Lokal Weinachten

Trip Start Dec 16, 2007
Trip End Feb 24, 2008

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Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Firstly I'd like to wish you all a Merry Christmas / Fröhe Weinachten. I hope that your Christmas Eve or Christmas Day celebrations have been filled with family and fun. I hear that in Perth it is to be 45 degrees! Don't die on us; your temperature is the opposite of our -2 here in Salzburg. Crazy!

The dramatic site on which Salzburg has been constructed was not apparent to us until we once again walked through the city in the daylight. The central area, the Altstadt is walled in by 3 peaks and a river, creating a stunning backdrop to almost any photo one may feel inclined to take during their visit. Perhaps it's because I've never seen the Sound of Music but the proximity of the hillsides and the backdrop they provide came as a welcome shock to me.

Before we had the chance to look in awe at the city's surrounds we of course needed to nourish ourselves. Today's breakfast was a buffet at our Mercure Hotel, which was pretty standard for a hotel of this nature. Unfortunately it was unable to live up to the Hotel Villa Butterfly's buffet masterpiece, which included profiteroles, cake, biscuits and decent sausages, as it stinged on the sweet stuff, although the staff were more efficient at keeping the food trays full. Indeed the supposedly 4-star Mercure is overall less than the also 4-star Villa Butterfly, it seems more like an over-rated Ibis and I definitely can't get any kind of spa treatment here!

The digestion of our enormous breakfasts did little to warm us against the biting cold, which degraded our body heat rapidly despite the lack of wind or wind chill. As such by the time we got back to the Christmas Market some of us were quite cold. Thankfully, we had stopped in at a few warm shops on our journey into the Altstadt to purchase some presents that Mum had spied the night before. The parents took their time in choosing the Christmas decorations that they wanted to purchase at the markets and during this period I was growing colder and grumpier. Finally the parents were finished so we moved onto the Festungsbahn, a funicular that runs from the Altstadt up to the Festung (fortress). For the bahn we decided to purchase Salzburg Cards, which not only gave us free trips on the Festungsbahn, but also free and discounted entry to several museums around town, as well as free travel on the city's bus and trolleybus "Obus" network.

Our visit to the Festung was limited with little time after our tea break to walk around and admire the view and the historic structures before we had to head back down. Unsure whether we would be returning to actually visit the museums and displays at the top, we still had to head down to get a trolleybus into the Hauptbahnhof and hop on the Salzburger Lokalbahn. The train, which functions as a sort of S bahn service in Salzburg's north, took us 1 stop out of the underground Hbf platform to Salzburg Itzling, where the Lokalbahn have their workshops and storage sidings. As we were unfamiliar with the system we didn't push the door open/stop button on the train and so it sped through Itzling without stopping! The system is like that of a bus where travelers must push the button to make the train stop at stations and when waiting on the platforms prospective passengers must push a button to alert the train driver that they would like to board the train.

Why were we trying to travel just 1 stop on the Lokalbahn? For Christmas Eve the Lokalbahn and Austrian Railway Historical Society were running a steam train from Itzling to Lamprechtshausen and we were hoping to purchase tickets for this service. Unfortunately tickets were not on sale 1 hour before departure, when we were at the station and so we headed back into the hbf for some lunch on foot and then on the trolleybus, because the wait for the regular Lokalbahn train was going to be too long. By the time we had returned, just after 2pm for a 2:15pm departure the train was mostly full and so by the time we had purchased our tickets and hopped on board it was looking as though our family was going to have to split up to find seats. Luckily Charles managed to find a set of 4 seats at the end of a carriage that was free. Unluckily this set of seats was isolated at the end of the carriage, in a separate section across from the (locked) toilets and the heating was not working. Despite this we had an enjoyable journey and Dad and I spent some time out on the platform ends, enjoying the view of the very steam tank engine pulling our train through the snowy landscape. Charles couldn't handle the fun so he bailed at one of the few stations our train stopped at and swapped onto a regular Lokalbahn service returning to Salzburg.

Once we got to the terminus, just under an hour since we departed, we hopped out to watch the engine run around the carriages and moved into some newly free seats in the main part of the carriage, where the heating was working. The return journey was still cold but once again very enjoyable, with our new seats providing a view from the other side of the train. At one point we crossed the heritage Lokalbahn electric set that was also running for some Christmas Eve family fun. Christmas Eve afternoon activities are important in German culture so that the children can leave the house while some of the parents decorate the tree and prepare the house for the Christmas Eve supper and giving of presents.

Back into Itzling we took the regular Lokalbahn train back into the Hbf before hopping on the Obus line 2 to our hotel. An hour of freshening up and some blog typing ensued before we headed down for our pre-booked hotel Christmas Eve dinner. The food and beer was good and it was a bit of deja-vu with the live harp accompanying our meals. A local trio consisting of trumpet, accordion and tambourine stick harassed us briefly before unsuccessfully asking for money.

This morning was our first major split of the trip with Mum and Dad going to the Laundromat with all of our washing as a Christmas present for us while we slept in and did this blog update. We have today as our last in Salzburg and then the train to Vienna tomorrow morning, where Charles will leave us to continue his round-the-world trip with Dane.
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