Sunday, March 17, 2013

A much needed day in Badgastein.

Salzburg College has a few "days in the snow" throughout the semester in which we can choose whether we would like to ski, toboggan, snow shoe, ice skate or anything our heart desires. A few weeks ago...we were lucky enough to take a trip to Badgastein which is home to all of these activities, but also beautiful spas. I am not usually the spa type, but hey, it has been a COLD winter and I decided to choose warm baths over skiing. Upon arrival a couple of exchange students and I decided to take a gander around the town full of resorts, restaurants, cafes and lodges. Wondering down into the valley, we were pleasantly surprised (after getting a little lost) to find a small trail back up the mountain. This trail lead us over a waterfall and gave us an incredible, panoramic view of the mountains and scenery. We took many a picture and moved up the street until we stumbled upon a small, family owned ice skating rink.
The picturesque Badgastein 

Joanna and Becky walking up a road in Badgastein.
The rink had absolutely nobody skating on it which seemed a little odd…but we went to check it out and eventually three chubby little girls stumbled onto the rink, holding onto the side for dear life. We walked into a little shack on the side and were greeted happily by a small family. There were seats, two tables and a little sign that said how much the skates were. I believe they cost about three Euros…which obviously gave us the go! The couple and their young son did not speak any English, so I spoke what I could and after trying on about 30 pairs of skates, we each found winning pairs. We stumbled onto the rink, just like the little chubby girls and tried to get the hang of our once practiced sports. The little boy was very excited about our revival and also skated with us around the rink, doing twirls and showing of his prestigious skills. After a short time, we decided to go inside for some coffee and asked the lady if she had any in her small kitchen. We decided to get coffee and what looked like Linzertorte, but then she decided to just give us four huge pieces of the torte! We were very surprised and offered to pay…but she insisted that we have it. We ended up leaving some money on the table and were very surprised when she came out to the rink later to try and give it back. This experience definitely displayed the unique hospitality that one can find in Austria.
Family owned ice skating rink in Badgastein
After our nice, unexpected skating excursion, the girls and I wandered back to the spa area and spent three luxurious hours going from one warm pool to the next, to the saunas and back. After all the traveling, and hard school work we had been doing, this seemed perfect. I was honestly expecting however, to see more naked Austrians running around the pools, but little did I know, this was left for the sauna room. Each sauna had at least one man or woman fully spread out on the hot wooden seats. As an American, all I could do was look down and not glimpse to long at my friends. This cultural difference is so interesting to me. Why is the naked body so censored in the states? It’s something that each and every person has…although different in many ways. Anyway, the spa was great. There were pools both inside and outside, for children, for adults, with bubblers and even a water slide for once you get tired of sitting in hot water. 
Badgastein spa. :) One of the outside pools. This one wasn't heated which is why nobody is in it...
After the luxury, we threw ourselves back into the brisk cold in search for dinner. Since many places were touristy and expensive, we had to resort to eating kebabs which are honestly delicious. I find myself craving the combination of salty meat, sauce and vegetables quite regularly. Not the most healthy, but potentially healthier than a big mac. After dinner, we made our way to the grocery store to grab a beer (since we did not want to pay 5 euro for one) and headed down to the infamous Red Bull Competition. We waited and waited and waited, looked around, walked around and waited for this competition to start. People lined up on the street in their Red Bull garb and pushed others around vigorously trying to save their standing room. It was really quite exciting since I hadn't been to many ski events before aside from Schladming and those at Crotched Mountain in New Hampshire. I was freezing cold, but once the competition began, I found myself forgetting for a while. The trail was incredibly built through the town and went downhill for about a mile. There were jumps and obstacles in between for the skiers to show off their skills and gain points. I have never seen so many wonderful tricks in my life. These skiers were incredible and as a skier, I had never heard about this race in my life. Anyway, if anyone who reads this happens to go to Austria around the time of the next Red Bull race, I completely recommend the experience. Just dress warm!! Here is a link with more information...

The Red Bull Playstreets 2013 Competition in Badgastein. 
On a side note: Red Bull was created in Austria which was something that I had no idea about before coming here! It seems so contradictory considering that Austrians pride themselves on their healthy foods…and Red bull is well….an energy drink. I see the logo everywhere I go and the company funds many sporting events worldwide. Who knew that an energy drink made in Austria in 1987 would become the bestselling energy drink in the world?

Red Bull cars! It's starting to look appealing to me...

Linz...the home of Linzertorte.

