Christmas Holidays and Fifth Month

It’s officially been five months!!

First thing that happened this month was Salzburg weekend with Rotary. It was the last weekend with everyone together since the Oldies, including a lot of my friends are going home this month. Even so, it was still a really great weekend! My favourite memory was skating for the first time in Austria. My friend Caitlin and I joined the other Newbies downtown and skated most of the day away. The Christmas music they were playing on the speakers was the perfect playlist and everyone was so happy! With the sleigh rides going past, the Christmas markets on either side of us and the castle in the background, it was like a travel advertisement! We also had a farewell dinner and awards night for the Oldies(exchange students who came here last January). It was really sad but also fun because everyone dressed up in traditional Austrian clothing. Lederhosen for the boys and Dirndls for the girls! It gave me sound of music vibes walking through the streets of Salzburg(where the movie was filmed) in a Dirndl. After Salzburg weekend we all went back to our host families for the holidays.

Christmas away from home was surprisingly easier than I thought it would be. It was sort of weird because on the day of, I knew it was Christmas but it just didn’t feel like it. Probably just because I wasn’t at home with my family. In a way Christmas was just another day for me here which I will gladly take over being homesick any day. However, the weeks leading up to Christmas Day definitely felt very festive and I would absolutely love to come back to Austria for another Christmas. Christmas is such a magical time in Europe with the markets and lights and old streets. There is honestly nothing like it in Canada.

Austrians celebrate Christmas a little differently here. To start off, they have a whole separate day a couple weeks before Christmas dedicated to Saint Nicholas. On this day, the children in the families hear a bell ringing in the morning and run downstairs to find a sack of gifts, sweets and a letter from Nikolo, and maybe even a surprise in their shoes.

A couple days before Christmas my host dad, my host brother and I went to get the Christmas tree we had picked out on the tree farm a few weeks before! It was my first time having a real Christmas tree in the house that I can remember! It smelt so good that I will have to buy tree scented candles now that it is gone.

Austrians celebrate Christmas on the 24th so on this day my host family and I spent hours and hours cooking and wrapping presents. We prepared the food so fancy it was like a restaurant. By the time everything was finished, it was time to eat dinner. My three host brothers and my host sister and I all got dressed up for the yearly photo in front of the Christmas Tree. Then, we sang German Christmas carols and my host mom played the flute. We were really rusty, especially me because I did not know the songs by heart. I found out Silent Night is actually originally from Austria! After the carolling, we opened presents and then ate dinner. Dinner was a meat and veggie fondue with different homemade sauces as well as eggplant and peppers for an appetizer.

The next morning on Christmas Day, we went to mass. My host family is Christian so it was almost the exact same procedure as Church back home except in German of course. The rest of the day was really laid back, I FaceTimed my family back home and then spent some time with my host family as well.

I’ve been really busy since Christmas. I changed host families on the 29th after driving to a small town where my new host family stayed for the holidays. The town is called Bad Aussee and they own two apartments there for skiing and winter holidays. I have a whole apartment to myself for now but it is great because I am right beside the families apartment if I need them. I settled in really easily with this family, I think because I am getting used to living in other people’s homes. My host mom is the absolute sweetest. I can tell she likes hugs so I’m going to steal one whenever I can because I miss my own mom’s hugs so much that I am going crazy. I also have a host sister named Stephie who I get along with super well. Spending time with her lately has made me realize how much I missed being an older sister and how much of a huge part of me it is. She only speaks German and this has been so helpful for me! Even after a week with her I am already dreaming in German a little bit and speaking it more than I ever did in my last host family. I am really noticing how much my German has improved lately so YAYYY!! I also have two host brothers. Max is ten and the other one is older and moved out so I have not met him yet. I only just met the younger brother a few days ago since he was in Florida with his Aunt! Lucky guy! We also have three dogs. Two small dogs and one big one which is very hard to control. It makes me so grateful for how well behaved my Rocco back home is. I also met my host dad and host Grandmother in Bad Aussee, they are both super nice as well!

