So this is it, I’ve arrived and settled in Salzburg, Austria and whilst this week wasn’t exactly without its difficulties, I’ve got through it and holy shit, I’m here. It’s still so strange that I can now call this place home; this city is like something out of a fairy tale with its domes and spires protruding from every corner of the city. Don’t get me wrong, this first week wasn’t the easiest of my life and on a handful of occasions I have been known to mutter that “I don’t even want to be here”, but there is definitely something special about the place. Even amidst the hoards of tourists, there’s certainly a few corners of Salzburg that already feel uncannily familiar, and I’d like to think that can only bode well.
As for what I’ve done/where I’ve been this week, it would be easier to say what I haven’t done (40 Euro a pop Sound of Music tour I’m looking at you). I arrived on Sunday afternoon after a journey of two halves featuring a sprint between terminals in Manchester and possibly the most scenic train connection in western Europe. At my new flat, I met Julia, the landlady/other occupant/soft toy lover and my housemate Valentina. Both are honestly so lovely and welcoming; the following day, after a morning of attending to tediously droll admin, Valentina took me on a ‘locals’ tour’ of Salzburg, pointing out cheap ice cream parlours (useful), the university buildings (also useful) and the multitudinous Mozart-related buildings in the city’s Altstadt (AVOID). I’m so glad I’ve got such a lovely flatmate – I was originally sceptical about living with just one other person, but when that person makes you dinner and lends you her bike, it’s a winner.
Tuesday saw yet more admin, only this time I discovered that the office at which new citizens must anmelden is conveniently situated in the centre of the Schloss Mirabell, which made it a bit more exciting! I’m also lucky to already have a friend from Exeter in Salzburg, Adele, so that afternoon I left my mum to trek the well-trodden tourist trail and went for an uncharacteristically sophisticated coffee and croissant with Adele before reconvening again in the Mozartplatz (I’ve lost count how many statues of the dude I’ve seen so far, and apparently he didn’t even like Salzburg!). On a side note, the food in this city is incredible and, if you’re prepared to dig through the tourist traps, can be reasonably priced too – personal favourites are the pretzels, ice cream, coffee and Kugeln.
By Wednesday, I had become a fully fledged tourist. As it was my mum’s last full day in Salzburg, we decided to go for the full Salzburg experience and take the lift up to the Moenchsberg and Festung Hohensalzburg. Midday on one of Salzburg’s hottest September days ever probably wasn’t the best time do this, but visiting the castle that presides over the city and features in every single tourist photo or postcard you’ll see just felt necessary. That day also meant the continuation of the admin saga, today spending a few hours sat in various university offices across the city whilst I registered, registered again and hey, was given a password so I could register again (German efficiency doesn’t seem to have permeated across the border yet). That night I had a beautiful traditional meal (I’d take a Salzburger Schnitzel over any pizza) with my mum in a small square adorned with murals and sound-tracked by a mournful violin – I knew then that I would be happy here.
After more admin on Thursday morning and a quick coffee at the iconic Hotel Sacher, I waved goodbye to mum at the station and ventured just out of town to Salzachsee with Adele. This is a natural lake, the surrounding parkland of which has been equipped with changing rooms, snack kiosks and showers to make it Austria’s best attempt at a beach. Swimming in the lake was so refreshing after having spent the past few days traipsing around the city and if the weather hadn’t now turned slightly, I’d go back immediately.
After all of that, just chilling out and running today was welcome. Whilst I’ve still got things to do – make more friends, begin my language course, find a gym to join – I already feel quite relaxed here. Walking or running along the Salzach towards the domes of the Altstadt with the Festungs Hohensalzburg looming over is something I can’t see myself getting bored of any time soon. This whole experience is still at the stage at which it feels as if it’s happening to another person and I’m looking on, but I quite like that. I’ve learnt that thinking too hard about my current situation only makes things more difficult, if anything, the best thing for me at the minute is not to think, but just to do.