Vienna Wrap-up

The part of the my travels with Vienna as a home base is coming to a close, so I thought I would make a video to help remember all of the amazing experiences I have had so far. I would like to first thank Melissa for inviting me to come and stay with her family. Not only was she great at planning our trips and working out the details, but she was also a really fun friend to share every experience with. Also, I want to thank the Salzmann family for letting me stay at their house over the past month. It’s not easy having a guest in your house for such a long time, and they were always so nice and welcoming. My European adventure, however, is not over! Tomorrow, I leave for London and ultimately Bristol in England to visit my friend Peter, who I also met working at camp last summer. I’m looking forward to an amazing time, and I will update again in about a week with a bunch of new stories to share!

Salzburg 2 – The City

Like I said, Salzburg was an amazing city. There are so many things to see, but we had to squeeze as much as we could into about a day and a half. Friday evening, we went to old town and went to Mozart’s birthplace, which has been turned into a museum. It was really interesting to not only see and learn about where he grew up, but also to see the actual instruments he played and some of the music he composed. As it turns out, Mozart is not the only aspect of the city that is musical. We were actually there for part of the Salzburg Music Festival, in which there are several performances. We even witnessed a showing of an opera below the fortress, which was pretty incredible – there were people everywhere and the opera was very good (not that I know anything about operas, but it seemed good to me!). After paragliding on Saturday, we went back into Salzburg and went up to the top of the fortress, which was amazing. I know it’s hard to compare the two, but I couldn’t help but notice the similarities and differences between Prague and Salzburg. Prague is obviously much bigger, but the uniqueness and the consistently old quality of the architecture really stuck out to me – there were no modern buildings in either city, at least not that I noticed. Also similar to Prague, Salzburg is extremely touristy, so it doesn’t really have it’s own distinct culture when it comes to the people – the culture is much more evident in the buildings and the history. One thing I liked better about Salzburg was the beauty surrounding the city. Every direction you look you see the Alps, which was seriously mesmerizing. That night, we ate dinner at the fortress, which as you can see in the picture in the video, was beautiful. And, despite the 40-minute wait for soup and then another 30 minutes for our meal, we had a great time relaxing in such a nice atmosphere. Sunday morning, we went back to old town and saw some of the sights from the Sound of Music. I think my mom and I watched that movie at least 1,000 times, so as I saw some of the places the scenes definitely came back to me. It was very cool to actually see in person those places I’d seen so many times on screen! Lastly, we visited St. Peter’s Graveyard, which must have been the most elaborate graveyard that I have ever seen. As you see in the pictures, each gravestone was very ornately decorated, and some even had their own area that was fenced off. All around I think I may have enjoyed Salzburg the most out of all the cities that we’ve visited – it had everything: beautiful scenery, rich culture, and paragliding. What could beat that?!

Salzburg 1 – Paragliding

This weekend, Melissa and I went to Salzburg, which was probably the most beautiful city I’ve ever seen. Not only did we do a lot of cultural activities and explore the city itself, but we also went to a town called Werfenweng to go paragliding. Now let me just say heights are not my favorite thing, but when Melissa suggested it, how could I say no?! A chance like this, especially in such a beautiful location surrounded by the Alps, was impossible to pass up. So, I did it, and we videotaped the entire morning. We were planning on taking a bus from our stop off the train to Werfenweng, but when we got there, we found out we had misunderstood the bus situation. Because we arrived so early, however, we decided we had time to walk to the starting point. We were told Werfenweng was just 5 km up the road – it felt like much further than 5 Km, and we were right! We just looked up on Google Maps how far it actually was, and it was 12.1 Km or 7.5 Miles with about 1500 ft increased elevation from start to finish. Needless to say, we were tired at the end! I think it was worth it, despite our sweaty shirts! The views were amazing and it was a great way to explore the area. The experience of paragliding itself was not nearly as scary as I had anticipated. I actually calmed down when we got to the top of the mountain, and any last jitters I had before take-off were immediately gone once we were in the air. The flight was incredible. The views of course were amazing. Also, the simple feelings of being that high in the air and so free at the same time were surreal. In the video above, he’s actually letting me steer us! The experience was amazing, something I will definitely never forget!

Munich 3 – The Historical

On our last day in Munich before we caught our train back to Vienna, I really wanted to go to Dachau, which was the first concentration camp. I do not even know how to begin describing what it was like to be there. It was sad, eerie, thought provoking…I couldn’t help but feel what had happened there. While there, I took out about twenty minutes and literally just sat in the main square and tried to imagine what it was like. The fact that such awful things had happened right where I was standing was scary, to say the least. Despite all the tourists around me, it was not hard to feel the suffering that had gone on – the ground was simply gravel, the grass was overgrown with weeds, the buildings were cheap, and the paint was peeling. It was still the exact same camp that it was during WWII. I did not feel distanced at all from what had happened, despite the fact that it is about seventy years earlier. For one thing, it definitely made me feel less sorry for myself for being cold the day before during the David Guetta concert! The amount of unbearable torment that occurred there is overwhelming just from looking at the stats, but actually stepping on the grounds had another, deeper impact on me that will be hard to forget.

Munich 2 – The Social

For Saturday afternoon in Munich, Melissa and I bought tickets to go to a David Guetta concert. For those who don’t know, David Guetta is a really popular DJ right now, both in the U.S. and in Europe. The tickets said the concert started at 4:00, but as we unfortunately discovered, David Guetta would not be appearing until 8:30. Originally we had planned to go to a firework show at the Olympic stadium that night, but obviously our plans changed – it was worth it! The concert, although cold and rainy throughout the day (made worse by the fact that we were the only people there in shorts!), was really fun. Not only was it fun because of the concert itself, but also because it appeared to be almost exclusively a German audience, meaning the people watching was great! I was able to experience German youth culture in its element – which was crazy, to say the least! The video above shows some highlights of the day.

Munich 1 – The Culture

This past weekend Melissa and I went to Munich, which I loved. I found it to be extraordinarily rich in culture, even more so than Vienna and Prague. For example, it was fairly normal to see people walking around in traditional German clothes. Also, the personalities of the people overall just felt so different from what I am used to. Anyway, I liked Munich so much also because I had three very contrasting types of experiences there – the cultural, the historical, and the social. So, I am going to do three different posts so that I can do them justice! This post is the cultural one. Besides the traditional dress and the stern personalities of the Germans, one thing that really struck me was the number and quality of the street performers. There were violinists and other musical groups, mimes, and people dressed as statues (one of them looked so real it scared me when he reached out toward me!). It was really impressive and fun to observe. Although Munich did have its fair number of tourists, in my view the tourists did not overshadow the German culture. The video above summarizes my favorite aspects of culture in Munich – it was also the first time I ever used iMovie, which was really fun. Hopefully I’ll get better at it!