Vienna/Epiphany

Alright, so this past weekend, the second(? – the school year is already making me forget what day it is) weekend back in school, a small group of us took a trip to Vienna: Max, Maya, Mattie, Kaitlyn (a.k.a Kranz because she pronounces “crayons” as “cranz”) and myself. Mattie and Kranz are both second-semester nursing students, so it was their first trip outside of Salzburg.

And it was a really good one!

Furthermore, I had an epiphany on the train. But I’ll get to that at the end.

We started off the weekend on Friday morning, since the rest of them had a symphony to go to on Thursday evening. We took an early train to get to Vienna by noon, and it was pretty smooth. We took Westbahn, which ended up being really nice compared to ÖBB.

Mattie on the train, credit to Maya

Once we got in, we had some time to kill before going to the Airbnb, so we wandered around the city for a while. We went to the Volksgarten and grabbed lunch at a delicious Italian restaurant a ways away from the city center.

Kranz and Mattie (Credit to Maya)
Italian restaurant (also credit to Maya!)

Once we finally got checked into our Airbnb, we were all super tired for some reason. We were up fairly late the last night (but not too late, like midnight-ish because we went to check out karaoke night at O’Malley’s after their symphony), so we all tried napping, but that didn’t work, so we all huddled into one bed, watched Avatar, and fell asleep to that. It was pretty funny to see 5 adults all crammed onto a tiny bed with a small little laptop at our feet, all of us passed out on each others’ shoulders.

After the movie/nap, we hung out for a little while and just talked, then we headed to dinner. We planned to meet up with Christina, our Viennese friend, to go ice skating at the Rathaus (it’s a two-story ice-skating rink!) but our restaurant took a little while with our food and unfortunately, by the time we got to the Rathaus, it was only going to be open for another 25 minutes, and the lines for skates were really long, so we bailed on that and got warm drinks instead.

Christina and Maya! (Credits to Christina!)
The whole group: Max, me, Maya, Mattie, Kranz, and Christina! Credit to Max/Christina!
Two-story ice-skating rink! Credit to Maya
Credit to Maya
Credit to Maya
The Rathaus – a little blurry, oh well.
Here’s the moon

It was super nice to see Christina again! Unfortunately she had work for the rest of the weekend so we couldn’t hang out more on Saturday, but she’ll be coming out in February with her family to go skiing, and we’ll be able to catch up and she’ll be able to meet the new students! I’m super excited for it – it’s always a fun time hanging out with her and her friends! We talked about a lot and had some discussion about German and other stuff (specifically the “r” sound because Americans seem to have a really hard time making it, myself included).

After hanging out at the Rathaus for a little while, we headed back to the Airbnb and decided where to go to next. We ended up deciding on an Australian (not Austrian) bar, which ended up being a ton of fun and absolutely delicious. Maya got a raspberry-sauce cider, and it was DELICIOUS. Like woah.

Photo creds to Maya!

I ended up getting butterscotch and Bailey’s, and that was also phenomenally good (I am a HUGE fan of butterscotch. I will never pass it up when presented with it.). After that, we headed back to the Airbnb, Christina departed, and everyone headed to sleep, but Mattie and I ended up watching some Black Mirror on the kitchen floor (so we wouldn’t keep other people up) and had a really deep, nice conversation. Pretty soon, I checked the clock and it was 4:00, so we decided we should head to bed.

In the morning, we had absolutely no plans but to adventure around the city and see Schloss Schönbrunn. Kranz had booked her trip back to Salzburg that evening (due to pricing for two nights of Airbnb), so we just had to be back at the Westbahnhof at 7. We headed to a little café a ways out of town and hung out there for a little while to grab some breakfast, and it was a lot of fun. It was a really cool little hip café that felt perfect for college students.

Blueorange (credit to Maya)

After that, we headed to Schönbrunn. What initially was planned as a semi-short trip to Schönbrunn turned into an all-day adventure, and it was a ton of fun. We slid around on the ice and may have fallen a few times, and just chatted and had a genuinely fun time. We ended up going to the top of the hill to go to a café, where I got an orange hot chocolate thing. It was really good, but a little pricey, and we ended up getting stuck at the café for quite a while because we couldn’t seem to get the waiters to give us the bill.

Maya wanted to try out my camera, which meant I was in a lot more pictures than normal. You’re welcome, Mom and Dad!

Kranz (credit to Maya)
Max showing the “Montanan” in him (AND YOU THOUGHT YOU KNEW MONTANA!) while “hunting” with Kranz’s selfie stick (Credit to Maya)
Credit to Maya

After a long day at Schönbrunn, we headed back to frigid-cold Stephansplatz, where Kranz, Max, and Maya headed to the top of St. Stephan’s. I’d already done it and it costs 5 euros so I figured I’d save my money for dinner, and Mattie figured the same, so we hung out in the cathedral and talked movies, family life, religion, and other things while we waited for the rest of the group.

