We arrived 30 minutes late into Zurich – very unlike anything badged as Swiss! We had 45 minutes to get through customs, collect bags, authenticate our Rail Pass and get on the train. How reassuring it is to know that everything in Switzerland runs on time and is prompt, efficient and organised. 5 minutes through. Five minutes through customs, 5 minutes to collect bags and at the rail station by 7am ready for our 7:28 train ride to Salzburg via Munich.
This gave us sufficient time for Claire to purchase a much eagerly awaited salted Bretzel at 2 SF each and long enough for Philip to discover that he really liked them (when he thought he wouldn’t) and needed to go back for more. For me I selected a salami baguette which turned out to be magnificent – salami, pickle, tomato, lettuce and mayo (a picking plate in a roll…yum)
It’s hard to believe that we are actually here after the massive December that we have had. Working till midnight each night there almost wasn’t enough time to contemplate what we were about to do. Now sitting in first class in a Swiss train looking out at picture postcard scenery that includes a huge snow capped mountain range and a beautiful glacial lake it’s almost surreal that we are on the other side of the world looking at something that your mind struggles to comprehend. This is why we work!
The only thing disturbing this incredible image is a couple of Americans (one named Candy) who have lost their luggage and want to ring everyone they know in America to complain about it’s not their fault and how Swiss undies just don’t fit the way American undies do…really!! All this done on speaker phone. If you have been in Switzerland before you can imagine how thrilled the Swiss in the carriage are to be listening to such important crap! Not just the Swiss for that matter…the Aussies on the carriage aren’t all that thrilled either!
An hour and a half into the train trip we crossed into Germany on our way to Munich. Gotta tell you this is unbelievably pleasant – the chug of the train, comfortable seats, good foods, an incredible view and not having to rush to be somewhere or do something. What better way to start a holiday.
Some things remained the same looking out the window – the cuckoo clock houses, the beautiful churches with their magnificent steeples and gold clock hands and the green fields dispersed with dashes of white snow. What did change was the terrain. It became much flatter – more like Holland’s terrain and there were a significant number of houses and barns covered with solar panels on their rooves. There must be some kind of rebate for them here because there was a stark difference from one country to the next.
We arrived at Munich Hbf (main train station) and made our way to the Regional line. When this train was 20 minutes late and still no sign of it, we decided to get on the 12:18 Euro city train which was crowded with many other people who shared a similar idea. With the lack of clarity and crowd, Claire was feeling a little unsure and wanted to bail altogether but talking to a conductor who said “get on and try and find a seat” we did so only to find that this train was also running late – hmm things are starting to conspire against us at the last minute when all we want to do is get to Salzburg, have a shower and start sharing in the xmas spirit. Trains late – we definitely can’t be in Switzerland anymore!!
We finally left at 12:40 and I know that Claire would be in the other carriage stressing that we were on the wrong train or that something would happen and the carriage would split leaving her by herself. Everything would be fine though – arrival in Salzburg should be around 2:20 so just a matter of watching around this time and then getting off – easy!
As it was we found out that there had been a death on the track and this held up the trains as there needed to be an investigation. We also struck luck when I got chatting to the people in my carriage who then kept me informed as to when Salzburg would be the next stop.
From the station we walked about 2km into the old town to find the Hotel Elefant – the facade just as we remembered it. It first captures your eye with the beautiful intricate and totally fitting shingle hanging above the door – ornate yet cute; the elefant sitting pride of place in the middle of the logo. Walking into the small entrance, you are hit by the style which depicts the age of the building. Things are small and yet befitting of a hotel in the old town. Our rooms 408 and 407 looked out onto alleyway. Claire’s single room was especially cute with the single bed tucked into the corner and the room narrow but fitted out with everything you could need.
After a quick refreshing shower, we headed off to the market to have a look around. It didn’t take Claire long to appreciate the place in all its glory and to ponder how much you would buy if you weren’t just beginning a RTW adventure.
Salzburg is the dream of everything Xmas. Whilst there isn’t snow this year, it doesn’t loose much in the way that it encapsulates and wraps its arms around you and wants to share the Xmas spirit with everyone who enters beyond the arches into the old town.
With the day tour buses departing those that remain are true “Santa” aficionados. They don’t just want to see Salzburg – they have specifically chosen to be in Salzburg at Xmas time. We are no different. At what seems like 8pm when it’s really around 4pm, the darkness illuminates the mass lighting and the markets come alive. People stand around clutching their Gluwein (hot punch drink) with two hands whilst others munch into a massive wurst, waffle chocked full with berries and cream on top or any assortment of Bretzel, crepe or choc dipped fruit. Yep life is good!
Enveloping the market is the large Dom (church) and a walled perimeter of tiny little huts covered in spruce Xmas trees. High above on the cliff face, the Hohensaltzburg fortress protects the city. This is one beautiful city. We started off small in the food department; wedges, chicken wings, chocolate mixed fruit and then pasta within body of the Old Town. We then went back to purchase our first Xmas ornament before finally succumbing to what had been a very long 48 hours…but entirely worth the effort!
Ah yes, there’s nothing like a Winter Xmas! (even if the snow is thin on the ground)