Isla, December 6th, 2017
“There you go, baked apple and whipped cream”, Finn handed a steaming and white-topped mug to her: “So, tell me more about your brother, he doesn’t exactly seem like the boring, cookie-cutter variety?”
“You could say that”, Isla laughed, taking a tentative first sip from her punsch: “ Oliver studies marine biology and oceanography at the Marine Research Institute in Cape Town – were we grew up – and is obviously not challenged enough by that”, she continued, “so far, so boring, I guess, but he also loves to travel and I have never met a single person, who was as well-connected throughout the world as he is”, they had walked slowly through the market, stopping here and there to look at a particularly yummy looking offering or some beautiful piece of craftsmanship. Isla, while busy telling Finn about her big brother, also tried to remember the task on hand and kept looking for something that could help her solve Oliver’s latest clue. Finn had seemed fairly confident that she would recognize the treat once she saw it, but so far Isla had found nothing to jog her memory: “Even when we were children he was constantly out and about, finding a new adventure in everything he did – I always admired him for that. You see, I am usually not the bravest person and so even coming to Salzburg from London has seemed like a huge challenge to me. Whereas Ollie would probably consider that a little weekend trip – no problem”, she shook her head at the clear difference between them. Her whole family sometimes seemed like a riddle in and of itself, as none of the four children shared any of the same characteristics or hobbies; Oliver with his outgoing nature and biology genius was a strong opposite to Isla’s love for music and photography or their littler sisters’ athletic and poetic talents respectively: “Do you have siblings?”, she asked after a while, taking the opportunity to catch up on her punsch, which had already cooled down considerably. Surprisingly, the taste of baked apple came through even better now, spreading in her mouth silkily and exposing an entire concoction of cinnamon and clove flavours after she had already swallowed it.
“A little sister, yes, but she has never presented me with a paper chase through Salzburg”, he laughed: “I guess, I should start hinting more! I have always adored Schnitzljagten – as we call them here – and Mozart happens to be one of my all time favourite topics, not just in a musical but also in a historical sense. So forgive me if I seem a little over excited, and please do tell me if you just want me to butt the hell out at any point”, he looked at her, for once not laughing or grinning. Isla contemplated this for a moment. She was usually far too polite to tell anybody outright, when they started to annoy her and she sensed that it wouldn’t be any different in this situation, regardless of whether he had brought it up or not: “It’s okay, I quite enjoy the company”, she finally answered honestly. She hadn’t thought that inviting somebody to help with her quest would be a good idea, but it had been a while since she had talked so effortlessly and easily to a near-stranger.
“Glad to hear it”, he answered, relief flooding his face and leaving behind the crooked grin she was getting used to: “Found anything yet?”, he didn’t have to remind her, as Isla was still trying to peek into every single stall. She shook her head sadly, not wanting to admit defeat. Finn, however, didn’t seem too worried and lead her through a little passage towards the second part of the Christmas market, chatting happily as they went. He told her about his grandfather working as a tour guide in Salzburg and how he himself had stepped in to guide a group of tourists through the town here and there. He also talked about the old buildings – the cathedral on the one hand and the bishop’s residence on the other – surrounding the market and finally about which stalls where any good, as opposed to others: “Whatever you do, stay away from those churros, they are disgusting”, he warned, holding out his freshly bought bag of roasted almonds instead. Isla was just about to reach in to unearth another one of the sugar-coated nuts, when her hand flew to her mouth instead: “Oh my god, I am so stupid”, she exclaimed loud enough for a couple of people to turn around, looking at the girl standing still like a statue and starring at one of the stalls in front of her. Directly beside the undesirable churros, she had noticed a giant display of Mozartkugeln – a sweet treat Salzburg was known for like nothing else, which – of course – had Mozart’s face printed right on top of them.
“Do you think the next clue is in one of those stalls?”, she asked, suddenly spotting bags and boxes of the chocolates everywhere.
“No”, Finn shook his head: “you are forgetting about the last part of the clue: there are Mozartkugeln from many different companies, who continuously fight about the right to call themselves the Original”.
“Right, but how am I supposed to know, which ones are the right ones? I mean I didn’t even know multiple of them existed”, she shrugged. All the stalls around her were exclusively selling a red and gold ball, which said Mirabell on them. Knowing Oliver, she was guessing that the sheer fact of them being represented here so often meant she was looking at one of the ‘fakes’. Naturally, she could always google the right answer, but then Finn could have lead her to the next clue straight away. Resigned, she drank the last of her punsch and shrugged: “Can you give me a clue?”, she asked finally.
“Sure, I’ll give you three brand names, one of them is the right one: So, we have Mirabell – which are the ones you are seeing here everywhere -, Fürst and Reber”, he had barely ended his sentence, when Isla answered: “Fürst”, with a triumphant smile on her face. The moment he had said it, she had remembered the treats she was supposed to bring back for Harriet. And even though her last chat with the florist lay back a couple of weeks now, and she couldn’t actually remember if Harriet had ever mentioned those to be the Original Mozartkugeln; Isla just had a gut feeling about them.
“Well done! And as chance would have it, Konditorei Fürst is right around the corner. If your next clue is hidden at Fürst, I would say it is probably there and not in one of the smaller shops”, he grinned, slipping back into his role as a tour guide and telling her everything about why those particular chocolates where the Original, as opposed to the other kinds. True to his words, the blue panelled café – “opened by Paul Fürst in 1886” – was very close to where they had started their tour and paraded a ton of silver and blue treats in the windows. After Isla had bought an extra big box for Harriet, she mastered all of her courage to ask the woman behind the counter if she might know about an envelope that was waiting here for her.
Minutes later – the sales person had had to ask a colleague, before they were able to find the clue – Isla and Finn stood once again in a snowy square tearing open an envelope. This time, however, there was now folded piece of paper inside.