Once they finally got down, we headed out to get dinner at another Italian restaurant and basically rushed to get to the Westbahnhof. Max decided he would go back too in a last-minute decision, so he headed back to Salzburg with Kranz. Maya, Mattie, and I went out and got some fresh-squeezed orange juice (WOW it was amazing. And cheap.) and drinks, and we headed back to the Airbnb. We hung out for a long while and had a really good, really fun night, then headed to sleep, quite a-ways into the morning.

In the morning, Maya, Mattie, and I headed to Blueorange again because we had time to kill between checkout of our Airbnb and the train, and I got a croissant with smoked ham, Swiss cheese, and lettuce, and it was so simple but SO fresh and good.

Once on the train, we all got quite a lot of sleep to make up for the sleep lost over the weekend, and got back into Salzburg mid-afternoon.

I caught up on more sleep and spent part of the day working, then I called my best bud, Ben, and we talked for awhile, but I was still working so I had to cut the call because I have a HUGE workload this week. But it was really nice to catch up with him. I’ve been missing my friends from back home a lot lately.

The song is “Home” by Vacations!

So what do I have planned for the future? I’m thinking about going to Ljubljana, Slovenia this weekend. Not entirely sure if it’ll happen but it’s super cheap and it looks like a lot of fun. Other than that, I don’t have any plans set in stone yet. The group I went to Vienna is going to Budapest soon, and I only got a day to explore it last time I was there, but it’s a little pricey so I’ll see whether or not I end up going. There’s a group that’s thinking about going to Tel Aviv way later in the year, and it’s pretty cheap and I’m invited, so if that goes through I’ll end up going. What else? Spring Tour is coming up in less than a month, and we’ll be spending a week in Italy and a week in Greece, and we’re going to a LOT of different places. In other plans, I’m planning on walking across the country of Liechtenstein later on in the year, and I’m really excited to start backpacking in April and May (May will be entirely solo aside from people I meet while travelling!). I think I mentioned it in my last blog post, but if not, Mattie and I got offered a free place to stay with an Irish student that lives near the Cliffs of Moher, which is a top destination that I want to visit, so hopefully we can get out there at some point. Also, one of my favorite bands is performing in April, which is when I’ll have my Eurail pass, so I can take a free train out there and only have to pay $15 for the concert! I’m going to start planning my itinerary for backpacking soon, or at least a rough itinerary – I know there will be places I like more than others and that I want to stay in longer, but as far as I know I’m thinking of going east to the Baltics/Balkans, up through Finland/Sweden/Norway, down through Denmark/Germany, west through the Netherlands/Belgium/Luxembourg towards Spain and Portugal (potentially stopping in the UK), then either flying out of there or out of Iceland – I really want to get to Iceland and I know that some flights go through it, especially to OAK or SFO. I guess we’ll see. If any of my friends or family that are reading this have any contacts of people that could potentially host me (anywhere in Europe!) or show me around, it’d be much appreciated!

Furthermore, if YOU yourself want to come visit me (friends, family, I’m looking at you), or if you’ll be out here at any time I am, especially when I’m backpacking, let me know! Here are some “tips:”
1. You’ll need to bring a big amount of money. Of course, it isn’t TOO bad, but it’s not cheap either. If you book a flight at $1,000, you’ll probably spend another $500, depending on where you stay, how long, and where you travel to. You can get cheap street food for 3 euros a meal, which is pretty filling, and some places, specifically Eastern Europe, have cheaper meals than that. Western Europe will almost certainly be more expensive. If you stay in hostels, they can range anywhere from 20 Euros/~$25 a night. Airbnb’s, especially in Eastern Europe, are really cheap. Like $10 a night for a NICE Airbnb in a good city. If we were to split the price, even on more expensive ones, it’d be around the same price as a hostel, at least in my experience. Or if you sleep in trains like I’ll be doing over summer, it can be cheaper as it’s just the price of the train and you don’t have to account for accommodations. Eurail can get you unlimited trains for 15 days for relatively cheap, and they go to 28 countries. On the topic of travel, Norwegian Air, Easyjet, and more offer pretty cheap flights, especially if you pack light, as you won’t have to pay for checked bags. If you only have a carry-on, you can get a cheap flight to Paris from SFO or other surrounding airports for as low as $250 (according to a coworker who did that a year ago). My flight from OAK to LGW to VIE wasn’t bad – it was around $340, but more expensive because of baggage fees since I’m living here for so long. But if you travel light, it’s definitely manageable.

