After the profundity of yesterday, today’s post is going to seem a little thin when it comes to thought provoking anything. Today was just fun.
We started the day off by climbing a mountain in my absolute favorite way: via ski lift. Don’t get me wrong - I actually really enjoy hiking. I spent two months doing almost nothing but hiking ten years ago when I went on my study abroad. But that trip taught me something important about myself: what I really enjoy isn’t so much hiking as it is long distance walking. Climbing up and down mountains isn’t my natural preference. (Though I swear if someone offered me a chance to go hike any of the mountains we hiked in England on my study abroad I would do it in a second.)
Our purpose for going up the mountain was pretty simple: we wanted to get some awesome pictures and ride down the mountain on the alpine slide as fast as we possibly could. One of those two was fulfilled - the pictures turned out to be stunning (not that it’s hard to take good pictures of the alps. You’d have to be a truly ignorant photographer to get a bad picture around here.) The ride down was less than exciting, which was frustrating because the track we went on was the longest in Austria. We got stuck behind an older woman who went down about as fast as a snail could. I tried to take this chance to be less frustrated with the lady in front of me and more grateful for the chance to take in such a great view, but we all left the track a little frustrated.
Fortunately, the Saltzkammergut (or Lake District) is full of these slides, so while driving toward our destination, we saw another slide, decided we would go down any we came upon because we could and got another ride down a different mountain. This one had a much less spectacular view but a far more satisfactory ride, so it all came out even in the end.
We made it to Hallstatt around lunch time. Hallstatt is a total dream. It’s Disneyland level adorable, which means it is totally packed with tourists. The poor people who live there - I mean, they get the best view of any neighborhood in the entire world, but they do so at the cost of having a million Asians trying to break into your back yard each day. (Seriously, though - there are signs on most of the gates to private residences that are only in what looks like Chinese. In the spirit of fairness and in an attempt not to sound like a total racist, lots of these signs were in a combination of English and Chinese, so stupid American tourists may not seem much better to the citizens of Hallstatt.)
Hallstatt is known for its salt mines (its how the city made money/makes money), but also features two beautiful churches, swans in the lake, homes built into the mountains, and enough shopping to satisfy anyone’s need to schlep belongings around. I managed to make it out alive with only a few gifts for other people and some salt to take home. The last packet I bought lasted me until recently, so I should be set on salt for the next eight years (I bought two for myself.)
Upon returning to the city, we packed back up and walked into the old town of Salzburg. The weather here tomorrow isn’t supposed to be great, so if we were going to enjoy the city at all it had to be today. It ended up being a very enjoyable evening. We stumbled upon my favorite chocolate shop in the world where I made it out alive and with three more bars for my collection (I’m up to nine). We also came across an extremely chatty Croatian painter who charmed us like the crazy tourists we are into buying three of his pieces to take home. We made it over to the Mirabel Gardens where we took Sound of Music pictures to our hearts’ content (along with every other tourist in town.) The evening ended at the Festung (fortress) where we watched the sun set over the city.
You know, I have a lot to look forward to when this trip is over. I have a kitty to cuddle, rehearsals to dive into, books to read and more fun plans to make for the upcoming school year. It’s easy to forget where I am and think about how much there is on the horizon that's making my life beautiful. On top of the Festung, though, I felt truly grateful to be exactly where I was, when I was, with who I was. Salzburg is one of my favorite cities. To be here again is such a gift. So many people are lucky to visit Europe even once in their lifetime, and this is my fifth trip in ten years. I have seen amazing things, met wonderful people, tried fantastic food, and had the chance to take in the beauty that comes in variety on this earth. I am blessed. I am so, so blessed. All I could think about as I looked out at the city was the words to the hymn “I Stand All Amazed”. I feel quite confused at the grace that so fully I am given by God - in awe and utter bewilderment that I have been granted so many chances to do what I love. Traveling the world is such a luxury. I know (even when I’m surrounded by masses of camera wielding tourists) that it is a gift that is rare and perhaps even unnecessary, but it is something I am so grateful for. I hope that I take the lessons and experiences I gain when I travel and use them to make my corner of the world a better place.