So, since I have not blogged in a LONG time...I will have to make a few while some memories are still fresh in my mind! About a month ago (maybe...I have no sense of time here) a couple of friends and I took a trip to Linz, Austria. This industrial city is about an hour from Salzburg by train and had some interesting quarks to it! We bought a very inexpensive Linz pass which included admission to many museums as well as free transportation. (Which is always a plus even though it seems like they never check…)
Origami lights at the ars electronica museum. 
Walking around the city came as a bit of a shock to me because I was not expecting the outskirts of the city to look so rundown. My friends and I tried to find a castle that was oddly located in a suburb area, but only found rundown stores with very little worthwhile architecture. After walking around for quite some time without any luck, we decided to head back to the city center. The center (Hauptplatz) was quite gorgeous, similar architecture to that of Salzburg, but no views of mountains from every place you stand. We walked into a beautiful (and huge) gothic church that had strikingly modern stained glass windows in every color. The layout of the city didn’t quite make much sense to me, possibly due to its industrial setting and history. According to my host family’s son in law, it is where Hitler attended high school and actually found himself happy in life. I was told that he put a lot of money into the city later on to build it up industrially and even got rid of some of the earlier architecture. There is absolutely no trace of Hitler’s presence in the city. Certainly not a claim to fame for Linz.

Strikingly modern stained glass in the neo-gothic cathdral 
On a lighter note, there were some incredible museums which really made the trip worthwhile. In 2009, Linz was actually voted one of the European capitals of culture. Although rundown in some parts, I can see how much it is growing. I actually found some similarities to North Adams, MA. Unique, modern art seemed to line the streets in areas which you wouldn’t expect and if I had spent more than a day there, I’m sure I would be able to experience more than a concert or two. There is a great performance hall that brings in interesting artists and a young crowd from the colleges. Perhaps my favorite museum was the “Ars Electronica,” which is an advanced technology museum that displays what the future could bring. The museum was huge and extremely interactive not only for children, but also adults. I found myself most caught up in the music and art section of the museum. They had incredible drawing boards that felt as if I were actually using paint and pencil with just a stylus….also something similar to garage band with every sound you could possibly think of. The girls and I were very interested in one display of a person like figure that you could hold when you were talking to someone on Skype. Its mouth would move with the person that you were talking to. Honestly, that freaked me out a lot…

The Skype Baby - designed  to be the physical side of skype
After spending many hours in this museum, being distracted by every interesting exhibit, the girls and I needed a coffee and cake. Not just any cake, but the Linzertorte. Just about every café was closed, but we did end up stumbling into probably the most famous café of the city and everything was delicious. Not every food cliché is up to par, but I have to say the Linzertorte is probably one of the best desserts I have had here. Just sweet enough when paired with a cappuccino.

Our delicious Linzertorte. :)
The last museum I enjoyed was the Lentos Kunstmuseum. Little did I know there would be an exhibit full of naked man paintings, drawings and sculptures, but nonetheless, it really was tremendous. The museum was modernly designed and also looked incredible from the outside. Both the Lentos Kunstmuseum and Ars Electronica light up at night and wave to each other from opposite sides of the river. They change color and give a different mood to the city. Although not as beautiful as Salzburg, Linz certainly is an interesting city and deserves a second look upon arrival.

Another photo from the ars electronica. These hands were very slowly moving. 

Ps: This is very random…but from some studies in class, I found out that Austria is GMO free which I think is pretty incredible! Who needs GMO’s anyway? The vegetables and fruit here taste so fresh and healthy year round. 

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Prague, Czech Republic.

Instead of writing about my wonderful time in Prague last weekend, I decided to compile my memories into a poem with some here it goes.
Prague's beautiful rooftops. View from the castle.

The Lennon Wall. 

Sunrise on the Charles Bridge.
Each Day Brings Its Own Bread – Praha
Melody Rolph

Small, wooden toy shop. 
Early morning on a blue Charles Bridge
Mist sets low, the weather… a fridge
Black bird silhouettes painted in the sky
Sun only rising within the mind’s eye

Hostel Rosemary, sweet, yet fragrant
Strolling past eight baby pups owned by vagrants
Morning meals at Paleria; pastries in large portions
Exploring the past, the raids, the revolution

Mucha postcards, designs, illustrations
Waiting for Dali with anticipation
Maps, money, management, frustration
Czech goulash soup with bacon dumlings.
Learning that traveling is not always vacation

Smoked red wurst with bread and mustard
Dreaming and free love with Lennon’s mustered
Wall of magic, heart filled sentences
Friends, acquaintances and fish eye lenses

Wooden toy shops and marionettes
Smooth colored pencils, strong cigarettes
Astronomic clock; dancing figurines                 
Hundreds of tourists and pick pocket fiends

Bagels and cappuccino, the Bohemian way
Czech, Pilsner Beer. Incredable.
Stairs upon stairs to the castle gateway
Burgundy rooftops, buildings white and adorned
With small wooden carvings, little communist reform

Morning Milka, evening goulash
Company warm, endearing, never a loss
Pilsner, dumplings, chicken legs, na zdraví!
The glass harpist, Peter.
Dining together at U Mediviku brewery

The harpist with glasses
Long hair and eyelashes
Playing his heart with rain and crystal
Touching the glass; so pure and simple
Shooting emotion with a water pistol

Short days, long nights
Tired feet, luckily no plights
After lengthy hours spent with Westbahn
Back in Salzburg 
Na, endlich kann ich schlafe 

Friday, February 15, 2013

The Glass Musician.

