To visit Salzburg from a river cruise involves a two-hour coach ride from our dock in Linz, Austria. With coaches scheduled to depart at 8:00am, I get an early start on the morning in Arthur's, armed with coffee and laptop. I find Arthur's to be the perfect morning workplace. It is quiet, has comfortable seating and an automatic coffee machine is just a few feet away!
Last night, during the briefing, Steve, our Cruise Director, mentioned that everyone should place their shoes outside their stateroom before going to bed, a December 6 tradition in Europe in honor of St. Nicholas Day. According to tradition, if the children had been "good" this year,they would find treats inside their shoes. We completely forgot to put our shoes out. Apparently everyone else on board has been very good!
Before departing for Salzburg, we stopped by the Reception desk to retrieve our meal vouchers. A couple of days ago, we selected a meal choice for lunch in Salzburg and our choice is represented by a colored "voucher."
As with every day so far on this journey, it is cold when we disembark Savor in Linz.
The good news is, it is dry and not windy! Before boarding the coach to Salzburg, I was informed that these coaches are not equipped with WiFi, although we have seen WiFi on many coaches in Europe. I had hoped to work on our blog during the two-hour drive, but will have to delay that until we return this evening. The coaches are extremely comfortable and spotlessly clean.
About an hour into the drive, the snow-covered Alps came into view. One of the Tauck Tour Directors, Jill, gave commentary as we drove to Salzburg regarding Austrian customs and history. We made a comfort stop at a very nice restaurant that probably had the most beautiful view of any highway rest stop in the world!
When we arrived in Salzburg, we were again divided into smaller groups and assigned a local tour guide. Our guide walked us through the main pedestrian shopping street in Old Town Salzburg and eventually into the Christmas Markets.
A great photo spot is the Love Locks Bridge, which we walk across to get into Old Town. From here, you can see Salzburg fortress and the Alps in the background. The rails of the bridge are covered with padlocks representing the love between two people. Basically, you buy a padlock, write your names on it, lock it to the bridge and throw away the key. You now know the secret to everlasting love!
Our lunch is not scheduled until 1:30pm, so after our walking tour, we have more than an hour-and-a-half to explore Salzburg and shop the Christmas Markets. The Christmas Market in Salzburg is significant, and many of the vendors have quality merchandise.
Vendors are selling everything from elaborate Christmas ornaments to toys to wood carvings to engraved metal products and, of course, there are a lot of food vendors. If you love sausages, you won't go hungry in the Christmas Markets! Salzburg Christmas Market is one of the best we have visited so far.
Tauck has made lunch reservations for all of us at St. Peter's Restaurant, located within the walls of St Peter's Abbey. It is claimed to be the oldest inn in Central Europe because of a supposed mention of it in the Carmina anthology, issued in 803 AD. The former guesthouse of the Benedictine friars was also mentioned by the Monk of Salzburg in the 14th century. Based on these and other claims, the St. Peter's is perhaps the oldest existing restaurant in the world.
We show up around 1:15 for our 1:30 lunch and the crowds are huge! A lot of other tour groups are booked for lunch here, as well. When we finally get into our lunch venue, the room is beautiful. A huge 25-foot Christmas tree is at the far end of the room.
While St. Peter's Restaurant was a beautiful venue, style soon overcame substance once meal service began. All guests (about 114 of us) were first offered a beverage. Then the consomme was served to all. The first to be served the main course were those who had pre-ordered the Glazed Turkey entree, about 50% of the guests. There were only three or four waiters delivering food, so it took more than 30 minutes just to serve the turkey. Everyone at our table had ordered the turkey except for Rickee, who had ordered the pasta. However, the next entree to be delivered was the salmon, which took another 20 minutes. It was 3:00pm before Rickee finally got her pasta, and of course, it was cold. We had been instructed by the Tour Directors to meet at the fish market (a 10-15 minute walk from where we had lunch) at 3:30, so you can see the problem. In fact, by the time Rickee got her entree, most of the Tauck guests had already decided to skip dessert and had left the restaurant to start walking to the meeting place at the fish market. I don't think more than six desserts were served and our table got four of them since we were the only people left in the room!
When we met up with the Tauck Tour Directors, they were visibly upset over the service in the restaurant. This is NOT the way Tauck operates, and we know that to be a fact from our own past experience. I have no doubt that the issue with the service has already been addressed with the restaurant. Basically, I think there were not enough waiters to serve a group this large. On the coach drive back to Linz, Jill (a Tauck Tour Director) apologized for the service at the restaurant, but it really was not Tauck's fault. The restaurant just dropped the ball. Jill played a classical music CD through the coach's audio system and treated us all to the AUTHENTIC Mozart chocolates that can only be found in Salzburg and only at one particular store. These are the chocolates wrapped in the blue and white paper, not the impostors wrapped in the colored foil with Mozart's picture on them!
Regardless, it was a beautiful, albeit cold, day in Salzburg. When we returned to Savor, some guests chose to walk into Linz to explore that city's Christmas Market, but we chose to enjoy the Panorama Lounge and work on our blog!
Tomorrow, we will be in Passau, Germany.