I really don’t know where to start on this dark, rainy, thoroughly miserable day! I’ve lost a week. Christmas has been and gone. Austria has been and gone. Yes, Gluhwein was served daily but … Rewind. Descending the steps of the plane a week ago, there was no mistaking we were in Salzburg, the letters emblazoned above the terminal. I shall never tire of that sight. No sign of the fortress in the darkness but, no matter. It is imprinted in my mind as are the beautiful snow-capped mountains which rise above. Greeted by our old friend, Herr Benno, the anticipation was over and as we drove round the Wolfgangsee, past St Gilgen with its instantly recognisable church spire and then on to Strobl, we could see the twinkling lights of the Weisses Rössl and St Wolfgang in the distance. Still magical.
‘If I could save time in a bottle … ‘. The words of Jim Croce. I suppose a photograph is the nearest one will ever get; a moment in time captured forever. Priceless … and elusive. How often does one take the perfect photograph? Wherever we go, we always say we have to get that perfect shot of the three of us – but we never do! Thing is, the best photographs are not posed but, rather, candid and natural. Oh, so difficult but oh, so worth it.
So, we had escaped, once more, the hideous commercialism of Christmas in the UK. Inundated since August, we, in this country, are slaves to it all but, as though devoid of intelligent life, we accept without question. Arriving in St Wolfgang, however, is like stepping back in time. Steeped in tradition, one imagines the village is decorated as it always has been. Tastefully and free from tack, the lights are self-coloured interspersed with stars strewn across the narrow streets lined with picturesque houses of varying colours, all immaculate with their wooden shutters and balconies. Pride. That’s what it is. Austrians are proud. Proud of their heritage and traditions. Somehow, we, Brits, seem to have lost that but, then, disconnected, we have lost all community spirit. That coveted bank balance all important. How sad.
Is it just me or has this Christmas been particularly reflective? It is always risky returning again and again to the same place. Nothing stays the same. St Wolfgang, itself, is unchanged and its beauty still unsurpassed but then there are people! Have I mentioned that I don’t like people? Individuals, yes, but in general … A trait inherited from Pop, in this world, it is increasingly understandable. Thus, the White Horse Inn no longer exudes the personal, family feel. Now run by the next generation of the Peter Family, it has expanded with the times incorporating more properties in the square with the focus very much on the spa. Add a spa to a hotel and it is changed forever with the attraction of a different clientele with different demands and expectations. Thankfully, much of the original Weisses Rössl remains untouched – save the curtains! – but Manny and I went on a guided tour of the Hotel enabling a peak at the varying levels of rooms (I think there are 92 now) and nothing is safe with the word ‘upgraded’ being continually used. I think, soon, the drapes will be the least of our worries!
Christmas is celebrated on Christmas Eve in Austria and we had the Sunday to enjoy the Advent Market to the full. One of our favourite days, the week stretched ahead of us as we revelled in it all! Familiar surroundings but renewed appreciation and acquaintances. Sepp greeted us, once again, with his infectious enthusiasm and mugs of Gluhwein. Music emanates from his little advent hut taking pride of place in the village square outside the Hotel next to that of his wife, Theresa, serving traditional Austrian fayre. A local couple, well-travelled and fluent in English, who have no desire to be anywhere else – and who would? Intelligent, full of fun and always welcoming, we have a cupboard bursting with Sepp’s mugs collected over the years – happy reminders of our friend and Gluhwein!. Swapping cards and phone numbers before we left, we agreed that Sepp would keep in touch about properties in the village and, somehow, I think our paths crossed for a reason. There is a plan for every man, Pop, as you used to say …
The weather was not a high point, this year, really only having two beautiful sunny days but we were there to relax and that we did. Becca and I went to the Christmas Eve Midnight Mass, as always. It has become our tradition. Our seats may have been taken and the choir our voice but to be a part of that service is a privilege we shall never take for granted.
Our time in St Wolfgang is always precious. Eating and drinking too much, the reminders are there for some time to come. The bank balance? Well, memories are worth it. I took Scrabble with me, as always, so easy to forget that the simple things in life are the most fun. Becca won the last game but the video she took of my reaction is priceless. All seems like another lifetime ago, now, the week gone in a blink of an eye. More photos to add to the Gallery page. If you haven’t already, take a look and see if my words are worthy …
Why is it that bad things happen to good people? A recurring question in my life with no justifiable answer. Character building? Well, there is a limit. Suffice to say, while lighting a candle in the church, I was unaware that another had tipped over in front and was pouring wax onto my suede boots! Then, I found a beautiful Austrian green bag in the shop in St Wolfgang which we should know, by now, not to enter but … Stupidly, I decided to transfer all my worldly goods into it and so was carrying it on the journey home. Under the seat in front on the plane, it soaked up a puddle of God knows what ensuring it is now a two-tone Austrian green! Just why? If that weren’t bad enough, we had the only baby on the passenger list just across from us. Well, I say baby but, really, read devil child! Her name was, of course, Sophia. Sound familiar? We were graced with another Sophia both there and back, last year, and she definitely attended the same baby coven. Again, why us?
People and public transport. Why do I hear the music from Jaws in my head? I wish I had never seen the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills! Someone to pack for you, chauffeur to the airport, private lounge serving champagne then private jet to destination – not once do they have to mix with people or queue! No exposure to a public devoid of manners but generous with germs; no self-service with the constant demand to ‘seek assistance’ from the virtually extinct – a human being employed to help – and no cattle truck to and from the plane! How I wish Dave Allen had been alive to see us piled onto a bus outside the terminal at Salzburg. Waiting at least ten minutes until the obligatory completely squashed, we were driven to the plane waiting 100 yards away! The driver and crew were so embarrassed that we took a tour of the forecourt first for the purpose of disorientation. The perfect material for a comedy skit – looking back. Right, Tom Cruise is still single, isn’t he?
Out of time, it is now the last day of the year and the decade. I, for one, shall be happy to see the back of both. As man continues to self-destruct, unable to turn back the clock as the climate rebels and more and more of our precious fellow species face extinction, life is becoming increasingly difficult and the future scary. Nothing for it but to take one day at a time and count one’s blessings – family and true friends. Got them, you’ve got the lot!
I heard Happy New Year by Abba on the radio yesterday. A beautiful melody, both haunting and sad, the lyrics are nothing if not thought-provoking. Scary thing is, the ‘end of a decade’ refers to the ‘end of eighty-nine’!
‘Oh yes, man is a fool
And he thinks he’ll be okay
Dragging on, feet of clay
Never knowing he’s astray
Keeps on going anyway …’
Sorry, not the cheeriest note on which to end. Here’s to 2020! May it be happy and healthy. One thing’s for sure, there’ll be no shortage of material for Trish-Trash!
Thank you for reading.
This is Trish, signing off for the last time in 2019 …