Saturday, August 19, 2006

Europe Revisited

Lately I've been reminiscing a ton about Austria. I lived there for four months almost two years ago...I loved it. I traveled to 11 countries besides Austria. I made friends and memories that will last a lifetime. I took thousands of pictures. I wrote long 9 page emails back to family and friends in the US multiple times. I never got as homesick as most of my peers. In fact, aside from the first week, I don't remember being homesick at all. I loved the traveling, the craziness of missing trains & planes, going to the wrong airport, sleeping in airports, not being understood because I didn't speak French, Spanish, Italian, etc. Of course there were times of stress, but most of mine there was caused by schoolwork, the traveling adventures and mishaps I experienced thrilled me. I am extremely glad I went, I have absolutely no regrets.
On the flip side, after hearing from family and friends after writing all of my mass emails, "You should be a writer; What an amazing story; Why isn't your major English again?", All my blogs and writings seem so boring. Life seems duller somehow. I guess in some ways, the last year
and a half have been such a blur of months and maturing- a semester in the dorms, a summer nannying job in Virginia, finishing up my last ever semester of school, job interviews and searches, a trip to Boston to meet the family I now nanny for, packing up and saying goodbye to everyone in Ohio, and finally moving up here. Even that was over 5 months does that happen?

Looking back at old pictures and letters from Austria, there are so many random things I forgot up until now-

- I remember meeting Mom and Dad in Vienna after their trip to Switzerland, where I myself was headed a few days later. I remember them telling me about the crazy people who were doing "extreme sports" there in Interlaken and how I better not do one because they looked dangerous. Less than a week later, I went paragliding in the Swiss Alps and loved it. My parents were a bit surprised...

- I remember how close K. and I used to be when we first got to Austria. We did everything together...eating dinner, traveling to Vienna for the first time, exploring Gaming. And then...she met M.- a 26 y/o guy, thrice engaged and then not engaged. I lost her...and never again became close friends with her. I guess you could say we're civil, but I miss her. I miss the close friendship we had.

-I remember how, because of the K. & M. thing, I had to branch out and meet new people! K was unavailable, and J. had to leave Austria and move back to the States because of health problems. So, I had to reach out and meet new people. And meet them I did!! By the time our Austria gig was up, I had a new close-knit group of friends, some of the best people a gal could hope for. We went to Urs (the local hangout-bar place, really the only place to go in our little town), France, Italy, Ireland, we had movie night, "Friends" watching nights, just plain hang out and chill nights. Since I'm still good friends with most of these people, I guess it worked out
okay...just doesn't change the fact that I miss having K. as a friend is all!

- I remember being in Lourdes, Paris, with C. and K., before the whole M. thing. We had gotten baguettes for dinner, and it must have been raining, because K and I both had on ponchos. I had a red one, and K had green. K got the brilliant idea to have C take a picture of the who of us, acting as Bob and Larry from "Veggie Tales". It's one of those totally random, but very funny, pictures to look back on.

- I remember right after Thanksgiving, taking a totally random trip into Vienna for the night with my friend M.C, her sister J, who was visiting from CA, D, and A. We didn't even get there until 10 pm, and didn't have a hotel reserved. We finally found a room, meant only for 2 people, but all 6 of us snuck in. We then went out for a little fun, ending up at Cafe Hawelka, where we enjoyed some plum dumplings along with hot cocoa/tea/beer depending on who you were. On
our way back to the hotel, a completely random guy decided to follow us, so we all whispered to each other that J had to "tie her shoe" to get him off our backs! By then we were all sitting on a bench laughing it up, when two teen guys asked if we wanted them to take our picture. I remember being scared they were going to run away with our cameras, and being freaked out when one of them took a picture of us on his cell phone!! For Christmas that year, though, J gave each of us who had been on the crazy overnighter a copy of the picture. I still have it sitting on a shelf in my room- a great picture afterall!

- I remember being in Gaming, hearing about the song "Breakaway" by Kelly Clarkson for the first time, and realizing how well myself and my friends could relate to it.

-I remember stepping outside of the train station in Budapest, Germany and realizing for the first time..."wow...I really am in a different country" because the scenery, the language, and culture was so different, even from that of Austria.

- I remember being in a tiny little store in Budapest with K, picking out yogurt, pasta, and butter. K dropped the yogurt, but they still made us pay for it, so we didn't have enough to buy another carton of it. LOL...her name is Klutz, after all :)

- I remember trying peach iced tea at Urs and liking it. Along with a "margharita" pizza, it became my standard order if I wasn't looking for something alcoholic.

- I remember being at Urs, sitting at the bar but not wanting to spend money on something to drink (poor college students abroad were we!) and waiting until Urs' wife served us free whiskey or wine.

- I remember the amazing way snow looked coming down the Alps right above our campus.

- I remember taking hour-long hikes up the mountains, and being amazed every time at the view.

- I remember hearing about Austria's "Christmas beer" and how it is 2x as
alcoholic as American Beer. I remember hearing the warnings- don't drink much...and I remember drinking it, hating it, and passing it off to someone who had to deal with a hangover the next morning because they didn't care that it wasn't American beer.

- I remember being in Ireland, and being amazed at how short the Mass was. 30 minutes...tops.

- I remember missing numerous Sunday Masses in Europe because of traveling. After all, they were in German or another foreign language and we couldn't understand them.

