October 19, 2010

Austria Trip

"Hey, will you pinch me? Because I'm having this crazy dream that I'm in Europe right now. Oh wait." That was the premise of 90% of my words over the last ten days! I cannot believe that I am actually home from an amazing trip to Austria!! Really, it was amazing. I don't even know what to blog about because SO much happened. In my journal writing while we were over there I was getting a little annoyed at myself because I couldn't think of creative adjectives, everything was "beautiful", "lovely," or "awesome". But really, those words describe everything I saw the best.

We arrived in Vienna at 8am ish, which was about 1am back home, but there was no rest for the weary! Jenn whisked us off to go see a very amazing monastery with the IGE group, led by Dr. Phabigan and his wife, Magda (who is also a Prof.) Despite being extremely tired (we didn't get to bed till after 9pm (keeping our eyes open was an almost painful endeavor) it was a great way to see Vienna on our first day. The monastery was absolutely beautiful, and the Phabigans (my apologies to them, btw, as I'm sure I'm spelling their name wrong) were the most gracious and intelligent hosts to us. Throughout our trip we ended up meeting up with Dr. Phabigan for three different excursions, and they were really unexpected highlights of our vacation. We went to places that we would have never visited on our own, art galleries and flea markets, but they were really interesting and we learned so much!

Our second day in Austria we caught a train to Salzburg, which was my favorite place to see on this trip. The weather for the first 6-7 days we were in Austria was the perfect weather, the last hurrah of Autumn before the first signs of Winter. So Salzburg was bursting at the seams with orange and red and yellow leaves, topped off with the brightest blue sky you could imagine. Absolutely lovely. Taking advantage of our limited time there, we managed to hop on board a driving tour around town, taking us to some really pretty places. One stop was at the house used in "The Sound of Music", which was very picturesque with a giant fortress in the backdrop. I'm pretty sure the fortress wasn't in the movie though, such a shame. We also took a trip up to Eagle's Nest in the morning, which technically means that I've been in Bavaria, Germany. Awesome. The view from there was incredible, I can not imagine a prettier time to visit the Austrian Alps than Autumn.

After seeing lots of sights, eating lots of chocolate, exploring the aforementioned fortress, and jumping up and down some famous steps singing, "Do-re-mi!", we caught a train back to Vienna to spend the remaining eight days or so. Vienna has a very neat, almost eclectic feel to it. I say eclectic because we saw so many different sides to it, sides that I think the average tourist wouldn't get to see. That's the advantage of having someone who knows the town well, I suppose. :) There was so much history in the town, amazing cathedrals and palaces, as well the grit and the telephone wires of modern living. In areas like the flea market you could see the Eastern European influence very clearly, while after taking one little U-Bahn stop you could be at the expansive Schonbrunn palace. I loved the richness of the city, the diversity.

Speaking of the Schonbrunn palace, the day we went there was my birthday. Now that was great. We wandered off in to the forest like areas next to the palace for a few hours, and it was SO BEAUTIFUL. Words fail me. Everything I've ever imagined as far as the "perfect October scene" was in that place, the trees, the little cobblestone paths, the leaves... I loved it. Best birthday hike ever. And Jenn took me to an authentic, really out of the way Austrian place for supper, which was also awesome. The waiter and the cook run the whole place by themselves, and they were nice enough to come out with a little cake attached to a giant firecracker (really, you have to see the picture), singing, "Happy birthday, you American, happy birthday to you!" Best song ever. They were so great, it really made my birthday fun. That, and reading all of the super sweet comments on my facebook page. :)

Now, I have MUCH more to write about, but I need to stop for now. So I immagine I'll be pumping out the blogs over the next few days. And I have some really big other news to tell, but I need a little time to pray and think before I have anything "official" to announce. If you know me at all, you know what I'm talking about, and I'd really appreciate some prayers right now. Life is crazy , is it not? Well then, auf wiedersehen!