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SALZBURG GROUP VISIT TO MAIDENHEAD 2012

24th - 28th September 2012

Our Salzburg visitors arrived by plane to Stanstead and after a coach transfer to Heathrow, arrived to the Braywick car park  to be greeted on arrival by their hostesses.  Some previous friendships and acquaintances were renewed and there were many excited greetings.  On Monday afternoon the weather changed and the sun came out.   A rest perhaps?   No… these are feisty ladies, interested and curious about their surroundings as are we.   My guest Doris and I walked across Marsh Meadow in Cookham to the Thames, looking glorious in the afternoon sunshine and blue sky. With her camera snapping everywhere we returned via the Church to see Stanley Spencer's painting of the Last Supper and then up the High Street in the Village. Monday night we gathered at the house of Sue Morris for what was a  wonderful reception and meal.   Linda Johnston, our President welcomed the visitors with a short speech and their President Erni Priesner replied.  Erni revealed that she had actually spent time as an au-pair in Maidenhead many years ago and was very happy to be back.  The careful planning of this enjoyable evening ensured that we wined and dined happily whilst there were many interesting and friendly exchanges in both languages.

Tuesday morning saw us all gathered in the Council Chamber of the Town Hall where the Worshipful Mayor of Maidenhead, Colin Rayner, showed us the Robes and various accessories that the Mayor wears and carries.  He gave us an entertaining and informative talk on his own background and emphasised that the Mayoral role is mainly a supportive one to residents and charities.  We watched as he was ’dressed’ in the Mayoral robes by his assistant. He described the various articles of clothing and the history behind them.  There is always a historical reason for every bizarre or flamboyant piece. We were all amused to learn that his Mace was originally used when the Mayor would collect taxes from everyone.  No-one else would be allowed within a yard of it. However, when we grouped together  - guests and hostesses – for a photo, the mace lay easily within touching distance behind us!  A viewing of the silver collection in the next room was followed by the presentation from the Salzburg Circle.

During an audio visual display we learnt that Salzburg means ‘White Gold’. This was the significant factor in the founding and growth of Salzburg.  We were shown the fascinating history of the lives of those who mined the salt and traded it in the area around present day Salzburg. This began in the 6th Century BC with the Celtic tribes when salt was mined and transported along rivers. It continued under Roman occupation.  After about 1,000 years the whole industry was taken up again, led by the Archbishops.  The wealth they attained was used to develop the medieval city of Salzburg into a Baroque work of art. From that time on salt was mined in two particular areas which today are interesting to visit.  The work was laborious, dangerous and arduous.  Family life revolved around mining and the women also helped with carrying and transporting!  Thus there is a tradition of dancing, jousting and celebrating on the river and these traditions are tourist attractions today as well as an important historic heritage for the local people. In 1997 Hallstadt – just an hour or so from the centre of Salzburg, was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  It was clear that the ladies of the Salzburg Group are very proud of their interesting city and beautiful surroundings.  They had visited the Salt Mine Exhibition and their photo showed them all kitted up in boiler suits ready to go underground.   Above ground the beautiful scenery almost belies the hard work of centuries down below but makes the area a wonderful place to visit. Tuesday afternoon was spent visiting the local area and Tuesday evening guests and hostesses attended private dinner parties in the homes of other members of our group.  This gave us more opportunities to meet and share experiences in relaxing surroundings.

Wednesday was a packed schedule but we all weathered it very well and it turned out to be a stimulating and successful day.  We travelled to London by coach, our first stop being the V and A Museum.   The exhibition of "Ballgowns – British Glamour since 1950", was a stunning display of stylish evening wear, enjoyed by us all.  There was also time to view the surrounding costume displays of more historical interest.  Our guests also visited other galleries such as silver, jewellery, sculpture and the scale model of the Olympic Cauldron.  The William Morris rooms where lunch could be taken were awesome.

All this awe and wonder was furthered as we progressed to our next venue – Buckingham Palace.  Security is stringent here but once through the airport like area we were transported into the sumptuous surroundings of the palace.  There were many people but not a lot of noise, because everyone was hooked up to their audio guide – available in any language!  A clever method of keeping the peaceful ambience!.  The Picture Gallery was truly magnificent, indeed one did not know which way to turn first as the ceilings were also stunning. It seems that the upkeep of the whole building is excellent. There was however quite a crush to enter the Diamond Jubilee exhibition, displaying exhibits from the Royal Family's private collection. Our guests were thrilled, particularly that one was not on a travelling walkway as happens at the Tower when viewing the Crown Jewels.  The jewels were exquisite up close and well worth the wait.

Many of us met up in the Garden café where we were stunned at the cost of cream teas, but we all succumbed and enjoyed scones with a much needed cup of tea.  It had rained the whole time we were inside but this gave the Palace gardens a fresh green hue and we were able to walk around the periphery without minding the drips.  A fast journey back to Maidenhead enabled us to be relaxed and ready for our meal at Norden Farm.   One of our own members organised and performed in a musical group as we supped in the Long Barn.  Once more, a convivial evening.

Thursday the hostesses and guests met at Hughenden Manor, the former home of Benjamin Disraeli.    We were blessed with sunshine which showed off the surrounding undulating countryside and the setting of the house to its best.  We had a tour of the garden which the Salzburg guests found particularly interesting.  In the house, we were able to wander as we pleased, but once again our Austrian ladies, being so proficient at English, were fascinated to listen to the explanations given by the National Trust volunteers – experts in their historical fields, of course.  Outside some of us entered the Walled Garden and even procured some free seeds! The afternoon was free for us all to pursue particular interests. Several ladies visited Eton and enjoyed the High Street, the antique shops and the views from the bridge, as others walked the ramparts of Windsor Castle. Cookham and the Stanley Spencer Gallery were popular too, Henley and Marlow were also visited.  We all have incredible stamina when it comes to showing off our local area and our guests have certainly relished it.

It seemed by Thursday evening that strong friendships had been formed and our Farewell Dinner at the Winter Hill Golf Club in Cookham was very successful.  There were over 50 of us including husbands and friends.   Our President, Linda, spoke of the pleasure we derive from meeting up.   Erni, the Salzburg President, spoke of the similarities between us and how we find that we cherish the important things about our families and our interest in European heritage, as well as the differences between us, such as British Manor Houses,  Royal carriages and driving on the other side of the road!

For myself, as a first time hostess, I enjoyed the interaction of two languages all week with my particular guest but also the vivacity and spirit of the whole Salzburg group of visitors.  My thanks go to the hard working Committee for the superb organisation behind the smooth running week.

Julia Mellor  September 2012

 

 


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