Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Settling In

Previous post: Troublesome Transfers

Despite the train’s relative comfort, we are both tired when we arrive in Salzburg. I can’t wait to get to the hotel!

Thus it is especially frustrating to find that the train station is being renovated (it should be wonderful when they are done), making it one big construction site. We follow the signs on a long trek through the station – walking on plywood – to the elevators, only to find the elevators are closed. My father doesn’t get around that well and, even without luggage, we still have heavy-enough carry-on bags to manage. (Perhaps I have over-estimated my abilities and this whole trip is going to be as difficult as my mother predicted.) At this point though, there is nothing left to do but forge ahead, or rather, retrace our steps back to where we first got off the train and wind our way through the steps and construction ramps to the temporary entrance. Of course, I am still harboring the fantasy that a cab awaiting me the moment we exit the station.

At least the signage for the cab stand is accurate and it is only a block or so away.

We choose a cab at random. The driver is chatty and friendly, maybe too friendly. I know about how much it should cost to get to the hotel and don’t ask how much it will cost – frankly at this point, I don’t really care. The driver gives us a tour of the city, providing cultural, geographic, and historic information while pointing out key sights (Mozart’s house is over there, the “old” city there, the “new” city here). He’s actually informative and helps clarify the things I’ve read. He also squeezes in a sales pitch about the tours he provides and the charity work he does.

My father clearly likes him at the same time he can’t stop muttering about taking the long way to the hotel (I can see the backtracking is due to one-way streets and suspect he actually has taken a reasonable route). Like my dad, even as I’m convince that I’m going to get ripped off, I can’t help but like the guy. I mean, how could anyone not like a guy who has you shout “open sesame!” at the approach to a barricaded street? We love the way the balustrade slips below the surface of the street as if by magic. (The city recently installed barricades in order to enforce restricted vehicle access in pedestrian areas and we will discover that the ability to trigger the disappearance of the barricades is still a bit of a kick for folks.)

At the hotel he basically said his fare goes to charity and to pay what we thought the trip was worth. I tip generously.

I have booked rooms at the Schwarzes Rossl, which serves as a hotel on a seasonal basis – the rest of the year it is used for student housing. I’m not sure what to expect (it was really inexpensive compared to anything else I could find in Salzburg and I found it by surfing the web), so am relieved to find myself in a simple but respectable building in a pleasant neighborhood. The rooms are very basic, but clean and with interesting views.

(Right beyond my window and then looking farther afield.)

A quick run through the neighboring blocks in search of sunglasses and a watch (both forgotten at home) and shampoo and conditioner (packed in my luggage and not included in the rather oddly provisioned kit provided by Delta), shows we are just off a small commercial area with shops that are both fun (cheap funky watches and baubles) and practical (convenience grocery store with at least 30 kinds of hair care products). There are clothing stores, restaurants, a pharmacy, and a bakery. Old Town is visible across the bridge at the end of the pedestrian plaza. It looks like a good spot to be staying.

There is a little restaurant just down from the hotel. Well, actually the hotel is surrounded by restaurants on both sides and across the street, but there is something appealing about this spot and a positive recommendation from the front desk staff means our first dinner here is at the Zum fidelen Affen (which translates to something like the Happy Monkey).

And a happy place it is! It is a beautiful evening to eat outside (despite a micro rain shower), the staff is efficient and friendly, and the food is delicious.

Welcome back to Europe, dad!

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