As you know if you’ve been reading this blog for a while, I am really good at getting lost. I can study a map for half an hour, even write directions on the palm of my hand so I don’t have to take out the map in public, then I walk out the hotel door and will be deeply, hopelessly lost in five minutes.
Ingrid, thankfully, has a well-honed sense of direction. We came out of the underground station in Salzburg—the worst for getting lost because you don’t know which direction is north, etc.—and she pointed, “Our hotel is that way.”
“Um…I think it’s the other way,” I suggested tentatively. Why was I even bothering to trust my “sense of direction?” Ingrid had us to the hotel in no time, with no detours.
As is unfailingly the case in Europe, the room was on the top floor and there was no elevator so I had to lift and drag my suitcase up six flights of stairs, one step at a time. The hotel, Pension Elizabeth, was basic and functional. When I booked it and requested a room with two beds I had received a message, “We will do our best to accommodate your request.” And they had. The room had a queen sized bed with a folding cot right next to it, which was quite comfortable, according to Ingrid—who made the sacrifice of sleeping on it.
It was early evening on a public holiday, so the city was quiet. The holiday is called Whitsun, or Pentecost, which for most Europeans is now just a Day Off. We ran across the street toward a neon sign that flashed Pizzeria. The place was run by Bangladeshis, and the only other customers were half a dozen motorcyclists with Bison Thunder emblazoned on the backs of their black leather jackets; they were smoking cigarettes and drinking beers at an outside table. I thought they might be a gang, although they appeared to have escaped from a geriatric home. Turns out that Bison Thunder was an Austrian motorcycle made in the1920s, just like the geezers riding them.
Ingrid and I took a table inside and ordered. I got a panini and she got schnitzel, which is a breaded meat dish.
“The sky is very dark,” announced the owner from the doorway.
Suddenly the heavens opened up and buckets of marble-sized hail thundered down. The bison thunderers scurried inside as the cafe umbrellas pitched over. Cars stopped in the middle of the street, then crawled onward slowly. We all oohed and ahhed and ate and drank from inside the restaurant as we watched the show. Then Ingrid and I and the bikers retired to Pension Elizabeth for the night.
Salzburg is the city of Mozart.
I never listened to classical music until about five years ago, when I became serious about meditating. I had a score (ha, ha) of meditation CDs, and my favorite was called Zen Garden. It was a collection of classical hits overlaid with chirping crickets and birds. Sounds woo-woo, I know, but it helped me fall asleep many nights. Eventually, I quit meditating, gave my old school CD player and CDs away, and had music only on my phone. I did it because I thought everyone was doing it and it would simplify my life, but I regret it. The quality of music on an iphone is just not good. If and when I settle down anywhere again, I’m going to go all the way back to my first gen of music and buy a record player.
Anyway, meditation was my gateway to classical music, which I listen to instead of the news, especially since November 2016.
The next day, Ingrid and I walked into the city center and spent hours in the two Mozart museums—one a house where he lived with his family as a youth; the other where he lived as an adult with his wife and children.
Mozart was composing by the age of five and performing for royalty at 17. There were numerous references to him being “childlike,” and “in his own world.” Was Mozart special needs? Was he an 18th Century rain man?