Monday, February 4, 2013

Salzburg, a perfect place to live.

In a small city in Austria called "Hallstatt." Only around 900 people live here and their houses are generational. I love how close these rolling mountains are to the lake and how wildlife seemed to thrive in this small, environmental haven. I have seen graceful swans like this all over Austria. 

                It is the fourth of February and I have officially been in Austria (and for a couple days, Munich) for 22 days. I have been trying to come up with reasons why I haven't written in my diary yet, and my official excuse is that I needed 22 days to sink into the culture before I could write about it. (Since I am 22 years old.) I am completely inspired here, however, have not had a great deal of time to sit down and really think about how all of these great experiences are affecting me. Since arriving in Europe, I have met a great group of exchange students, tasted some exquisite foods and plummeted into all of the things that make German culture special. Although not all cliché’s are true, Germans do love their beer, bratwurst and tend to be very timely and keep to themselves. The beer is the best that I have ever had, and after leaving Munich and getting to my host family (who are incredibly nice and accommodating) I was happy to find out that not all Austrian food was heavy potato salads and meats but rather a mixture of meats, veggies, soups, fruits and ALWAYS dessert. Considering the amount of weight I gained in Romania, I thought I would gain here as well...however; I have been hiking and skiing a fair amount in the Alps. My host mom comes up with many excuses as to why I should eat more. If I go out after dinner, she tells me that I should eat more because I am drinking….if we don’t eat a large proportion of meat, she tells me that I should eat more because I will be hungry later. I thought I learned my limits, however, continue to stuff myself at every meal with these mouthwatering delicacies. I have to say that one of my favorite dishes thus far, is a smooth, light broth with a giant, round, minced meat and vegetable dumpling plopped in the center. Sure, I may not have made that sound appealing, but it is actually perfect after a long day of being outside in the cold. That and "Gluewein" which is a hot, mulled wine spiced with what I believe is cinnamon, nutmeg and lemon among others... 

