Today was last full day in Germany and also our free day. We split up into different groups today, and headed out to different excursions – either to Nuremburg for a festival, Stuttgart to meet family, or Salzburg, Austria for the day. I was in the group of 14 who got up early to catch a train to Munich and then Salzburg. It was only about 2 ½ hours and 10 euros each until we were in Austria and beginning our free day there.
While we were in Austria, we immediately split up and grabbed some lunch. Josh, Grant, and Kayla went off on their own and for the rest of us, Stephen took charge and led us to different sites around the city. We visited the beautiful gardens at the Mirabell Palace, Mozartplatz and the home that the famed musician was born in, the Hohensalzburg palace, the Nonnberg Abbey, and the cemetery and bridge featured in The Sound of Music.
The most beautiful views of the city that we got came from our hike to the castle and the Abbey. After our steep hike up the road to get to the castle, we had panoramic views of the city and its beautiful architecture and landscapes. We all jumped up onto a wall to get a better view and for some prime photo ops. One challenging part of travelling without the entire group and our instructors is that we had no one to take pictures for us, so we relied on selfies and other English-speaking tourists to help us.
After the castle, we all were ready for ice cream (it was already around 2pm and we hadn’t had any yet, so we were long overdue!) but we had a few stops to make first. We walked down through the cemetery of St. Peter’s Church that was featured in The Sound of Music. This cemetery was one of the most beautiful that I have ever seen. Instead of the traditional grey tombstones and plots of grass with small wreaths or flowers that we see in America, this cemetery looked like a garden with baroque style tombstones and graves each covered in bright flowers. Outside of St. Peters, we saw a bride taking her wedding pictures in the most stunning wedding dress and perfect scenery. After walking through the ornate church, I couldn’t believe how perfect the wedding must have looked.
We left St. Peter’s and walked through the city’s streets and squares until we found ice cream that looked good enough for us. During this journey, we found Mozart’s birth home and a huge market in one of the squares with different stands selling jewelry, traditional hats, and other souvenirs. Once at the ice cream place, Stephen and I thought that we had to try the “Mozart” flavor (we were in his city, after all); however, we both thought it was disgusting and bought different, more dependably good flavors afterwards.
After our ice cream break, we made our way to the Mozart Footbridge that a scene from The Sound of Music was filmed on. The bridge crossed the gorgeous Salzach river and led us to a peaceful grassy area to relax on by the river. A lot of people fell asleep laying on the grass, but I was too focused on where we were for my mind to rest. It was crazy to think that we were casually sitting on the grass in such a gorgeous location in the middle of Austria; it was a moment where I truly realized everything that I had been doing the past two weeks and how fortunate I am to be a part of this experience.
We eventually had to leave our perfect spot to make our way back to the train with time to stop for dinner on the way. We stopped at a Döner place and got more of our favorite sandwiches. This time, I got mine with Feta and it took the sandwich from a 10/10 to a 12/10 – definitely the way to amplify the different tastes of the ingredients even more!
We met with Josh, Grant, and Kayla at the train station and then followed Josh and Stephen as they took us to the correct train. I had a bit of a stressful train ride because I had to use Alan’s phone (still owe him for this one) to call my bank because they never put actually put the travel note on my debit card when I called in the US and I was almost out of cash. When I called, a snooty lady named Sandy answered and gave me a lot of sass before saying that since I couldn’t answer one of her questions, she could not approve my card. I had a small freak-out and called my mom who gave me all possible information for any question. I called back and, thankfully, got it approved and was able to get cash once we got back to Augsburg. After that situation got settled out, I listened to music and chilled for the rest of the ride back to Munich. Surprisingly, today we had our best luck with trains on the entire trip – no splits or misses – and it was all without the instructors! You would think that sending a group of kids to Austria would be more disastrous than going to Munich with instructors and German students with us, but that’s not the case in our group!
At the Munich train station, we only had a 15-minute stopover before our connection to Augsburg left. We all ran to the train and then anxiously waited for Gemma and Jackie to finish buying Munich Starbucks mugs for their families, hoping that the train wouldn’t take off without them. We were all on the train once it took off and made it safely back to Augsburg. Back in our home city, we got traditional spaghetti ice cream (ice cream run through a strainer to look like spaghetti) from a favorite ice cream shop called “Tutti Frutti.” We returned to the hotel and caught up with Dr. Feick and Arielle before packing up our bags and going to sleep early so we would be ready for our 6:15 leave time tomorrow. Today was amazing, but also bittersweet because it is our last real day on this trip and none of us are ready for it to end!