I stayed for two nights in Bad Aussee with my new host family and then I was off to Vienna for Silvester with some exchange friends! It was for sure a New Years to remember. We spent the countdown in Stephansplatz with thousands of other people. As we were all walking home, people were setting fireworks off in the streets. I was on FaceTime with my parents at the time to wish them a happy New Year and my mom said it sounded like I was in a war zone ahahah. Since I was in Vienna for a few days, me and a friend visited the Albertina while there was an exhibition on Monet, Picasso and Munch! It was soooo worth the hour long wait outside in the wind(Vienna is always so windy). We got into the museum for free because we are under 18 but even so, there were still so many people outside waiting! I am definitely adding more art museums to my bucket list:) On my last night in Vienna I had to say goodbye to my very best friend Caitlin from New Zealand since she is an Oldie and going home. Broke my heart completely but I know that I will see her again.

After two nights in Vienna I headed back to Bad Aussee. I spent the week Skiing with my host sister. First time skiing in Austria!! Okay, so I know I am Canadian and all but I swear I have never seen so much snow in my life! It was crazy! We were skiing in three meters of snow and the powder was so much fun but very tiring to ski through. My host sister made me look like such an ametur, I could not believe how much energy she had even after we finished each day.

Next weekend we go back to Bad Aussee and I might be trying snowboarding!! But for now we are back in Graz at my host families apartment downtown. I am living right in the city centre now! It is like a movie and I walked home from school today just because I love walking through the streets so much! I even made a happy music playlist for how happy walking downtown makes me.

And that brings us to today! All caught up! Tomorrow I say goodbye to my really close friends Ethan and Jemma from Australia:( Then I just have to wait for my Newbie from Australia to come! She is here in two weeks I believe and she will be going to my school!

Thats all! Here are some photos:)

 

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Fourth Month

Saturday marked my fourth month in Austria. This month has been pretty quiet and the weather has been really nice. It is still above zero during the day here most of the time and yesterday I noticed that there is still green grass in a lot of places. My favourite part about winter so far here is the view of the mountains. I’ve been running a lot after school lately and the view of the snow on the mountains on a sunny day is gorgeous. Sometimes I can’t believe I actually live here because the landscape is so spectacular compared to the flat prairies of Alberta ahah. This month hasn’t been too eventful but really nice nonetheless. I have been helping my host mom bake lots of Christmas cookies(she has an infinite amount of recipes and I love the almond paste ones) as well as meeting up with some friends.

Last weekend I was in Vienna visiting some exchange students and saying goodbye to a friend from Alaska. I stayed overnight with my friend Manuela and she took me to one of the Christmas Markets in front of Schloss Schönbrunn as well as one in front of the Rathaus. It ended up being so expensive but definitely worth the money because everything was handmade. Austria is the absolute best place to be for Christmas. I have been in the holiday spirit for weeks and weeks now because they start to celebrate so early here. The Christmas Markets are like a fairytale and my city is decorated completely with mini markets of our own scattered throughout the streets. The lights are really cool too! They hung tree branches upside-down above the streets and wrapped them in lights. During the day it looks a little odd but at night it is very Christmasy:) We also have two Ferris wheels in the city at the moment for the markets! When I was sick a couple weeks ago, I went into the city one night just to see the lights to make me feel better. This Saturday I went downtown to get a gift for a friend and I was caught off guard by how many people were on the streets visiting Graz. It was crazy and as busy as a festival!

This coming weekend I will be in Salzburg with the other Rotary exchange students celebrating Christmas and saying goodbye to some of the Australian and NewZealand students. Hopefully with my close friends it won’t be goodbye because I am planning on spending New Years with them before they go back home. Even so, I am really excited to see everyone again. I also have a test in German which I am crossing my fingers for. I think I will be ok as I am already on level A2 in German and taking one class at level B1. However, it is difficult for us exchange students to study for a test without knowing what will be covered. So wish me luck!

Today also marked an important day in my exchange! I bought a Dirndl! This is the traditional Austrian dress. I got a really good deal and it was surprisingly easy, I ended up getting the first one I tried on. I do not have a photo of me wearing it yet but I will include one in my next blog post so keep and eye out!

