The Salzburg Arrival: “I made it!”

Day one of my aunt’s Return to Salzburg after her maiden voyage 44 years ago! She’s met lots of lovely, helpful people. Meeting people is my favorite part of flying solo! Enjoy! – Valerie Quintanilla

By Teresa Kao

I made it! I’m here! The journey reminded me of my dreams of trying to get here because there were several steps, each with challenges, as it turned out, but each brought me closer and closer and now I am actually in Salzburg!!!!

Departure day started out with something new. In the Delta terminal, right near the departure gate, was a TravelEx booth where one could exchange dollars for other currencies (according to TravelEx the current exchange rate is 1 USD = 0.6816 EURO). The sheer convenience of it was a welcome fix to needing correct currency early in the visit, so I took advantage by buying Euros with my debit card.

Former Austrian Currency: The Austrian Schilling
Former Austrian Currency: The Austrian Schilling

On my long ago trip, most of us carried our cash in the form of Travelers Checks. These were accepted anywhere currency was exchanged and some other places (stores). It was an era when the dollar was worth its weight in gold, and to use a few dollar bills made recipients very happy. I can’t remember if we exchanged our Travelers Checks for schillings (I think that’s what they were called) or went to American Express for that purpose. American Express was home base for us, in Salzburg and in any other city. They helped with everything. Travelers Checks were accepted simply from the second signature. No ID required. Now they are regarded with suspicion as they are often stolen. We didn’t have debit cards then either. I don’t know about credit cards. Maybe a few students had them. I know a few savvy parents set up letters of credit for their children at Salzburg banks because I remember going with someone one time to get some money. I was amazed at his/her sophistication!

This time involved quite a To Do over the passports. Not only did we need to verify them through a machine but show them many times. Back in 1968 there was a spate of hijackings to Cuba so that was always a worry, but nobody got hurt. I don’t remember that there was any security at all. Everybody could go along to the departure gate and await arrivals at their gate. My biggest surprise, security-wise, was in Amsterdam. I was to board a plane bound for Munich, Germany. Turns out that we had to go through passport control and another complete security check. Then I had to race over to the B terminal and to the proper gate. Not a soul around. Gate change. I rushed there, out of breath and frantic. Turns out I had made a rookie mistake and looked at the large printing of a time and assumed that it was the departure time, when it said clearly, boarding time. I was so thrilled at the extra time I  had that I said I could go get some water. One of the KLF employees manning the desk gave me a bottle of her water. It was so very kind!

We arrived in Munich. Got our bags. Nothing new or unusual there. I walked for a long way until I found a desk that could tell me about trains to Salzburg. We worked it all out. She told me what train to get on and where to transfer. Here, let me say that train travel is for the fit — not me. There tends to be lots of stairs.  At the transfer point there was an endless flight of stairs to go up and this delightful young man, head covered with dreadlocks, carried my suitcase all the way up! The steps onto the train are steep and narrow and that first step is a doozy. they don’t generally have those little stools like US trains do. Plus it’s an art form. There is the whole 1st Class, 2nd Class thing, and it seems to me that there are very few second class seats. It goes without saying that I had bought a second class seat. So I went running down the side of the train trying to find a 2nd class car. When I found one, and tried to get up that huge step with my suitcase the conductor blew the whistle to start. I got stuck. I did eventually get in and then started hunting for a seat. They are all compartments somewhat filled with glaring people. I found a couple that looked more benign and asked if I could join them. They smiled and said yes.  The man then lifted my suitcase and my backpack up to the shelves. No way I could have done that. He turned out to be from Yugoslavia/Bosnia/Slovenia and she was living in Salzburg. Towards the end of the ride we chatted quite a bit.  While waiting for the Salzburg stop, she positioned me in the perfect spot to see the perfect view of Salzburg: mountain, castle, churches, river, bridges, all in one instant! I’d have taken a picture except that the windows on that train were filthy and I was too busy readying my luggage to leap off. I’m not looking forward to repeating the process next week when I go home. The one high point is the amazingly nice people encountered, who simply help out. I don’t remember if it was that way before but I’m thrilled about it this time.

I decided to walk to my hotel from the train station. It didn’t look far. Google Maps said 10 minutes. It might

Stiegl Beer - Traditionally served with a hot iron; the locals told us Stiegl is brewed for optimum flavor when a bit warm.
Stiegl Beer – Traditionally served with a hot iron; the locals told us Stiegl is brewed for optimum flavor when a bit warm

have been 10 minutes if they hadn’t made the street names microscopic on the sides of buildings, leading me to wander in circles for awhile. A woman about my age recognized my plight and walked me to my hotel! Another one of these outstanding people. Her english was sketchy but she said, “Enjoy your stay in Salzburg!”  How can I not, surrounded by these people?

I managed to while away rest of the afternoon and went for an early dinner. Weinerschnitzel made with veal, as good as I remembered it, Stiegl beer, for which Salzburg is famous. This meal reminded me of many meals with other students, drinking Stiegl, listening to music, trying to fit with the locals. They tolerated us. We could never figure out the custom of putting a heated iron into beer to warm it up! Back then they told us that Stiegl was brewed to have optimum flavor when a bit warm! I didn’t see any irons on the restaurant tonight, but those were in small gasthof’s. We’ll see what I run in to in coming days.

I wonder what I will discover tomorrow!

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