Midterms start this week, so naturally I’m writing this instead of making study guides for Italian history. I know it’s been a solid three weeks since the last time I documented my trips, so I’m going to throw Salzburg up quickly and people can get a feel for all the magic I’ve gotten to see.
I just got off the phone with my mom, during which said call I bawled my eyes out until Cara heard me and came to give me a hug (on this subject, I’m not sure if I go to school or if we all just kind of live together and hang out. The main form of faculty-student communication is GroupMe). It’s easy to get overwhelmed here, by all the bad things but especially by all the good things and sometimes I just cry.
One of those moments was during our Mozart and Vivaldi symphony in the Mirabell Palace in Salzburg. I wish I could convey in words how beautiful it was. I haven’t stopped listening to classical music since. I suppose the best I can say is that if you ever get a chance to hear an orchestra play, always, always, always go. I’ve never forgiven my parents for not putting me in violin lessons. I didn’t take my camera into the palace because a) you’re not allowed and b) as if that ever stopped me before, I couldn’t figure out a way to snap photos incognito when my tickets were in the fourth row. But anyway, here’s a photo of the Marble Hall that in no way does the place justice. It was two hours of bliss, and we all geeked out about classical music for hours afterwards.
Afterwards, we headed to a traditional Austrian restaurant to try schnitzel. I have two groundbreaking things to say about schnitzel.
- You actually cannot order schnitzel with noodles. I know, I was heartbroken too. The Austrians simply do not do noodles. They serve schnitzel with roasted potatoes. The Sound of Music used noodles because it sounds more melodic. Don’t believe me? Try singing “schnitzel with potatoes.” Yeah, that’s what I thought.
- Schnitzel is literally just a giant chicken nugget. It tastes like one, it looks like one. Don’t get your hopes up about schnitzel. (Do, however, get your hopes up about strudel. It’s incredible.)
Speaking of schnitzel and its various ties to the Sound of Music, now we’ll get to the root of the trip: yes, we went for the Sound of Music tour; no, I am not ashamed. We actually got to see a lot more than I thought we would, although it was spread out much more than I figured – you don’t realize how much of the movie was filmed on a set and how much movement was required between scenes. For example, the front of the Von Trapp house and the interior were filmed in a different mansion than the scenes involving the back of the house. We were taken up to the lake country to see the areas where the panoramic scenes were filmed – on the day of our tour, it was snowing and gray, with blustery wind (typical of Austrian winters). It was stunning, with the lakes glittering and iced over and snow blowing over the trees. But it was also really damn cold.
Anyway, our adorable tour guide Rosa Maria let us listen to the movie soundtrack the entire four hours. The poor woman does this every day for a living. Unsurprisingly, the Austrians are not fans of the Sound of Music.
On day two, the sun came out in Salzburg and gave us a little slice of heaven. Somehow managing to be a bustling modern city in the middle of a traditional Old Town, Salzburg is truly something – hundreds of people hiking up and down the foothills of the closest mountain range for walks through castle ruins, teenagers and the elderly perched on the cliffs above the city drinking hot mulled wine and enjoying the sunshine, street violinists enchanting the tourists on foot and in horse drawn carriages. Photos don’t do it justice, but I’ll attach them anyways.
We took our night train home, which was an experience in and of itself. The way home, we at least had an idea of what it was going to be like, but I’d be lying if I told you that our time on the night trains weren’t absolutely disturbing. Something that will likely become a theme in my writing if you decide to keep up with my disjointed ramblings will be on the question of forced migration and refugeeism. I’m in a class on the current state of Europe’s migration crisis, which has really raised my awareness of the issue; but more than anything, it is the endless numbers of obviously struggling refuges that I encounter on a daily basis here that have drawn me to their suffering. Perhaps it is because they are so obvious in Europe, sticking out far more than they would in the states with its considerable diversity; or perhaps it is the arms-length distance every European puts between himself and the Nigerian selling umbrellas or friendship bracelets, that draws my attention to them.
I have learned about the difficulty of their journeys. I have learned about the dangers of human trafficking, of beatings and imprisonment, of soul-crushing boredom, of endless waiting for legal authorization, of poor sanitary conditions and loneliness and inability to speak the language and lack of sympathy from citizens. But I have also learned about their homelands: and truly, they are not leaving just to make everyone else’s life more difficult, which seems to be a common misconception of those of us lucky enough to be legal everywhere we go. They leave only because their homes are un-liveable, their governments crumbling, their neighborhoods violent, their children hungry.
I wrote a post about the night train on Facebook (probably an unwise decision, as I have trouble filtering my opinions):
“On my train from Austria this weekend, I had three different Europeans bring up the subject of Donald Trump’s presidency to me.
One was hesitant to ask me, afraid to offend me. One outright attacked me, assuming that each American had voted the same as the electoral college. And finally, an older man asked me what my generation thought of our country’s chosen leader and his blatant intolerance (those were his exact words).
Each European, whose memory of facism is much clearer and more recent than our own, shook their heads at our country’s current situation.
I listened to a pair of German teenagers who told us that four Pakistani refugees were pulled from their train car in the night for not having appropriate papers at the Austrian border.
I observed the troops and the military border police walking in and out of various train stations and shining flashlights in our cars in the middle of the night.
I never once had my passport checked. I never once had my status questioned. When the border patrol shone their lights in our car, they didn’t even open the door. I am so, so thankful for the fact that I am an American today and every day and for the safeties – privileges – it affords me.
But today, I read that the Trump administration wants to repeal DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) that allows children whose parents migrated from other countries to the states to apply for work permits and defer deportation for two years (I know, the time difference makes me slow to the news). My heart sank. Because I’m studying refugeeism here in Europe and I know the heartbreak it brings and I cannot imagine being pulled off a train in the middle of the night and sent back to a place that I can no longer call home. And it makes me sick to think that our country, the place of endless opportunity, is turning away those who have none. It makes the rest of the world sick, apparently, too.”
I’m not sure if this entire post made sense or followed any logical order, but whatever. My main takeaway from these past few weeks was a startling, deep gratitude for everything I have and everything I have been able to see. And even when I worry and my heart breaks and I call my mom crying, she reminds me of 1 Thessalonians 5: 16 -18 and that “the best defense for worry is continual communication with [our Father], seasoned with thanksgiving.”