The Executioner's Cottage
Specialized Group Tours
Although I run specialized photography tours I don’t, as a rule, sign up for general tours as a paying customer.
That’s not to say I wouldn’t gladly spend money to be part of a specialized photography tour. For example, I’m yet to travel to Africa and, while I’ve done some wildlife photography, it’s not my particular area of expertise. However, I’d gladly sign up to a wildlife tour to Africa run by an expert in the field. Andy Biggs would be high on my list of guides for such a tour.
Looking Down River
But as far as general, run of the mill tours go - no, not while I have my health. That’s not to say I wouldn’t be up for one of those grand river tours through Europe with family or a bunch of close friends. Good food, vino, decent accommodation and a private balcony from which to make photos in between excursions would be great fun. My older brother and his wife have undertaken several river boat tours through Europe on the Aussie owned Scenic River Cruises. They look fantastic, as do the Swedish owned Viking River Cruises.
While planning my last trip to Europe my travel agent strongly suggested that I would be well served going on a few half and one day tours while exploring Austria.
I explained that, as an independent traveler and photographer, such tours are completely contrary to the way I travel. I want to determine when and where I go and I see no value in straining to hear someone rabbit on about who was on with whom and who wasn’t paying. I can do research in my own time. When I’m in a beautiful and/or historically important space I want to experience and, of course, photograph that space. And sharing that space with a bunch of tourists is going to compromise my ability to do so. It's ideal for many, but not for me.
Following Your Muse
The first time I undertook a tour was by accident. I was in India, many years ago, and noticed a really cute Japanese girl in the foyer of the hotel I was staying at. I walked towards her. She smiled so I followed her onto a bus, conveniently parked immediately outside the front entrance to the hotel. The bus was very clean and air-conditioned, not at all like what I’d been used to while traveling around India. How good is this, I thought. And hey, look, they're all Japanese on this bus.
The bus departed and, a little way down the road, stopped to eject me. That was my introduction to the notion of a group tour.
Day Tours in Austria
Despite my objections my travel agent managed to talk me into two short tours. One was to a few really interesting sites an hour or so out of Vienna. This actually made sense as one of the sites, Heiligenkreuz Abbey, can only be entered as part of an organized tour.
I arranged with my guide that I would wait until he had given his spiel and, as soon as the group had begun to move on, I would get on with making my photos. It was a rush but, for security reasons, I understood that I would have to remain in sight before my tour guide could move onto to the next room. I made sure I didn’t hold up the tour, nor cause my guide any concern. It worked a treat!
I undertook my second tour in Salzburg. It was a Sounds of Music tour which also included an excursion to towns near Salzburg. I must say this one was a hoot. The locations visited were interesting and our guide was both insightful and gregarious. I was most happy to leave him and our driver a very decent tip at day’s end.
Photographing the Executioner's Cottage
At the end of our short tour we drove back into Salzburg and our guide pointed out some of the more expensive residencies in town. I pointed towards this cute little cottage and asked why there was so much free space around it. He answered that, in days gone by, it was the home of the town’s executioner and that it had been considered bad luck to live too close to that house.
It was a beautiful spot and an interesting story so the following day, while wandering around Salzburg, I found my way up to the Fortress Hohensalzburg where I happened upon this view down on the cottage. Though it was a dreary, wet day the vantage point was good and I was really happy to have had the opportunity to photograph the Executioner’s Cottage.