So we find ourselves at London Gatwick on a Sunday morning in September, stocking up with the obligatory Wetherspoons breakfast. It is the first time that Ma and Pa Lee have travelled outbound from an airport other than Birmingham, and there are exclamations of wonder as comparisons are made (“oooh look at the planes – they look just like the ones at home…”). Ma Lee is so excited that I worry she may pee, like an over-enthusiastic but non house trained puppy. We have not yet left UK soil. Wait til Ma and Pa Lee discover that, unlike their package holiday flights to Greece, British Airways will also supply them with complimentary snacks and beverages…
Less than 2 hours later, we touchdown at W.A.Mozart airport. We can’t wait until the doors are thrown open and we can smell that fresh alpine air. The doors are thrown open. It is raining. It is not just raining; it is a deluge. Luckily, it is a matter of moments before we are deposited by shuttle bus at the terminal, and we await a reunion with our luggage. I frantically unpack my suitcase on the luggage hall floor in order to locate and don my fetching waterproof anorak. Ma Lee insists on calling this a “wet-coat” (as in “put your wet-coat on; it’ll keep you dry…”) despite us insisting that a “dry-coat” would be much more suitable under these particular meteorological circumstances.
There is some confusion outside with regards to taxis, despite the system being identical to England (that being: locate first taxi in queue, gesticulate to driver to indicate that you require their assistance, bundle luggage and self into car, clearly enunciate and slightly over-exaggerate your final destination, being prepared to demonstrate by the power of mime if necessary…). However we are soon out of the rain and being whisked through the drizzly outskirts of Salzburg. Ma and Pa Lee are suspiciously quiet and are staring in wonderment out of the car window. Mr Taxi Driver uses his remote control clicker to give our vehicle access to the (mostly) pedestrianized narrow streets of the old town and we are soon pulling up outside the Hotel Elefant at Sigmund-Haffner-Gasse, just a few steps away from the famous shopping street Getreidegasse. Less than 15 euros, and just a 15-minute transfer from airport to hotel. A smooth start to our trip. Apart from the rain, which is showing no sign of letting up.
Too early to check in, we stow our suitcases in the lobby, and decide to risk the biblical rainstorm to find somewhere for a “welcome to Austria” drink. My “wet-coat” is doing a frankly crap job of keeping me dry, and I am lured in by a very clever bit of shopping psychology whereby Ma Lee and I cannot resist the display of “I Heart Salzburg” umbrellas outside one of the (many) souvenir shops on Getreidegasse. I convince myself that we do not look like tourists in the slightest. However “I Heart Salzburg” keeps me a little drier than my “wet-coat” until we find the warm, inviting interior of Carpe Diem Finest Fingerfood beckoning. It is not their finest fingerfood that we are after (although we were impressed that they serve chips in a glass cone! And ketchup in a separate glass! How fancy…) but three beers and a glass of white wine for Mrs Fletche. And then a second round, just to wash down the first. With the rain appearing to have eased off to just a slight monsoon now, we decide that it would be a good time to pop back and check in to our hotel.
Finish checking in – we will later have to return to reception to procure the Wi-Fi code, which we will then spend three days juggling between us as only one device can log in at a time – and a quick unpacking/freshen-up break later and we are ready to hit the sightseeing trail. Anyone familiar with the Fletche’s travel style will know that an itinerary is of paramount importance. Ma and Pa Lee have been furnished with a duplicate copy (in a handy waterproof wallet!) in case of separation. Therefore, we have a purpose when we leave the hotel and wander for a second time up Getreidegasse. Destination – the Mönchsberg Elevator. Just over 2 euros per person whisks you up on a one-way journey through solid rock to spectacular views over Salzburg. Yes, despite the drizzle and mist, the views are still spectacular and postcard-perfect. I glance over at Ma Lee. She wipes a solitary tear, dripping from a glassy eye. I am concerned she has contracted some sort of eye infection, but no, she is overcome with emotion and fulfilment of her lifelong dream. Awww, bless her.
We take the wooded path, winding around the old city walls, until we find the steps that lead us back down to the old town. We have now completed this afternoon’s itinerary. Walk any further and we are in danger of completing tomorrow’s itinerary too. Salzburg is smaller than anticipated. It is Bruges all over again. Everyone looks at me in anticipation to guide on our next destination and I have to admit that there is no further plan for the rest of the day. I make a rash decision to abandon the itinerary “as long as we stay on this side of the river”. The other side of the river is DEFINITELY out of bounds tonight. So we take a wander through to Residenzplatz, and to Mozartplatz. There are a number of tents and stalls being set up, yet everywhere is so quiet. True, the weather is inclement, but there are hardly any people about at all. Shops, bars and restaurants are dark inside. The city is clearly gearing up for some sort of exciting event, but for now it is like a ghost town. It is a Sunday, so I can only suggest that Salzburg does indeed take its day of rest seriously. So we too decide to take a short period of rest before venturing out once more in search of food.
Our dinner options are limited with it being Sunday, but there are a number of eateries available on Judengasse, including our final choice, Zum Mohren, offering an eclectic Austrian/Italian/Indian choice of menu. We all select meals from the traditional Austrian menu, and find the food to be good, if nothing special. We are just grateful to not be wandering around in search of victuals any longer. It’s been a long day full of exciting new experiences for Ma and Pa Lee, so we call it a night after our food to test out our comfy bed. We arrange a time to meet for breakfast, and leave Ma and Pa Lee to raid their mini-bar.
More to come…including skipping around gardens and walking (yes, WALKING) to Hellbrunn…you can find that here!