Monday, May 9, 2011

April in Photos

Would you believe that I only have eleven more days left in Vienna?  Once I booked my ticket for May 20th, I decided to cram everything into these last few weeks that I've been wanting to do since September.  Most importantly, I wanted to find some way to visit friends in Germany before heading back to the States. 

A few days before Easter Break, I decided to take a trip to some of my favorite places to visit people who made such an impact on me over the past ten years.  But, before I get into all of that, here are photos from a hike I took with my friend, Patrick, at the beginning of April.  I think I've already mentioned Patrick, but this may be his first appearance in the blog!  Patrick is an American singer who came to Vienna on a Fulbright Scholarship.   He's now studying voice performance at the university here, and we've had such a fun year together.  It's been so nice having a fellow American who I can completely relate to.

A delicious wine spritzer to kick off the hike!

The Danube.


We stopped for dinner at this great outdoor restaurant at the top of the mountain.

We hiked all the way to Lower Austria!

The first day of my 10 day Easter vacation, I took the train to Graz, Austria.  I lived in Graz during the summer of 2006 when I participated in the American Institute of Musical Studies.  I took part in an Audition Seminar class taught by American soprano Andrea Huber.  I was so inspired by her energy and enthusiasm for performing, and coached with her privately as much as possible during that summer.  I recently discovered that Ms. Huber is the new Artistic Director of AIMS, and is living in Graz.  I emailed her a few months ago to set up a coaching and visit, and it just so happened that she was available at the perfect time.  It was so wonderful to see her again, and to sing for her.  She was very encouraging, and assured me that I'm still on the right track, which was something I needed to hear!  I loved going back to Graz.  To me, the people seem much friendlier and warmer than in Vienna, and it's just such a gem of a city. 

Breakfast with the beautiful Andrea Huber.

From Graz, I took the train to Salzburg to meet up with Irmgard's family for a few days.  The weather was just perfect the whole week, which was a very pleasant surprise.  It was nice to finally experience Salzburg in sunny, warm weather.

I took this picture at a stop on my way from Graz to Salzburg.

 I took this picture at a stop on my way from Graz to Munich in 2006.  Same mountain? Yes. Same stop? Yes.  Did I do this on purpose?  Absolutely not!  But after I took the photo, I looked at my camera and thought it looked so familiar.  Then, I went into my iPhoto library and found this photo from 2006.  I asked Harald and Irmgard, and they confirmed that this is the same mountain in the background, which means it must have been the same train station.   

Here I am! I met so many interesting people, traveling on my own.  The woman who took this picture was Russian, lived in Vermont for several years, then met a German man and moved to Munich.  I wasn't sure what language to speak with her!

The family in Salzburg.

Mozart was born here.

 The biggest Mozart Ball in Salzburg.  Unfortunately it isn't filled with chocolate and marzipan.

I love this photo of Vinzi.



Cousin Jonas

 Lolo, Jonas, Lukas (probably the tallest 12 year old in Austria), Vinzi, and Felix

After a few relaxing days in Salzburg, I packed up again and caught the train to Munich.  In Munich, I visited an exchange student, Amira, who my family hosted in September, 2001 (yes, she was living with us on 9/11) and then I stayed with her for three weeks in Munich in March of 2002.  We hadn't seen each other in 9 years!  It was so nice to see her, her mom and sister again.  It also amazes me that so much time can go by, and yet it really feels like you pick right up where you left off.  I'm so grateful to have all of these great friends all around the world!

 Amira & Me, reunited after 9 years!

Girls' night out with delicious cocktails

My Augustiner Biergarten advertisement. 
Augustiner beer is still my favorite. :)

Delicious jumbo soft pretzels.  A perfect pairing with an Augustiner. 

After 24 hours in Munich, I hopped back on the train and headed to Zwickau, Germany, a tiny town in former East Germany.  There, I visited friends from Indiana University, Josh and Megan.  Josh sings with the Opera House in Zwickau, and Megan, his girlfriend and also an incredibly talented singer, recently moved over as well.  Megan is teaching English and very quickly learning the German language.  

