Swimming, Sunburns, and Saying Goodbye – DAY THIRTEEN

Today was our last day in Vienna.  I’m not excited about it.

It was a long day to be sure.

We took the train last night from Venice to Vienna.  Sleeping was no easier the second time around, although apparently I was the first to fall asleep, uncomfortable as I was.  On the trip to Venice, we had three, four, and five per cabin.  This time, we only had two cabins so we were six and six.  WOO!  Tight squeeze.  We slept sitting up.

We arrived around 8:00 or 8:30 in the morning and promptly returned back to our homestay houses to freshen up.  I took the world’s shortest (but most appreciated) shower and hustled to get ready so I could make it back to Hofbourg for the training of the Spanish horses by 10:00 am.  They train them from 10:00-noon and allow the public to watch the training sessions in a two-storied enclosure with two chandeliers and royal seating.  It was very cool!  From there, Cynthia and I searched for lunch, finding food at a nearby food truck, and ate in a park behind Hofbourg where we people-watched.  We were seated directly next to the most precious infants and their mothers and we were able to see from our area a guy slack-lining at an unusually tall height and sunbathers lounging all around the grass.

After lunch, we crossed the street to meet up with our group at a gelato place called Zanoni and Zanoni, which is apparently famous for its gelato.  We then, collectively, reentered the park for closing remarks and reflections on the trip and what we’ve learned.  After our powwow, we were free for the afternoon and evening, so I did some last-minute souvenir shopping and then went back to my flat to meet up with Najeeah and my host mom.  Najeeah and I miraculously arrived at our U-Bahn station at the same time, so we walked back together.  Arriving at our flat, we found our host mom ready to go to the Danube so we quickly changed into our swim suits and went with her.  This time, she took us to a wakeboard park.  It was very interesting!  A line high above the water pulled tow-ropes in a rectangle around a designated area filled with wake boarding obstacles.  Wakeboarders would go to a dock, pay their entrance fee, and begin being towed around the park by the automated rotator, choosing whether or not to attempt a skill or trick using the pre-placed obstacles as they came upon them.  The obstacles could be avoided if the boarder so desired.  When asked what happens if the wakeboarder falls, given that the tow-rope continues its path, my host mom said, “They swim back.”  I take it that the wakeboarders either feel decently confident about their skill level before paying their entrance fee or don’t mind long swims.  One thing is for certain: this was not a place for first-timers!  Everyone on the water looked confident and graceful as they skillfully glided across the water.  I am not a wakeboarder, so I tanned while my host mom spoke with friends we met up with.  After a restless night’s sleep on the train, my tired self fell asleep tanning and had a gnarly sunburn to show for it afterwards.

Finished at the Danube, Najeeah, my host mom, and myself made our way back to the flat where homemade Apfel Streusel awaited us.  We chatted about American college, boys, social issues, and everything in between as we ate.  I had a great time!  I am so grateful that I was placed in the homestay that I was because my host mom was incredible.  She was close to our age and knew all the fun things to do around Vienna, she included us when she hung out with her cool friends, she made us tasty food, and she could girl-talk with the best of them.  We heard all about her current boyfriend and her past loves, and in return we gabbed about our personal lives.  It was so cool to share with her and to learn even more about the commonalities and the differences between life as an Austrian (she’s German, but she’s lived in Austria for many years, so I’m mentally counting her in both categories) and as an American.  (Side note that I want to remember: I was wearing a tank top with my sorority’s letters on it which brought up a conversation about Greek life.  Austrian universities have sororities, too!  Interesting!)

We put the dishes in the dishwasher once we had finished, and then Najeeah and I began repacking (and saying our prayers that somehow our suitcases would close).  It was a very, very sad feeling to pack away two of the best weeks of my life in my suitcase– fully cognizant of the fact that twenty-four hours later my adventure would be over.

That night, I took an extra look out the window, attempting to memorize the scene that lay before me, and I reflected on my time in Austria.  I knew virtually nothing about the country before I left for the trip, and, to be honest, I had been content with my ignorance.  As I looked out at the night sky, I wondered how I ever possibly could have been happy without knowing this magical place.  I wondered what other magical places were out there, just beyond my awareness.  It was also in that moment that I vowed to never again lead a safe, boring life within the confines of my comfort zone.  Austria has been one of the best things to ever happen to me, one of the best places I’ve ever been, and one of the best experiences I’ve ever had.  While I wouldn’t say that this trip in and of itself has been life-changing, I would say that Vienna absolutely has the potential to be.  I am now seriously considering returning post-graduation and living there for some time.  It’s scary and uncertain, and that’s exactly why I think it’s important that I go.

For now, America it is.  But in the future, the sky’s the limit.  This is my story, and I intend to write a good one.


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