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Friends in Vienna!
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My friend Jemma visiting the markets in our city with me

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Rathaus, Vienna

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Schloss Schönbrunn, Vienna
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Climbing Stephan’s Turm in Vienna
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The view overlooking Graz from Schlossberg

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Main Street in Graz
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Christmas Shop in Graz
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Sidestreet in Graz

 

Three Months Today!

The past few months have been so amazing and I am so grateful to have been able to experience so many cool things not only in Austria but in Germany and Czech Republic. The highlights were definitely all the Rotary Events including language camp, Hiking weekend, Vienna weekend and City Tour. Outside of Rotary I enjoyed exploring with my host family. We visited a sculpture park, wineries, the Piber Lipizzaner Stud Farm, and an open air museum full of traditional Austrian farms. I also loved visiting the Graz Oper with my host family and I hope to go again soon! Another highlight was Aufsteirern where I really got my first sense of true, traditional Austrian Culture. That also reminds me of when we visited Vienna and me and some exchange students went to the Wiener Riesenrad. That was such a fun and spontaneous night!

I am definitely sad to see the warm weather disappear, today was very foggy and chilly and left me reminiscing about the hot summer days I spent at Attersee. I also thought about all the fun times at language camp and how fortunate us exchange students were to be able to walk down to a lake surrounded by gorgeous mountains and just jump in. I also remember visiting Hallstatt and how beautiful that city was.

So far in Austria I have visited Vienna, Ried im Innkreis, Altmünster, Hallstatt, and Salzburg as well as many other small towns and sightseeing spots. My favourite spot in my city is Schlossberg. This is where atop the hill, the famous clocktower is looking over Graz. The view of the mountains from up there is amazing but I am not sure how much of a view there is now that winter is rolling in. It was really nice during the warmer months were you could see in all directions and especially in Herbst(Autumn) when the leaves started to turn colours. Schloss Eggenberg is also very pretty and they have peacocks roaming the palace grounds.

Recently it has been dark when I wake up every morning, which is very Canadian. But, when I am taking the bus to school every morning the surrounding hill tops disappear into the fog. Halloween was very fun, I got to carve pumpkins with my host sister which turned out to be very good bonding. As well, my inbound councillor took me and her two daughters out horseback riding with her two Icelandic Ponies. It was my first time riding an Icelander and it was really weird but cool! Her two little girls are so cute and they remind me so much of my sister when she was younger. It was also really good German practice since they do not speak English. My German is coming along nicely, I am not at a conversational level yet but I understand all my work from my German classes and I understand almost everything my host mom says to me(she speaks to me in only German). School is still very boring but I have my Matura Ball on Saturday which is basically Austrian Prom. I am very excited since we have nothing like this in Canada. All the girls dress in gorgeous white dress and dance around just like a real ball. But, since I am not in the graduating class, I am only there to watch and enjoy. Today I had my German class at the bilingual school and it was great because I get along really well with the girls in that class. However, most of them will be leaving soon as they were only here for three or five months. It’s unfortunate that I am only just getting to know them so well. The next Rotary trip is in the beginning of December and this is when I will also have to say goodbye to all the Australian and New Zealand exchange students. Although it will be so heartbreaking to see them all back to their countries, I am so grateful for all the fun times I have had with my Oldies.

So there is a little summary of the past three months in Austria and a little update:)

To note, the photos I will include are only recent ones. I have plenty of photos of the past three months on other blog posts.

-Jasmine

City Tour

Yesterday I got back from City Tour and the past few days have been so fun that I decided to dedicate a whole blog post to this trip:)

Early on Thursday morning all the exchange students met in Linz and we all loaded onto the bus. After four hours we arrived at our first stop, Prague. We had a tour guide show us around some main parts of the city including Old Town Square, Charles Bridge and the area around Prague Castle. In total we only had about four hours to spend in Prague and it definitely was not enough time, the city is huge and so gorgeous! My favourite view during city tour was the Old Town Square, it was so cool to walk along all of the colourful streets and buildings. During our free time some of us went walking and ending up trying Trdelník which Julia ended up spilling all over herself in seconds. After meeting up at the clock in the square, we headed back to the bus.

