Lofer 21/07/2016 – 28/07/2016
The 2016 RYC tour was to the Tyrolean town of Lofer staying in the Salzburgerhof Hotel run by the very friendly and accommodating Caroline and Sep.
After enjoying the freedom that comes with having our own coach with us last year we decided see how far you can travel by coach and ferry and opted for trying the sleeping and driving overnight option to reach Austria. 51 choir members and 5 adult helpers (Nick, Jo, Rachel, David and James) accompanied Marion and Chris on a 61 seater coach (when it finally arrived ~ 4 hours late!). A problem with the coach company combined with reported technical issues meant we left Romsey much later than planned and had to rebook our ferry booking time twice – finally boarding the 10pm crossing but fortunately just ahead of the major hold-up that developed later at Dover. Despite the coach showing a worrying power issue and needing to be turned off and on again we made it as far as the Munich ring road without too much further issue – except for the AirCon unit not performing well enough to cope with the heat from the engine in the back rows – before we hit the holiday traffic we’d planned to avoid with the earlier ferry crossing. Thankfully the hotel still laid on a light “lunch” for us when we finally arrived at ~ 4:30pm. We were greeted by David, Louise and Fleur Newman who’d travelled out independently to join us on the tour.
After quickly settling in (and a short swim for some) we headed into Lofer in the evening to join in with the weekly music concert by the town’s wind band which made us feel at home straight away. We were lucky enough to then watch the annual firework display to mark the end of the canoeing season that had been postponed due to poor weather the previous week! Things were going our way at last.
On Saturday we headed to Kufstein, sampled its ice cream shops’ wares and then headed to the castle. Here we sang a few songs after the midday organ recital on the largest organ in Europe (housed in one of the castle towers) that pays respect those killed in war. Then we went up the glass venicular lift into the castle (used in the filming of “Where Eagles Dare”) for picnic lunch and a chance to explore.
We then headed to Sankt Johann for a concert in the pfarrkirche with Rachel playing the viola accompanied by James. He also played for the choir so that Chris could join in the singing. What an amazing acoustic for a concert and we sold a few CDs to an appreciative audience. We got back to Lofer just in time for a short swim in the rain.
Sunday was the busiest day with a trip over the border into Germany for a morning boat trip along Konigssee, listening to bugle call echoing against the sheer cliff walls, past the pilgrimage church of St Bartholomä then taking the short but breath-taking walk to the Obersee – a mirror smooth lake with the most amazing views of the surrounding mountains. After the return boat trip we headed to the Berchtesgaden Salt mines, put on our mining overalls and headed into the mountain aboard a train. The tour was a fascinating insight into the subterranean salt mining caverns with scream-inducing miners’ slides between levels and a boat trip on a brine lake before heading back into the sunshine on a second train – with an impromptu outburst on “Elijah Rock”. We returned to the hotel with just enough time to get into concert dress and walk to Lofer church for the sound check before the concert. The church was packed thanks to some last minute publicity efforts and our earlier performance on Friday evening.
The next day we headed to Salzburg for a day of Mozart and “Sound of Music” influenced site-seeing. We found fountains and statues and many of the landmarks featured in the film, took selfie photos involving Mozart for our photo competition, crossed the pedestrian bridge covered in padlocks that glistened red-gold in the summer sun. After lunch we headed out to Hellbrunn palace and sang by the “I am sixteen” gazebo that was donated to the city by the Hollywood studio. We then got very wet – first by experiencing the trick fountains tour and then in a massive thunderstorm deluge. On the return coach trip the evaporation from sodden T-shirts filled the air-con reservoirs and lead to a drip shower for the lucky people on the back row. Amazingly there was even still time for a swim before dinner on our return to Lofer.
On Tuesday we headed out to a Siesenbergklamm gorge at Weissbach and walked along the wooden walkway surrounded by amazing, towering rock formations and crevices above the roaring, white water river. After a photoshoot opportunity with some local placid cows we headed back to the village for a lunch stop before moving on to Zell-am-See. Here we set up the keyboard and as soon as the dancing fountain show finished we started our 45 minute programme of songs and a viola solo from Rachel to tourists either passing by or sitting and watching. On our return there was another swimming opportunity this time in glorious sunshine surrounded by the alpine peaks – simply idyllic. Unfortunately the evening street fayre suffered from an early evening downpour so that by the time we arrived the party atmosphere was a little subdued – but our year 9 girls danced along to the band that was playing and adorned with their bottle-supported hair-dos certainly got themselves noticed!
On our final day in Austria it was Nicks 50th and Eve’s 16th joint birthday and we went up in the Alpine gondolas to walk on the high meadows before lunch and then spent the entire afternoon at the swimming pool.
Having packed before dinner there was a general party atmosphere for the rest of the evening before we boarded our coach for the overnight journey back through Germany and France arriving in time for a quick hypermarket shop before our ferry home. On our arrival in Romsey as the cheers subsided a bereft voice was heard to say “there’s no mountains!”. It was a terrific tour and we all miss the stunning alpine scenery – not to mention the swimming pool.