Dear Homebound Frannies, waking up at about 6 in the morning was rough, but I am learning that sometimes the rough things can make it worthwhile; and besides, we could sleep on the bus. This weekend, we were exploring Vienna, and even though Vienna was waiting for us, we could not wait for it.
Of course, a Franny school trip would not be a Franny school trip without Mass, which was celebrated at Heiligenkreuz — “Holy Cross” — before heading to Vienna. Heiligenkreuz is a Franciscan church that holds a relic of the largest piece of Christ’s cross that was ever found. It was a touching service, as students were in line to venerate the wood singing songs of praise and worship.
The adventure continued with the exploration of Vienna and its many churches followed by a delicious meal of schnitzel and German potato salad at the Zwölf Apostelkeller. Once we found our way to the A&O Hostel and learned how to check for beg bugs (there were none), the night was ours, and we certainly made it our own!
The most interesting moments of traveling happen when you are wandering around not entirely sure what you are looking for, but you know you are looking for something. For me and my friends, that was food. We kept passing by cafés that seemed too expensive until we finally found Wi-Fi and looked up cheap places to eat. We found one that was called “Audi-Max Buffet” and we went for it.
On our map quest for dinner, we walked past Vienna University, with its grand front steps and archways. While following my friend’s phone, we noticed that it pointed through one of the archways. I had wondered why the Audi-Max Buffet had the same title as one of our classrooms: it was Vienna University’s version of the Pub back on main campus! Unsure of what to do but hungry for food, we passed under the arch. Since they were closing the shop by the time we got there, we got various versions of lemonade and eventually found a vendor nearby the university.
Aside from unexpectedly infiltrating a university, we went ice skating like we had planned. It was nothing like I had ever experienced! It was a total of four ice rinks, one of which was on a second level connected by a ramp. The trees sparkled with string lights and the ice glowed with various colors from spot-lights while songs like “Eye of the Tiger” by Survivor and “Thriller” by Michael Jackson blared through the sound system. It could not have been a more perfect night!
With the touring taken care of, we moved on to experiencing the culture of Austria through trachten and volksdance! Trachten are — as Brian Kissinger, the coordinator of the Austria Program, puts it — fancy clothes that Austrians wear to special events and celebrations. Women wear dirndls, a type of dress similar to a jumper with a crop top of a blouse worn underneath, which comes as a surprise to many a Franny Fraulein. Once wearing the dirndl, however, you hardly notice the blouse.
Men wear lederhosen, which is like tight overalls that stop just below the knee paired with knee-high socks. Trachten is meant to be a kind of “ugly-cute” in case you have not noticed.
Volksdance is the traditional Austrian folk dancing that involves a lot of stomping and patty-cake hand clapping.
For the first volksdance lesson, we were crowded into the Prälatensaal girded in our trachten and waited for the awkwardness to begin. We all had a blast! Even in the fumbling of footsteps and wrong turns, there was not a frowning face to be seen.
The fun continued into the Keller, the restaurant connected to the hotel part of the Kartause, as we met the local Austrians that demonstrated the dances! They spoke English, but we all kept going back and forth teaching each other different words from our own language. It was beyond the cultural experience I was expecting!
Gaming is a cultural experience most people typically do not expect. One of the things students often say they regret is not taking the time to explore Gaming, and I got to do part of that by hiking Book Mountain. It was not the best idea for a first hike since it is a long one, but I do not regret a thing! My legs ached, the group waited for me several times, and I was the last one to reach the top. But with those views, how can you say it is not worth it? The bitter struggle makes the reward all the sweeter. It is rough, but it is worth the while.
Until next time, auf wiedersehen!