October 14, 2007

"The hills are allliiiiiiiiiiivvvee"

This weekend I started to love living here. Christian and I took the train to Salzburg on Friday afternoon, and got to his Grandma's house around 7:30 pm - Abendessen hour. The first thing we did was sit down to eat meats with cheese on bread, with beer. This is conventional Abendessen food (which replaces dinner), while the hot meal of the day is eaten at lunch: Mittagessen. Both Frühstück (breakfast) and Abendessen (dinner) basically consist of bread with either jam and butter or meat and cheese, respectively. Mittagessen comes with salad, and is usually some sort of hot meat dish or pasta. It took me a little while to get used to not having a hot meal at the end of the day, but it is nice because you are not so full after dinner, so I have gotten used to it. We'll have to see whether I revert to Canadian meals when we have our own apartment.

Friday night was quiet. Quiet as in I fell asleep around 11:30. Saturday morning we got up early to go spend the day in the city of Salzburg. Christian's grandma lives in a small town outside the city, called Eugendorf, so we took the bus from the Eugendorf to Salzburg. First we went to see the Mirabellschloss - a palace that one of the arch-bishops of Salzburg built for his mistress and their ten children - and the gardens that surround it. After finding our way through the gardens and the hordes of Japanese tour groups, we walked through the city towards the Altstadt (old town). I stopped to take a picture of a beautiful old fountain that was actually built to wash horses, where the stables used to be. The fountain is in front of one of the mountains in the city, and Christian told me that when his other grandmother lived in Salzburg during the war, they had to hide in the tunnels within the mountain whenever the city was being bombed. It is strange to hear stories like that from the German-Austrian side of the war because they are the same stories I heard in Canada, but from the other side.

As we continued walking through the Altstadt, I started to realize how beautiful the city really is. It feels more untouched than anywhere I have been in Europe before. Having said that, they were making a Bollywood movie in the square that kind of ruined the Old Europe atmostphere. After lunch at a festival, we went on a tour of the Festung Hohensalzburg, a castle at the top of one of the mountains, and then we walked through a really old, beautiful cemetery along the bottom of the mountain. I will post the pictures here once they are developed, because the whole day was pretty spectacular. When we got back to Christian's Oma's house, we ate more delicious Austrian food: Bratwurst with Sauerkraut and Semmel, an Austrian bread that they eat three times a day, and, of course, beer. Beer pretty much replaces milk and water as a meal time drink here.

This morning we slept in and woke up to a beautiful day. It is still really warm here, and the fields are still green, and the garden is still in bloom. Everything we ate for breakfast was from the village except for the butter, which came from Salzburg. Lots of the food is organic just because it is from such small gardens that they don't use pesticides. At breakfast Christian's Oma suggested that we go for a "walk", and then proceded to dig up her hiking boots for me to borrow. Christian drove to to the mountain that she had suggested, and it seemed like a daunting task. We both suggested just driving around long enough that she wouldn't be suspicious. But, we drove to the beginning of the trail, and then hiked the rest of the way up the mountain. It was beautiful to be in the Alps, above the clouds, and the mountain looks over Salzburg, so that I could see all the places that we had visited the day before. There is an Almhütte (pub/restaurant) at the top where we had a delicious beer, and then made our way down the mountain. On the way down, with green hills and winding roads below us, I couldn't contain, "the hills are allliiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiivvvvee with the sound of muuuuuuuusic..." and a couple of twirls. But a beer on an empty stomach and dancing on a steep path don't really mix, so we finished the trip back and made our way home for Mittagessen.

We're back in Graz now, and I am still kind of glowing with the satisfaction of such a good weekend. I feel like we were away much longer than two nights. Tomorrow is an important day: I have my first German classes, and I have to pay my tuition/register for university. Hopefully the fresh Austrian air will have done me good.

The hill on the left is the Gaisberg, the mountain we climbed, which I admit is less impressive looking in this photo than it was from the bottom, and the city in the background is Salzburg.