Monday, March 7, 2016

Grünau im Almtal: Paradise Lost or Paradise Found?

I met my Blah Blah Car ride at the end of the U4 metro line. I was getting nervous because he was late but he did eventually get there. Two other girls came with us and everyone spoke German but me. The driver did speak a bit of English so we got to talk a little. He was a university student who studied in Vienna and is from a little town in the north. He said that if he has nothing to do he will post trips on the app and then drive people to make some extra money. I really need to look into doing that. It’s a great way to meet people and do I love driving.

I got dropped off in a little town called Sattledt where he told me that I could catch a train to Grünau. I’m glad he knew how to get me there because I would have had no idea! Since we dropped the other girls off earlier he stayed and waited to make sure I got on the train (and also to take a smoke break). The train was adorable! It was super tiny and I just sat in the entrance car by the ticket booth and bathroom. I ended up not being able to buy a ticket, the bills I had on me were too big and I didn’t want to have to try and explain that to the conductor if he came through the cars. The trip was only about a half hour. It was cool to see some of the small towns before it got dark. When I got off it was snowing, talk about a magical start to the trip. I looked for the payphone that the hostel owner said was in the waiting room but couldn’t find it. Luckily there was a man dropping off his wife who let me use his cell phone. I called the Tree House and the owner sent his son to pick me up.

I knew from the second I arrived at the Tree House I would love it. It’s very secluded and is your typical log cabin in the middle of nowhere. I was immediately introduced to the owner, Gerhard, and two Australians who were staying there. There ended up being only 6 or 7 of us the entire time I was there so it was pretty quiet. The hostel is on a Bus-A-Bout route in the summer and around Christmas so it can get pretty crazy. I didn’t mind the quiet at all, it was felt like I was renting a house with friends, we ate and drank together and I never thought about even closing my bedroom door, let alone locking it. That being said, I bet it would be really cool in the summer when you can go hiking (to a really cool sounding waterfall!) and when there’s a ton of people. Pretty soon after I got there we took a quick trip to the grocery store to get food for lunch. Breakfast was included and the family cooked dinner and everyone ate it even though it cost a little extra. Everyone who was staying at the hostel piled into the van and while we were shopping around (peanut butter, apples, bread, drinks) a girl from Germany that a few of the Australians had met in New Zealand (talk about an adventurous life) arrived at the train station. We got back in the van and headed home. Dinner was at the very not-Spanish time of 6:30pm. We had dumplings, egg rolls, and a creamy sauce, well that’s what the vegetarian option was; everyone else had meat in theirs. We also got dessert.

Isabelle and I were sharing a room and it was so nice to be able to spread out. The room was made for 12 people so we had lots of space. I showered and got into some nice cozy clothes before heading down to the basement. Our night was filled with pool, card games and lots of drinking, apparently. I honestly don’t know what happened except that during a round of “never have I ever” in King’s Cup I put up my three fingers to play and next thing I knew it was 8am, sunny, and snowing. All I have to say is shout-out to Isabelle for taking care of me.

Unfortunately this is where the fun and games ended, or were at least stunted. I was scrolling through Facebook before I got out of bed and saw that there had been a terrorist attack at a café in Burkina Faso that I had been to when I was there last January. Good thing nobody I knew there lived in the capital. I continued scrolling and saw a status posted by the woman who heads the organization that I worked with; her husband and the local pastor were missing and hadn’t been heard from since the night before. They were in Ouaga waiting for the arrival of a mission team. My heart sank. I won’t drag this out as most of you kept up with this in real time. Amy’s husband was killed in the attack but Pastor Valentine survived. I was glued to my phone most of the day and I finally got the news at dinner time. I was absolutely sick. I didn’t talk about it with the people I was staying with at the hostel because I don’t like “burdening” people with my problems but I was thankful for their distractions.

To prevent myself from staring at my phone all day, I spent a lot of time outside. Isabelle and I played around in the snow like children until she had to leave and then I went on a walk. It was very refreshing to be out in nature. It even started snowing and I shamelessly danced around in the street to my Carrie Underwood playlist. I walked on the road until I got to a “Magic Forest” type park. I was totally alone in the snow covered park which was fun, if not a bit creepy. I was having a blast until I (on my way back to the entrance) stepped in a river. I had crossed it on the way there but on my return trip I slipped on a rock and honestly didn’t have enough energy to get back on the rocks so I just walked across. My boots weren’t exactly made for walking in rivers so immediately after I got across I realized that I was an idiot and that my feet were going to freeze and that they were going to get frostbite and that they would have to be amputated. As a dancer, that’s unacceptable. I did think, for a brief second, that if my pinky toes were the only ones to be amputated that the line of my foot might be even better but that dream was short lived. I was at least two miles from the hostel so I decided to jog. After 5 or so minutes I realized that that wouldn’t do anything but make my feet sweat. I decided to break into one of the wooden cabins scattered across the property so I could at least sit down and take my soaking wet socks off. I managed to pry one of the doors open and when I got in I found heaps of dry newspaper. I decided that I would take off my socks and wrap my numb feet in the paper because at least that would absorb some of the water, right? I jogged back to the hostel and took a warm shower and then had a very peanut buttery sandwich. It was quite a day, but it did keep me distracted.

