A week in Salzburg and an excursion to Munich

I’m currently on a train to Vienna with Emmaline, sipping Red Bulls (first one since the Dimond Library, fell off the bandwagon) and munching sandwiches while an older couple next to us is engaged in some serious PDA. Not cute PDA, but unusual by US standards, raunchy howhighupherleg is he going to go PDA. If there’s one thing I’ve noticed this trip to Europe, it’s that people just aren’t as shy about touching as we tend to be back home. Every stranger I’ve been introduced to has gone in for the customary double cheek kiss- EXCEPT for any other Americans I meet. Even the younger kids greet each other this way, with the boys shaking hands and clapping each other on the backs, and hugging their girl friends. Couples are super cuddly in public, no matter what age, and there are tons of kids my age walking around holding hands with their parents. It makes me wonder what they think when they visit America, like do we come off as super standoffish and cold? Or prude. Who knows, that’s all besides the point. Thank you, my lovebird aisle-mates for leading me to that tangent.

Like I said, I’m on a train back to Vienna where Em and I will spend the remainder of my trip before I head home Wednesday. Having almost three hours to kill, I figured now would be a great time to recap on a lot of what has happened in the past week. For whatever reason, I love writing while I’m on a train. No major distractions, clear and flowing thoughts, no stress about having to navigate myself. It might actually be my favorite way to get anywhere.

OK SO. Down to business. Having the bad tendency to ramble, I’ll break this post up in sections. Let’s start with the actual city of Salzburg.

Salzburg

When Emmaline picked up from the train station on Sunday, our taxi drove us on a path that went around the Old Town, the part of the city most well known and photographed. I, like many others I’m sure, tend to forget that a place is not compromised just by the parts that it’s well known for. There’s much more to the city than just the Old Town, it’s a place just like any other you might know. Practical stores, apartment buildings, gas stations, subdivisions and plenty of traffic lights. So, my introduction to the Old Town the following day was made even more magical by seeing the “normal parts” of the city first. To get into the city, we walked through this massive tunnel literally carved right into and through a long and thick wall of rock. Think Lord of the Rings entrance to Moria (Yup, I know how dorky that makes me sound. Over it!) and you have a good idea of what this entrance and tunnel looked like. So you walk through this tunnel carved into rock, almost feeling like you’re underground, and emerge into the light to find this beautiful, antique city that looks like it’s been frozen in time. The detail paid to all the buildings that make up the city is actually insane, you can’t imagine there’s ever been enough time to have completed it all. The majority of streets and pathways are made up of cobbled stone, and there are elaborate fountains and statues around every corner (most of which are covered in protective cases from the upcoming snowfalls). Food stands and trucks pop up randomly amongst the hundreds of specialty shops. There are more bakeries with drool worthy display windows than you can count, and nestled between and through buildings are little alley ways. At first, they seem daunting, but after a few days of walking, you realize they all connect in an easy to follow path. Every hundred feet it seems like there’s another important landmark to take notice of. Famous for The Sound of Music and Mozart (amongst other things), there is plenty of sights to see attributed to the two. Every day there was something new to see, whether it was another church, museum or amazing view of the city from high above.

Favorite Sights 

Ok this is hard because there was very little about Salzburg that I didn’t love, but I’ll try to give you a quick recap of a few of my favorites.

The Salzburg Fortress (Festung Hohensalzburg): This is an enormous and very famous fortress that sits upon a high hill overlooking the city. It’s been found in records dating as far back as the late 10th century and has been excellently preserved. To get to it, you can take a funicular directly up the incline. From the walls of the fortress, you can get an amazing view of the city. Emmaline and I did this the second night I was in town before we attended a classical advent concert.  All the city lights splayed out beneath you definitely take your breath away.

The Horse Fountain: After you come through that tunnel I was talking about earlier, you’ll be directly near the Horse Fountain- a giant horse sculpture surrounded by a mural of horses that at one point served as a horse bath where people would come and groom their horses. Pretty self-explanatory, and very beautiful. This was easily my favorite sculpture in the Old Town. Next to the pickles of course.

St. Peter’s Abbey: The church of the Abbey is pretty incredible. Every church in Salzburg was beautiful, but this one was especially notable. Every part of the church is carefully painted and sculpted, with Biblical stories covering the wall and ceiling in mural form.

Nonnberg Abbey: The Abbey is great, but it’s the walk to it that is particularly spectacular. Following a slow winding path uphill, the view of the city gets better with every step. And of course, the door and gates of the Abbey were widely used in The Sound of Music.

Other great spots were Mozart’s house, the Salzburg Museum, Hellbrun, and Leopoldschloss, a famous palace overlooking a lovely little pond.

