Thursday, May 22, 2008

The long-awaited review of Salzburg

For over a month now I have been intending to write about my mom's visit and especially our time in Salzburg, but I have been plagued by overwhelming stress and laziness, and so have not taken the time until now to do so.

As my time here in Europe is winding to a close, I decided that it was mandatory for me to experience a sleeper train. So at the end of April I took a Friday night train to Salzburg, slept in a chair that reclined more than the normal seat, but nowhere close to a horizontal position, arrived having lost my copy of The Mystery of Edwin Drood on the first and groggiest of my train changes, and met up with Drew and Lisa for breakfast. When I was last in Salzburg it was winter with a nice layer of cold on the ground and air which hurried you to your next destination in the hope of warming up again. Coffee was mandatory. This visit, in the early part of spring, was equally, but of course differently, stunning. From the minute you step out of the train station, the city is dominated by the fortress Hohensalzburg on top of a hill in the center of the city and green. Of the five days that I was there, four were warm and sunny to the point that I managed to get a sunburn and could constantly smell the sun on my skin.
I have utterly fallen in love Austria, and especially Salzburg. It is hard to resist the beauty and history that is Salzburg, but I think the thing that draws me so much to the place is the fact that it is a haven to me here in Europe. It has been a good year, but a very difficult one, and it has proven rather challenging to get breaks from my work here as an au pair. The fact that I live with the family I work for, in the very next room, has made it very hard for me to ever feel that I can completely relax and be on my own. I have not found here in Oldenburg someone with whom I can converse on the same level that I have been spoiled enough to hope for while living in Eugene, and there is not really anyone around who completely understands my perspective, not only as an America, but also as a Christian, and a not very conventional one at that. So when I get the opportunity to visit friends from Eugene, who live on this continent, I settle quite quickly into a feeling of deep comfort. It is not merely the fact that Drew and Lisa are from Eugene which makes them so dear to me, but I remember when I am around them what a rare thing it is to find people who are kind and thoughtful. Not thoughtful in the sense of kind because I'm not trying to be that redundant, but thoughtful in the sense of being people who actively think about things without even noticing it. That and Lisa's an incredible hostess and lots of fun to be around. And they have the most incredible marble-shower-with-three-different-sources-of-water-the-size-of-a-closet that I have ever seen.

Mom arrived on Sunday. I made the horrible mistake of being late to the train to pick her up which meant that I didn't know what platform she had arrived on (because the board had already moved on to the next batch of arrivals) and so I ran from one to the next searching for my mother while Drew waited patiently in his illegal parking spot until I found her surprisingly unfrazzled and brought her to the car. Poor thing though, it was her first trip to Europe, she was without my father (who has not only a former realtor's instinct for how to get where he wants to go in any town, which I think I might have inherited from him, but also that male courage which does not deign to find directions necessary) and although she had been guided through the basics of the European rail system by our friend Gabi, she was still on shaky ground with no one to meet her as she got off the train, no phone from which to call, or even a sure telephone number and only that vocabulary which is helpful in describing the color of cars in the native tongue. Her first look when I called her name was naturally one of relief, "Good. I learned to just stay put and when it gets dark get big, and someone will eventually find you, I'm not entirely sure that the method will work in a train station, but I had several hours before dark to figure that out." The next two days with Mom were a blast. By that time I knew my way around Salzburg well enough to bring her around to some of the highlights (most of which are sighted if you pay the 15 euros to take the Sound of Music Tour), and we spent our days wandering the town and country, talking and sipping coffee to forestall any caffeine withdrawal symptoms I might experience.

On Wednesday early in the afternoon, mom and I boarded an IC and later an ICE (those are the really nice trains where there are people in uniform who come by to sell you an overpriced cup of soaked coffee grounds), and headed back up to Oldenburg when she spent the next couple of days seeing my situation, my town and my life here, then I put her on a train back to Giessen with a tearful goodbye, and have spent the last month and a half trying to suppress my antsyness to see my friends and family again.


Marianne Elixir said...

Thanks for the update. I love your writing style because I feel like you are really chatting just across the table from me - so close I want to hug you! You will be home before you know it (though still too far away for my tastes)!

Anonymous said...

Hooray! Sounds like a great time with your mom. And the chimneysweep in the other post looks awesome. Makes me want a chimney. When are you moving back to DC?


Valerie said...

Marianne- thanks for the compliment, that's very sweet of you. I can't wait to see you and get a real hug sometime soon.
Susan- yeah, had an awesome time. When I observed to Sabine that we don't have chimneysweeps anymore she was astonished and asked who cleans the US chimneys. I was at a loss, "um... I guess the heating and cooling guys if people actually have a chimney, but the don't dress as cool as that guy did." I'm headed to D.C. area July 8th.

Matti said...

Wow! look at all that green... seeing that pic really makes me want to go to Salzburg again.
That's awesome that your mom got to visit. Did she love Salzburg too? I bet. Thanks for all the updates. Only a few more weeks and you're back in the states! choos