As I impatiently wait for the beginning of this summer, I reflect on my last European adventure of summer 2013. It was a family trip to Salzburg, about a six hour drive from our home in southwest Germany. Salzburg is a beautiful, historical city with a love for its most famous former resident, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Apologies to the history buffs and music fans, but my attention was focused mainly on the wonderful food of the city.
The cake was amazing, as were the soups. Another highlight of our trip was a side trip to Hallstatt, a picturesque Austrian city boasting the oldest known salt mine in the world. Visitors can tour the depths of the salt mine, provided they agree to wear protective clothes (which look more like pajamas than anything a miner would wear). Of course, we took full advantage!
A couple other side trips: a day spent cycling with my brother around the lakes of the area with plenty of breaks for swimming, and a visit to Sigmund-Thun Klamm, where I used my German to ask if a student discount was available to which the lady at the booth replied, “Nein, aber ich mach’ das.” Which I understood as “No, but I’ll do it anyways.” It’s always good to use the local language as much as possible – sometimes it pays off in unexpected ways!
It was a wonderful trip, but by far my favorite part was the part that no one had planned. As a family we took a hike around Hallstaetter See, one of the many crystal blue lakes of the Salzburg area. We stopped at a bridge to take a rest, when I looked down at the water and saw some kind of wooden plank protruding from a spot under the bridge. Upon closer inspection we found a dirt path to the underside of the bridge, where there was another plank which we recognized as an improvised diving board as well as a makeshift ladder for climbing up from the water. We had stumbled upon a hidden gem, an golden opportunity for some spontaneous fun that we simply could not pass up. So the family went on walking, and my brother and I started gearing up for an afternoon of jumping.
We spotted the police patrolling the waters in the boat. He sailed towards us and yelled, “Springen Sie?” (“Are you jumping?). I was ready to flee the scene until he pointed to the bridge overhead and said something like, “Sie koennen von oben!” (“You can jump from up there!”). Probably the best experience I’ve ever had with the police while abroad. Not every place I visit leaves me with the desire to return, but Austria has had me dreaming of my next trip there since I left last July. So many lakes to swim in, so many mountains and forests to hike through.. Is it summer yet?