Chapter Six: Host Family Five

South we go to the next host family, and right into the heart of mountain country.  A truly stunning place (I’ve always been particularly fond of mountains).

One of the first places my host family took me to visit was Hohe Tauren National Park.  Of course… it rained.  For most of the day while there, so most of the day was spent either in the science museum or the pool.  That’s right, a pool.  There is a pool at the center of the national park.  In the afternoon, however, the clouds broke and brilliant sunlight flooded the area, revealing the majestic beauty of the park.

Hohe Tauren National Park, snow around a new-born stream (lovely summer in the mountains).
Hohe Tauren National Park, snow around a new-born stream (lovely summer in the mountains).

So, as its very well known among my friends and maybe the rest of the world by now, I like birds.  A lot.  Too much.  Once again, we saw another Adler Show (“eagle” show) in a former castle.

Kestrel at the Adler Arena
Kestrel at the Adler Arena

Of course, being in the mountains, you must go up.  To the peaks:

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Journey and George [the Hyena] taking a hike in the mountain
Journey and George [the Hyena] taking a hike in the mountain
We also went to visit the Pyramidekogel tower.  Its a tall, twisted tower set at the peak of one of the many smaller mountains.  Visitors can go to the top of the tower for a stunning panorama of the mountains and lakes of Carinthia.  On a clear day, they said, you can even see Italy in the distance.  It was not a clear day, but you could still see the mountains!

The Pyramidekogel  tower of the Carinthian region of Austria
The Pyramidekogel tower of the Carinthian region of Austria
The twisted Pyramidekogel tower in the Carinthia region of Austria.
The twisted Pyramidekogel tower in the Carinthia region of Austria.

The tower is twisted like this to best combat strong winds.  If you look closely, you can see the silver slide for any brave soul to ride from the top to the very bottom.

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Chapter Five: Host Family Four

Moved from Lower Austria to Salzburg region. The surrounding terrain shifted from the relatively flat (and occasionally rolling hills of Lower Austria) to mountainous peaks spotted between the hills.  While there, we visited the Salzburg Zoo, the City of Salzburg, a mountain peak, and old castle ruins.

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Bear at the Salzburg Zoo
Bear at the Salzburg Zoo

As is our luck, it rained in Salzburg the afternoon we visited.  And rained hard, forcing us to take refuge under one of the many arches throughout the city.  While there, we managed to visit the Mirabell Gardens before the rain started to descend.  There, we visited the gnomes that my host mother said she visited in her childhood.  On the way out of the city, we tasted bosna (sausage in bread with onions, mustard, and curry powder.  Pretty tasty!)

"Gnome" park in the city of Salzburg
“Gnome” park of Mirabell Gardens in the city of Salzburg

The trip up the mountain was wonderful; a perfect, cool afternoon with the sun rising in the sky.  It was a leisurely hike up the slopes, through the pine forests until we were above the trees and in a grassy pasture where cattle bells rang within the small herd there.

Journey and the Puddle Pirate in the mountains.
Journey and the Puddle Pirate in the mountains.
Mountain ruins near the village of Thalgu, Austria.
Mountain ruins near the village of Thalgu, Austria.

The end of our stay was marked by the anniversary of a local rifle club.  The entire village celebrated with a beer tent (Friday through Sunday) and the music could be heard throughout the valley to the farmhouse for most of the night.  On Sunday morning, everyone dressed in their finest lederhosens or dirndl (or uniform if they were members of the fire brigade or some other outfit) and paraded through the village to an open field at the other end of the village for mass.  Unfortunately, the speakers couldn’t be heard in the back of the crowd so the Landjugend club I was with couldn’t hear them.  The boys of the club hailed young woman several times and passed around pewter classes of schnapps poured from her cask.  The day ended at the beer tents for lunch over half a roasted chicken and fries, downed with beer (or rather spritzer for me (wine with sparkling water)). All in all, an eventful end to an otherwise adventurous week!

Thalgau Landjugend group
Thalgau Landjugend group
Beer tent ("Every weekend is oktober fest!" says one of my later host brothers)
Beer tent (“Every weekend is oktober fest!” says one of my later host brothers)

Chapter Four: Host Family Three

Two weeks more in Lower Austria. This family lived on a dairy farm where I made friends with their dog (Jenny) and one of their cats.  After helping feeding the calves I would play with the cat (I really love cats).

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While at the family, there were many activities going on at the farm, ranging from building a new barn, baking bread, and making some very delicious cheese!

Barn raising on a nice hot summer day
Barn raising on a nice hot summer day
baking bread in an old-fashioned fire stove.
baking bread in an old-fashioned fire stove.
Fresh cheese
Fresh cheese

Towards the end of the trip, Journey visited Stift Melk (the largest nearby city).

Journey before Stift Melk
Journey before Stift Melk

Chapter Three: Second Host Family

Once again, time has escaped me.  Oops.

New location in Lower Austria, this time near Vienna.  Here I stayed for a week’s time.

What did I do?

I returned to Vienna, this time without any rain (which was nice). So I returned to Schonbrunn to walk the gardens. Only… on the way there, the sight of birds distracted me (for about an hour).  I followed hooded crows around a park trying to get photos of them as well as several other birds.  In the end, I finally remembered why I had gone to Vienna and returned to my journey and returned to the palace.