Food and Christmas Markets 

Obviously one of the best parts of going somewhere new is trying the local eats, and it seems like coming at Christmastime was a great choice in this regard. I’ve put these two topics together because they really go hand in hand. Many cities in this part of Europe put up extravagant Christmas markets for most of the Christmas season. They’re comprised of various vendor stalls selling baked good, candy, candles, hats and gloves, Christmas decorations, fresh produce, tons of traditional Austrian good and of course, plenty of Gluhwein and Punsch. The markets seem to be more of a social even then anything else, with tons of people gathering all day long to get drinks and eat. All around the markets tiny, high tables are set up that people will gather around to catch up. Most of the people buying trinkets seem to be tourists (guilty). And of course, the markets are decorated to the nines. So many lights, so many trees, and tons of live Christmas music performances. It’s like Christmas went and threw up all over the city- I LOVE it. As is evident by the thousands of pictures I’ve taken of the markets so far (and just wait, Em and I are hitting up the Viennese markets tonight :p ).

Ok, more on the food. I’ve only dabbled a bit in the Austrian food scene. To be honest, I’m not a huge fan of sausage and it’s definitely very popular over here. I did find a milder form I like called Bosna, pretty much two halves of long, thin sausage served on freshly baked bread with your choosing of toppings. Sort of like a hot dog, but definitely way more flavorful. The bread choices in Salzburg are insane, it’s a bread lovers paradise. Also very popular are giant pretzels done in a variety of ways, pretzels being the image logo for multiple bakeries around town.

My favorite dish I’ve tried while here is Kaiserschmarrn. Seriously cannot stop talking about it, and probably will try to master a recipe once I get home so I can have it whenever I want. It’s almost like a pancake stirfry, Big pieces of pancake make up this dish, but for a Christmas twist they add raisins, apple, and walnuts and top it with powdered sugar and apple or plum sauce, or both if you’re a glutton like myself.

Most important out of all these traditional dishes and drinks are the gluhweins and punsch. Gluhwein is hot mulled wine, red or white, and it tastes like Christmas in a cup. It’s heaven and hands down my favorite way to drink wine. As my friend told me, it’s the best way to stay warm when walking around the chilly city at night. Where there’s gluhwein, there’s usually punch, which comes in a wide variety of flavors. They consist of a base alcohol, such as rum or vodka, mixed with various flavors and warmed. My favorite was a caramel, chili pepper rum punsch I tried in Vienna the first night I was here.

Excursion to Munich and Neuschwanstein Castle in Fussen

On Wednesday, Emmaline and I got up at 5 to catch a train to Munich, Germany where we caught up with a guided tour that would take us to Neuschwanstein Castle (The New Swan Rock is the translation, according to Roggie). Unfortunately for us, the castle was pretty much hidden by fog. Here’s what it looks like normally:

neuschw_heute

Long story short behind the castle is that there was this crazy ruler named Ludwig who was a recluse because he was never close with his parents, didn’t want to get married and produce an heir, and struggled with his sexuality his entire life until he died by very mysterious circumstances at the age of 41. The dude was obsessed with Hans Christian Andersen and all things fantasy. He built several incredible and extravagant palaces, two of which remain unfinished.

While the inside of the castle was pretty cool, the best part of the trip was the people we met. There was Dana, a warm grandmother from Texas who was quick to take Em and I under her wing, and the mother/daughter duo of Sarah and Pria, from Georgia. All three women are widely traveled and it was so cool to listen to all of the interesting places they’ve been. I sort of felt like a novice in comparison! We stayed relatively close throughout the day, and by the time the tour came to an end, it felt like we were saying goodbye to friends. It’s definitely been so cool to see the way travel can bring people together.

Upon getting back to Munich, we decided to walk the city with another tour member, Travis, who had just arrived in Munich from Perth, Australia the day before. Like us, he’d just graduated and is taking the next two months to travel. I give him major kudos, I’m definitely realizing I prefer a shorter trip to a longer one. Munich, like Salzburg and Vienna, has gorgeous Christmas markets and was a scene out of the most Christmassy of Christmas movies. By the time we rolled back into Salzburg at 10:30, we were exhausted by quite happy with how the day had gone.

All in all, Salzburg was absolutely fantastic and I was sad to leave it behind this morning. On our last night there, Em and I cooked up omelets for dinner and watched The Sound of Music with Roggie while sipping on some red wine. Having not seen it for at least a decade, it was especially great to watch it after having gotten to see so much of the scenery for myself and walked away from it with an all new appreciation. A chill night was exactly what we needed before setting off on the next part of the trip.