Our next stop was Dresden, we arrived very late so after checking into our hotel we went for dinner at an Italian Buffet called Vapiano. The next morning we had a guided tour of the city and this ended up being my favourite tour because our guide was really prepared and knew what she was talking about, I ended up learning a lot despite what Doris would say ahaha. During our free time a bunch of us went to a vegan/vegetarian burger restaurant and after that I went thrift shopping at Humanic with Nataleigh, Phoebe and Manuela and ending up getting a jacket to wear in Berlin the next day. We also went to a sweet shop and bought some special Christmas bread to share. I loved Dresden because everything was central and I got to see a lot of the city when we were walking in our free time. Before meeting up with the other exchange students in the square, Manuela and I listened to a street performer play Imagine on the Guitar, he was so good at singing. We left at around 4:00 to drive to Berlin and after three hours we arrived at the Happy Bed Hostel.

I remember there was a cute little old car outside the hostel with the name painted onto it. Once we had dinner at the hostel we had free time so some other exchange students and I met up with some German exchange students and friends and went to Museum Island. This ended up being our spot for the next night as well. It was such a cool place to spend our free time because of the canal running beside the path. Standing on the bridge with the lights reflecting on the water at night with the museums in the background was very pretty. When we met up with the kids from Berlin, I met someone who had been back backing across Europe for a month or so and it was really cool to hear all of their stories. I think I will always remember the moments I had in Berlin with my exchange friends by that canal listening to street music.

The next day we had a guided tour of Berlin. We went by bus since all the tourist attractions are really spread out but we made a few stops along the way to take photos. We went to Charlottenburg Palace, Brandenburg Gate, The Berlin Wall and Charlie’s Checkpoint. It was really very eyeopening see all of these places in person that you usually only hear about. During our free time this day we went to get food and since we were in Germany we had to try Currywurst. After eating we went to another Humanic, did some more thrift shopping, and then went back to our spot by the canal across from the Bode Museum. If I ever go back to Berlin I defiantly want to explore all the markets and art walks I saw.

The final day of City Tour was a 10 hour drive back to Linz, Austria.

City tour was four days of complete happiness with all of the other exchange students and it is moments like the ones I had on this tour that remind me why I came on exchange:)IMG_2143

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Prague Castle

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St. Vitus Cathedral
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Prague

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Old Town Square, Prague

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Dresden

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Humanic Thrift Store in Dresden

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Sweet shop in Dresden
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Christmas Bread

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Berlin

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Brandenburg gate
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Berlin Wall

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Berlin Castle

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First month down!!

It’s weird to think that I have already been here so long, but at the same time I wouldn’t say that it went fast. If anything this month has been slow but very eventful.

Two weeks ago I arrived in Graz and met my host family for the first time. They are amazing and I feel right at home. It was really nice to be able to settle in somewhere and super duper nice to have a closet after all that time living out of a suitcase!

I had about a week left of summer holidays when I arrived in Graz so I spent most of the time exploring and doing different stuff. I met up with a friend who showed me around Graz and we did some sightseeing. I also went to the opera with my Host Mom and Sister. It was surprisingly really good, and the building was gorgeous.

I started school last Monday and it was very confusing at first because I kept switching classes, but now I think I will stay in the 7th class because there are more people my age. Kids here are very different than in St. Albert. I knew it would be hard making friends but I thought it would be because of the language barrier. Turns out it is not just that, people just aren’t that interested in new students. I really had to approach people if I wanted to talk to them. Which was fine but sometimes I am so exhausted I just don’t want to spend the energy. It is hard always trying to understand a new language. It is either my brain never stops or I just zone out. Trying to make friends in a foreign country really makes you appreciate your friends back home and how easy it is to be around them and to fit in with them.

This weekend was a Rotary hiking weekend in the mountains. It was the best! The view from the top of the mountain was absolutely amazing. This weekend was also the first time that the oldies(kids from Australia or New Zealand who are almost done their exchange) and newbies got to meet each other officially. I had met most of my oldies in Altmünster but I still got to meet a few new people! I was so happy to see all of the exchange kids again but it was really hard to say goodbye to them all at the train station yesterday. Just got to get through the next few weeks until I see them all again in Vienna!

