One reason that we fell in love with Austria is because we made such good friends there. We met these wonderful families at church, and they were so warm and fun and we instantly hit it off! I really valued being able to get a local's perspective about the country and way of life. We truly loved discovering the wonderful ( plus the weird and wacky ) parts of Austrian culture.
Only one week after we arrived in Austria, we were invited to our new friend's home for dinner after church. It was so much fun to hang out and get to know each other. Their kids didn't speak English, and I feel like it was a really good experience for my kids to practice engaging with people from around the world, no matter what language is spoken. We chatted, laughed and ate delicious food. I'd read that you should never go to a European home empty handed, so I wanted to bake something to bring. This was not so easy. The place we were staying in Maria Alm didn't have an oven, just a weird toasty / microwave thing, and on top of that.....I had no idea which flour was flour in the isle at the supermarket. There was so much selection in that department, it would have been comical watching us trying to chose what we hoped was plain flour! I had no idea what all those options were, it could have been anything - plain, self raising, bread improver, corn starch.......
Looking back I feel like an idiot for not using google translate, but we hadn't figured that out yet, so we literally just picked a packet and hoped for the best. Lol
Normally I'm a pretty good cook, but the 'bownies' I produced with mysterious Austrian ingredients were.....kinda horrible.
But I took them anyway, and our kind friends pretended to be grateful, haha!
Our lovely dinner hosts let my girls help to prepare a traditional Austrian dish - knoodle! Hahaha!! German language is a bit hilarious, names for food were endlessly amusing; wiener, knodel, swine-flesh soup....
These same friends met with us on another day at Hellbrunn Palace in Salzburg. Actually, it was the same day that the girls and I twirled and sang our way around Salzburg on the Sound of Music tour! After the tour, we all met together in the park of Hellbrunn palace, which meant that I had an excuse to wear my Dirndl all day ( and it also meant that breathing was rather difficult all day too! )
We didn't go to the trick fountains ( poor travellers that we were ) and opted instead for some free entertainment in the gardens; e.g., trying to stop my kids from diving into all the lakes.
But, miracle of all miracles......we did manage to ALL get in the one photo as a family with no-one crying, fighting or 'cracking the sads'! Yay!
Our friends introduced us to an amusing Austrian activity - Kneipp therapy. Created by the Naturopath Priest Sebastian Kneipp, his idea is that freezing water can be beneficially healing to the body.......OK.......???
Well, we were willing to try.
We laughed and joked as we froze our way around the different pools. Of course my kids treated the whole thing like a giant swimming pool and then had to freeze their butts off on the 1.5 hour drive home later! And we were probably so loud and funny that we became a tourist attraction ourselves, but that seems to be the way we roll.
Another week after church, our friends took us to see the lovely mansion used in the movie "The Sound of Music".
What follows is the usual procedure of us trying to take a happy family photo;
Us - "Oh look, what a lovely setting! Let's take a family photo.".......
( children promptly disperse )
Then Ross and I demonstrate the level of enthusiasm expected for this proposed photo...
Us - "Come on kids, this is great, we're here in Austria!!"
( At least one kid absolutely 'cracks it' over something that someone said, or did, or did not do....or they just don't want to go through the torture of having their photo taken. )
Us - "This is for your future, you'll thank us. We need to prove we were here!"
We manage a picture with a couple of us looking fairly glad to be alive ( Rushy is getting the idea ), but it's still a bit disjointed.
( The child who cracked it isn't complying in the slightest )
We try again....."sigh".
Us - " Come here now and at least pretend to be happy!!"
( Grumpy child walks off, and oldest child tries to hide. Mother tries to yank the rebellious child back into line. )
The finished result; I look like I've just eaten a fly, Zahli looks like her world has just ended, and I don't think Levi wanted to be too close to anyone ( you know, in case he catches germs or something ).
But on the up side, Rushy and Amira have done a stellar job through it all!
This was a fairly common occurrence on our trip! We saw so many beautiful and amazing places and I wanted family photos!! But I suppose at least our photos reflect the truth of our trip; funny, crazy, frustrating, and memorable.
Another wonderful family that we made friends with in Austria took us to a beautiful little church. It turned out to be the site where the Christmas Carol "Silent Night" was written in 1818. We walked there together in the town of Oberndorf bei Salzburg, and I took a few sneaky snaps of Ross wrangling kids and chasing Bo around in his lederhosen "hehehe"!
I really loved seeing the church and especially being there with people who we had come to love. Although it wasn't Christmas, I was so moved hearing the beautiful song being sung in German in the place where it was written. 'Stille Nacht', I thought it sounded wonderful in German, such a precious memory. Our friends have a tradition of going there every Christmas Eve, and sometimes there is snow all around, and candles lighting the dark, and they sing 'Silent Night' with their children! Wow!
We were sad to say goodbye to Austria. What a privilege it had been to come to love the land and the people there. We made plans to return before the end of our travels, because we just couldn't bear the thought of leaving for good.
Auf Wiedersehen ( until we see again ) beautiful Austria xxx