After attending the Communism Museum in Prague, Czech Republic this past weekend, my friends and I stumbled upon this amazing musician who had started to play on the street. I had heard about people playing on glasses, however, I had never seen anything as complex as this. This man played with so much feeling and I couldn't help but be mesmerized by the way he moved, the change in tone the glasses made when the table shook and by the utter silence of the audience in awe. Many days pass here in which I am utterly happy, however, there are not as many days when I am utterly inspired. As I watched this man play, I knew I needed to make a video to share such wonderful poise and talent. More on my trip to Prague in my next blog!

Monday, February 4, 2013

Salzburg, a perfect place to live.

In a small city in Austria called "Hallstatt." Only around 900 people live here and their houses are generational. I love how close these rolling mountains are to the lake and how wildlife seemed to thrive in this small, environmental haven. I have seen graceful swans like this all over Austria. 

                It is the fourth of February and I have officially been in Austria (and for a couple days, Munich) for 22 days. I have been trying to come up with reasons why I haven't written in my diary yet, and my official excuse is that I needed 22 days to sink into the culture before I could write about it. (Since I am 22 years old.) I am completely inspired here, however, have not had a great deal of time to sit down and really think about how all of these great experiences are affecting me. Since arriving in Europe, I have met a great group of exchange students, tasted some exquisite foods and plummeted into all of the things that make German culture special. Although not all cliché’s are true, Germans do love their beer, bratwurst and tend to be very timely and keep to themselves. The beer is the best that I have ever had, and after leaving Munich and getting to my host family (who are incredibly nice and accommodating) I was happy to find out that not all Austrian food was heavy potato salads and meats but rather a mixture of meats, veggies, soups, fruits and ALWAYS dessert. Considering the amount of weight I gained in Romania, I thought I would gain here as well...however; I have been hiking and skiing a fair amount in the Alps. My host mom comes up with many excuses as to why I should eat more. If I go out after dinner, she tells me that I should eat more because I am drinking….if we don’t eat a large proportion of meat, she tells me that I should eat more because I will be hungry later. I thought I learned my limits, however, continue to stuff myself at every meal with these mouthwatering delicacies. I have to say that one of my favorite dishes thus far, is a smooth, light broth with a giant, round, minced meat and vegetable dumpling plopped in the center. Sure, I may not have made that sound appealing, but it is actually perfect after a long day of being outside in the cold. That and "Gluewein" which is a hot, mulled wine spiced with what I believe is cinnamon, nutmeg and lemon among others... 

