After our 4 nights in Vienna it was time to say farewell and head to the Austrian Alps. Our next stop was the beautiful Salzburg, and a whole lot of snow. The day didn’t entirely go to plan though, as we were still chasing Astrid’s tablet all over Western Europe. Everyone wants to spend a freezing day in the post office rather than out playing in the snow, right?
After a long (and cold) day in Bratislava the day before, and a rather late night, Astrid managed to sleep until almost 8am and Soren almost 9am! A pleasant start to the day, but we were all still tired after a busy few weeks……
While we were waiting for the kids to be up and about, Anto headed off to post office just after they opened at 8am. We were still trying to get Astrid’s tablet back after it was left behind in Berlin. The online tracking advised that the tablet was now in Austria so we had high hopes of getting it back that morning but alas it wasn’t there, so he returned empty-handed.
We decided to eat break, pack up the Vienna apartment and head to train station before trying the post office again. We weren’t in a rush to be out of the apartment as it was an apparent temperature of -20 degrees outside, and we didn’t have a prebooked train ticket for our trip to Salzburg. This meant a relaxed morning. Once the kids were up we eventually packed up and made our way via the tram to the Westbahnhof. As usual the Vienna public transport system was very efficient, not too much walking to a station (important with all the luggage) and not too much waiting for a tram. Also very important given it was very cold standing outside, -6 degrees with an apparent of -20. Even the locals were looking cold, and our phones were disliking the temperatures. Luckily the tram was warm. It wasnt as efficient as the trains, but we did get to Westbahhof without having to change anywhere.
The trip from Vienna to Salzburg was the only long train trip that we hadn’t pre booked. These tickets weren’t pre-booked as we could buy on them on the train at a good price . There are a couple of different options for travelling between Vienna and Salzburg, but the Westbahnof train company is privately owned and runs a Vienna to Salzburg train every hour and the tickets on the train are the same price as prebought ones (and generally cheaper than the other providers for this route).
At this point Anto decided to leave us and head off to the Post Office to hopefully retrieve the tablet. There was a small chance he would make it back in time for the train, but we weren’t overly hopeful, so we decided to head off without him and catch up when we could. There didn’t seem much point in all of us hanging around the train station or post office all day. Our train was there 20 minutes early so we jumped on (minus Anto) with our bags and sat in the kid/baby friendly carriage, which we hoped would mean other passengers avoided us. Sadly the train was pretty full, but most people still gave our booths a reasonably wide berth.
As we set off from Vienna at 11.40am for the 2.5 hour trip to Salzburg, the snow was drifting past and Vienna was looking rather pretty. At least this time we had actually had snow somewhere while we were there! I had been watching the temperatures for Salzburg and I wasn’t convinced that we were going to have snow while there as it was looking a little ‘warm’. Meanwhile Anto had stored a couple of bags in the lockers at Westbahnhof and headed back to post office to try and find the tablet.
Our train made a few stops, each time the snow got thicker and heavier. The weather had looked warmer in Salzburg than Vienna or Bratislava so we weren’t sure about how much snow we’d find. Every stop and every town we went through we saw quite a covering of thick snow. After not too long the train was barreling through quite thick snow and it was coming down thick and fast outside the windows.
Sadly the kids didn’t want to rest on train, despite our best attempts. They did eat their apples and the sandwiches we had packed, and lucky we did as their weren’t many other options. The adults didn’t do as well, the is the first long-distance train we’ve done without a decent food car, it was basically vending machines. Not ideal for over lunch time.
By the time we were half an hour out of Salzburg, we were convinced that we were going to have a lot of snow once we arrived in Salzburg. The kids were definitely excited.
We arrived just after 2pm, and since it was the end of the line we didn’t have to rush off, which is always good when you have a stack of luggage and 2 small and cranky kids. We loaded up and headed out into the wilds of Salzburg. There was big piles of snow everywhere on the sides of the streets and in car parks. Unlike the entire morning there was a blue sky and it was not actively snowing. Much more pleasant than it had been in Vienna. The temperature was about 1 degree so felt positively balmy compared to the apparent temps of between -14 and -20 we’d been having the prior few days!
The walk to the hotel was a very annoying 1km walk dragging bags through snow and slush. The roads had been cleared but most of the footpaths were snowy and all the gutters were piled with snow. As it had been warm the snow had started turning to slush and it was fairly hard going with bags and kids. It was our first official ‘dragging bags through snow’ experience of the trip, one we thought we’d have to deal with much earlier. We made it to the hotel after about 20 mins and we were all super hot and sweaty after dressing that morning for the much cooler weather. It’s somewhat unusual to feel quite so warm in 1 degree and surrounded by snow!
We checked into the Mercure Central Salzburg and headed up to our rooms. Anto, the kids and I were in one room and Alan & Mikl were sharing the other room. We were impressed with how roomy our hotel room actually was. The huge fold-out bed for Astrid and a cot for Soren and still room to walk around! The hotel isn’t in Old Town but it’s less than 1km into there so a pretty good location really. The kids were mighty impressed with the views out the hotel window. Finally the snow-capped mountains and snow encrusted roofs we’d been hoping for!
Oh those beautiful mountains, we had to get out of the hotel and get out exploring!! There was a quick change into slightly lighter clothes (yes it’s ridiculous that we were taking layers off at 1 degree celsius) after we dumped the bags and we headed out to find some food and do some exploring.
We headed out towards Old Town…… with the assistance of google maps – it’s really hard to get your bearings first outing, and we all agree that it’s very pretty with snow everywhere and lovely old houses and cobblestone streets.