If you’ve read this all, that’s awesome and I’m beyond flattered, I know how long winded I can get 😉 Our train ride’s wrapping up and we’ll be getting into Vienna shortly.

Let’s see what today brings 🙂

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appreciation

The six days (shoot this trip is flying by!)  I’ve been in Austria have brought with them a number of wonderful things. There’ve been endless, delicately designed buildings to see, magical Christmas markets to explore, punsch and gluhwein to be drunk (more on those later), great Austrian food to try-the list goes on and on.

But out of all of these thing I’ve experienced thus far, the one I cannot get over is the abundance of kindness I have been the recipient of. I feel like I before I can get into any of that other good stuff, I at least need to touch upon the great people I’ve encountered so far.

On the plane, there was Addie. It was so weird- and if you know me, you know that “so” is being drawn way out- that we would sit together, because when I saw her walking into the airport I had this bizarre feeling she would be my seat mate. Naturally, I used this super creepy and borderline crazy thought as an icebreaker, and like I suspected, she was insanely nice. She was from Mass (born in Greece) and heading to Zurich to see her daughter, whose husband works out there, and help out when her third baby is born this week. Any flight jitters I had were immediately calmed by our flowing conversation about our own families, reasons for traveling and life in general. 20 minutes prior to landing in Switzerland, I started to have a ridiculous panic attack (I ended up throwing up in the Zurich Airport bathroom three times- new record whoo!) and she talked me through it and reassured me as if she were actually family. I was so happy to have met her and sad to say goodbye. If it hadn’t been for Addie, the plane ride would have been one hundred times worse. It was while we were saying goodbye that I realized what an example she was of the fact that everyone who comes into your life seems to come with some type of purpose, even if it’s only for a fleeting time.

On my second flight into Vienna I sat next to a lovely British couple, and upon landing was immediately in touch with my good friend who lives in the city. He instructed me on where and which train to catch to the central station and was there waiting when I arrived. It’s so good to see such a great friend after a long period of time, let alone in a beautiful, foreign city. After 11 hours of traveling, it almost didn’t feel like reality. His friends were so incredibly nice, offering up a room, treating me to food and drinks, and getting me into some of the city’s most secret spots for the night I was there as if they too knew me. I was shown around Vienna and welcomed into a party hosted by a salsa dancing, music writing, delicious guacamole making woman from Guatemala. From there we went to a quiet bar where another friend was celebrating his birthday and I was again introduced from one friendly person to the next. My favorite part of the whole night was the fact that everybody I met came from such different backgrounds. Hearing how they all wound up in Austria was so interesting. Everyone I talked to was so warm and welcoming that it was almost easy to forget 24 hours prior I had been in New Hampshire worrying about whether or not I’d be capable of refraining from my usual nervous, socially awkward self when put in a new situation. Of course, a beer or two definitely helped 😉

That first day passed remarkably fast, and all too soon my friend had shown up at the apartment I was staying to bring me to the train station. My navigation skills unfortunately suck, so I cannot even begin to start on how relieved I was that he had been willing to get up early on a Sunday after a super late night and be my guide. Thank you, thank you, thank you once more to him and his friends for taking me in the way you all did! I feel so spoiled

And then there’s Emmaline and her delightful grandpa Roggie. The fact that these two have willingly signed up to put up with me for seven days (hey Em, you get me for a bonus 5, ha!) is a reason to be sainted in itself. Roggie, one of the most knowledgeable and lovable people you will come across, has provided me with more insight to Salzburg than I could have hoped for. Each day he has advice and tips for Em and I, sending us to various concerts and sights. I’ve so enjoyed our talks over breakfast and dinner, and our games of Herzln (yet another card game I am horrible at). Within minutes of walking into his cozy house I’ve felt at home. And for a giant homebody like me, that’s saying a lot.

Emmaline, of course, has been nothing but an awesome and energetic host. Each day we’ve been running around like crazy women seeing this and that, all while she’s helping out with Roggie. The girl is Super Woman pretty much. Despite what she says, she’s been a great tour guide and it’s always nice when we get to do something that she hasn’t done yet either, like going to see a giant castle in Bavaria and walking around Munich. I might be jilting the woman of the hour out of a long, reasons why I’m so happy to be with her here in Austria, ramble, but I have more posts to write, and obviously none of them will be included without her. Plus, shout out to her awesome mom whose messages and comments always brighten my day. Thanks for sharing your family with me 🙂

So what it boils down to- and yeah, I’m starting to get lazy writing this because it’s midnight over here and if I don’t go to bed soon I’ll confuse my stomach into thinking it’s dinner time again (still not on any type of clock)- is that I can’t say enough good things about the people I’ve been around so far while I’m here and the immense kindness they’ve shown to little old, sometimes obnoxious, me.

