Or so Julie Andrews might have sung had she visited Sallburg today. You see there's so much more to Salzburg, the city that inspired "The Sound of Music", than bright copper kettles and warm woollen mittens. If you will spare me a few minutes of your time, I'll try to give you but a brief taste of this wonderful city.
We arrived in Salzburg at about 5-30pm after a less than 2 hour flight from the UK. This was to be a birthday treat for Pennie my wife, who'd visited the city as a child on a day trip and yearned to return.
We were staying at the Weiss Kreuz, which on this website and many others is known as a hotel, though the sign on the wall outside described it as a guesthouse. It was about 15 minutes and 12 euros from the airport and it was this journey that whetted our appetites. You could see as you drove through it, what a clean, historical place it was. Also bright Christmas lights lit up the amazingly maintained buildings.
The Weiss Kreuz is in the Altstadt, on the "Left Bank" of the river Salzach. It's situated at the bottom of the hill on which sits the Festung Hohensalzburg - (a fortress over looking the the city, more of which later). You're no more than a 5 minute walk away from the 4 main squares in this old part of the city and a little over 10 minutes from the main shopping streets. So all in all, an ideal spot to be based.
I have to say the hotel itself was OK. Neither good nor bad. However it does seem, as someone has remarked earlier on this forum, that the rooms are of secondary import to the owners, compared to the restaurant. On arrival we had to call into the dining area to get someone to let us in to the accommodation. He showed us upstairs to our room and promptly turned tail and fled back downstairs again, having given us our keys. We actually only filled in forms to "check in" 4 days later when we were paying the bill prior to leaving!
The room itself on the first night had a horrendous odour of damp. One presumes this was coming from the drains. Since we had planned to go out and eat, we hoped that this may dissipate whilst we were out. Sadly though, the smell in the bathroom persisted through the first night and we awoke to the same nauseous Klingon's armpit type aroma the next morning. In fairness to the staff they did apply themselves to the problem whilst we were out the following day and all was fine by the evening of this second day.
Aside from this the room was very warm, had a fridge and a television (though the remote control didn't work). The bed was comfortable and clean, whilst the bathroom (post removal of smell) was large with a good shower and underfloor heating.
Breakfast was a typically European affair of cereals, bread, cheeses, cold meat and spreads. You could have a boiled egg on request. For once in a hotel I have to say the coffee was really rather good - something which is all too infrequent when staying away.
So, you might think, not a lot to write home about. But you'd be missing the whole point about Salzburg. It's a city which begs to be explored. Parts of it are achingly beautiful, the people warm and friendly and it's surrounded by the amazing natural beauty of the Alps.
And at this time of year there's the Christmas markets. Fascinating hand crafted nik naks, decorations, treats and clothes. Not to mention the food and drink stations. It's a wonder the average Austrian isn't the size of Jabba the Hutt. Wonderful Bratwurst, Pretzels of all descriptrions, roasted Chestnuts, Potato wedges, Jacket Potatoes, Frankfurters - on numerous stalls around the Altstadt. Then the hot punches - of which the Gluhwein was our favourite winter warmer of the tens of varieties on offer. Wandering round these fabulously decorated squares became one long buffet!
Indoors was actually a different story. It was time to disrobe and cool down with some Austrian beers. Mainly pils based they were a cut above the average lager at home and the Weissbier (wheat beer) was a delight, particularly the dark version.
I personally couldn't say the same for the Austrian cuisine though. Schnitzel, Goulash, Sausages and Dumplings were on every menu. None of them bad, but none really exciting though. Perhaps they save their expertease for their sweets. This is the home of the chocolate fiends favourite, the Sacher Torte. And whilst in town you must try the Salzburger Norkel - a sort of hyper sweet light soft meringue creation with fruit and ice cream. Really quite unique.
So apart from eating, drinking and shopping (Pennie says I must mention the designer shoe shops selling the likes of Jimmy Choo), what did we do?
Well the first full day was spent going up the Funicular railway to the fortress. Superbly maintained and still lived in it's a trip back into medieval times. Even for an old cynic like me, it was very interesting. With wonderful views over the city. Oh and I nearly forgot - it had snowed the first night, so everywhere was covered in white.
I didn't think this could be surpassed. But I was wrong.
Because the second day we took the 30 minute journey out on the local bus service to the Untersberg mountain. From the foot of this 1800 metre giant we clambered onto the cable car for amazing views all the way to the top. And then stepped out into the glorious sunshine and the crisp snow, to mingle with the skiers making their way to the runs, as we were treated to the most fantastic sight of Salzburg below us and the surrounding Alps. Really quite spiritual. Unless you are scared of heights, do not miss this experience.
Finally on our last day we visited the Hellbrun Estate out by the Salzberg zoo. More beautiful buildings, more Christmas markets and of course, more Gluhwein.
To finish we had cocktails amongst the snow flurries on the top of the Stern Hotel. The patio heater warmed terrace overlooks the Altstadt from the other river bank. A great place to see and be seen.
So in summary.
The Weiss Kreuz is an adequate hotel, fabuously situated in a great city. In December you have the added bonus of Christmas markets and if you're lucky as we were, snow. I would recommend the experience to anyone.
Take care, DrMike.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- The romantic Altstadt Hotel Weisses Kreuz is located behind the Cathedral in the center of the historic district of Salzburg, but still in quiet area. Each of its 8 rooms (equipped with TV and W-LAN) has got its own lovely personal flair and its own bathroom with shower and toilet. The Restaurant offers a wide range of Balkan and Austrian specialties. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Hotel Weisses Kreuz