And just like that I have 25 days until I place my feet on Canadian soil and 21 days left in ‘my’ beloved city of Vienna!
It is crazy to think that I’ve lived in Europe for ten months, never once visiting home and really immersing myself in the language and culture.
Since my last blog post, I’ve done a lot and I’ve nothing at all… It’s crazy how fast time flies but also how slow some days feel. You might be thinking, “Hannah, why are you speaking in oxymorons?” It’s because it’s true.
This semester I had an extremely light course load. Unfortunately, I had some scheduling issues and ended up enrolled in a class called Austrian History II, from 1815 to the present. Now as interesting as this may sound, there is a ton of European History that as a Canadian, I simply did not know. Which countries belonged to which empire? Why were there so many coalition wars? Which years and which people were involved? Then when you concentrate on Austria specifically, then you’re expected to know every detail about the Habsburgs and the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
Now you’re probably like, okay Hannah, that sounds hard enough. But it doesn’t stop there – the entire course was another 100% final, all taught in German. As much as I would like to say my level of German is pretty high, the fact is, the vocabulary was out of my subject range in English, let alone German. I also just could not get interested in the subject. Long story short, I was able to deregister for the course (after attending for half the semester) before I bit the bullet and decided to just overload at Carleton next year.
So this semester, I was taking only 2.0 credits (ish) and two of them were intensive block week courses. Meaning I would start the course on a Tuesday, have the course maybe 5 times for 6 hours at a time, and then write the exam the next Tuesday. I, personally, really enjoyed these classes. I’ve only completed one back in March but I have another one starting June 11, so I hope it goes well! Block week courses are effective in my opinion, because you are able to really involve yourself in the subject for the short amount of time and then you don’t have to recall a lot for the exam because it’s all super recent.
Now, having all of this free time (when my intensive courses weren’t on and after I had dropped Austrian History, I only had class on Tuesdays), was a bit of a double-edged sword. On the one hand, I had a lot of free time to explore, to travel and relax! On the other hand, I was running out of money, I had been to a lot of the countries I had wanted to go to and too much free time can be extremely dangerous. I’m not going lie, I had days or weeks where I didn’t want to do much of anything and couldn’t wait until I went home. However, I was able to get myself out of that funk and began to enjoy the sun-filled, 28 degree days of Vienna!
Last week, I was fortunate enough to have my mom and my aunt visit from Canada. We rented a car and drove all through Austria! I have to say it was one of my favourite trips so far.
Our itinerary was as follows:
Day 1 – Melk & Salzburg
Melk is a beautiful little Austrian town with the most gorgeous monastery. We spent a few hours walking around the abbey and the little town.
Day 2 – Sound of Music Tour
My mom and aunt are massive fans of the Sound of Music and considering most of it was filmed in Salzburg and the surrounding area, naturally we had to do a Sound of Music Tour. We visited many landmarks in Salzburg as well as Wolfgangsee, Fuschl Am See (where the Redbull headquarters is… Yes, Redbull is Austrian), Mondsee where the church where the Von Trapps actually got married is and all of this on a sing-along bus! I spent the afternoon by myself exploring the city of Salzburg and ended up getting caught in a thunderstorm! I waited in a tunnel for about 45 minutes before deciding to just suck it up and walk 35 minutes back to the hotel in the rain, thunder and lightning… Definitely a little frightening!
Day 3 – Hallstatt & Zell Am See
Hallstatt is still one of my favourite towns in Austria. Unfortunately, I got yelled at in German for simply asking if we would be able to pay and park at this campsite but nonetheless we had a beautiful day. Driving through the Salzkammergut of Austria to Zell Am See was absolutely stunning. It was here that I met an Austrian who told me that the people in Vienna are the least friendly and are known for it. That made me feel a lot better about the sometimes rude encounters I had had and made me wish I had spent more time in the Western side of Austria.
Day 4 – Innsbruck
We woke up relatively early to drive to Innsbruck as it was further away and this was another beautiful drive through the Austrian Alps. The weather wasn’t the best here again, so we did a bit of shopping and I once again wandered off to explore the city. Fun fact! Innsbruck hosted the Winter Olympics in 1964 and then again in 1976 when Denver, Colorado backed out.
Day 5 – Drive back to Vienna
Now, one of the biggest things I always have to explain to Europeans is how large Canada is. A lot of people can cross their countries in three hours, whereas back home you could drive for three hours and not make it to the next city… I mention this because I was on google maps this day and noticed how close we were to the Italian border. I mentioned that we were only 30 minutes away driving to the border and my aunt immediately suggested we go. To make this even more crazy, my aunt loves to shop and there was an outlet mall located just over the border in Brenner (Italian: Brennero). Naturally, we went. Our drive back to Vienna took us through Germany as well, so my aunt and mom couldn’t help but say we had coffee in Italy, lunch in Germany and dinner in Austria.
I spent some time before and after the road trip showing my family around Vienna and it really made me fall in love with the city all over again. Now that the sun is out and all of the flowers are in bloom, the city is picture perfect. I knew as soon as my family left, time would go by so quick and it sure is! It honestly feels like I wrote my first blog post when I was in Iceland just yesterday.
You may be wondering why my date for leaving Vienna and my date for arriving back in Canada are different and this is because I decided to take a little detour and go to Paris for two days on my way back home. I couldn’t leave Europe without visiting Paris, right?
I hope to write another blog post on reverse-culture shock once I get back home because I’m sure it’s going to hit me, especially because I haven’t been back at all! My plan for the next three weeks is to simply enjoy Vienna and of course, study for my three upcoming exams!
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