What a cute couple. :)

The opera house is the red timber-framed building in the background.
At the Easter Market

And Robert Schumann was born HERE!

 I matched the brewery.

The Zwickau Church.  (Can you see tiny little Megan?)
Josh sings here as well, and he was actually getting ready for a performance of the Evangelist in Bach's St. John Passion while I was there.  Also, Mary Ann Hart, Chair of the Voice Department at IU, performed in this church several years ago, and won a Schumann Lied competition here!  Small, small world.

Megan and I took advantage of the gorgeous weather and took a walk around the swan pond.  Zwickau is much more beautiful than people think!

Hey, Schumann.  I like your lieder.

 After two days in Zwickau, I traveled halfway across Germany to visit my German host family in the tiny village of Neuseesen.  I lived with the Rebens for a year when I was 15 years old.  It was one of the most incredible times in my life, and I can honestly say that I wouldn't be sitting here in Vienna if it weren't for this experience.   I became fluent in German during that year, and learned and grew so much.  Looking back, I cannot believe I was only fifteen!  It was so surreal being back; the smells, the sounds, the people, nothing has changed!  Everyone in the village remembered me, and I still felt like part of the family.

I dyed Easter eggs with my host sisters, Frauke (left) and Lena.  

Because my trip was so last-minute, no one other than the Rebens knew I was coming.  

When I lived here as an exchange student, I joined a church choir with other people from the village.  I was the youngest person in the choir then, but these people were so warm and welcoming, and also felt like family to me.  During my visit, I took a walk down the street to see if they were home, and they happened to be sitting out in their garden.  I think it took them a moment to recognize me, but I'm pretty sure I'm the only Amanda they know.  And, well, I haven't really changed much since I was 15!  (This is not my jacket.)

Easter Saturday Breakfast.

Our beautiful eggs!

It's tradition in Germany and Austria to have an Easter Bonfire the night before Easter.  I wasn't able to stay for the fire, but I was at least there for the preparation and had the opportunity say hello to all of the farmers in Neuseesen!

The German way: beer before noon.

Sister photos...

And here we are! Ten years later!
From left: Bernd, Frauke, Me, Lena, Ingrid.

Unfortunately my visit with the Rebens was also a 24-hour whirlwind trip.  Again, though, it's so nice to know that years can go by, but you still feel at home with people with whom you formed such strong bonds.  The Rebens will always feel like my second family, and I'm so thankful for all that they've given me.

On the Saturday afternoon before Easter, I started my long journey from Neuseesen to Upper Austria, to spend the holiday with the Herkners. 

 Searching for Easter eggs and chocolate!

I think they were satisfied.

As a going away/birthday present, the Herkners surprised me with a trip to a Dirndl shop.  It was such a thoughtful gift, and I'm so excited to have my very own dirndl!  I don't know if you remember, but I made a bet with Harald's father that, if I sang an Inviertl Landla Lied, he'd give me a bottle of champagne.  Well, Harald wrote out the dialect for me and I transcribed the yodeling from a CD.  I memorized it and sang it in the Dirndl dress for guests on Easter.  Unfortunately, Harald's father was in the hospital, so I insisted that we take a trip to visit him, and I sang it in the hospital lounge for him and anyone else who may have been listening!  I now have a great big bottle of champagne that I'll open on my last evening in Vienna.

Harald's mom wore her Dirndl on Easter, too! (I didn't keep the shoes.)

Highlights form my Dirndl Photo Shoot...

And finally, here are a few photos from a hike with Irmgard, Oma, and a few of the kids:

Oma and Opa's horse

A rooster roaming the village.

Laura, Alma, Irmgard, Vinzi, Caroline (Oma) 



The house, which can comfortably host eleven guests!

Well, that's all for now.  I hope you've enjoyed my April update.

I hope you all have a wonderful start to the week, and I'll see many of you very soon!  I'll try to update my blog at least one more time before heading back home.  Thank you for all of your encouragement and support during my journey as a singing Au Pair in Vienna!