Well, That's a Grape of a Different Color!

Trip Start Jan 08, 2008
Trip End May 17, 2008

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Flag of Austria  ,
Friday, April 18, 2008

"So, Allison. I have a favor/offer for you." Miriam curiously said.

"Uh oh, what is it?"

"I have to go to my bassoon teacher's quartet concert about an hour outside of Vienna in a castle. He is taking me in his car and he said he had room for a friend of mine. I want you to be that friend."

Of course, I agreed. Anytime a castle is mentioned, I'm all for it. We had to meet her teacher, David, at his flat at 1pm and we would travel to the venue. What we didn't know is that we would be in a car full of Austrians. It doesn't sound too unreasonable to be in a car full of Austrians in Austria, but Miriam and I were scared. Even though I secretly give myself a pat on the back every time I have a complete German transaction in a grocery store, I still don't speak German and I definitely don't understand it. I was painfully reminded of this fact every time David said a funny quip and sent the rest of the car in an uproar of laughter. Every 10 minutes or so, David would look back at Miriam and me and quickly repeat a few words of the conversation in English. It was never as funny as they thought it was, but I'm sure that was because my rampant motion sickness was perpetuating my irritation. I forgot how much I hated being in a car.

We arrived at the Festschloss Hof (castle) and David (and other Austrians) had to go practice for the performance leaving Miriam, another Austrian student, and me to our own devices. The other Austrian student was named Niva and she failed to mention in the car that her English was excellent. To the pass the time before the concert, we walked the palace grounds and we came upon a farm with an interesting assortment of animals. We saw Billy goats, roosters, sheep, and CAMELS. Yes, camels. This animal struck our fancy since we had never been in the presence of a real camel before. I was impressed with this particular camel's comprehension of English because when I yelled "COME HERE CAMEL," he immediately got up and headed straight for us. Despite our initial fear for this two-humped creature, we approached it and petted its fur and touched his nose. Sadly, it was time for the concert, so we had to leave our new friend.

The concert was fantastic! The quartet consisted of 3 bassoons and a string bass and they performed wonderful arrangements of opera arias. The sound quality in the giant palace hall was amazing and the performers were outstanding. The rest of the audience thought so as well because the quartet was called back at least 5 times and performed 2 encores. This is not common practice in the states and quite frankly, I'm okay with that. My hands were on fire after the last call back and I was ready for the concert to be over. But, you can never accuse a European of not showering their performers with praise.

The concert ended at 7:30pm, but the night was hardly over. David asked if Miriam, Niva, and I would mind joining the quartet and their families for dinner before we headed back to Vienna. We clearly had no other option but to acquiesce since he was our only means of transportation. The 3 of us sat at the opposite side of the table from David and made uncomfortable small talk with each other. Everyone at the table was polite and friendly, but here, no one cares to speak English unless they have to. The dinner was delicious and after another awkward ride home, we were in bed by 11pm to prepare for our next adventure...

My study abroad program subsidized a trip to the Wachau region of Austria last Sunday. It wasn't a particularly thrilling trip, but the region was beautiful. We visited a monastery, the castle ruins where Richard the Lionhearted was imprisoned, and a little wine town called Krems. The castle ruins were by far the best part of the trip. We hiked up to the ruins and spent about an hour watching people rock climb and tight rope walk across the rocks. It makes me want to learn how to do extreme sports.

We ended the day at a tiny wine cellar where a man and his wife lived. They own a vineyard and let us taste several glasses of their wine. We tried several glasses of the same wine but because they were from different barrels and different years, they tasted completely different. He let us see his cellar and all of the old barrels that hold the wine. The barrels were beautifully carved and he said "They don't make 'em like this anymore." (He was speaking in German; I can only guess that that is what he said.) His wife made us a traditional Austrian dinner consisting of cold cuts and cheese. It was delicious.

Although some of the trip participants tasted a few too many glasses of wine and spoke obnoxiously loud on the way home, I happily turned on my iPod and drifted off to sleep...My stomach was satisfied and I was relaxed.
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