When one travels for an extended period of time, certain aspects of foreign life cease to leave you in wonder. Cobbled streets, castles, and cathedrals blend together. It’s just another city, just another place to walk, just another destination. Your feet become weary and your heart longs for home.
And then… out of nowhere, a city sneaks up on you and gives you a sucker punch to the gut. You’re absolutely breathless and it’s a little painful because it came when you didn’t expect it.
For me, Vienna was just a place on the map–a grand capital to check off my list, a place to become a little more cultured. I didn’t expect the city to move me. I didn’t expect to fall in love. Continue reading →
I’ve spent the past few days staying with friends in the city of Innsbruck, Austria. It’s a stunning city, located in a wide valley in the middle of the Tirol Provence. Unfortunately… my first couple of days were rainy. Most of yesterday was spent enjoying the city center–sitting in cafes and wandering into beautiful Baroque churches. I knew there were mountains (after all, I’ve been here before!), but couldn’t actually see anything. That is… until today.
This morning, I had the opportunity to go hiking with my friend Anna and her mother. Thankfully, I’ve been traveling in a pair of heavy-duty boots and was well prepared for the climb. Continue reading →
There are days that go by and, in three more, you can barely remember what happened. Then there are days where, even years later, they remain permanently cemented in your brain.
A year ago, I was living in a tiny room at a university in London, England. Many of my London days blur together, but last October 24 is one of those cemented-in-my-brain days.
It began at five o’clock in the morning. My bag was mostly packed, but I threw in last minute essentials, took a quick shower, and was out of my flat by six. Carrying nothing but a tiny duffel and a backpack, I took the 72 bus to Hammersmith, where I caught the Picadilly Line to Heathrow International Airport. Several hours later, I was on an airplane bound for Germany. After a couple hours, the rolling fields surrounding Frankfurt came into view as the airplane prepared to land.
That, friends, is when things got tense. You see, the Frankfurt airport is enormous. It takes hours to get from one end to the other. And I had less than an hour to catch my next flight. Stress was high as I pushed through passport check and security. “What if I don’t make it?” I pushed the thought to the back of my mind where all the dark thoughts go. People miss flights all the time, and they also get new ones all the time. Thankfully, when I was spewed out of security, my gate just-so-happened to be the closest one. I made it with fifteen minutes to spare!
The next flight was tiny–one of those little airplanes made to hold only twenty or so people. I remember being crammed in next to a young man in a green athletic jacket. It didn’t take long to realize I was the only non-German speaker on the flight, so I kept to myself. Within an hour of takeoff, I could see the Alps coming into view. Gorgeous mountains soon sprawled as far as my eye could see. It was incredible.
We came into a large valley and began to descend. The plane shook and banged about. For a minute, I thought we were going down. And then we landed in Innsbruck, Austria.
I exited the plane onto the runway and followed my fellow passengers into the terminal. A few doors later, I exited the terminal completely. There, sitting in a chair, was my friend Anna. She took one look at me and, imedietly, we were hugging. I looked over her shoulder and there was her mother, smiling kindly. They were the first familiar faces I had seen in almost two months.
We then went to Anna’s house. Exhausted after a full morning of travel, I sat on their patio basking in the warm sun. All I remember is laughing so hard my stomach hurt. And then, when we were done laughing, Anna’s mother came out of the house with a plate of homemade schnitzel.
Later on, I got to see my other friends, Anna-Laura and Sebastian. I also met Anna’s sister, Emma. We wandered around Innsbruck the rest of the afternoon, through narrow streets, grand cathedrals, and along the winding river Inn. Eventually, we found a bench to park at. We sat there for what felt like hours, talking and sharing stories.
After two months living with strangers in London, it felt like coming home.
It’s a bit late in the day for this, but how about another round of favorites to celebrate the weekend?
Yes, another Virginia Woolf novel. Woolf isn’t nearly my favorite writer out there, but considering I’m in a class devoted to her books… they’re kind of all I’ve been reading these days. Orlando is a mock biography. In it, we meet Orlando in Renaissance England and follow his/her life until the time the book was published–1928. He starts out a young boy in the court of Elizabeth I and ends as a wife and mother in 1920’s London. I believe Woolf viewed this book as a joke and wrote it for fun. It’s very different from her other novels, which are highly experimental. After weeks of To the Lighthouse and such, it was a breath of fresh air.
I’m the one on the left, but the lovely girl on the right is my friend, Anna. We met while working at the same Bible camp last summer. She lives in Austria, which is kind of on the other side of the world from snowy Minnesota. I miss her dearly, but made sure to visit during my stint abroad last semester. This photo was taken at Schloss Ambras, a castle near where she lives.
We got to Skype today! It’s amazing that technology enables us to stay in touch with those we love, no matter how far away they are. We talked about camp memories, what God is doing in our lives, school, and cultural differences between our countries. She taught me a bit of German, I helped her speak in an American accent. Although I probably should have spent the time studying, it was an hour well spent. I’m excited to see her again this summer!
This grocery store:
It’s the only grocery store in town, which means they can charge as much as they want for fresh produce. Weekly, this place sucks all my money away. But it’s also endearing. There’s something special about small town grocery stores. And only in Morris will you go looking for grapes and cottage cheese and run into half your professors.
(Then, while waiting for your roommates to finish shopping, said professors gather around you to make awkward small talk.)
JFK’s inauguration. We analyzed the rhetoric in class today and my professor declared that it is one of, if not the, greatest speech ever given. Apparently, Kennedy spent two weeks writing it himself. It’s a rather fantastic bit of spoken word, even without the famous “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country” line.