Loving the people here, loving the people at home, appreciating you all.

More on Austria tomorrow. Maybe. I’m not very good with writing promises 🙂

about time

Well, this has been a long time in the making. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sat down to start this blog. It’s not surprising considering I’m the world’s biggest procrastinator. In the first few weeks after graduating, I figured I would start it and document what I was calling my gap year- a year post grad of working a few odd jobs, seeing some new places and taking the time to focus on the things I really love before starting the daunting task of finding a “real job.” I wanted to write about my experiences as a way to find meaning in them. And that’s definitely happening, maybe so much so that it explains the delay in taking the time to sit down and write.

In the months since graduating, it might be easier to list all the things I haven’t done.

I haven’t gotten a real job. I only applied for one.

I haven’t moved out of my parent’s house.

I haven’t gotten involved in a serious relationship.

I haven’t felt defeated by any of it.

Sometimes it seems like the people around me are more concerned about this than I am (hey dad), but I feel like I’m actually in this great phase of discovery despite the fact that I haven’t totally changed my environment or gone out on many major limbs. Sure, there are days where I feel super weird when I see my other friends having real jobs and new apartments and looking like they totally have it all figured out. But then we’ll talk and I realize they’re in the same exact time of exploration than I am, they’re just going about it in a much more grown up way (which if you know me, you know that I definitely am guilty of having the mentality of a 7 year old and not a woman who’s 23).

Everything I’m doing may seem wrong to some, but it feels right to me. I’m going on my 8th year working at my dad’s restaurant, which is pretty much long enough to make me a lifer. Of course there are moments walking into a shift when I’d love to bang my head into the thick, cement walk-in door, but in retrospect, it’s pretty amazing I’ve had the good fortune of playing some role in this small enterprise that is a huge part of my family’s life. Waiting tables comes with its downsides, but its upsides are priceless. The people I’ve met and the stories I’ve collected from those who sit at my table last far longer then their tips do. It might not be the best job to put on my resume, but it’s taught me more about people skills than any desk job ever could.

Subbing which initially started out as a fun way to make extra money and see all my favorite teachers has shifted my entire view point on what it is I’d like to do for a living. It dawned on me in the last few months that every day I pull into Coe Brown’s parking lot, I’m so happy to be there. And it’s not because I just loved high school so much, despite what my brother insists. At first it was the staff. I feel like it’s a rare thing in life to find such a great and unique group of people working in one place. I go to work and feel like I’m going to a big family reunion. Then being in the classroom started to grow on me, the kids grew on me. It became less about just passing out work and more about trying to get engaged with what they were learning (except in physics and math because they’re my kryptonite). So now, after years of insisting I could never be a teacher, the gears are churning in a much different direction.

On top of these “not real” jobs, living at home continues to be great. Not being sarcastic. I realize, TRUST ME, that I am far too comfortable to be living at my parents house still. But as I get older, I know it’s inevitable that this window will close. I will be on my own one day and I’ll be wishing for those chill nights at home with my parents and siblings. They’re great people, and I will enjoy these fleeting days while I can.

Nothing about life feels conventional I suppose. Somedays I feel like I’m sixteen still, waiting to be the age I am now so I’ll know what I’m doing in life. But clearly, I don’t know what I’m doing, and that’s ok. There’s time to sort it out.

My good friend put things into great perspective tonight when he sent me this message:

“Enjoy the ride. Sometimes you have to let life take the reins.”

He’s right, of course. Like he usually is. I guess I could look at life in two different ways. I’m either stuck in a rut, or I’m just drifting and letting life flow the way it’s going to. Currently, I’m sitting in the Boston Logan International Airport. There are all these people around me, scurrying around with their bags, lounging in chairs waiting to board, eyes eagerly scanning the walls for available outlets, and chatting with their travel companions, eyes big and wide as they wait to start whatever journey they’re departing for. I’m sitting against a wall, hogging one of those power outlets and feeling so satisfied. Across from me, there are the wide airport windows with the twinkling lights of the city dancing in the glass, the tail ends of planes gliding past as they carry off their passengers into the calm night. On the radio, jazzy Christmas music is playing, making this ginormous space alive with the energy of the thousands of people walking through it feel surprisingly calm.

My flight boards in a half hour, and tomorrow I will be in Austria, visiting good friends and exploring another nook of this huge world. I sort of can’t believe it. But I’m glad that procrastination and doing it wrong has led me here.

Am I only writing this now because I can finally say I’m doing what I wanted to do after graduation? Maybe. Probably. But then again, it had to be started when the timing was right.

Write soon, I’ve got a plane to catch.

the misadventures of a post grad with no functioning compass