Sunday, 26 May 2013

Breakfasting in cafes miles away

It is one of the oddities of modern life that you can wake up on a Welsh hillside and have your poached egg on toast and cup of tea for breakfast as you do on any other day.  That same night you can go to bed in a flat in central Munich on the edge of the Victualienmarkt with the unaccustomed light from a street lamp glowing gently on the parquet floor.

A hundred years ago southern Germany was a train ride, a ferry journey and more train rides away.  If you had made this journey in 1913 it might have taken you two days from London, even if you had been travelling as fast as you could, or three if you were starting from here in North East Wales.  You would have marvelled at the speed of modern travel.  You would think yourself fortunate to be living in the railway age.  After all if you had done the journey in 1813 you would have had to go by horse and carriage.  That might have taken you about two weeks, maybe you could have cut the time a little if you had a desperate need to travel quickly and could throw money at the problem.  But faraway places were far away then.  Is it a wonderful thing to be able to get on a plane and experience another country in the space of a day?  Or does it diminish experience to turn travel into a blur, to fail to see how the land changes, how the houses in one place are made of stone and in another of brick, how  the angle of a roof reflects snow or rain?  Am I being overly romantic about the impact of slow travel?  Would you even notice these things if you trundled through Europe in a carriage with the curtain drawn at the joggling window, feeling a little sick?  I think you might.  I think slowing things down helps you to understand and appreciate place.  And yet it was a fine thing to wake up in Munich and to go out for breakfast just round the corner and for life to be different.


Two days in Munich, two in Salzburg.  We travelled by train between the two cities.  In Salzburg we stayed in another beautiful flat (both via Air B&B, highly recommended).  This flat was five floors up in an old building with a mezzanine bedroom up a steep yacht type staircase.  It was also fabulous.  To my shame I am not an extremely musical person and I had always thought of Salzburg as a place to go for music.  But it is also a place for architecture and history and food, all much more my things.


It is a place for little and large squares and gracious buildings.  I liked it very much.

From Salzburg  we took two buses to arrive at the town of St Wolfgang in order to catch a train up a mountain.  I don't know quite why watching a tv programme about a train which went up a mountain in Austria had resulted in our being there, instead of the usual murmurings about that looking interesting, followed by life mooching along as usual.  We are not train enthusiasts particularly.  We do like mountains but generally for walking up.  Perhaps it was the lure of getting to the top for very little effort, other than the effort involved in getting from Wales to Germany to Austria to a station by a lake at the bottom of a mountain.



I was very taken in an entirely non techy way by the fact that the train has to be higher at the back than the front so as to cope with the steepness of the ascent.  But what really transfixed me was the view from the top of the mountain.


We ate a ferociously Austrian lunch in a hotel on the mountain top which opens from May to September.  Ian's involved dumplings and mine sheep's cheese and a lot of onion.  Mounted heads of crows looked down at us from wood panelled walls.  I loved it.

Then we came back down the mountain, got on the bus, returned to Salzburg where we ate and slept, caught the train to Munich, ate a sandwich in the Old Botanical Gardens, took a bus to the airport and flew home.

Part of me hates air travel with its plastic food and its plastic air and the drudgery of airports.  But it was wonderful to be there.  I feel as if I have had a window into another world.  Once, a few years ago, we stood on the edge of a very beautiful square in Croatia, looking out across the polished stone at buildings which breathed power and history and civilisation.  The square was empty.  The air was cool.  It had rained earlier in the day and pools of water caught the last light of the evening.  We were travelling with friends.  We stood in silence for a few minutes.  "I must get out more," said our friend with Northern dryness.  I know what he meant.



28 comments:

  1. Oh, I could write you an essay on the memories your blog post brings. Been where you have been; and I can say - to shorten my response - that when in any aircraft, I have my finger on the map and am craning my neck to look out of the cabin window for any sight of the landscape over which I am flying. Another world, shrinking the globe to the smallness of things ....

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    1. Glad the post evoked some memories for you Ann, assuming they are good ones! I love to look at the landscape too.

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  2. mounted heads of crows? I just can't see that? But dumplings, sheep's cheese and onions - as the rain buckets down - does sound moreish!

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    1. I wish I had taken a photo of the mounted heads of crows, with accompanying fanned tail feathers, to show you but it seemed a bit rude when everyone else was just eating lunch!

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  3. I spent just a day in Salzburg at the end of a business trip a few years ago. I've always wanted to go back. Could have spent quite a bit in those wonderful shops too..

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    1. Salzburg is definitely a place to go back to Jessica! We whizzed through rather fast and I would love to have more time.

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  4. It is reviving to experience a change of place - looks like you had a wonderful time.
    Last week we too got on a plane one afternoon and that same evening had a lovely meal in a restaurant in a small town in Northern Italy.
    However, last year we decided to go to Prague by train - an overnight trip - the unfolding landscape from Suffolk, thoroughl France, Germany and the Czech Republic gave us a sense of the distance that air travel does not.
    There's so much to explore and see - even me (who is very happy pottering about my studio and garden) benefits from getting out more!
    xx

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    1. You have it exactly - the sense of distance that you lose through air travel. I would love to do a long train journey. Even the couple of hours we spent on trains in Germany and Austria were far more interesting than a couple of hours on a plane.