Since I found out about Mike a few minutes before dinner I wasn’t really in the mood to talk. All of the other people at the hostel had gone skiing that day (there’s a mountain five minutes away) so I was content to listen to their stories. Immediately after dinner we went downstairs to watch Crocodile Dundee 2. Everyone but me and the German girl, Clara, were from Australian so they had obviously seen it and said it was essential to our education. No, we hadn’t seen the first one but we couldn’t find a copy of it. I thought it was hilarious, and a great distraction. I was alone in my room after the movie (since Isabelle left that morning) when the reality of what happened hit me. It was not a fun night.

It was snowing the next morning and I ate breakfast looking out over the back yard. I was (and always am) struggling to understand how the world could/can be so beautiful and so ugly at the same time. I talked to some of the other guests as they came down for breakfast and decided to go for a run not caring that it was snowing pretty hard out. I ended up running for about an hour. I came back soaking wet with burning lungs but it felt great. After lunch I went out to a local farm to do the horseback riding that I booked through the hostel the day before. A girl about my age lead my around for an hour, it was a great way to see the town. The snow held off until we were done but my hands and feet were freezing after. She let me trot a couple times, which I’ve obviously never done. It was really cool, but kind of scary at first! That night I ate at the hostel again and then we watched Crocodile Dundee 1. A couple of the guys took the day off from skiing due to the heavy snow and fog and found it hidden in the stack of movies. It was better than the sequel and made me want to go to Australia even more…it’ll happen soon, it’s part of my elaborate pre-planned quarter life crisis but more on that another time. We stayed up late playing “Presidents and Assholes” which is my new favorite card game. They also had these nifty waterproof playing cards that had camping tips on them. I’ve said it before but I am so grateful for the distraction I had at the Tree House.

I got up pretty early the next day to catch the train to Wels. I was traveling with one of the guys I met, James. The two of us were getting a Blah Blah Car from Wels to Vienna where he was staying. I was off to Budapest. It took us a while to find her, but our driver was great. She is a vet student at the University of Vienna. I don’t know if I was just lucky but I loved my Blah Blah Car experiences. I’ve been skeptical to use it here in Spain but it’s been a great resource. Our driver was telling us how she’s had to be careful recently as she had been getting a bunch of requests from immigrants and refugees who just wanted to get into Germany (she lives just over the border). Anyway, she spoke great English and it was so cool listening to her talk about vet school and life in Austria and Germany. We got dropped off at the end of a metro line in Vienna. James and I said our goodbyes and I headed to the subway. I hadn’t thought about the terrorist attacks in several hours but I stated to feel claustrophobic/sick the second I got onto the metro. At our second stop a strangely dressed man got on. It looked like he was carrying a handmade bow and arrow. I immediately felt trapped. I felt more claustrophobic than I ever have in my life. I was nauseous and sure he was going to turn around and shoot me. In the less than one minute between him getting on and us getting to the next stop I think I saw my entire life flash before my eyes. When we finally stopped at the next station I was ready to get off. But then he did. He hadn’t even looked at me. I was embarrassed with myself for being so judgmental. At that moment I said a little prayer thanking God that I had been in the middle of nowhere when the attacks occurred. I honestly don’t think I would have been able to handle being alone in a city. After another 20 minutes on the subway, I got to the bus station and then was headed to my final stop-Budapest. 

**Note-if you’re heading to Austria I HIGHLY recommend the Tree House, even if it seems a bit out of the way. They just won an award for the best* hostel in the country. The man who runs it is so beyond helpful as is his whole family. Let me know if you want any more information. I can’t wait to get there in the summer! Staying here was probably the best decision I made during my whole trip!

Also, another post on the terrorist attacks and my thoughts will be posted soon. Thank you to everyone who checked up on me <3 

Also Also, thanks to everyone I met at the Tree House, y'all are the best. 

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