Lake Königsee

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

This past weekend -- our last weekend together -- Andreas took a group of 8 of us to Königsee.  He rented a bus and picked us all up at our individual residences.  

On the way to Königsee, we stopped to see a particular Sound of Music sight: the mountains from the end of the movie where the von Trapps are "walking to Switzerland."  Of course, in reality, the Berchtesgaden Alps border one side of the path, and the Salzburg Alps border the other.  At the beginning of the semester, Andreas told us that Christopher Plummer was carrying a "fake" Gretl in this scene because the "real" Gretl "had too many pastries inside" (translation: she was too heavy and he wanted a smaller child), so we made plenty of jokes about each of us having too many pastries inside to be carried anywhere anytime soon (we've all done a lot of eating here and none of us are even the least bit sorry about it).

We then made it to Königsee and hiked all around the lake, taking in the beautiful views.  We even dipped our toes into the lake, which was fun (although freezing).  But I think everyone would agree that the highlight of the day came at lunch.  

We were starving from all the hiking we had done, so Andreas took us to an amazing restaurant at the bottom of the Alps in the most remote location.  Just as I was thinking, "How does anybody find this place?" -- because it was just so in-the-middle-of-nowhere -- Andreas casually mentioned to us, "That's Heinz Schaden sitting at a table over there."  We look up, and sure enough, it's the Salzburg Burgermeister (the mayor) himself, sitting at a table, enjoying his view of the Alps with a cold beer.

Chris and Robert immediately started reaching for their cameras, asking Andreas if he thought it would be okay if they asked Burgermeister Schaden for a photo.  Caroline, Kayla and I rolled our eyes.  "They would," I said dismissively.  The next thing I know, Andreas is leading them over to the Burgermeister, who greets Chris and Robert so enthusiastically -- slapping them on the shoulder and smiling.  In that moment, Caroline, Kayla and I exchanged a single glance and without a word, we were rushing over to the table to take photos with him, too.

As he had biked there from Salzburg, he was dressed in his biking gear and helmet, with his bike leaning against his table.  We were so impressed that he'd biked all that way, but he seemed more impressed with (or at least more interested in) us.  He started asking us about our studies at Uni. Salzburg, where we were from in the States, etc.  Once we finished our introductions and small talk, he drank the last of his beer, bade us farewell, and rode away on his bike.  We returned to our table, and I glanced around at my friends; each of our faces were beaming with pride, so apparently excited about meeting a "Salzburg celebrity."  My absolute favorite moment of the day occurred a few seconds later, though; none of us had spoken yet, when Chris O'Connor opened his mouth, and proudly announced with a grin, "That's our Burgermeister."

I Get By with a Little Help from my Friends

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

This week is "the last week."  In 72 hours, most of our (American) friends will be back in the US.  Lindsay, Kayla, and I are among the few staying, but Caroline will be gone.  And eventually Kayla will leave, and then Lindsay, too.  At that point, it will just be me and a few of the international students, so I'm processing that in my own way.  

Often times, my method of 'processing', consists with simply changing the subject; I think it's technically called denial.  For instance, everyone seems to be teetering on the verge of an emotional breakdown these days, so much so that the mere mention of "the last night" or "the last week" has been enough to reduce just about any member of our group to tears.  So lately, when someone brings up "the last night", I just say, "We don't need to talk about this right now! We still have so much time left!"  And then I promptly change the subject.  

But that brings us to last Thursday night.  Thursday night is karaoke night at O'Malley's.  Usually, a good number of us are there, and sometimes a few of us will get up and do a song together, but last Thursday night we were all there, and we were all there to sing.  

About half an hour in, our group was singing, laughing, taking photos, requesting songs, and just enjoying each other's company -- around 40 of us Americans in attendance -- when The Beatles' "I Get By with a Little Help from My Friends" came on.  And that's when I lost it.  I just lost it.  I was standing at the microphone with Kayla, Caroline and Lindsay all around me, ready to sing, and at the sound of the opening notes, I burst into tears, right there into the mic.  It was as though all the denial and all the moments of "Shhh, if we don't talk about it, it won't happen!" had culminated into one big tearful realization: this is it.  This time next week, it will all be over.  The four of us will be no longer be together, not here, at least, in this amazing city we love so much.  It will never really be the same.  Not like this, at least.

