Getting to Austria turned out to be harder than I was expecting. As the airfares that I bought were the cheap variety, to get from Paris to Vienna I had to go via London & change planes. This normally would be an easy thing to do, if the staff at British Airways had even half a brain.
After saying good bye to Al for the week, I headed to the transfer lounge where I had to check into my new flight. Once I had stood in the line for way too long & made it to the check out counter just in time (or so I thought) the very friendly man at the counter informed me that even though I was 40 minutes early, I had missed my flight? How this was possible I was unsure, but he seemed to know what he was doing & quickly booked me into the next flight to Vienna, in 5 hours. This wasn't too much of a hassle as I had a good book to read, but once the time came for me to actually board my flight I had to argue with the British Airways staff at the gate who were telling me that I was there in plenty of time to catch my original flight, so why was I trying to board theirs? After this friendly exchange they finally let me board the flight which went without a hick up, & I was kicking back in my hostel bar in no time.
On my first day in Vienna I headed out to the Osterreiche Galerie Belvedere, a gallery set in a former palace that houses many Gustav Klimt & Egon Schiele works. These are two of my favourite artist & it was really amazing to actually see their work in the flesh, after looking at them in books & on postcards for so many years.
After working up a sweat sight seeing, I headed back to settle into the hostel bar with a group of American & Canadians. I only had three beers, but in Austrian terms, that means three litres, so I woke the next day nursing a little bit of a hang over & headed to Saltzburg to start the family history part of my trip.
The train trip to Salzburg was beautiful. The scenery is amazing & coming from Australia, so green! It was unbelievable. Once in Salzburg this didn't stop, but the green was complemented with bulbs of all colours & buildings that looked like they were out of story books.
The hostel that I was staying in was great. It had a big restaurant / bar with seriously cheap food & drinks. I spent the night chatting with a couple of very young Canadians, a German pastry chef looking for work in Paris, & an American private investigator who was very pro firearms - an interesting night all up.
The next day I headed out to go & meet my mum's aunt & uncle, Hedda & Walter. I had organised to meet them at their apartment at 10am, but unfortunately Hedda thought that I was coming in on the train at that time & was waiting at the train station with a sign bearing my name. Luckily she didn't wait to long & was back in no time.
I was lucky to visit on a day when their son & his family were also visiting, so I got to meet Gerhard, Hannelore & their daughter Petra, who was about my age. Hedda had been very nice & cooked a traditional Austria lunch for us all & if any one has ever been to Austria, you would know that that means meat, meat & more meat. I didn't have to heart to tell Hedda that I was vegetarian, so I had to grin & eat it, for the first time in 7 1/2 years I ate meat! It was very strange & I don't plan on making a habit of it, but after she had slaved over the oven all morning I really couldn't have said no.
Gerhard, Hannelore & Petra were lovely & invited me to come & stay at their house in Schladming, a couple of hours away from Salzburg for a few nights. This was really lovely considering that they had never met me before in their lives & I accepted the offer with gratitude. Plans were made & I would meet them at the train station in a couple of days.
After lunch Hedda & I headed out for a walk around town, unfortunately it had started raining heavily by this stage, so we didn't last long before we parked our selves in a café & drank hot cups of tea instead. We then went to visit Liztaunt, Heddas mother who I had met years ago in Australia. She is amazing; she is 90 years old & still living in her own apartment. As soon as we walked in the door, a glass of Krushcurvats (liquor) was placed in my hand & the conversation (which had to be translated by Hedda so I could understand) began.
After that I ate dinner with Hedda & Walter & then headed back to my hostel as we were going to head off early the next morning to check out the town where my mum grew up. I had planned an early night, but instead ended up at an Irish pub (those things seriously are everywhere) with the guys I had been hanging out with the night before & a whole heap of others. It was loads of fun, but when crawling into bed in the early hours of the morning I started to think better of it.
Hedda & Walter were kind enough to take me out to see the village where my mum had grown up, Altzeim, the next day. We headed out early & had a look at the place where the house my mum was born in used to stand (unfortunately it has been replace since) & the house that my Opa (Grandpa) built, where my mum had lived until she came to Australia when she was 7. The house stood in a group of three, which in the past were all owned & occupied by members of my extended family. It was really interesting to see where they had all come from, in the middle of nowhere surrounded by fields, & then to think that they moved straight from there into Richmond, a very industrial part of Melbourne at the time - a seriously massive change.
After checking out the neighbourhood, we stopped at a traditional Austrian restaurant for lunch. It was cool, kind of like an old style country guest house / pub & luckily for me they made vegetarian schnitzel, so I was safe. Walter, a hilarious character, did make sure that he mentioned that I was eating food that belonged to rabbits or for the bin. Very funny.
When we reached Salzburg again, it was time to jump on the train to Schladming, to meet Gerhard & Hannelore, so I thanked Hedda & Walter very much & off I went. The train ride was, again, very beautiful, normally being in transit is kind of annoying, but not when the scenery is like this.
Gerhard & Hannelore were waiting fore me at the train station, as their house was about 20 minutes outside of town. We went on a little bit of a driving tour of the place on the way back to their house, which was really great as, even though it was the end of the ski season, there was still snow everywhere.
As it was just about the 1st of May, the town was proudly showing their May Tree - a big tree trunk that is chopped from the surrounding woods & put in the middle of town. The May tree is central to a game that the younger men play, where they have to protect the tree for three days from the boys from the surrounding towns who try to chop it down. I think it is mostly just a chance for the boys to bugger around & drink beer, but it was a funny tradition to witness.
That night we all sat around swapping stories & photos which was fun & kind of amazing considering I didn't even know about this lovely family a couple of days ago.
After a great nights sleep in my own room! I headed out with Gerhard & Hannelore for a walk in the wood just by their house. It was really beautiful, the weather had cleared up & the sunshine was out. In the afternoon we jumped in the car & headed up to one of the mountains, which was still covered in snow. We planned to go for another walk, but with all the snow it was impossible, so after admiring the view for a little while we headed to a restaurant for lunch. I had something called Keiserschmalten (that's probably spelt completely wrong) which was pretty much really thick pancakes chopped up, with apple sauce & icing sugar. Very nice & extremely filling.
The next day it was back to Vienna, where Hannelore had organized for me to stay with her daughter Martina who was studying there. Hannelore works about 1 ½ hours out of Schladming in Bruck, so I got a lift with her there & then caught the train back to Vienna, where I was meet by Martina. We headed straight back to her house, which was a typical student house that she shared with 3 others. It was nice to be back in that kind of house as, although I haven't been a student for years now, that's defiantly the type of housing that I am used to living in. Her house mates were lovely, one of which, TJ, had studied at an English school, so he spoke better English than I did which was a bonus. We went to the market & bought some things for dinner & then headed back to the house for some wine & a Uno tournament. It was nice to hang out with some local young ones for my last night in town & even nicer for them to have me.
Then it was back to London for a last hurrah with Nik.