When we woke up in London early on Monday morning for our flight to Salzburg, I was feeling pretty nervous! Having only been to England, Scotland, and Italy, I had never been anywhere in Europe where I didn’t know the language (I studied Italian in college). When we descended into Salzburg airport, the butterflies really set in. I frantically searched for my phrasebook, and started practicing the phrases I thought I’d need in the customs line and to find a taxi. Of course, everyone we ran into spoke English, but I think they appreciated our attempts at German, nonetheless!
We drove into the city, and checked into our hotel. I started looking around to see if I could tell which people in the lobby might be on our tour. I was feeling really excited to get started, and meet everyone! We had time for lunch before our welcome meeting, so we set off on foot for an organic cafe we saw on the drive in. They had delicious soup, and we got to practice a bit more of our phrases!
After lunch, we met up with our tour group at the hotel. We met our tour manager, Gretchen, and did a quick meet-and-greet with the other members. Gretchen had set up snacks and drinks for us - all items made in Austria - and briefed us on the trip expectations. She gave us maps, talked with us about our schedules, and offered those interested an orientation walk through the city. Since this trip isn’t fully guided, Gretchen is more of a support and resource than a guide. She speaks fluent German, and has so many tips about where to go and what to avoid.
We joined her for the orientation walk, and then used the Rick Steves walking tour of Salzburg in the guidebook for the rest of our evening before dinner. Then, we had dinner at an awesome restaurant at the base of the fortress, and tried some beer and spatzle! On our way home, we walked by the cathedral, and through an open window heard singing. The city was so quiet, and we stopped to listen. The most angelic, beautiful operatic voices from a choir practice floated through the windows and fell down to us, as we stood below. It was breathtaking. I’ll never forget that moment.
Funnily enough, we saw fellow tour members at the restaurant (clearly, they had done their homework, too, since we found the name in the guidebook! ha!), and chatted with them a bit. This became a theme throughout our tour. Everyone on the tour got along so well, and even though we weren’t required to hang out, we ended up having dinner and going on hikes together a lot!
By the time we got back to our hotel, I had a really good feeling about what we had ahead of us. From Gretchen to the friendly tour members, and especially the gorgeous scenery… knew that this was going to be a really special tour.