The next day, we woke up really early as Francis and Lucia were coming to pick us at 7:30. We went down to have breakfast. The dining area was decorated with taxidermied animals and antlers of stags. I hate taxidermy; it’s exploitation of animals for the satisfaction of human greed. Also, this creeped me out even more than I already was. These people should definitely improve on their interior design.
The girl who had greeted us on our arrival was still the only one there and had set up a whole breakfast buffet, although we seemed to be the only people in the lodge. I was confused about what to have for breakfast since there was only a dozen different kinds of bread, jam, cheese, ham and fruits. I don’t like bread or jam. But if I don’t eat bread then there is nothing left to have cheese with. I don’t eat ham and eating fruits in the morning makes me nauseous.
I had finally, reluctantly, decided on a bland piece of whole grain bread and tea when suddenly, like an oasis in a desert, I noticed small packets of Nutella in a basket. I took one and spread it on my bread. It definitely brightened up what I had thought would be a boring breakfast.
Lucia and Francis arrived and we set off. We first arrived at a train station. Well not exactly, it was a place where many trains were parked. We saw a marvellous steam engine, actually in working condition. It wasn’t working that day since the weather report had been quite unfavourable. As if to prove my words, it started raining the moment we stepped out of the bunker.
We arrived in the town of St. Wolfgangsee (pronounced as wolf-gang-say). I realized very late, that Salzkammergut wasn’t the name of one place. It was a collection of small towns formed around the many lakes in that region. St. Wolfgangsee was one of them, around Lake St. Wolfgangsee.
Francis left us at that point and we were told that he would meet us later.
We wove through the narrow streets and ended up at a cafe called Cafe Werkstatt. It looked quite interesting from the outside. We heard from Lucia that this café had one of the best coffees in the town and that the owner was an avid art collector with a great collection from various parts of the world.
Just as we entered the cafe, we saw the front part of an Indian auto-rickshaw from Rajasthan. It was surrounded by many spray bottles. Somehow, it was very aesthetically pleasing. We went ahead and saw many other different things like small canvasses with quotes jokes or slogans on them, mismatched pillow covers, several small birdhouses, tiny little chairs, yellow light from various lamps shining down on everything, clocks, cups, a small ukulele and an array of many other adorable little trinkets that gave this place a certain unique quality of its own. It was indeed, a very fascinating cafe.
We moved on to a church which was just near the St. Wolfgangsee lake, after which the town is named. It was magnificent but we weren’t allowed to click pictures. The church was completely devoid of people. It was nice since we could actually appreciate the tranquillity without anyone disturbing us. As Khalil Gibran said, ‘People ruin beautiful things’. Everything in the church was made of gold, or covered by gold, as Lucia put it. There was a gold-plated organ at the very top. On exiting the church, you could see the lake through an archway.
We walked up to a Mozart museum which was a prominent feature of that place since Salzkammergut was Mozart’s birthplace. Unfortunately, it was closed that day so we could not visit it.
A hotel ahead looked very pretty from the outside. The entrance was decorated with flowers, chairs and tables were kept out in the open and a flight of steps led inside. I thought that we had come here to have lunch but realized, it was only twelve. Puzzled, I went inside and waited as Lucia talked to the girl at the reception. She led us to a flight of steps that opened to a huge wooden door. It revealed another flight of stairs which went down.
We went down the stairs, wondering where we were headed. I thought we were moving towards a dark dungeon which might have some scary history behind it, but instead there was a dark room filled with innumerable boxes. Lucia told us that back in the day, it used to be an old fashioned wine cellar. It had been used to store food and wine, but now it was mainly filled with alcohol.
Stepping out in the light felt weird, since we had been in the dark cellar for so long. I squinted and looked around at everything on the street. Two dogs barking at each other, a fountain and many pretty little buildings all around us. We started towards Lake St. Wolfgangsee to get on a ferry. On the way Lucia met a friend who was the wife of a fisherman. I am always amazed at how people just meet their friends out on the streets. I hardly meet my friends outside school. Of course, it might have something to do with the fact that I live in one of the most populated cities in the world and also that I never get out of the house to stroll around casually.
We boarded the ferry and the staff seemed to know Lucia pretty well. The bottom deck was enclosed and had a thermostat. The upper deck was out in the open, so my parents chose to go to the upper deck. While Papa, Lucia and Mummy talked, I stood at the side, shivering. The wind was especially cold out there on the lake. I felt as if someone was poking me with a thousand icy needles.
Although mumma and papa were feeling cold too, Lucia didn’t seem to be affected by the wind at all. She pointed out the area, on the other side of the lake, where she lived with her husband, children and grandchildren. We were amazed to know that she was a grandmother already! She looked so young! I had thought that she couldn’t be a day above forty but she was actually above sixty years old. She had a few wrinkles near her eyes but honestly, that was the only indication of her age. She was tall, agile, and pretty. I would get tired, despite being the youngest, but she wouldn’t.
I finally managed to convince my parents to go down to the lower deck and then we all had a warm drink. The ferry ride ended after half an hour. We got out and started again, this time to a mountain called Seehohe. We went up the mountain in a gondola lift. It was while we were in the lift, that I figured we were to have lunch on top of the mountain. Lucia was talking to the owner of the diner on the phone and she asked us what we would like to eat. Now, food is a major problem while travelling, especially since we are Muslims. We do not eat pork, but it seems to be widely loved by the people in Austria. Or any western country for that mater. There were two options for us at the restaurant, beef steak and salad. I said that I would share a salad with my mom. The rest of the ride passed in peaceful silence, only interrupted by the click of phone cameras as one of us kept taking pictures.
Photographs by Insha Faridoon