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Chapter Two: First Host Family

It’s been awhile.  Been busy, and, lets be honest, unproductive in terms of blogs…  Anyways, I’m currently on host family number 6, but still have not yet talked about any of my host stays!  Shame on me!  Well, here it goes.

My first stop was in Lower Austria, near St. Pölten.  Though my stay was only three days, we had a lot of fun.  We went to an abbey (Stift Göttweig).

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To save money, they painted on windows to some of the buildings…  apparently….

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“Firefleck” bread cooked over a fire (I think) with sour cream on top (and chives and I think garlic)

Later, there was an end-of-spring festival where they had a bonfire, though the way the fire was started was interesting.  They had a straw man in the center of the wood pile (named Hansel) that kids would throw torches at until both Hansel and the bonfire started.  Not exactly the safest thing, but fun to watch (at a distance).

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The next morning, I went with two of my host sisters to the city center to help with a program that they run at their church for children.  We made little pieces of dough on sticks and cooked over a fire (yummy!).

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Meter of Cocktails (and one of my host sisters)

That night we went to a Leitnparty, which was held on a steep hill with three different bars serving unique cocktails.  One bar was at the bottom of the hill, the next at the center, and the last, final bar at the top.  At each bar, you can get a stamp on a “passport” that they gave us at the entrance.  If you go to all three bars, and get a stamp, you can earn a prize: a hat (I have a new hat).

 

Though we stayed out late, we still got up early the next morning to go to….

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A castle!  But wait, there’s more!

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Falcon show!

 

I had a lovely time, and I hope to see them all again soon!!!!

 

Chapter One: Vienna

The first step in our adventure was in Vienna, where we visited Schönbrunn palace on the first day.  Unfortunately it rained, so we were soaking wet the moment we left the train station and made the mad dash to the palace.  Since I didn’t have my luggage, I only had a few shirts to change into but no other pants options, so after the expedition in the rain there was nothing for me to do but put on a new shirt and pretend that I wasn’t wet everywhere else.  Not that it bothered me too much, since I knew my luggage had been found (back in the states still) and was flying in so that, by night time, I would have something to change into (yippie!).

The next day we had an adventure around the Ring of Vienna, where we saw St. Stephan’s Cathedral, the statue to represent the survival of the Black Death, the Spanish Riding School (where the famous Lipizzaner horses are still bred), the Volksgarten (people’s garden), among other beautiful places.  And a Hooded Crow.

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St. Stephan’s Cathedral, Vienna
This statue was built by the survivors of the black plague
This statue was built by the survivors of the black plague

Spanish Riding School

Some of the many Hooded Crows that were poaching on people's lunches.
Some of the many Hooded Crows that were poaching on people’s lunches.

Arrival

 

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We finally made it to Austria (although the puddle pirate decided he wanted to hide so I’m not positive as to where he’s at).  I say we made it with only the slightest breath of relief.  While Journey and George [the Hyena] are here, we are missing a primary part of our ensemble.  Somewhere along the way here, my check-in luggage was held up, never to arrive in Vienna, leaving me with only what I carried.  Thankfully it will carry me for the next few days (barely) as I follow the doctrine of always carrying extra clothes (underwear and socks) as well as a partially complete toiletry bag.  It has saved me from having to purchase everything from the market.  It also helps to have generous and accommodating hosts who lend you spare clothes so that you can launder what little you have left (thanks, it’s greatly appreciated to have something clean to wear!).

So far it appears my luggage was left behind in Chicago.  Maybe I’ll get it tomorrow or later.  Maybe.  Hopefully sooner than later so that I can have my things when I start staying with host families!

Moral of the story time!  This is what happens when a flight gets canceled: everything and everyone is thrown off and are forced to scramble to fix the frayed ends.  So, if you get cancelled in the future try (harder than I did since I ran out of time) and get your check-in back from the airport if it arrived with you even when you have connecting flights tomorrow.  Not sure if it will save you from the debacle that has become this day, but it’s worth a try.  Also, always always always carry spares.  Spare clothes (undergarments for at least two more days and a new shirt).  That 3-1-1 rule of “only three ounce bottles in one one quart baggie.”  Yeah, do that.  It could just save you from having to buy toothbrushes, toothpaste, and whatnot.  Here I was lucky to have a market across the street where I am at tonight so I was able to supplement what I don’t have but I didn’t have to buy a lot because I remembered that baggie and I filled it with little goodies of flowers and sweet cleanliness.  And carry the computer and the necessary chargers for you electronics.

Despite the chaos that is airport reliability, remember to keep looking forward (as the signs on the fast walkway things in London Heathrow reminds us) because the moment you look back or down or away and stop moving you will trip.  You can always get back up, that’s a given, but its best to keep standing and keep moving forward. You’ll have a better time because of it.  Naturally, I was upset about losing my luggage to the abyss that is the airport but I didn’t let it drag me down, to stop me from moving forward.  It also helps to have someone there to keep you moving forward, to guide you through the world of unknowns and thousands of possibilities.  Ok, I’m ranting since I haven’t slept in… over 24 hours.

Keep moving forward!  No matter how bad it looks, just keep moving.  You’ll find a way out of it, and probably have a blast doing it.

On a more lighter note, I had a great time playing UNO (in German since all you need to know (or learn) is the colors and the numbers) and also learned about some German names for local birds (CUZ BIRDS ARE FUN).  Also had a lovely dinner with a wonderful family (my one-night-host-family so to speak).

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“The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only one page.” ~Saint Augustine