Interrail day twenty-one – Venice(ish) to Salzburg

18 May

Today has already started better than yesterday.

I had initially thought the hotel breakfast was very disappointing – there were labels for croissants and orange juice but no sign of them. I took a wee packet of double-baked bread and a glass of water, feeling hard done by, and turned back to my table to see that two large croissants, three rolls and a jug of blood-orange juice had magically appeared 😂

I made sure I was at the station nice and early, after yesterday’s debacle. Getting my reservation took a while because the woman wasn’t familiar with making reservations for Interrail passes (they seem less commonly used than I would have thought) but I still had time to pick up some lunch from an actual person. He easily upsold me from a sandwich to a meal deal because I barely ate yesterday. He had to repeat everything, but he didn’t have to switch to English, so that was cool. If you want to practise your Italian, go to Venice.

I waited around on the correct platform until the next train came up on the board – and it was a completely different one. Along with everybody else on the platform, I rechecked the departures board and hurriedly made my way to the new platform. But I had left my Coke behind! A nice lady watched my bag while I sprinted from platform 4 to platform 2 and back again, arriving just as the train pulled in. So much for a nice, relaxed start! 🤣

This train obviously isn’t Italian. It is on time, quiet, and perfectly air conditioned (the seven-hour train yesterday was uncomfortably chilly, even though it was 25° outside) and they not only make station announcements in good time, they even have an announcements speaker in the (clean and pleasant) toilet. I tried to take advantage of the peace to have a little snooze before lunch but it wasn’t happening, probably because of two cups of coffee at breakfast. It was just as well because the scenery is intense. As always, it’s hard to capture it from a moving train, but I’ve had a go.

The change at Villach went as smoothly as if it were on rails (groan!). The Salzburg train was just across the platform  and this had already been announced before we got there. (I was more confident about this five-minute change than I had been about the 45-minute change I was originally supposed to have in Bologna, and with good reason.) The next train was a bit more basic, not being an international one, and too hot, but ok. The scenery out the window was like a theatre backdrop for ‘In the Austrian Alps’, and impossible to photograph as only a fraction of the towering mountains could be seen through each window.

I’ve never been to Austria before, and I thought it wouldn’t be possible this time as Vienna is just too far east, until Ripley Under Ground reminded me of the existence of Salzburg, at the very western edge of Austria. It sounds like a lovely city, and though I am not a Sound of Music fan like my sister Susan, I do fancy the idea of wandering around the Altstadt (old town).

Salzburg makes quite a bit of money out of Von Trapps.

So far, Austria feels a lot less like Germany than I imagined. Yes, the trains run on time but it’s more untidy and slapdash. It’s as if someone took Germany and added a large dash of Italy.

Finding my hotel was not straightforward because reception closes at 4pm (what a ridiculous time!) and then the gates are shut and you have to get your key from the key safe. I walked all round the block looking for it, getting crosser and crosser. The image of the hotel from the website showed a statue but I couldn’t find any statue. I eventually found it after asking directions twice, and it turned out I had missed it because it was too grand – and you can only see the statue once you get inside 🙄

Does this look like the entrance to a hotel?

I wanted a nice cup of coffee by this point, but the room only had herbal tea! It’s better then nothing, but it’s a mystery to me how this place gets race reviews with a reception that closes so early and no coffee!

Anyway, after an unsatisfying beverage, I headed out to see Salzburg. I’m staying on the newer side of the river (although it’s not very new round here – mostly 17th and 18th century) so I crossed the uninteresting Staatsbrücke to the Altstadt. It was indeed pretty, although there were too many tourists (such as myself!).

I did a little bit of shopping at a novelty chocolate shop, since I’m now nearly home and don’t mind carrying an extra bag for a couple of days. Then I got busy photographing stuff for you lot.

Salzburg suffers from the same problem of scale as Brussels. Buildings are not just too big to photograph easily, they’re too big to look at easily. And old Salzburg is not a big place. I think the wee alleys (gassen) look much prettier than the enormous, grand buildings.

Of course, Salzburg is the birthplace of Mozart and they do not intend to let you forget it. As well as the official memorials, every few shops there’s a Mozart somethingorother.

Without a guide or tourist map or even any public information boards (apart from about random people connected to the university) I know little more about Salzburg tonight than I did yesterday. But at least I had seen it.

I finished off the evening with a traditional Austrian meal of Wienerschnitzel on the Goldgasse. It was probably yesterday’s inadvertent fast that made me think getting a starter would be a good idea. Of course, it was not (even though the asparagus foam soup was lovely), especially as they served everyone with bread, cold meat and two types of whipped butter while they were waiting. I did my best with the enormous schnitzel when it arrived, my soon had to admit defeat and just about roll back to the hotel.

I did climb a hill on the way back, to work off some calories and take in the view, and while I didn’t go all the way up to the (other) schloss, I did see various statue groups depicting the stations of the cross. Salzburg is far, far more Catholic than I expected, by the way. That statue with the devil being flung down, for instance, depicts the good angels trembling in awe of Mary. Either the Reformation didn’t make much headway here, or they carefully preserved their Catholic heritage in spite of it.

It’s been fun popping into Venice and Salzburg at random, but tomorrow I have to turn my steps (rails) towards the chilly north-west corner of Europe, ready to make my way home. At least I will be able to have chocolate again; there was no point in Greece or Albania because it would just have melted 😂

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