With rumbling tummies we find a cafe and have hot chocolates and some cake since we didn’t have a proper lunch. The kids are always keen on cake, and I couldn’t even get a decent photo of them without little hands diving in!
We had an hour or so of light left so head off for some exploring of Salzburg. There were a lot of people everywhere and we were not yet bored of the sight of snow piled everywhere!
Our plan was to knock off a few of our ‘sight-seeing must-do’s’ before the light ran out. Due to the late hour some of the churches and museums were already closing, but we did find Mozart’s birthplace, which is predictably not that exciting (there is a museum but we didn’t go in). I of course got a photo though, along with all the other people posing for selfies out the front! The importance of the site is somewhat diminished by the fact that there is a supermarket in the building!
For all the beauty of the Old Town, the Salzach River was just gorgeous in the fading light. The Salzach is 225km long and runs through the whole Salzburg region. It was long used as a transportation route for Salt throughout the Austrian Alps. This evening, however, it was a photographers dream – snowy banks, beautiful light reflecting off the water. I just knew I’d get some of the favourite shots of the trip thus far….
Salzburg city area is set either side of the Salzach River, and has several bridges that link the two sides. We wandered down one side of the river and through Old Town and back towards our hotel on the other side of the river.
With a little light left, we set-off to find Mirabell gardens. It was pretty dark by the time we get there, and most of the gardens were now closed, but the bits we could see were very pretty with big piles of snow. You could tell we definitely weren’t over the novelty of snow yet! The statues were also pretty spectacular set amongst the white backdrop of the snow.
An exhausted Soren finally fell asleep in the ergo a bit after 4pm and flatly refused to wake up. Not a great time for a nap, but we had to let him sleep, since he wasn’t going to wake up anyway (believe me I tried, since I didn’t fancy him up til 9pm that night). I managed to wake him after about 45 minutes and it was well and truly dark and approaching 5pm so we hunted for some dinner.
We found a restaurant that seems to have good options and looks inviting so we head in. There is an entire page of different types of schnitzel….. generally a winner with both the boys and the kids! Alan and Mikl decide on the 2 person schnitzel plate with salad, rice and chips. I order a Caprese pizza with mozarella, rocket and tomato which is enormous, and absolutely delicious. The kids have a bit of everything, but are quite partial to the schnitzel. Boys have beer (of course) and I have a gluhwein, which was much deserved after a long-day. We tortured poor Anto, sitting at the train station in Vienna, with photos of the enormous schnitzel plate…… he was not impressed!
Even though we aren’t really hungry and don’t really need dessert we order the strudel and a pannacotta, both were really good and in hindsight we voted the strudel the best of the trip (and we had a few!).
About 6pm (but it felt much later!) we headed back to the hotel with tired kids so I could get them showered and off to bed. They were missing their Dad and both delayed going to sleep but eventually gave in…..
Meanwhile, Antony’s version of the day……..
After leaving the others and having deposited two of the bags in lockers at Westbahnhof, and dragging around everything needed for the day, Anto set off to the Post Office to see if Astrid’s tablet had arrived. I was hoping to make it back for the train to Salzburg in 30 minutes. On arrival at the post-office the bad news was given that the parcel was still ‘processing’ and would be available ‘later’ – which was not what anyone wanted to hear. Over a number of visits during the day, this later was refined down to ‘at 1730, or tomorrow’. Really not ideal given that everyone else was en route to Salzburg and that was where our accommodation was booked for the night.
In between visits to the post office I attempted to keep warm, this was not easy with the apparent temperature dropping below -16C in Vienna and fairly decent snow falls occurring. Sadly, there are no photos of the beautiful snowy Vienna as we didn’t think I’d be there all day so forgot to take the compact camera!
A good amount of the day was spent hanging around Westhbahnhof, which seemed to be mostly filled with people either drinking the day away, or identifying as a refugee with nowhere else to go. The day significantly dragged on, with attempts at blog writing when a spare space could be found to put the laptop down.
Eventually the tablet was retrieved – about 5 minutes too late to make the 1740 train – but giving plenty of time to pick up a supermarket salad and some other shopping. When the tablet was finally retrieved from the Vienna post office, a photo was sent to the group in Salzburg (who were eating dinner) and they all cheered and ate more schnitzel, drank more beer and sent photos to the poor person stuck in Vienna eating salad.
As Miss A had requested a ‘photo from sitting at the top of the train’ I ended up sitting in the upstairs compartment and settled down to the fairly painless 2+ hour trip to the other end of Austria. Sidenote – Astrid was obsessed with double-decker trains, but we hadn’t yet managed to sit on the ‘top deck’ any time one was available, mostly because hauling the luggage up and downstairs is just annoying!
After arriving in the warm of Salzburg (it was around -2C which after Vienna felt positively tropical) and dark, it had been suggested by the others that as there was quite a quantity of snow, ice and slush on the way to the hotel that catching a Taxi would be a good idea. Luckily this was a fairly painless process (once a group of Cabbies got together to work out where the hotel actually was) and I trudged into the hotel and into a hot shower and a well deserved sleep.
Statistics for the 4th of January 2016 – in Vienna, Austria the minimum temperature was minus 8 degrees, the maximum was minus 6 degrees with a mean of (yes you guessed it, minus 7 degrees). They were the actual temperatures the apparent ‘feels like’ temperatures were hovering around minus 16 to 20 all day. It was COLD! In comparison, Salzburg in Austria it was positively balmy weather with a minimum of minus 4 degrees and a maximum of 2 degrees, and a mean of minus 1 degree. After the few preceding days in Vienna and Bratislava we felt hot…… The total walking for the day was 10.75km. The next day we had plans for mountains, cable cars and a whole lot of snow!!!