Dubai airport is a hopping place at midnight. The local security service have endeared themselves to me by confiscating my small scissors. The overnight flight from Dubai to Vienna is on time, uncrowded, and uneventful. Austrian Air serves a huge breakfast. The blankets are lettuce green and the seatbelts are bright red; I feel a bit like a Christmas tree ornament.
The Vienna airport is compact and lightly trafficked (think a downtown version of Shannon)On arriving Vienna 0600, I was able to follow Rick Steves’ directions for transfer to connecting bus, then train onward. (Steph: we can do this no problem.) Left Vienna 0745, arrived Salzburg before 1100. The forest around Vienna is entirely hardwood — it must be spectacular in autumn. Beautiful rolling green countryside. And I do mean green… must be 16 shades of it. The forest changes over to mostly evergreen by Salzburg.
I started off in Salzburg with a bang, by losing my glasses! Fortunately, the dear lady at Tourism Info saved them, so I was able to make a graceful recovery. The hotel is a quiet family-run operation recommended by Rick. I was able to check in on arrival. It’s a holiday here — Pentecost they call it here, even if it is a Monday, so little is open. I had lunch at a Wurst stand, and was grateful to find that much (bratwurst and kraut on a bun with a cold beer, but you would have all bet money on that one!).
It is high spring here. Everyone (else) is going about in jackets. Gardens here are lush; they must get quite a lot of rain. The thickness of the undergrowth in the forest reminds me of upstate South Carolina … absolutely impenetrable. The rose gardens at the Mirabell (Archbishop’s) palace are red, full-blown, and fragrant. Since it’s a holiday, many are dressed in their Sunday best — some Tyrolean jackets, some fashionably very well-dressed matrons. (I found out later there was a spring Salzberg festival just ending, I might have arranged a ticket if I’d known.) It’s a holiday, everyone takes their family, their prams, their bikes to the park. Birds sing. Bliss.
The old city center is a wonderful stroll. I manage to find the funicular up to the Hohensaltzburg fortress ontop the mountain. The views from here are abolutely stupendous. This is possibly the prettiest place I’ve ever seen (nothing like a dose of 16 shades of sand to lead one to superlatives, eh?). Afterwards I manage to find the cathedral, Salzburger Dom. This is the first of the German baroque churches I’ve been in. And it was the largest church north of Rome — to say it was richly decorated is an historic understatement. (I’m left wondering if the churches in Britain looked like this before the destruction of Henry and the Puritans.)
They have a seafood quick-snack near (think Pret A Manger for fish) which makes a nice dinner, before I head over to the only evening service available: high mass at the Franciscankirche. So I was able to enjoy the original baroque gilt-wood altarpiece (see in the link) along with the full choir, organ, three priests and two altar young-men (seminarians? too old to be called altar-boys). Of the four hymns, I recognized one, but the music from the others was in a style that would be familiar to anyone who had spent any time at all with a Lutheran Hymnal. The cantor is a counter-tenor with a lovely voice. Fortunately the sermon was short. I must make a note to catch up on my liturgical German.