- I remember when we did hit Mass, how during Communion everyone just rushed up to recieve. There was no line, no order...just chaos. It took a while to get used to that, and longer to adjust back to seeing Communion lines in the US.

- I remember being in a couchette on a train bound for Paris with a lady who INSISTED we not
lock the door. Yea, right! 3 American teens vs. 1 middle age European woman= Americans win.

- I remember being in the baths at Lourdes. NEVER in my life have I felt such freezing cold water.

- I remember arriving in Paris at 11 pm, realizing our cheap hotel was miles north of the city, taking the metro to where a shuttle was supposed to pick us up and bring us to the hotel, waiting until 12:30 am to realize it wasn't going to happen, trying to figure out how to navigate Paris so we can sleep. I remember randomly walking outside the Paris airport, meeting a girl from France who speaks English as well and her friend who is from Michigan. We manage to flag down a shuttle heading to a bigger (and presumably, more expensive) hotel, and asking him if he can drop us off at least closer to our hotel. I remember being deserted (excuse me, dropped off) on the side of an abandoned highway by the driver, and walking for a few miles before
finally, randomly, amazingly finding our hotels (our "angels" of the night were staying in one right behind ours).

- I remember Assisi, and being amazed at how quiet and serene it was compared to Rome, where I had just spent a week.

- I remember being stuck in the Munich train station, trying to find our platform, getting hit all ways by big, huge, drunk Germans who were leaving Oktoberfest. I remember finding out that our train was going to depart 15 minutes late and being soooo relieved, because we were 13 minutes late. Meaning, we had 2 minutes to navigate through thousands of drunk Europeans, innan unknown train station, just to reach a train that would bring us safely back to Austria. I remember wheezing, tripping, screaming at the train (haha) not to leave without us...and finally reaching it, not 10 seconds before it pulls out of the station.

- I remembering being at the Pöchlarn train station at 5 am after a 5-day jaunt to France. I remember my friend Rico spraying his axe deodorant all over us, telling us afterwards that we needed to shower before classes that morning. Ugh.

- I remember being at some random train station (truthfully can't even remember which one now) with A., running into Mike H, from my hometown. He's a few years older than me, and I don't know what he was doing in Europe, but he had an i-pod and a guitar, so we listened to music and sang until 2 when we finally arrived back at school thanks to an ITT van driver. After finally arriving back at campus, we all shared some oatmeal packets Mike had brought with him from a recent visit back in the States, courtesy of his mom. :)

- I remember being with a group of 9 or 10 other students, headed on a train back to campus
very early in the morning, when we all fell asleep. Sure, the train stopped at our station, but we were all catching zzz's and completely missed it. We ended up hopping off the train at the next stop on the train's way back to Vienna and having to walk for miles before classes started.

- I remember "sleeping" in the Dublin airport with my huge 50+ lbs. backpack tied to my wrist with my shoelaces. From that,I also don't remember sleeping at all. Haha.

- I remember arriving in Shannon, Ireland to a bright and sunny October day. Ten minutes later, it was storming like I've never before seen.

- I remember asking for directions from the awesome Irish people, and getting completely turned around because, while they wanted to help, they really had no idea where you were
trying to head.

- I remember being in Ennis, Ireland, sitting in a pub called "Cruise's" and feeling totally at home. I also remember my friend A. forgetting to put a cup in the hot chocolate machine and ending up with a mess.

- I remember Leamaneh Castle, with the gorgeous light blue sky above it and the dark green grass below it.

- I remember hanging off the Cliffs of Moher, way past the "Danger, don't cross" signs.

- I remember picking out hair dye in the Austrian grocery store, the Spar, and having no idea what it was going to do to my hair because it was all written in German.

- I remember walking from our campus into "town", and taking pictures from the summer, fall, and winter, all from relatively the same spot.

- I remember being in Poland in December, just a few weeks before Christmas, and randomly deciding one night to take a taxi with D & J to see a movie. We had no idea what movies would be showing, or even if there would be any in English, but hoped we could at least find one with English subtitles. As it ended up, it was our lucky night. "13 Going on 30" was playing in English.

- I remember being in England and going to an Army Base. How weird it was to see American dollars, American stamps, and everything in the stores marked in dollars instead of pounds or Euros.

- I remember being in Scotland in October, finding a bagel, and LOVING it. I didn't realize how much I had missed them until I was able to have one again! In the same city, I remember finding my Fozzie Bear at a Disney Store and it being so windy our umbrellas turned inside out.

- I remember losing my passport and airplane ticket in London at the airport after mistakenly leaving it at the LoveJuice counter. Once I realized it, I was quizzed incessantly about my birthplace, name, birthdate, hometown, where I was heading, etc until the worker at LoveJuice decided I was in fact myself.

- I remember being in Rome, eating gelati 4-5 times a day...ahhh yes!

- I also remember being in my hotel room in Rome, totally not paying attention while I was shaving my leg, and ripping off 1/2 my ankle. I still have the scar today.

- I remember being at the Papal Audience and screaming soooo loud when they said my school's name. Because my school made such a ruckus, Pope JP II gave us a special blessing.

- I remember being in Poland on a frost cold December morning watching the sun rise and glisten the ground.

- I remember visiting Auschwitz and Birkenau Concentration Camps in Poland. Enough said.

And now ends my walk down memory lane...what a long walk! Europe, how I miss thee!!!

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Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away. Comments warmly welcomed! :-)