‘I’ll never get over these curtains!’ That’s just me arriving back in ‘our’ rooms in the Weisses Rössl, St Wolfgang. Nothing stays the same.
Exhausted but excited, we left Edinburgh – courtesy of Jet2 – yesterday afternoon at the civilised time of 2.45pm, arriving in Salzburg at 6.05pm precisely. How did he do that and why is it that all Captains sound good-looking with voices perfectly suited to radio?! It was dark, as we landed, so I couldn’t see my beautiful snow-capped mountains but I relished being able to walk down the stairs straight onto the tarmac as we first did in the blazing heat of July, 2000 – or was it 1999?
St Wolfgang always reminds me of Pop as it was he who said I had to come here. Visiting in 1981, I think, he told me it was like stepping into The Sound of Music and he knew I would love it. He was right. The village sits on the edge of the lake with which it shares its name, approximately an hour from Salzburg. The scenery is spectacular. The mountains are spectacular and much of that wonderful film was shot in the environs. We have visited almost every location over the years – how lucky are we!
Anyway, this will be our fourth Christmas in the White Horse Inn, always in these familiar adjoining rooms of yesteryear. A family hotel, it has expanded greatly but, thankfully, retained its old-world charm in the parts which matter. The lounge area with its huge log fire and comfy couches is as it was all these years ago but, now run by the next generation, it is the curtains I have a problem with throughout! Gone are the traditional Austrian drapes – as worn by the children in The Sound of Music – and in their place? No words. Well, let’s just say they are completely out of keeping with the style of the hotel but perhaps geared toward those who fill the 90 buses, daily, which visit Hallstatt in the summer months! One can only imagine – and avoid like the plague. The information is courtesy of our old friend who collects us at the airport each year and who, twenty years ago, greeted us at Reception with trepidation and a slight air of disdain: two young children and Thompsons would do it! His fears unfounded, we gained his respect with two polite, well-behaved offspring and personal booking from then on. Suffice to say, today he is a friend on Facebook of both the little girl and boy who turned out to be the opposite of spoilt brats all these years ago.
So, we are acclimatising to said hideous curtains while, also, getting to grips with a new red carpet. Who is responsible for the interior décor now? As long-time guests, shouldn’t we have been consulted? After all, I am the proud owner of the original brass ‘key’ for this Emperor room, one of my most prized possessions. Thankfully, we have discovered no further décor disasters to upset the coveted familiarity and the village is as magical as ever. Today was the final day of the Advent Market and we spent the afternoon mingling with the locals amongst the little huts on the square and the main street, each abound with Austrian fayre and Christmas! The ponies and trap await those who wish to venture beyond and they, too, feel like old friends. We talked to the palominos as we made our way back to the square laden with goodies, Becca in disbelief that they could possibly be the originals. The very same and we laughed as we acknowledged that there is always a quiet one and a naughty one.
Anyway, back to Sepp and the Gluhwein! Can’t miss him in his prime position in the square. He seemed pleased to see us as he filled our mugs with Christmas and we, each, took time to savour our return to this beautiful place as the bells chimed from the clock tower of the 11th Century pilgrim church around which this village was built. Hard to believe that a year has passed but definitely not one I would wish to repeat. It feels good to ‘kiss it goodbye’ by returning to St Wolfgang and several Sepp refills is the perfect antidote. Cheers!
‘Christmas for Three. St Wolfgang 2019.’ We had that inscribed on a little wooden plaque by Anna, a lovely Swiss lady from whom we bought most of her merchandise – wooden signs of varying sizes some denoting St Wolfgang scenes or those from further around the lake, each with words of inspiration. I wished, later, that I had asked her to inscribe two more so that all three of us can remember and smile. The significance of ‘Christmas for Three’? Many years ago, I watched a film on television starring Jon Voigt – must have been in the seventies. Anyway, called ‘Table for Five’, it was about a divorced father and his three children who were entrusted into his care every summer. He had no idea and made little effort and, in turn, his children did not want to be with him. This particular summer, however, he books them all on a cruise and, at dinner each night, he insists on an extra chair at the table on the off-chance that he may find a lady to join them, much to the disgust of his children – hence, ‘Table for Five’. Gradually, however, the walls come down as he gets to know all three and realises he wants to spend time with them. Sadly, their mother dies in a car accident while they are away and the children are totally reliant on him to help them cope with the loss. Movingly, they become a family and the table for five, a table for four. The loveliest of films requiring a share in Andrex tissues, believe me! I actually managed to source an old copy on video. Just good to know I have it …
Mood taking a nose dive, here, but somehow this year, more than any other, I have been acutely aware of the nostalgia of Christmas and how sad it is for so many. Enforced jollity masking the increasing loneliness of the elderly, those whose families are broken, those who have lost loved ones and those who are ill. Life, today, takes courage and the strength which can only be gleaned from family and close friends. In the words of one of my favourite quotes, courtesy of John Donne, ‘No man is an island.’ Nor should he be …
See if I can leave you with a smile. I wrote down my remark about the hideous curtains on the hotel notepad in our room. Below it, now, I find Manny has written:
‘I’m not bossy, I’m just always right!’
Did I say that? By jove, I think I did!
Happy Christmas one and all, wherever you are …
This is Trish, signing off,