The Hills Are Alive With the Smells of Gluhwein

Christmas in Salzburg, Austria. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

December 5, 2014
Viking River Cruises’ Viking Baldur arrived in the city of Linz, Austria early this morning as our weeklong Danube Waltz river cruise slowly winds its way down Europe’s most famous river towards Passau. Guests wouldn’t be staying in Linz long, though: nearly the entire ship was setting out on a full-day journey to Salzburg.

Viking Baldur docked in Salzburg, Austria in the early morning hours of December 5, 2014. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Viking Baldur docked in Salzburg, Austria in the early morning hours of December 5, 2014. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

What’s particularly interesting to note is that when I did this run two years ago aboard Viking Freya, this excursion was offered at an additional cost of about 100 Euros. In fact, nearly every other river cruise line stopping in Linz also offers an excursion to Salzburg – at an additional per person cost. Viking, however, has begun offering the full-day excursion to Salzburg complimentary.

The Road to Salzburg. Once again, Viking's brand-new coaches make even long excursions comfortable. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

The Road to Salzburg. Once again, Viking’s brand-new coaches make even long excursions comfortable. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

This is particularly noteworthy for several reasons. Guests must be bussed to Salzburg from Linz on four separate Viking-branded coaches, and the journey takes roughly two hours there and two hours back. That’s a lot of driving – and a lot of expensive diesel fuel for the coaches. Then, a guided tour of this historic city is offered, followed by free time. It’s the kind of thing Viking really could still charge 100 Euros for and it would be completely understandable.
Instead, the Salzburg tour is now offered completely free of charge, except for lunch on your own. Needless to say, this was an incredibly popular option with our almost-exclusively American passenger base, for one key reason: everyone loves The Sound of Music, which was filmed on-location in and around Salzburg.

Viking coaches at our pit-stop...Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Viking coaches at our pit-stop…Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

...at Mondsee Lake in Upper Austria. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

…at Mondsee Lake in Upper Austria. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Now, allow me to present my own personal bias early on: I hate The Sound of Music. I hate it not because it’s a bad movie (it isn’t), or because the songs are terrible (they’re not). I dislike it because to me, Salzburg is so much more than some 1965 movie with Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer. Salzburg is the birthplace of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, one of the leading cities in the Renaissance and Baroque movements, and even the birthplace of Josef Mohr, who co-wrote Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht – or “Silent Night.”

Welcome to Salzburg! Note that the 'love lock' craze has spread here as well. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Welcome to Salzburg! Note that the ‘love lock’ craze has spread here as well. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

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