The funny thing is, no one in the group even batted an eye; someone being reduced to tears about all of this is a very real possibility at any given moment, so no one judged or scoffed, let alone wondered why I was crying.  As Caroline, Kayla, and Lindsay attempted to comfort me, I started laughing, asking, "Who cries during karaoke? This is so stupid."

And it was stupid.  It was melodramatic and embarrassing and silly and stupid.

But it also wasn't stupid.  I have more memories with these four girls than some friends I've known my whole life -- really incredible, once-in-a-lifetime, rich memories.  We fit together so well and are friendships are so natural and easy that I don't know how I got along 21 years without them.  

And this city!  Don't get me started on this city or you will regret it.  This city has been the backdrop for the forging of these friendships, as well as the backdrop of so many unforgettable days and nights.  The backdrop of so many stories I'll be telling at dinner parties for years, stories I'll be telling my children and grandchildren.  All of these stories took place in this city.

And I get to stay in this city, something for which I'm so thankful -- I can't imagine going home anytime soon -- but it without these girls, it will never be the same.  Not like this, at least.

That night became one of the most memorable nights of the year, with so much laughter and, yes, a few more tears.  We finished our Beatles' song, and sang a Beach Boys song as well.  Caroline sang a special rendition of Carly Simon's You're So Vain, personalizing the lyrics in tribute to a certain former love interest of mine (who wasn't at O'Malley's that night, or any night, but we like to think he was walking by and heard his shout-out from the street).  

That was last week, and this is this week, aka that week, aka the last week. 

I've got a lot more processing to do.

When your fever is 102, but Beyonce is playing.

Monday, May 25, 2009

I had been sick for a few days, but I was determined not to miss Salzburg's latest AG fest.  Everyone we knew would be there, and our friend Francesco was DJ-ing it.  Against Caroline's advice, I went -- there was no stopping me.  Kayla and Lindsay came along, obviously, as did the rest of our friends.  

And Francesco did not disappoint; he was playing all of "our" songs back to back to back.  As the night progressed, though, I guess I began to look sicker...and sicker...and sicker.  For example, Tim came up to me and put his hand on my forehead and said, "I think you need to go home and lie down."  "What are you talking about?!, I feigned confusion.  "I'm fine!"  

I began to sweat so much, though, that it was objectively undeniable that I was sick.  But just as Caroline approached me to tell me for the eighth time that night that she was calling me a cab and that I absolutely had to go home and get in bed, the intro to Crazy in Love started playing.  In that moment, even she couldn't deny that the only place I belonged was at that party, and, more specifically, on that stage.  

Caroline came with me -- and of course Francesco loved it -- as we made our way to the stage, front and center.  My fever was so high that the whole thing felt like a dream -- like a hazy, foggy, blurry dream.  In actuality, I could have been hallucinating and I wouldn't have known the difference.  Nevertheless, it was glorious.  It was ridiculous, it was crazy (in love), it was our moment.

After the song ended and I felt as though my fainting in front of (or maybe into?) the crowd was imminent, Caroline and I forged a path from the stage to the bar.  I had been holding a glass of white wine in my hand all night and hadn't taken a drink because I felt so ill.  Not only did I now have no idea where that glass of wine was, but I needed water and only water.  The line for the bar was long, so Caroline elbowed her way to the front and yelled, "Wasser!  She braucht Wasser; sie hat Fieber!", indicating to the bartenders that her feverish friend needed a water, and asap.  

I drank the water in an instant and then back to the dance floor I went, determined to make the most of this evening, fever or no fever.  Caroline had resigned herself to the fact that I was staying, so the four of us danced for hours, periodically ducking into the bar for hydration.  By the end of the night, everyone was a little sweaty, I'm sure, but I looked like I had just completed a triathlon.  Better yet, I looked like someone who had tried to complete a triathlon, but was ultimately too weak to finish.  Basically, I looked like someone who needed to go to the hospital immediately if not sooner.

When we got home that night, I went into the bathroom to change my clothes and get ready for me.  I took off my tank top and actually wrung it out over the sink.  It was that sweaty.

But you know what?  If that's not the sign of a night well spent in Salzburg, I just don't know what is.