2. I have school during the week up until April 27th. If you want to travel out here, either be prepared to travel during the week or stay in Salzburg, but I should be able to travel over the weekends. And during May, with no school, I’ll likely travel every day, or almost every day. But you don’t have to plan your travel around me! You should visit Europe regardless – it’s a fantastic experience.

If someone who reads this wants to come visit, just let me know! You can message me on Facebook or any of my social medias (or just text me) and I can give you more information.

So now to the epiphany part. It’s been 6 months in the making, and little bits of it have seeped out into my past posts, but here goes.

I figured I’d leave some thoughts down here because I’ve been feeling a weird mix of homesickness and extreme independence. I miss my friends from back home like nothing else. It’s weird seeing them do their own things and not being able to take part in the memories they make, but knowing I’m making my own unique memories with a whole different group of people. I know I mention it a lot when writing these, but I definitely feel like I’ve grown up faster than I’d ever thought possible. I still feel like a little kid, but I’ve done so many wonderful, fantastic, only-in-my-wildest-dreams types of things. Who knew the 18-year-old me who was SO nervous to travel to Europe after my high school graduation, or the 17-year-old me who was afraid to fly from HAWAI’I with his SIBLINGS because his parents wouldn’t be there would be travelling for 8 months (well, 9 with my month of backpacking!) through Europe, meeting with travellers and locals (literally almost everywhere I go), or getting dinner with a Berlin Parliament Member and the head of a prominent union in Berlin, getting out of my comfort zone and asking locals for directions in German, or travelling solo through Europe (at the end of this year). I’m 20 years old. It’s hard to fathom that. I feel like this year has given me a lifetime of memories – and it’s hard to explain just how much I mean that. Every single weekend trip involves something that feels like it’s out of a movie, whether it’s sprinting full-speed across a train station or going to a sky bar or adventuring around a city at night, alone or with a close friend. Or hiking in the Alps. I’ve met so many interesting people in my time here – from the ones I stay in contact with, like my Viennese friends, or the ones that I try to get away from as soon as possible (like the creepy guy trying to sell us drugs in O’Malley’s). I can’t even begin to find the words to explain just how grateful and fortunate I am to be here. To be with fantastic friends, exploring my new home 5,500 miles away from my actual home. To be able to make lifetime friends and lifelong memories. I feel so at home, so at peace, even though I’m thousands of miles away from the rest of my life. I know I’ve mentioned it before but I truly have learned so much from this experience, and I think that’s what studying abroad is all about – growing not necessarily in an educational sense (although that’s important as well) but growing as a person. Learning about the world, learning a language, learning a new culture, learning how to be a competent “world citizen,” learning about how to travel, learning to get out of your comfort zone, learning about the people you’re surrounded by, learning about yourself.

I’m so incredibly lucky and thankful to have this opportunity. I know it won’t last forever, but I’m definitely wishing it would. I’m trying to make use of every moment I can get, because when I’m back in Portland, I know I’ll be longing for the days I could travel every weekend and could hear German with everyone I interact with. I’m excited to get back to Portland, to have my own house, to see my friends again, to reunite with my friends from Sacramento and all of my family – don’t get me wrong – but there is truly a part of me that I know I will leave in Salzburg. I feel like Salzburg is more of a home to me than Portland was – I know this city like the back of my hand. I truly feel like this experience and this city has become a part of my identity. I didn’t know I would get so attached to a place or to the memories or to the people I’ve gotten to love while I’m here. I feel in an odd hippy way, spiritually connected to this place. That sounds weird but it’s the only way I can describe it. I truly, wholeheartedly feel home here. I feel like a family with the people. I feel, for once, truly like a grown-up. I talked to my dad about this a few years ago and I still haven’t forgotten it, but I asked if he still feels like the same kid as he did when he was younger (as in, does he feel truly like an adult) and he mentioned that he does feel like he’s still a kid in some ways. I still feel like a little kid – of course, that’s probably natural. I mean, I’m still me. But this experience has changed my life in so many ways and has totally shaped my future, at least hopefully. I never, EVER would have expected that I’d be living thousands of miles away from my family and friends, studying politics and German, and getting to actually speak a new language.

I love my friends, my family, and the life I live. I’ve felt so content and blissful with everything around me. It’s hard not to get emotional even just thinking about this experience. From the good to the frustrating, it’s truly the time of my life and I can’t imagine it any other way.

Mit Liebe aus Wien/With love from Vienna,

Cal

PHRASES:

Ebenfalls = “To you as well.” (like “Have a nice weekend,” “You too.”)

SONG:

“Rings” by Pinegrove. Just got back into listening to Pinegrove since they’re coming out on tour in April. Love them.

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