I’ve been here for over three weeks now, but it feels like so much longer. The friendships I’ve made, things I’ve experienced and the way I’ve fallen in love with this city make it seem like this is where I’ve always been. Nothing could quite match the intensity of last week, but boy oh boy did this week come close. Admittedly, it began slowly with what marked the half way point of the language course followed by a three hour wait to register for a more suitable language course, but hopefully enrolling on this course will compensate for the fact that I speak mostly English with my friends here. This did, however, mean that I was late getting to the gym which, in turn, meant that I could watch a beautiful sunset over the Alps whilst I pumped iron.
After Tuesday’s class, I had another taste of proper Austrian cuisine. Iris, Bo, Adele, Toni and I had lunch at Zirkelwirt, a small, traditional inn just aside from the main tourist routes. Of course, I wouldn’t be a true citizen of the Alps if I didn’t have a Gulasch soup every so often! I then had my first trip to Salzburg’s answer to the Trafford Centre, the Arndale or Oxford Street: the Europark. To be honest, this was really nothing to write home about and it felt strangely familiar, as if I was back in the UK. It also seems that the high altitude may have gone to my head as I left with a pair of red! leather! trousers!!!!! (honestly).
By Wednesday, the routine was getting tiresome: language course, gym, then the long cycle home. I can’t decide how I feel about Valentina not being in the flat at the minute; on the one hand, it’s quite relaxing knowing that I won’t suddenly have to be alert and speak in German, on the other, we’ve really been getting on and it’s a shame that she had to leave for so long so soon. That evening though, the girls and I had a movie night at Iris’ apartment, which was just what I needed, even if the cycle home at 1am was one of the more terrifying moments of my time here.
Thursday was the final teaching day of the language course and meant that we had to prepare our group presentations for the next day. One of the more larger than life, shall we say, characters I’ve come across so far just happens to be a Spaniard called Javier who is in my group and who, for reasons unbeknown, I had to be the one to reign in his “creativity”. Needless to say, I escaped to my refuge (the number 8 bus to the gym) asap. Throughout this experience, I’ve almost forgotten that I have CFS. I’ve been doing so much and not wanting to regret anything, so sleep has been a secondary concern. On Thursday, however, it all hit me. I felt my mood dipping a bit, so did what I haven’t done for weeks and had a five hour “nap”. I guess I can’t completely change now I’m over here, but I’m proud of how much I have so far.
Friday saw the final exam and presentations for the language course, after which the girls and I went for lunch on the university’s rooftop cafe, overlooking the mountains on one side and the Festung on the other. Then, having confirmed my plans for the weekend (more in a bit…), it was time to become fully Austrian and buy myself a dirndl. Of course, this is me, and no amount of cultural assimilation and/or alcohol is going to coerce me into a flouncy frock, so I managed to find a cheap “Halbdirndl” (a blouse) which seemed appropriate.
That night was the “Official Erasmus Welcome Party” which turned out to be a pretty strange event, as it was held in what can only be described as a church hall. The five of us and Toni’s roommate pre-drank at the latter’s apartment, then stumbled across to the “venue”, only to be greeted with wine in plastic cups. Judging by the looks on some people’s faces, we weren’t the only ones who felt slightly odd, not least me, as I had chosen tonight to debut my red leather trousers, not traditional church attire you have to admit. Whilst it was nice hanging out with my friends again, the party soon fizzled out, but I was tired enough to mean that Saturday became a designated “chill out” day.
On Saturday evening, however, the city’s museums had come together to put on an event called Lange Nacht der Museen, at which one 10 Euro ticket would get you access to all 50 of the cities museums from 6pm until 1am. Iris, Adele, Bo and I therefore spent the night exploring the Haus der Natur, Mozarts Wohnhaus, the Rathaus and the Salzburg Museum. It felt strange being a tourist in the city I lived in, but the event was lovely and the city had a beautiful atmosphere for the whole evening. Perhaps a personal highlight would be in the Doppler part of the Haus der Natur (Christian Doppler is a Salzburger) where, in an interactive radar part, I managed to throw a ball so hard that I broke the exhibit, woops.
And then to Sunday, the big one, the main event… OKTOBERFEST!!!! I woke up at 6am to catch the first train from Salzburg to Munich to meet Paddy and Kitty from Exeter. Armed with my dirndl and a lot of anticipation, I arrived there at 9am, and we caught the U-Bahn to the Fest. Oktoberfest was everything I expected it to be: it was manic, it was loud, it was obnoxious, it was unashamedly debauched, it was Bavarian and it was brilliant. The festival site was huge, filled with probably a dozen beer “tents” which could comfortably fit 5000 people each. We spent the first half of the day in the Schottenhammel Zelt and made “friends” with people from all over the world whilst drinking extortionately priced Maesse. The atmosphere was amazing, complete with a big oompah style band and plenty of singalongs, everyone was so happy, it was infectious. Later, we moved to a few other tents and then had a wander through the various Bavarian food stalls around the site. By the time I got back to Salzburg at almost midnight, I was tired, slightly hungover, and feeling perpetually short of breath thanks to a dirndl two sizes too small, but it had been incredible, and it was so nice seeing Paddy and Kitty again!
I really feel at home here now (especially now I’ve been to Oktoberfest, which I kind of considered a Bavarian’s pilgrimage) and I can’t wait to get through the last bit of admin for uni and start my courses. As the excitement and novelty of living here fade slightly, I’m trying to be careful to not let my mood slip, but to be honest, when you’re living in a city that’s this spectacularly beautiful, with this much to do and surrounded by such great people, it’s difficult to ever feel down.