Here are some pictures from the past few weeks.

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Graz Opera House

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Festival in Graz
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My house

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Where Mozart was born

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Life here in Österreich

Lots has happened since my first blog post. First of all, I had a German language camp at a boarding School on Lake Traunsee. It was sort of funny because all of us exchange students thought that we were staying in the castle which is the first photo that pops up when you search up the address of the boarding school. But… there was another group staying at the school and they got to stay in the castle while our group stayed in the dorms.

The first day of classes I had my doubts, I only knew one or two people and so I got really homesick in the morning because I had nothing else to distract myself with. I told myself to just focus on the German and that kind of took my mind off of things. It was super hard because there was no wifi and I did not have a phone that worked so I could not call my parents. I remember all I wanted that first day was to hear my Dad’s voice. But… on a brighter note, language camp turned out to be the best couple weeks I have had here. Later during that first day I made friends with some amazing people. Over the two weeks everyone became really close and I love that I get to see these people though out the year. Being with other exchange students is such a great vibe because everyone is doing this for a reason and mostly everyone has such a great outlook on why they are here. I cannot wait until the next meeting with everyone which is in two weeks. We get to go hiking in the alps at “Planner-Alm.

Almost everyday at language camp we walked down to the lake and went swimming. There was also a cafe we liked to go to and our favourite grocery store became the “Spar.” On the weekend, we did a hike up to a restaurant on top of a foothill. It was so hot and so everyone was very sweaty for the pictures we took at the top. It was such an amazing view though. Just like Sound of Music! Speaking of that, apparently no one here likes Sound of Music mostly because it isn’t even in German. Sunday was  my favourite day at language camp. We took a bus to Hallstatt. Hallstatt is the first photo that comes up when you search up Austria. It is one of the top ten prettiest cities in the world and I completely agree. There were tourists but I am surprised there weren’t more of them/us. When we arrived in Hallstatt we took a tram up the mountain. We did a tour of the salt mine which was really cool because I got to go down the longest underground slide. After the tour, we walked down the mountain to a graveyard. In this particular gaveyard they do not have enough space for everyones graves so they built a crypt where they paint the names of the people on their skulls and place them inside. It was cool to see but also very weird because I feel like we shouldn’t have been allowed to go inside. After this we had a few hours of free time to shop and explore and take photos. Some friends and I stopped in a soap shop. It was super cool because it reminded me of lush back home but it was better. The soaps are all in different shapes and they even had a chocolate Easter bunny soap that smelled real.

The next big thing coming up for me is moving families.  I have been staying with Rudi and Sabine since I got back from language camp but I leave on September 3rd when I take the train to Graz to meet my real host family. They just got back from vacation and I am so excited to meet them!!

German is harder than I thought. Being immersed in the language is such an isolating feeling because I can barley understand a word per sentence. Even though I feel like I threw myself into a pool of German, I try to learn at least two new words per day. Yesterday my words were Enten(Ducks) and Schlüssel(Key). I also learned how to say öffnen properly. It’s weird to explain but I am starting to understand a lot of the basics when it comes to pronunciation. For example when I am reading something from my German text books, I notice I am starting to read it correctly in my head instead of trying to pronounce it the English speaking way. Language camp helped me a lot in understanding what people are saying and learning the grammar, but I really need to work on my speaking skills. I barely speak german at all because my vocabulary is so limited. Everyday I use my text books from language camp and teach myself a lesson. Today’s lesson was writing a blog in German and it reminded me to write on this one.

Overall, I keep reminding myself that the German will come at my own pace and not to get too overwhelmed. I never realized how much only knowing once language can limit you. I really appreciate how everyone spoke English back home now.

