oh these autumn days, see how they glow?
It is desperately beautiful in Austria - simply glorious - as autumn comes to a sudden halt, as it's preceder summer did before, and dawn of winter starts to set in. The weather is indecisive and neurotic; I am in peals of admiration. One day blue sky is in abundance and then next day rain shatters down upon the earth with an angry roar. Fog curls around the Klagenfurt valley in the morning and vanishes by afternoon. The sun glares, hides, and smiles. The Karawanken mountains loom outside my window, snow capped. A sea of the most brilliant scarlets and golds dot the landscape. My camera is always in hand...I wish this fall could be everlasting, perfection frozen in time. Leaves crunch under my feet as I walk, my breath meanders into the crisp of the air and gently melts away, to join the receding clouds above but so close. I dread the fury of the winter, when I am in love with autumn the pacifist.
With Rotary, I went to Vienna for weekend (hence the name, "Wien Wochenende") with heightened apprehensions and expectations. Vienna is one of the crown cities of Austria, of Europe, of the world. It is a name identified with pure majesty and absolute glory, a city built for royalty. Vienna did not disappoint. It was everything I had ever imagined.
The night before, two other exchangers from my state (Carinthia) stayed over in order to catch the train to Vienna...the Southern Austrians generally do things together, especially something as crucial as trains. Nolan (USA to Millstatt) and Chantel (Canada to Paternion) and I met with our oldie from Australia, Julia...from there, we traveled an excruciating 5 hours to Vienna via train, meeting up with Erika (USA to Leoben), Elise (Australia to Judenburg), Kieran (New Zealand to Graz), and Ben (Canada to Graz) in various locations. Of course it was lovely, simply lovely to see one another again, but we were eager to get to Vienna.
Arriving in Vienna, we were greeted with the coldest, most bone chilling wind I've ever felt...it about nearly swept us off our feet and froze our lips and fingertips into blue. Stumbling in treacherous heels and luggage, I and the others made our way blindly through the narrow streets to the youth hostel not pausing through the numb of the cold to look up at our surroundings. When we made it to the hostel, we were greeted with the realization that we were only the second group to arrive (exchangers come in groups: Southern Austria, Linz, Bregenz, Salzburg, Vienna, Innsbruck, and random) and so we began the tedious act of waiting for the others...apprehension shared, enjoyed, and in profusion...anticipation. When everyone arrived, the last few stragglers floating through the door, it was chaos. Exchange students reuniting after 4 weeks...it was like Tauplitz but different. Tauplitz was more at the beginning of our exchange...we've all had time to adjust to school, our host families, and life away from each other. Many friends who I hadn't seen in quite sometime remarked that I had a different aura about me...more mature, serious, a bit darker...this is vaguely frightening. I am being forced to mature at alarming speeds subconciously because it is not willingly or unwillingly...it has been Austria's influence. Reflecting; there is a lot I would do to get my naive, young self back, one who dreamed about anything and everything; saw rainbows and sunshine in the most dire of situations; embraced limitations. This is how I came to Austria. But I am sure of my new, Europe induced self: loving with reckless abandon; head firmly on Earth; cynical yet optimistic; going with the flow no matter how difficult (and it has been a journey letting go of my control...realizing that I can't control every situation or take on every problem).
Most of our time was spent experiencing Viennese culture...cafes, the nightlife, the theater, touring, shopping, it was incredible. The city is living, breathing, and alive. The architecture, breathtaking. I felt transported to a time when ageless, romantic beauty over sensibility existed. Maria Theresa, Sissi, ...it was empowering to be in a city that for so long had been the home of these feministic women, reforming and defying the rules of the royal court. Going through the royal palace I felt as if in a dream...if not in a field of gaping and equally awestruck tourists, I would of danced and floated though out the maze of ballrooms and the assorted. Just the thought of being in Vienna...it was my eye opener, letting me know, yes Libbi, you are in Austria and living the exchange student life. Even being here for two and a half months, it's been hard to accept that this is now my life because it still seems like a dream!
I say this nearly every time, but being with exchange students is the best part. When you are solo, independent, and without a family in a foreign country, the people who you can firstly relate to, understand you, spend much of your time with become family. They fill that void. These exchange students have become that family. Every opportunity to spend with them, I jump at it...for many of them, it is too early to express these feelings so bluntly but I know what we will become at the end of this year: inseperable, if we are so close at this time in the year. There are a select few that I am for certain that I will keep in touch with.