Glühwein: One of those great things in life. 
   As far as school goes, I have never felt so spoiled! There are only 16 American exchange students at Salzburg College this semester, and they all happen to be incredibly amiable and eager to learn about Austrian culture. Our many excursions are always fun and comparing our host family stories helps us all to learn even more. Our school is situated in the “altstadt” or old city of Salzburg along the Salzach River. It is actually built into the side of a mountain along with many other buildings. Many years ago, part of the mountain began to fall and killed many people, thus, instead of knocking down the buildings or not using them anymore, they employed mountain cleaners! I find this incredibly fascinating and can’t imagine this ever happening in America. These "mountain cleaners" actually hoist themselves onto the edge of the mountain and cut down branches and ensure that rocks won't fall. It makes me wander how one acquires such a job, perhaps they are wannabe mountaineers? The measures Salzburgians go to preserve beauty is fantastic and inspiring. 
A picture of my school, Salzburg College. (The cute yellow building) We are luckily, centrally located in the city. 
               Anyway, upon entering our little school, there is a great lounge area for the students with a great cappuccino/ hot chocolate machine free for our use. Every day I look forward to my 15 minute bus ride through the city, ten minute brisk, but beautiful walk and then a hot cup of coffee (or two!) before school. Currently I am taking Private German and Voice lessons and a class taught by our academic adviser (Konrad Holleis) called Understanding Austria. I could not have asked for a better or more supportive school to study abroad at. My voice teacher is retired and used to work at the Mozarteum University which is incredible. He lives one bus stop away from me and usually plays the “Sound of Music” on the piano as I walk in. I have to say, that after all of my folk, Broadway, pop and jazz singing, it is hard to get used to all of the conditioning classical music requires, though I still enjoy it a lot. It is also very helpful to have the private German lessons, 1: because my host family does not speak any English and 2: Because a big reason I came here was to pick up where I left off in high school! I have, however, come to the conclusion that my German is currently that of a six year old girl. Naturally I try to reach for mature subjects to talk with my host (grand) parents with, however, I tend to either accidentally speak in Romanian or make up my own words a lot. I am slowly getting better! At this point, any communication seems successful to me. 
                On another note; today my class took a trip to a Jewish Synagogue to visit a 99 year old man named Marko Feingold who is currently the president of the Jewish Community in Salzburg and lived through four concentration camps. He was incredibly inspiring and also incredibly lively for his age. He told us his story for about three hours, but still had so much more to tell. He spoke in German, which Konrad translated for us and I could have listened to him talk all day. He had various copies of the documents that showed he had been a prisoner and amazingly came out of the war full of hope, yet without a family. He lost his father, mother, brother and sister to the Holocaust. Feingold continues to spread his story around Austria in schools and at other public events. He is ready for twenty more years of life, and at the rate that he is going; I think it could be possible. This man is seriously gifted, and somehow crawled past the unfortunate line between death throughout World War II. How he continued to be so motivated to go on is beyond me, though I wish to go through life with as much positivity as this man does.
                This past week, my class also visited the concentration camp, Mauthausen which was very eye opening for me. I had never been to one before, however, was well educated through films and in school about them. As we were toured around on a brisk, rainy day, with nobody else in sight, I realized that it was everything I thought it would be; gruesome and appalling. Walking around and seeing where thousands of people suffered, took cold showers, lived in uncomfortable conditions and were gassed was incredibly hard for me to believe, yet Mauthausen seemed to be breathing with these horrible images. I thought about how cold I was walking around the grounds, and then thought about how much worse it must have been for the prisoners in their wooden clogs with no socks and barely any clothing.
Just above the quarry where prisoners were required to work for endless hours each day with very little nourishment , uncomfortable clothing and harsh treatment. Mauthausen was the only category III camp meaning that it had the most brutal conditions. I prayed for all of the people who lost their lives at this terrible place. 
                    On a lighter note, Salzburg (and Austria in general) is incredibly breathtaking. Every day when I walk to school (even when raining or snowing) I can’t help but breath in the fresh mountain air and smile. To get to school, I walk over a foot bridge that has thousands of locks on it decorated with declarations of love from couples. I hear musicians playing in the background, see bikers with cello cases on their backs and happily share my path with the most stylish Europeans. From just about everywhere in the city, you are able to see the grand, jagged mountains and the Hohensalzburg fortress which originally brought stability to the country. Salzburg breaths with people that love their city and tourists that love to visit it. I can actually say that the hills are alive with music, but then again just about everything in Salburg is. Mozart in the form of everything you can think of (candy, whisky, rubber ducks...) lines the streets, cafes on every corner, various bars, restaurants, music stores and galleries; anything you could ever want is here. Although it is a small city, Salzburg has so much to offer and so much to do; I really don’t have any complaints. Certainly, there are times when I miss the laid back Romanian lifestyle, but I tend to find myself very comfortable here. I enjoy the fact that my host family (along with all Austrians it seems) are very environmentally conscious. They recycle everything, take very few showers (though sometimes I miss that 1/2 hour of hot water) and suggest that I open my windows in the morning to use natural light. You can drink the water everywhere in Austria as it conveniently comes straight out of the mountains. No “wine is cheaper than water” nonsense here!
Locks of Love. 
          Well, I suppose this is enough writing for now – but more to come soon! In the meantime, here is a list of places that I have been so far…
       While in Munich: The Hofbrauhaus, The Neuschwanstein Castle (which inspired Disney to create Cinderella’s castle, the BMW Museum, and the Glypthothek among other explorations.
       While in Salzburg: I have skied in the Alps twice: Once on a beautiful day in Dachstein Russbach and another on a blustery day in Eben at Monte Popolo. I also happily snow shoed up a very steep mountain and practically fell down to the bottom. I have visited the small, beautiful city of Hallstatt, attended an American celebration for Obama's inauguration, saw a contemporary dance show, club- hopped, hiked over the mountain, Monchsberg to the Festung Hohensalzburg. I have gone to the infamous Dom Church, attended a highly renowned Mozart concert during Mozart week and wondered into his "Birth" house on his birthday. I attended a great contemporary museum on the top of a mountain and have let myself get lost in this beautiful city only to find my way to a new bakery or bus stop I didn't yet know about. ;) Last week we even took a trip into a salt mine which is what Salzburg received its name from. I have done so much here and can't wait to carve my way deeper into Austrian culture. Tomorrow I will be going to Schladming for the Ski World Cup and this weekend to Prague, Czech Republic with some friends! Went there once before, but can't wait for a more in depth adventure.                Until next time, bis dann, auf wiedersehen!
This is a beautiful skiing mountain in the Alps, Russbach. On of my favorite days thus far. 



  1. I so enjoyed reading your blog. I look forward to reading about your further adventures.

  2. Thank you Aunt Carol! :) I look forward to sharing them!

  3. Salzburg what a beautiful place ! whenever i have much time i always visit the place, Click here to view website from where i get best car rental services every time.