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Published: October 30th 2010
When we met them, Birgit and Lukas had just finished a large trip around Australia and had also done a similar trip five years earlier. This time however, Birgit added South East Asia to their itinerary and fortunately this meant that they ran into us on the beach in Cambodia. They were staying at the same hotel as us and over the course of a few days we became firm friends. Ten year old Lukas played with Phoebe so nicely and the both of them were happy for the company of another child. Meanwhile, we really enjoyed Birgit's company, and busily compared notes about travelling with children, and sharing other experiences and thoughts as well. When they said they'd also be going to Vietnam we decided to meet up again and spent 2 more weeks enjoying their company. By the time it came to say goodbye we were happy that we'd be meeting up again, this time in their home town of Klagenfurt in Austria.
Driving up to their place it wasn't hard to see why they loved their home so much. They lived just next to the beautiful Lake Worthersee, surrounded by tree covered hills with mountains in the
Off to the Skater Park!
Looking just too excited before they set off
far distance. During the summer they go swimming in the lake and during the winter they go skiing in the mountains nearby. The town is smallish (approx. 90,000) but nevertheless cosmopolitan, with plenty of great shops, cafes and some beautiful architecture. Birgit and Lukas live in an apartment house with three levels, they live on the second level and Birgit's parents rent out the ground floor as a flat to stay in when they are in Klagenfurt (their usual residence is 2 hours West in the mountains). Kindly, we were allowed to stay in the downstairs apartment while we were spending out time in Klagenfurt.
We were met with a warm welcome and then coffee, cake and a glass of delicious Sekt, a sparkling wine that is traditionally drunk with friends or at gatherings as an apertif. Straight away Phoebe and Lukas were into some play time and the adults settled down to talk about all the goings on since we last saw each other. It was a joyful reunion with the only disappointment being that Birgit was in the throws of a nasty cold and it was quickly beginning to look like I was developing one myself.
Lukas and Phoebe
After having eaten delicious cheese dumplings and other Austrian food
The next day we all went down to watch Lukas play soccer (or fußball) and he scored 2 goals! We might have thought that he was buoyed by his special Australian/New Zealand cheer squad but he later told us cooly that his average is 2 goals a game. Another sports passion of his was skateboarding, so one of our afternoons was spent at the local skate park. Very sweetly Lukas lent Phoebe his spare helmet and scooter. Phoebe was absolutely buzzing at the prospect of going to the “skater park” where she whizzed around on flat ground and then sat on Lukas's skateboard while going down the smallest ramp. Too cute!
One night Birgit made us the traditional Austrian dish Wiener Schnitzel, fried in lots of butter and served with the all important parsley potatoes and side salad. This was thoroughly enjoyed by Nick and Phoebe, who both asked for seconds and then thirds. I sighed a private sigh of relief as finally Phoebe's vegetarian phase seemed to be coming to an end. This was further cemented when the next day we went on a day trip to Salzburg and the only thing on the menu Phoebe was interested
Sound of Music Cast
Nick does make a very convincing Julie Andrews!
was Wiener Schnitzel, especially after Birgit confirmed theirs was probably quite similar to the one she made the night before.
In fact food featured heavily during our stay, as we are all big food lovers. Most surprising to me was that local Austrian specialties were rather delicious. This was only surprising as we'd previously asked Birgit about Austrian signature dishes and she scoffed at the idea, and quoted Wiener Schnitzel to be the only real specialty. But after a visit to a traditional Austrian restaurant (which was perched on top of a hill overlooking a vista of beautiful tree covered mountains) we also discovered cheese dumplings and interestingly, pancake soup!
We used our downtime in Klagenfurt (while waiting for Birgit and Lukas to return from school and work) to relax, catch up on a few things, and also give Lentil some much needed TLC. You see while we have been driving around it so happened that the spare tyre fell off....yes, just came clean off after the bracket had rusted through. We found a little mechanic, a Mr. Babic who said he could install the new clutch, weld up the bracket and also do a few other small
Birgit and I at lunch in Salzburg
jobs for a very reasonably price. We were rather thrilled at such a find and managed to negotiate the whole thing employing our high school German! We even managed a little small talk and found out he was originally from Serbia and had family in Canberra, Australia.
Sadly the time came to leave. Spending time with Birgit and Lukas in their own home, in their home town that we'd heard so much about was such an enriching experience. Suddenly these friends we'd made in such a foreign setting were now completely in their own context; and this only served to remind us why we liked them so much in the first place. Overwhelmingly, we found we had a renewed appreciation of what an amazing woman Birgit is. We've made many new friends this year and making new friends while travelling has been one of the highlights, but realising that you made friends of a lifetime is a wonderful reward indeed.
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