My brief stay in Switzerland was over and that meant that it was time for the next adventure that was in store for me- Austria!
Looking at my itinerary prior to embarking on my expedition, Austria was the destination I was looking forward to the least, but ended up being the country that left the biggest impact on me.
I spent just over a week in Austria, visiting all the major locations: Vienna, Innsbruck and Salzburg. While visiting Innsbruck, I had an incredibly unique experience of participating in a cooking lesson at the ESN Innsbruck Cooking School where I learned how to bake apfelstrudel, otherwise known as the most delicious thing on the face of the earth. After becoming master pastry chefs in a matter of hours, my stomach fell to my feet, because I had forgotten that the trip was about to get very interesting very quickly. I was on my way to meet my home stay family.
I cannot articulate the thoughts and feelings that were running through my head. I had no idea who these people were, and I was about to spend four days and three nights with them, eating at their kitchen table, becoming a part of their family… and that’s exactly what I did. I became a part of the family.
The Buchers, my home stay family, warm my heart. I wanted to know anything and everything there was to know about Austria and their way of life, and they were eager to hear about American from an actual American. I still keep in touch with their eldest daughter, Karolina. We did everything together while I was in their town, Kufstein. I went to school with Karolina (which usually ended up in us cutting class to go shopping, but that’s besides the point), met her friends, and went out with them at night to really experience what they did for fun.
Karolina was in a band, so many of our nights were spent at her shows, with her fabulous musician friends, followed with a trip to the bar outside her house. Sitting out in the beer gardens while they taught me how to say inappropriate things in German, and I told them everything they wanted to know about The United States. For the record, the drinking age in Austria is sixteen for beer, and eighteen for liquor- incredibly laid back, right? Believe it or not, I get asked this question all the time.
I have so many fond memories of Kufstein: convincing the young children at Karolina’s school that my friend Kam was Kobe Bryant, fearing for my life as Karolina’s grandfather whipped through the mountains in his BMW, dinner with the family- everything. While we did go out a lot and do fun things, I will never forget the night that Karolina and I opted to stay in, cleaned the fish tank and watched Schokolade zum Frühstück… or Bridget Jones’s Diary.
Saying good bye to the Buchers was definitely the worst part of my trip, but I knew we would keep in touch, and it’s comforting to know that if I ever return to Austria, I have a home.
Visit Salzburg: Famous for Mozart and The Sound of Music, Salzburg should not be overlooked. It’s incredibly charming, and full of history and definitely worth at least a day trip
Bike Ride Through Vienna: So cheesy. Just do it. It’s an awesome way to see the city, because there truly is so much to see.
Visit a Concentration Camp: You can see concentration camps in quite a few countries in Europe, but I had the opportunity to visit Mauthausen while I stayed in Austria. This is not for the faint of heart; I consider myself to be a very strong individual, able to stomach the most vile parts of history, and I cried the entire time. It’s a heart wrenching experience, but will make you so much more thankful for what you have in life. Make this a day trip, because it will emotionally drain you. It is certainly an experience that you will never forget.