This joyful holiday in the mountains, marvelling at cute chalets, and enjoying the smell of autumn firesmoke, is ruined on day one. I want to scream, but turn around, trudge down the mountain and back to Das Ronacher Hotel. Staff confirm it is closing.
Having 48 hours to salvage your holiday might be less problematic in a city, but I’m up a mountain 200 miles from Vienna along windy roads. And I don’t drive. I try to call my hotel in Vienna, booked for two nights’ time – the start of the lockdown. Nobody picks up. I send them an email from my bedroom, while the thermal spa bubbles outside. For a relaxing holiday, it sure feels like I’ve spent more time doing admin than finding zen.
The waiter at the restaurant laments that he’s going to have to use his holiday on the lockdown. “I have 16 days left,” he says. “So I have to take it all now.” He’d only arrived recently to cover a spike in bookings for the holiday season in Bad Kleinkirchheim, an area famous for its winter ski trails. Now, he and the rest of the team are being sent home for an unwanted vacation. Snow is forecast in three days.
Austria has one of Europe’s lower vaccination rates, and Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg, as he announces the lockdown, says vaccinations will be made mandatory from February. For now, the whole country – who must have thought the depressing era of lockdowns was over – must retreat inside. I don’t get a reply from my hotel in Vienna, and wonder if it is already shuttered, so turn to Twitter for assistance.