Journals from Aug-2009 Austria Semester Abroad in Vienna
2009-08-18 Hallo, Kinder!
Our group outside of Pension Theresia
Gr Gott, everyone!
Today was the first official day (second now, because I'm posting this late) of German class at the Austro-American Institute. Our group just got back from a week in Dorfgastein, the little village outside of Salzburg they sent us to as a pre-immersion into Austrian culture and language.
Since we haven't actually been in Vienna very long, I think I'll make this first entry about the Dorfgastein visit, since it was an incredible experience and a good way of getting everyone's feet wet before jumping into the Austrian big-kid's pool.
The schedule was relatively simple: German class in the morning, often followed by a physical activity of some kind, like hiking or sometimes biking, and group dinners in the evening at one of the various restaurants. - This was excellent planning on the Institute's part, because if you DON'T climb an alp after all the delicious food they feed you, you won't fit into the train again on the way back.
Dorfgastein itself is quite small, rich, and is overrun by tourists half the year. It's unbelievably beautiful and friendly. There is exactly ONE internet cafe (Stoani's) where you can hang out, check your email, and buy drinks in the evening if you don't mind listening to American pop hits from the last three decades.
It's really like a fairytale village, and basically everyone is beyond hospitable and accommodating. We got to meet some of the other students of the Institute, coming from different programs in the USA, and also Austrian students who were learning English. The teachers were all hilariously great as well, and would spend evenings chatting and nasching with us.
Hiking to the top of the Schuhflicka was one of the sponsored activities that I am unfortunately unable to convey much about, due to a malfunction in footwear that made me limp in shame down the hour-and-a-half 'easy trail' and back to the midway lift station. However, those who made it back from the top say it is an unforgettable view of the surrounding mountains and valleys.
About the time when we started running out of activities to do in Dorfgastein, we all took a trip to the next town over, Bad Hofgastein, which contains among other things a massive thermal water spa. After that, it was a day long trip to Salzburg which has been one of my favorite experiences so far.
Salzburg has quite a unique history, in that it is only just recently a part of Austria. It had been its own independent kingdom in previous centuries, and still has sort of an attitude about it. It's a little bit touristy, and very very very busy in the summer, but also eye-popping as far as architecture, cathedrals, castles, rivers and gardens go.
It's definitely a city of music, and they never let you forget it. On ever corner there is a monument or a plaque or a museum or a store commemorating one of the many famous musicians that have made their home in Salzburg over the millennia.
My one warning to new visitors is that Mozart's Geburtshaus, the house where little Wolfgang was born which is now a museum, is a bit overrated. You can see his first violin, and some of his hair and portraits of the family, and some wonderful stage designs for his operas, but it's really not that impressive otherwise and quite expensive, so keep that in mind.
So that's all for now! There's much more to say about Dorfgastein and Salzburg, but some things you have to be there for. Next post will no doubt contain more about Vienna and the wonders therein.