enough then to have some long conversations in broken French and English, so you’re looking forward to seeing how he’s changed in the past 5 years. You meet on the other side of the river, and are once again confronted with the timeless, traveller’s debate of whether or not to go in for a hug or a kiss. You go with the hug, surprising both Alan and his Austrian girlfriend Sophie – a kiss always seems like too much, and a hug is much friendlier. You notice that Alan hasn’t changed much since you last saw him; only his hair is lighter and his English has improved tremendously. You’re able to string a few sentences together in French, but make a mental note that you need to start practising again to become the ultimate goal of fluent.

You spend the next hour or so walking into various expensive clothing stores in search for a Christmas present to Alan from Sophie – apparently he’s quite picky with his attire, despite the fact that she dresses him in the classiest, designer gear.. You stop for a hot chocolate, before wandering through the Salzburg Christmas markets, where Sophie shows you traditional Austrian desserts, and tells you history of the old buildings surrounding the square. After gobbling up as much food as you can handle, you drive back to Sophie’s parent’s house in a town about 15 minutes from Salzburg.

The house is small and cosy and holds not only her well-polished parents, but 6 chiwawa’s, who all at once scamper about the floor excitedly as someone enters the front door. Despite your initial irk at the rat-like creatures, you eventually find them charming and docile, enough to tolerate their affections anyway. The force-feeding does not end here, as Sophie’s parents are insistent that you try homemade apple strudel and traditional Austrian bread which are, of course, delicious. After cider and one of Sophie’s mother’s, elegant cigarettes, you’re all ready to head out again in search for warm gluhwein. After mugs of hot wine at the Christmas markets, you find a trendy bar for dinner where you have pumpkin gnocchi and a beer. Feeling completely stuffed, Sophie graciously drives you back to your hostel where you fall asleep immediately.

Having no set plans for the next day, you wake up late and take a wander through Salzburg, making sure to stop off at the Sound of Music sights – you decided to save yourself the 35 Euros by taking a Sound of Music tour for free by yourself. After walking around aimlessly for a couple of hours, you eventually find the icy, steep path that leads up to the castle on top of a large hill. You pay a small fee of 7 Euros and wander around the medieval castle soaking in bloody history. You reach the top and are rewarded with a breathtaking view of Salzburg; each building top covered with soft, white snow. Back down the hill, you opt for some modern art by going to the Museum of Contemporary Art. You see classic artists such as Emil Noble, as well as new artists such as Evan Penny – a Canadian sculptor specializing in creating larger-than-life expositions of the human form, warped into headache-inducing dimensions. (i)

(i)                  Google his name – incredible stuff.

After your day of walking and high-brow art, you walk in the snow back to your hostel to catch up with friends on Skype, before leaving in search for dinner. You find a small, pleasant café/bar around the corner, where the surly waiter ignores you for a good 10 minutes before you are able to ask for an English menu. You make a mental note to be stingy with your tip. You wait for your meal for an hour before you can tuck in to mushroom risotto. You ask for the bill, but when you hand over your credit card you’re told that the restaurant doesn’t accept card – cash only. You spend the next 20 minutes wading through the snow in search for a cash machine, until a man walking his dog helps you out – here your basic German comes in handy: “Bankomat bitte?”  (ATM please?) get’s the job done. You fall asleep early that night and wake up at 8 in preparation for your journey to Brussels, then onto London.

Having pre-prepared yourself earlier on, you wake up on time and leave the room to have a shower and brush your teeth. Panicking that you’re going to be late, you hastily grab the rest of your gear then walk to the train station, accompanied by a friendly guy working at the hostel. When you get to the station, you sit down, light a cigarette and check that you have everything on you. Your face flushes red, and the hairs at the back of your neck stand up when you realise your iPhone is missing. This doesn’t bother you as much as you’d expect it to, as you know you must have left it on your bed in the hostel when you were leaving this morning. Your train is here anyway, so relax for now and call them when they’ve had time to check your room. An hour later, do just that. Become downtrodden when they say that your iPhone is not in your room at all. Check through your bags once again – not there. At this point it’s clear that someone from your dorm has stolen your iPhone, having had no particular attachment to (blank) objects, you don’t care too much as you still have your UK phone to contact people. You’re yet to realise how much you rely on your iPhone, but seeing as this hasn’t dawned on you yet, you’re relieved in a way that you will no longer have to be pedantically checking your Facebook or making sure that it’s on you.

The stolen iPhone is soon forgotten when you realise you’re on the wrong train – instead of taking you to Frankfurt, this train is taking you north up to Kassel; a town you’ve never heard of in Germany somewhere. Having already booked your ticket from Brussels to London that night, you realise you’re going to miss your train, so you call up Eurostar and organise to board the last train to London that evening. Brussels train station are currently in the process of organising a strike for the next day – the orginal day you planned on traveling – so Eurostar change your ticket for no extra charge. You get off at the next station, then board another train to Frankfurt. At this point it’s clear that you’re going to miss the last train to London, as it takes a couple of hours to get to Frankfurt, and will take another 5 or 6 hours to get to Brussels from there. Running out of options and trying to keep your cool, you call Eurostar for the 100th time and calmly ask them what they think you should do.  The woman on the other end of the line hesitates for a moment before honestly telling you that you’re somewhat fucked. Your only option is to get to Paris and book another ticket to London that way – they will reimburse you for the troubles. You get to Frankfurt and ask when the next train is to Paris, but you find that by the time you arrive the last train to London will have already left.

Not fancying spending a night in slimy Paris, you resolutely give up and find a nearby hotel for the night in Frankfurt. You pay for a single, smoking room with free wifi, buy Burger King for dinner and get yourself more organised. After a long, shit day, you fall asleep.

Don’t get too comfortable; at 5am you wake up, shower and take the first train to Paris. Everything at this point goes smoothly; on the train you watch the last episodes of Breaking Bad (ii)

(ii)                Incredible!

and get chatting to a group of German girls who teach you some basic German. By the time you get into Paris you’re ready to lie down and relax back in London – but oh no, the fun certainly doesn’t stop there. At the international border you are incessantly bullied by the border security about every inch of your life, up to the point where you almost tell him what you had for breakfast. After telling you you’re coming off as a suspicious person, you drop all smiles and politeness, give him dead-eyes and answer the rest of his invading questions with a trembling shake in your voice. After finally letting you through you get your bags scanned, then call Greg for a good cry – you’ve finally had enough. By the time you get back into London you realise how much you’re missing home, and how tempting it is to change your flights. You’ll snap out of it soon – you had a bad day.

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