Although it may be overlooked and under-appreciated as a destination, Austria is a beautiful country, and thanks to Preview I had an amazing experience there during my first time traveling abroad.
Coffee House Europe: Vienna
The encompassing feeling I got of Vienna was that it was the equivalent to a giant coffee house. The people were charming, there was always music coming from a street musician, and the coffee and pastries were in abundance. I had been slightly worried that the language barrier and transportation would make it hard to venture out apart from the group, but there were hardly any issues in either of these departments. Thanks to the combined efforts of the tram, the subway, and my feet, I was able to get around very easily and felt extremely comfortable doing so. With the basic language skills learned at Arcadia, my classmates and I were able to pretend enough like we knew what we were talking about in German, and if the vendors saw us falter, they were kind enough to stop us from embarrassing ourselves (and their language) and finish the transaction in English.
We saw amazing architecture such as St. Stephansdom Cathedral and were able to explore a bit of the city’s history through museums and city tours. One of my favorite places in Vienna was the Schönbrunn Palace. The grounds were so vast and beautifully kept that I returned on my free day to explore the park-like area further. Behind the palace, there’s a giant green hill upon which another monument sits, offering a spectacular view of the palace and all of Vienna. (It was well worth the climb in my opinion.) After a little exploration, a private tour of the palace, and a fancy dinner, we were treated to a Mozart and Strauss concert at Orangerie Hall.
The concert was a wonderful first impression of the musical culture of Austria, which is the theme of the course. While we listened to various YouTube examples in a classroom on campus, it was quite another thing to listen to the music live (and in a palace!). Throughout the course, we had been challenged to listen to as much Austrian music as possible and to familiarize ourselves with the style. Having done so, I experienced a small sense of personal accomplishment when I was able to identify the composers and works that I heard without looking at the course brochure.
Musical Europe: Salzburg
While one of the main highlights of travelling to Salzburg was touring the places where The Sound of Music was filmed, I discovered that the city has a lot to offer in terms of natural beauty, too. Our first day trip took us to Old Town, a charming section of the city located next to a river. The towering Hohensalzburg Castle overlooks the area. The top of the castle is accessible by a long stairway (probably more than 100 steps). If there is one thing I learned about Austria, it’s that if there is a chance to climb to a higher vantage point, you always climb. The view will always be worth it. Sure enough, once we reached the top of the castle, we were offered the amazing scenery of Salzburg, the river, and the distant mountains fading away into the dusk.
The generous views continued as we traveled by bus into the more rural part of Salzburg. We had watched The Sound of Music in class, so it was fun to have settings and scenery from the movie pointed out to us as we walked around the natural “set.” Even if you don’t care too much for the movie, you can’t argue that it was filmed in a fantastic location surrounded by the natural beauty of the hills, lakes, and snow-capped mountains. It was by far the most beautiful sight I had ever seen.
It was extremely hard to accept the end of our trip (especially with the eight-hour flight home to get through), but I’m glad that I was able to have the opportunity to travel to Austria. It has increased my desire to see more of the world, and I hope to be able to visit again someday. But for now, in the words of the Von Trapp children, “So long, farewell, Auf Wiedersehen, goodnight.”