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  5. One of the best things about blog reading is traveling through the eyes of others.

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    1. I agree. I have all sorts of insights that I would never have had without reading where others have been and what they have done.

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  6. Sitting here in west Wales on the Spring Bank Holiday with rain tumbling from the sky as if it hasn't done so for years (!!!) your break away brings me a vicarious time off too! A change is as good as a rest, and having plates of delicious food put in front of me would be such a welcome change.

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    1. The change was invigorating, and yes, that did include the change from being in charge of producing food!

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  7. Elizabeth, this post began with your beautiful view of Wales, and finished with another spectacularly lovely view many miles away. Yet, as you say, only a plane ride away. My own only visit through various European countries was done via a Eurorail pass and trains and a large paperback train timetable "bible." It was grand experiencing the visual transitions. Since I was traveling in April and May, I was also able to witness Spring's gentle arrival north and south.

    I hold those memories dear, but think I might need to do some updating. Your post and Celia's recent post are inspring me. xo

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    1. You should definitely do some updating Frances. I feel another trip to Europe is on the agenda for you when you can manage the time. That should of course include a trip to Wales!

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  8. I loved that little trip, and have to admit to some envy, as I could travel that far and be.......well, in the woods of Alberta. Edmonton may be fine, and perhaps familiarity breeds contempt, but a cosy B&B, museums,cobbled streets, 'ferocious lunch' amid mounted crows heads trump the outdoors for me. Thanks for the virtual holiday!

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    1. We are lucky to be able to get to Europe in the same time it would take you to get to Alberta. I should try not to take it for granted!

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  9. That looks a lovely jaunt to me Elizabeth - and the ease
    of the journey definitely contributed to that.

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    1. It was lovely and we would never have done it had it not been for the ease of the journey but there is a little bit of me that longs for trains and ferries!

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  10. Even as I'm spending an unplanned and unwanted day in Toronto airport thanks to some of the vagaries of air travel, I have to agree with you that it's always a marvel. Especially for you, in Europe, all only a couple of hours ay from somewhere with all sorts of urban architectural and historical wonders. We''ll be up in e air soon and I will wav your way, hoping that someday soon may flight will take me in your direction.

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    1. Have a great trip. I think we should definitely plan that next year includes a quick diversion up here!

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  11. We are fortunate in Europe that we can get to places with different culture, food, and language within two to three hours flight - however, on our next trip we have decided take the old fashioned slow route - it will be quite a novelty for us.
    Love Austria - we have had so many delightful holidays walking in the mountains with the occasional trip by train into the cities.

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    1. I love Austria too. This is only the second time I have stayed rather than driving through on my way to somewhere else but is is place which deserves some time to be spent. Would love to go again.

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  12. It's terrible (in my opinion) that I spent years (back in high school/early Uni) living in Germany when my father was stationed there, speak fluent German, and even have 2 degrees in German literature - but now that I'm back overseas as an adult, I'm living in Asia. MrL and I recently gave serious consideration to a posting in Saudi Arabia - definitely NOT a popular destination with expats - simply because the flights to Europe were so short! I always enjoy your travel posts (your description of a 'ferociously Austrian' lunch was so perfect I will have to be very careful not to plagiarize in future) and still have bookmarked somewhere the place you stayed in Austria a few years ago when you did a walking (hiking?) holiday there. I do think it's marvelous that air travel has shrunk the globe so much - just wish flights to Europe were a bit shorter from Seoul! Love Munich, love Salzburg, 2 of my favorite places with many fond memories. What a nice treat over my coffee on a rainy morning in Seoul.

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  13. Your holiday sounds wonderful. Great photos of Bavaria and Austria.

    Air travel is amazing, but we have recently been on a trip to Italy, using Euro Star and then the fast and comfortable TGV trains that fan out all over Europe. Although we were in the Alps by evening, we had really enjoyed seeing France pass by outside our window. The trains through northern Italy were good too and we did feel as though we had "really travelled" instead of the strange and sudden change of location that air travel brings. We would definitely do it again (we used Planet Rail to arrange the journeys and accomodation).

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  14. This sounds like a lovely holiday. I twice travelled around Europe by train in my twenties (on the cheap) paying for one train pass for the lot "up front". I loved the experience of crossing borders and passing through new countries; something missed by flying when the landscape is just a single blur below. I visited Salzburg and Munich this way, and when I flew to Munich more recently I found the journey, as you say, quick - but as dull as any other plane journey.

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  15. Hi Elizabeth, it was like a déjà vu watching your picture on that checkered floor, I have taken that same picture some year ago during a visit to Munich, that little hall is near to a gray plaza with some trees, just out the main road in the center, isn't it?

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  16. That looks fab! Thanks for taking us along on the journey! 8-)

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  17. I missed this ... what a wonderful time you sound to have, and what a wonderful view that is ... I should get out more too :D

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