Felsenkeller, Salzburg

Friday, May 22, 2009

After Sandy's legendary birthday dinner, we moved on to Sandy's birthday after-party, walking through the Altstadt to Felsenkeller, Sandy's bar of choice choice.  Felsenkeller is a cavelike hole in the wall (literally), that used to be a Nazi radio bunker.  Considering the size of our group, we basically took over the entire place.  They were playing the best music and we ended up having what I would easily call one of the top 5 (if not top 3) nights of the semester.  I'd relive this night right now if I could.

I hope Sandy had the best 21st birthday I could have given her; and how special that she will always remember her 21st birthday was spent in Salzburg, right?!

Salzburg's finest Chinese Buffet

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Around 30 people showed up for Sandy's birthday dinner -- her 21st birthday dinner, mind you -- for which she chose to dine at.... the Chinese buffet.  The highlight of the dinner was, perhaps, when Chris O'Connor stood up to make a toast.  No one had planned this, nor was anyone expecting this.  He opened his toast by saying, "Sandra Brown traveled 21 years and 4,000 miles to eat at this Chinese buffet tonight."  The room erupted into a fit of laughter. 

Sandy's mom had sent me money with which I was to buy her dinner and buy her birthday cake.  I ended up buying two birthday cakes, one of which was a Sachertorte, of course.  She loved them both and we passed each around for everyone to sample.  With all of our friends right there in one room, I think it's safe to say we had just about the most fun that you can have at the only Chinese buffet in Salzburg....if not more.

Lammergorge, Austria

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

On our way back to Salzburg from Hallstatt, we stopped at Lammergorge for a little hike.  It was unbelievably beautiful; one of those places you can't believe is a real place and not a CGI movie backdrop.  After our hike, we were exhausted, though.  But we had to rest up for Sandy's birthday that night, which was one of the best nights of the semester, by far.  More to come on that.

Hallstatt, Austria

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

I feel like Hallstatt is what people envision when they think of Austria or Germany.  It's definitely obviously and very charming, but I wouldn't recommend being there longer than a day.  In fact, we saw everything we wanted to see in just a few hours (but certainly would not have been bored if we'd stayed longer).

Dachstein Ice Caves

Monday, May 18, 2009

We went to the Dachstein Ice Caves this past weekend, and it was the first time we'd seen snow since March.  It was weird to be swimming at our pool one day and freezing in the mountains the next. 

Here's a tip, though: if you go to Dachstein, bring extra jackets, hats, mittens, etc.  We did not dress appropriately and were freezing the whole time.  But it was so fun nonetheless -- a great day trip if you're in or around Salzburg.

Our pool at Internationales Kolleg

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Summer is officially here.  Springtime passed so quickly that it felt as though the seasons transitioned directly from winter to summer.  And now it is HOT.  Having a pool here at I.K. is great, though; it's like having a party every afternoon.  All of the students from all 5 buildings gather here around noon and stay swimming until the sun goes down.  

It's such a unique atmosphere; at any given time you can hear a mixture of German, Polish, Spanish, French, and English being spoken.  It's so hard to leave to go to class, but knowing everyone will still be there when you come home certainly helps.

Our McDonald's on Alpenstrasse

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The other night, Caroline and I were sitting in our room when we heard the Spanish boys coming downstairs.  You never have to wonder whether or not they are home; if you are anywhere near I.K., you will know it.  And when I say we "heard them coming downstairs", I don't even mean their footsteps.  They are just generally loud humans -- the walk they talk, the way they move.  

Anyway, when we heard them barreling down the stairs, I opened the door and asked where they were going at 11:00 at night.  They replied, "To Mac-Donal."  A translation, for those who need it, is "The McDonald's down the road on Alpenstrasse."  A further translation would be "our" McDonald's.

Without so much as a word, Caroline and I instinctively grabbed our jackets and put on our shoes.  Had we been planning on eating a late-night snack?  Eh, not really.  But we are short on time at the moment and we'll take all the opportunities to hang out with our Spanish boys.  (And also have you had the McDonald's fries in Austria?  OMG.)

We immediately regretted the decision as soon as we arrived at Mac-Donal and were reminded that Sergi and Roman like to (a) eat their food while making animal noises and grunting sounds, (b) place their empty French fry boxes on their ears when they're finished eating, and (c) purposely mispronounce German words at decibels far too loud for public establishments. 

But, like I said, our time is short with them, so we stuck around until they were done eating, and being overall fools, and then we walked back with them.

(....and I'd be lying if I said we didn't laugh.)