Glühwein: One of those great things in life. 
   As far as school goes, I have never felt so spoiled! There are only 16 American exchange students at Salzburg College this semester, and they all happen to be incredibly amiable and eager to learn about Austrian culture. Our many excursions are always fun and comparing our host family stories helps us all to learn even more. Our school is situated in the “altstadt” or old city of Salzburg along the Salzach River. It is actually built into the side of a mountain along with many other buildings. Many years ago, part of the mountain began to fall and killed many people, thus, instead of knocking down the buildings or not using them anymore, they employed mountain cleaners! I find this incredibly fascinating and can’t imagine this ever happening in America. These "mountain cleaners" actually hoist themselves onto the edge of the mountain and cut down branches and ensure that rocks won't fall. It makes me wander how one acquires such a job, perhaps they are wannabe mountaineers? The measures Salzburgians go to preserve beauty is fantastic and inspiring. 
A picture of my school, Salzburg College. (The cute yellow building) We are luckily, centrally located in the city. 
               Anyway, upon entering our little school, there is a great lounge area for the students with a great cappuccino/ hot chocolate machine free for our use. Every day I look forward to my 15 minute bus ride through the city, ten minute brisk, but beautiful walk and then a hot cup of coffee (or two!) before school. Currently I am taking Private German and Voice lessons and a class taught by our academic adviser (Konrad Holleis) called Understanding Austria. I could not have asked for a better or more supportive school to study abroad at. My voice teacher is retired and used to work at the Mozarteum University which is incredible. He lives one bus stop away from me and usually plays the “Sound of Music” on the piano as I walk in. I have to say, that after all of my folk, Broadway, pop and jazz singing, it is hard to get used to all of the conditioning classical music requires, though I still enjoy it a lot. It is also very helpful to have the private German lessons, 1: because my host family does not speak any English and 2: Because a big reason I came here was to pick up where I left off in high school! I have, however, come to the conclusion that my German is currently that of a six year old girl. Naturally I try to reach for mature subjects to talk with my host (grand) parents with, however, I tend to either accidentally speak in Romanian or make up my own words a lot. I am slowly getting better! At this point, any communication seems successful to me. 
                On another note; today my class took a trip to a Jewish Synagogue to visit a 99 year old man named Marko Feingold who is currently the president of the Jewish Community in Salzburg and lived through four concentration camps. He was incredibly inspiring and also incredibly lively for his age. He told us his story for about three hours, but still had so much more to tell. He spoke in German, which Konrad translated for us and I could have listened to him talk all day. He had various copies of the documents that showed he had been a prisoner and amazingly came out of the war full of hope, yet without a family. He lost his father, mother, brother and sister to the Holocaust. Feingold continues to spread his story around Austria in schools and at other public events. He is ready for twenty more years of life, and at the rate that he is going; I think it could be possible. This man is seriously gifted, and somehow crawled past the unfortunate line between death throughout World War II. How he continued to be so motivated to go on is beyond me, though I wish to go through life with as much positivity as this man does.
                This past week, my class also visited the concentration camp, Mauthausen which was very eye opening for me. I had never been to one before, however, was well educated through films and in school about them. As we were toured around on a brisk, rainy day, with nobody else in sight, I realized that it was everything I thought it would be; gruesome and appalling. Walking around and seeing where thousands of people suffered, took cold showers, lived in uncomfortable conditions and were gassed was incredibly hard for me to believe, yet Mauthausen seemed to be breathing with these horrible images. I thought about how cold I was walking around the grounds, and then thought about how much worse it must have been for the prisoners in their wooden clogs with no socks and barely any clothing.
Just above the quarry where prisoners were required to work for endless hours each day with very little nourishment , uncomfortable clothing and harsh treatment. Mauthausen was the only category III camp meaning that it had the most brutal conditions. I prayed for all of the people who lost their lives at this terrible place. 
                    On a lighter note, Salzburg (and Austria in general) is incredibly breathtaking. Every day when I walk to school (even when raining or snowing) I can’t help but breath in the fresh mountain air and smile. To get to school, I walk over a foot bridge that has thousands of locks on it decorated with declarations of love from couples. I hear musicians playing in the background, see bikers with cello cases on their backs and happily share my path with the most stylish Europeans. From just about everywhere in the city, you are able to see the grand, jagged mountains and the Hohensalzburg fortress which originally brought stability to the country. Salzburg breaths with people that love their city and tourists that love to visit it. I can actually say that the hills are alive with music, but then again just about everything in Salburg is. Mozart in the form of everything you can think of (candy, whisky, rubber ducks...) lines the streets, cafes on every corner, various bars, restaurants, music stores and galleries; anything you could ever want is here. Although it is a small city, Salzburg has so much to offer and so much to do; I really don’t have any complaints. Certainly, there are times when I miss the laid back Romanian lifestyle, but I tend to find myself very comfortable here. I enjoy the fact that my host family (along with all Austrians it seems) are very environmentally conscious. They recycle everything, take very few showers (though sometimes I miss that 1/2 hour of hot water) and suggest that I open my windows in the morning to use natural light. You can drink the water everywhere in Austria as it conveniently comes straight out of the mountains. No “wine is cheaper than water” nonsense here!
Locks of Love. 
          Well, I suppose this is enough writing for now – but more to come soon! In the meantime, here is a list of places that I have been so far…
       While in Munich: The Hofbrauhaus, The Neuschwanstein Castle (which inspired Disney to create Cinderella’s castle, the BMW Museum, and the Glypthothek among other explorations.
       While in Salzburg: I have skied in the Alps twice: Once on a beautiful day in Dachstein Russbach and another on a blustery day in Eben at Monte Popolo. I also happily snow shoed up a very steep mountain and practically fell down to the bottom. I have visited the small, beautiful city of Hallstatt, attended an American celebration for Obama's inauguration, saw a contemporary dance show, club- hopped, hiked over the mountain, Monchsberg to the Festung Hohensalzburg. I have gone to the infamous Dom Church, attended a highly renowned Mozart concert during Mozart week and wondered into his "Birth" house on his birthday. I attended a great contemporary museum on the top of a mountain and have let myself get lost in this beautiful city only to find my way to a new bakery or bus stop I didn't yet know about. ;) Last week we even took a trip into a salt mine which is what Salzburg received its name from. I have done so much here and can't wait to carve my way deeper into Austrian culture. Tomorrow I will be going to Schladming for the Ski World Cup and this weekend to Prague, Czech Republic with some friends! Went there once before, but can't wait for a more in depth adventure.                Until next time, bis dann, auf wiedersehen!
This is a beautiful skiing mountain in the Alps, Russbach. On of my favorite days thus far.