Yesterday Rudi and Sabine and their son took me to a restaurant near the lake house. I could not understand where we were going so when we started driving up the mountain it was a surprise to me! We got out of the car and the whole lake was below us and on my other side there was a herd of deer grazing. I am pretty sure they were captive though. The country side is so gorgeous here I cannot even explain. Everywhere I look everything looks so put together and cute. I could not read the menu at the restaurant so Rudi helped me out and I ended up ordering fish from the lake. But what I didn’t realize was that they serve you the whole fish here, eyeballs and tail and everything. ANYWAYS that turned out to be an experience! The fish was good it was just hard to avoid the bones. I like the home cooked meals here a lot better. Oh! Another thing! The meals here are really different. The main thing is that lunch is the biggest meal of the day. That is when we have our full coursed meal and dinner is usually more of a snack. It is also very Austrian to have a clear soup with a dumpling of some sort for an appetizer. As well, some Austrians have a sweet dinner such as fruit dumplings with jam and berries. One day we had pancakes for lunch which was super weird for me because the pancakes are different here. They aren’t sweet and they do not use syrup for anything here. The pancakes I ate had lots of blueberries inside and we sprinkled some powder on them. They also have pancake soup here! I have not tried it but I will eventually. Schnitzel is also very good.

Tonight I am going to a rotary meeting with Rudi. We are going into the forest somewhere apparently. One of the Rotarians works with forestry here and we are taking a look at the pine beetles they have here. I think they are similar to the ones we have in Canada near Jasper but it doesn’t look like they are as much as a problem here.

Thats all for today!

I have no working phone at the moment because I returned the one I bought yesterday. So if you need to contact me please email for now:)

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The view from the castle
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Were we went swimming
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The castle at the boarding school
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Brazil and Canada!

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The lookout at Hallstatt
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The lookout at Hallstatt

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The graveyard in Hallstatt

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Some friends in front of the soap shop

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Me and Sabine at the restaurant

Viele Grüße,

Jasmine

 

 

First Days in Österreich!

To start off, I had major trouble in the airport. The plan was for me to fly to Toronto and then from there straight to Vienna. But, there was a storm so we couldn’t land in Toronto and we had to fly to Montreal to get fuel. By the time we were back in Toronto I had missed my flight but a super nice stewardess helped me out and booked be a flight to Dublin Ireland where I would catch a flight to Vienna as soon as I arrived there. But again, the flight to Dublin was delayed and so I missed the flight to Vienna… again. Also, my bags were lost. I ended up staying in a hotel in Dublin overnight. In the morning I finally caught a flight to Vienna and arrived at 4 pm where I finally found my bags in the storage rooms. I was picked up from the airport by three rebound students and then I took the train from where they left me in Vienna to Wels which was a 1 and a half train ride. On the train ride I saw pumpkin patches which was cool because I have never seen that before. The bags were very heavy to get off the train by myself since no one was there to help me but I did it! It was confusing and overwhelming in the train station. All the signs are in German and I could not read the names. Eventually I found the front doors where my current host mom (Sabrina) picked me up and we drove what felt like another hour to Reid where I am staying. We finally arrived close to midnight which completed the three days I had been traveling.

Last night I only slept three hours but I drank a lot of coffee so I managed to stay awake all day except for the car ride to the lake house. In the morning me and the exchange student from Kansas (Benny) were taken into the town square. We did some errands but it is so beautiful here. It isn’t too busy and the buildings are much nicer than St. Albert’s. We also stopped in the family bakery which was cool because later at the lake house I met the baker who is my host mom’s brother or cousin I think. The lake house was awesome and it is such a cute little place that is two floors with a tiny spiral staircase. The yard stretches out to the water where there is the boat house and a large patio. The whole lake is surrounded by green mountains and it was plus 35 degrees Celsius today, the water was almost tropical. Me, Benny, Sabrina, and her sister swam all the way around the island and back. The island was private property but you could see the castle through the trees. The people who own the castle as a summer home must be loaded.

After the lake house we went to a konzert (concert) in a castle called Schloss Kammer that was down the road. It was right on the water and the trio that was playing was one of the best in the world apparently. Renaud Capucon was playing the violine, Clemens Hagen playing the violoncello, and Daniil Trifonou playing the klavier.

I’d say it was a pretty great first day:)

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One of the churches in Ried.

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The view from the shore and the island we swam around. The lake is called Attersee.
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The lake house.

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