Monday, August 9, 2010

The Hills, They're Alive

Ever since visiting Vienna during spring break I had wanted to return. My little brother joining me in Europe and allowing me to quarterback the trip gave me the perfect opportunity take us through the country.


We were going to be in Austria for six days, and started in the west in a place that had been described to me in the past as a fairy-tale city: Salzburg. Salzburg is not very large or overwhelming, rather it is more like a charming and quiet city tucked away in the green hillside with a magnificent fortress overlooking it. It’s full of beautiful and well-kept gardens, in which Clay and I dined on fancy Austrian hot dogs, almost a dozen churches (including my favorite cathedral in Europe-the Salzburg Dome), and numerous markets. It is also a big attraction for fans of The Sound of Music, since much of the film is shot there and it’s easy to recognize locations and landmarks from the movie. Everything is within walking distance, so one day we decided to head up to the fortress, an excursion we gravely underestimated as it took us deep into the forests and hills the extend beyond the fortress and offer spectacular views of the city below. And while Salzburg may lack flare and an impressive nightlife, it undoubtedly makes up for it in its enchanting atmosphere. Yea, I know I said enchanting…But it’s true.


A good friend of mine from elementary and high school lived this past year in Austria, interestingly enough doing the exact same thing I was doing in Spain: teaching English. In fact, it wasn’t until we were both in Europe that we discovered our similar situations. I had told him that I would be passing though Austria during the summer and so he and his wife, Sarah, shifted their schedule around and met us in Salzburg. His name is Nick, and he and Sarah live in Wels.

To be honest, Clay and I didn’t really know what to expect at first, however it didn’t take long to feel right at home. Instantly after putting our bags down in their flat, our apprehensiveness was washed away along with schnapps and monk beer. We then proceeded to walk up a hillside and climb a tower in order to get a view of the city from above, while sharing a bottle of wine (and wasabi-flavored potato chips…really, Nick? Really? I must admit, I was not a fan) as well as sharing stories both new and old.

After we descended the hill, we went to dinner at a more traditional Austrian restaurant. In terms of food and beer, we basically put our faith in the hands of Nick and Sarah and they delivered extraordinarily; everything was fantastic. During the meal we were accompanied by one of Nick’s students, Sebastian, and his father, who was more than willing to buy us a round of drinks and continue chatting, as he was enjoying the fresh company.

Upon returning home from dinner Sarah began to get ready for bed, Clay drank water because he wasn’t feeling so hot, and nick and I took shots with the full intention of going out. Clay, though reluctant at first, joined us and was later glad he did. We went from bar to bar in Wels, telling stories, talking about life and offering advice and perspectives on various subjects. Then Clay beat us both at foosball and from there everything spiraled into an whirlwind of cheerful and distorted bliss.


After a well-deserved sleep-in session, the three of us arose to a well-rested and bubbly Sarah who had been up for hours, strolling through the local market. After a shower and breakfast she and Nick escorted Clay and me to the train station to help us purchase tickets for the next train to Vienna.

Like I said before, I had visited Vienna during spring break and had been eager to return. I was even more excited because last time I was there I was supposed to stay with a local girl named Romy, but ended up cancelling at the last minute. However, being the awesome person she is, Romy said if I were ever to return I was more than welcome to stay with her, which is exactly what Clay and I did.

While she was really busy with work and changing apartments, Romy did show a side of Vienna to Clay and I we wouldn’t have ever discovered. One night she took us to the Vienna School or Architecture graduation party, which was a multiple-story dance party with beer, bbq, and live DJs. While we obviously were not architect grads, her friends made us feel comfortable and we had a really good time.

I already have an entry about Vienna, so I’m not going to go into details about this city. All I would like to say is that the second time visiting the city is just as amazing and overwhelming as it was the first time. I really can’t say enough about it.