Thursday, January 6, 2011

edelweiss in the new year

Welcome to 2011! I'm now entering into the next part of my exchange. I've gotten past the "hump-stage" and, according to my Rotary charts, it's all downhill from here. There's no doubt that the holidays were hard without my family to share them with, but my hosts did all they could to make my Christmas special. After Christmas, I stayed with my counselor while attending skiing lessons. Just another thing I've fallen in love with over here. I had never been skiing before, but once I got a taste of it, I was hooked. It's so much fun and I'm glad, although it was physically challenging, that I had three full days on the mountains! I can't wait until the Skiwochenende with Rotex at the end of the month! It was also nice to just spend time with my friend, Sophia, who happens to be my counselor's daughter. The day after the lessons ended, my host family and I headed to Berchtesgaden, where we'd be spending the New Year. Simply being in the Alps again made me happy. Berchtesgaden is nestled in a valley in south-east Bavaria, pretty close to the Austrian border. Adolf Hitler used this convenient geography for his base of operations in the south. His 'Eagle's Nest' is situated on a mountain overlooking the valley. The town was lit for the New Years celebration. As the clock struck midnight, cannons, church bells, and fireworks blasted us into the new year. It was quite the spectacle. I toasted my family and friends back home, who still had to wait 6 hours to see the ball drop in Times Square and declare their resolutions. I made a couple myself, one being to focus more on the present than always being 4 steps ahead of myself. Hopefully this will help me make the most of my 6 months left on exchange. Along with my host mother's parents, we went out frequently to restaurants, and let me tell you, after a Bavarian lunch, I couldn't eat anything until the next day. The Bavarians invented 'hearty meals'. We visited the Salzburgwerk, which are the salt mines under the mountains in Berchtesgaden. They called it 'white gold' because the economy in these parts was so dependent on the mining of salt, since there was no refrigeration. There was a school group from Tennessee that I met and talked to. It's always interesting to meet people doing other sort of trips. Compared to 9 days all around Germany, my year abroad seemed a bit drastic to them. My host mother and I took a day trip to Salzburg, something I had been looking forward to. We signed up for the 4 hour 'Sound of Music' tour that highlights some of the filmed places in the movie. I was so extremely happy that we got to go on that. Not only do I love the film and the music, but we saw some amazing sights on the way. I also learned a lot about the real Von Trapp family and their story. The twists that Hollywood puts on stories is almost depressing sometimes. The family actually took a train to Italy for their great get-away. No mountain climbing, but here's the kicker: the mountain they were filmed climbing over (as they tried to get to Switzerland from Salzburg?) would lead them straight into the 'Eagle's Nest', Hitler's base of operations. Well done, Hollywood. There was so much laughter and singing on the tour, and I had a lot of fun. Back in Salzburg, I got side-tracked by a shop with paintings out front. Not only were they beautiful enough to pull me off the street, but they were pretty well priced. I went inside and met the painter and his wife. They were wonderful. I bought two paintings and even though this wasn't a significant experience, I know I'll always remember them and their beautiful paintings of Salzburg. What a vacation. I've never really had one like it. I was sad to leave the Alps, but it felt good to come back to the normal ebb and flow of Friedberg. Now I'm back to dealing with Rotarians and school without the serene backdrop of the Alps, but hey, that's life. We're getting the ball rolling in 2011 and I have 6 months to enjoy the progress I've made since September. Happy New Year!-- sjinternational


  1. Hope it's not all down-hill from here! Unless it is down hill skiing. Know you have so many more wonderful adventures ahead. Thanks for blogging, it is great to read.

  2. I'm soo jealous about "The Sound of Music" tour! Glad to see you are having a good time!