Published: November 26th 2008November 20th 2008
Yes, that is right. I have officially worn my first dirndl. But more about that later!
At the end of September I was in Austria staying with my friends Cornelia and Mario in a small town named Wallern. It was wonderful to stay put for a week and sleep in a room all by myself! What a luxury!!! Almost everyday in Austria Cornelia and I would do day trips to nearby sights. The first day we drove to Mauthausen Concentration Camp just outside of Linz. It was used as a slave labor camp from 1938 till it was liberated in 1945. It was unbelievable to imagine that over 150,000 people died there. It was pretty crazy walking around the grounds and learning about all the horrible stuff that happened there. Even though all the information was in german, the pictures spoke louder than words. I found it pretty scary to imagine that all this stuff only happened 60 odd years ago.
After we spent a few hours taking all this in, we headed to Linz where we walked around the city a bit and went to the local fair. We sampled some austrian pastries and had some sturm- which is
freshly fermented grape juice, similar to wine. We even went on one of the amusement rides, one of the scary ones!! We then headed to Cornelia's parents house and upon our arrival her mom just happened to pull out of the oven some freshly baked plum tart! WOW....it was amazing! She had also made some tiramisu so we had some of that as well! It was delicious and the house smelled wonderful! It was fun meeting her parents and trying to communicate without a common language. A lot of time Cornelia would translate for us, other times it was just like charades!
The next day I got my first real taste of an austrian breakfast. It consisted of multiple types of wurst (thinly sliced meet, usually sausage) with multiple types of cheese (so many different varieties in the grocery stores) including spreadable cheese layered onto delicious rolls (also tons of varieties) with some bell pepper on top. It seemed more like a lunch type of meal, but it was delicious and actually quite satisfying in the morning. After breakfast we hopped in the car and headed toward Dachstein. The couple hour drive led us along these beautiful lakes surrounded by
Cornelia enjoying our soup and hot spiced wine!!! The perfect day!
mountains. It was so nice to be back in the mountains again! At Dachstein we took a gondola up the mountain and explored some giant ice caves where it was a chilly 3 C inside, basically like walking through a freezer for over an hour. After warming back up in the sunshine we took another gondola up past the snow line where we walked to an amazing view point over the valley below. We had 360 degree views of the alps, lakes and mountains, it was breathtaking. Up at the top we had lunch at a ski hut where I discovered Gluhwein- hot spiced wine. It was the perfect day sitting on the ski hut deck, sipping my hot wine while gazing at the gigantic snow-capped mountains that stretched on forever.
My most action packed day in Austria was when we took the early morning train to Munich to go to Oktoberfest!!! At 7:30 we met 4 of Cornelia's friends at the train station and had a huge picnic breakfast during out 3 hr train ride. Since all of Cornelia’s friends were dressing up for the occasion, we rented outfits as well. So there we were, 6 of us in
My one goal of the day: to eat a giant pretzel!
dirndls and lederhosen catching our train right next to all the school kids and business people. We got into Munich around 10:30 and headed straight for Oktoberfest. It was HUGE!!! There were heaps of fair rides, food booths selling gigantic pretzels and gingerbread hearts, game booths, and about 10 of the biggest beer halls I’ve ever seen. Each one housed approximately 10,000 people! We made our way into one of the tents and managed to find a place at the long wooden tables. The place was already filled with people, all with beers in hand. Around 11:30 we ordered our first round of beers, these were huge as well, and didn’t stop drinking until we left at 10pm. It was quite a day! I did manage to sneak out of the tent and walk around for a hour or so. I couldn’t get over all the crazy roller coaster rides. I think they have these to keep the drunk people from getting alcohol poisoning. Just hop on a ride and throw it all up, then you’re good to go for a few more rounds! Back in the tent things started to get pretty wild around 6. This is when the
View of terraced vineyard from old ruined castle
live band started to play and everyone was standing on their tables singing and dancing. Since all the tables were packed together, it wasn’t unusual for someone to fall over in their drunkenness and cause a domino effect, knocking people over in all directions! We eventually caught the train home back that night and finally crashed into our beds around 4am. Quite a day!!!
One of the other highlights of my week in Austria was Salzburg. We spent a day walking around the old town where parts of the Sound of Music was filmed and even got to see Mozart’s birthplace and residence. My favorite part of the day was when we were walking along the hilltop above town and a older local man decided to give us a history lesson of Salzburg while pointing out all the relevant buildings. Unfortunately he only spoke german, so for the hour or so of his nonstop talking, I just tagged along fitting all his hand gestures into my own interpretation of his stories. He was an interesting fellow! We also spent a day at the Aquapulco, the local bath in Wallern. We spent hours soaking in the hot indoor and outdoor pools
One of the many graves. See what I mean, strange place!
with all sorts of different jets. I think it was the first time I had been completely warm in days! At the end of my stay we drove to the Danube Region known for all the vineyards and wineries! We hiked to the top of a hill to an old castle where we had an amazing view of the terraced vineyards leading down to the river below. It was beautiful! That night I checked into a hostel and said my goodbyes to Cornelia. The next day I caught the train to Vienna where I walked to the Naschmakt, a giant market with all sorts of food booths along with a huge flea market. I also went to Schloss Schonbrunn, the 1440 room summer palace with its huge gardens and spent a few hours walking around the biggest cemetery I have ever seen!!! There are 3.3 million people buried here! Zentralfriedhof is so big it has its own bus system just to get around inside. I spent hours gawking at all the different grave styles. If ever you had to go grave shopping, this would be the place to go! Some of them were the size of small houses, while others were fallen over and broken. What a strange place!