MAKING UP FOR LOST TIME
Talk about retail therapy. I didn't expect to go shopping in Linz on my first full day in Europe, but I did. Everything was at bargain basement prices, and before I knew it, I’d filled up my suitcase with colorful summery clothes and it was only Day 1 of our Europe trip.
Then we checked out and got into the car, with A driving and me in the front seat as usual as the navigator. Looking at the map, it was only then I realized that we were passing by Salzburg on the way to Munich. I smiled at my two friends and suddenly said: “Let’s go to Salzburg for lunch.”
And that was how we ended up in Salzburg today, unplanned. I hadn’t been to Salzburg in about five years so another visit was nice. Although, of course, it’s not the kind of city that changes much in that span of time so almost everything was the same.
But the last time I was in Salzburg, it was at the end of November and it was freezing cold, but the lovely Christmas markets were all in place. It was beautiful.
ROMANTIC AND HAPPY
Salzburg was equally beautiful today, with the sun smiling down on it. Couples strolled happily by the river and practically the entire city was sitting outside enjoying meals or a coffee in one of the many al fresco cafes and restaurants. It had such a happy and romantic feeling about it today.
As for lunch, well, it was our one lunch in Austria, so we all wanted something pretty traditional. The choices were one of the restaurants of the Hotel Sacher along the river or of the Goldener Hirsch, a member of the Luxury Collection and right along the main commercial street of Salzburg.
These are two of the best places to stay in and, with us in a rush to find someplace good quickly, I thought either of these would be safe choices. We certainly didn't want a tourist trap kind of restaurant, especially not in this very touristy town.
TAFELSPITZ FOR LUNCH
The decision was left to me so I decided to go to the Goldener Hirsch as it’s right in the center of town. We could walk around after lunch, putter around the shops and visit the birthplace of Mozart. My friends were pleased with my choice as the restaurant was very traditional – all wood paneling and carvings.
When I looked at the menu, I saw they had my favorite tafelspitz. Ordinarily I would have jumped for joy, but I do know that proper tafelspitz is so hard to find in these parts as it’s basically a Viennese dish. I've never had a good tafelspitz outside of Vienna yet.
But I ordered it anyway, for my one real meal in Austria; and just as I suspected, it arrived in a completely different style from the tafelspitz I love in Vienna, which is soupy, full of beef with ligaments, and served with all kinds of condiments on the side.
This one today was okay, but the meat was lean and cut like a thick roast beef, and we were only given a creamy dill sauce and some grated horseradish.
SO NEAR AND YET SO FAR
Then, just as I was finishing lunch, my phone pinged and it was my friend J on BBM from somewhere else in the world far from home but not too far from me.
He messaged: “Are you still in Austria or are you now in Germany? The Hapsburgs were like the Romanovs. Dysfunctionality ruled their world."
I had to smile. This was a BBM between two exotic places in the same general vicinity, after all, and it sounded like the start of another one of our pretty descriptive exchanges. I showed J’s message to my two friends without showing them his name, and they were simply behooved. One of them said: “Who texts like that?”
Actually, we BBM like this quite a bit. I think J's practicing his vocabulary on me -- or perhaps he's just trying to impress me. But, anyway, to J, I replied: “Having lunch at the Goldener Hirsch in Salzburg on the way to Munich. So-so tafelspitz as of course this should be eaten in Vienna.”
THE SOUND OF TOURISTS
He messaged back: “What are you doing in Salzburg? Reminiscing about the Sound of Music?” He was just teasing me. We both know that very few Austrians actually know about the movie The Sound of Music, and that the movie plot is a very glamorized and romanticized version of the actual Von Trapp family.
In Salzburg, locals look with amusement at the tourists paying top dollar to see the Sound of Music monuments. The tour itself is actually interesting and enjoyable, but it's like going to visit movie sets rather than seeing anything historical.
That said, I have to say that The Sound of Music is one of my all-time favorite movies. I love the scenery and, actually, I like the baroness in the story very much. I always thought she was perfect for the Captain. But that’s another one of life’s missed opportunities for you -- which, by the way, is something J and I had a philosophical BBM discussion about almost all the way to Munich from Salzburg.