Guten Tag! Today I actually arrived in Austria! Tonight will be my first night in my host family's house, and they are wonderful. There names are Margot and Gerhard Nagele, and they are an older couple who's kids are out of school and living in Vienna. Their son works at the University, doing engineering research and earning his doctorate, while their daughter has a degree in economics and works for a large bank in Vienna.
Gerhard picked Ruby (another girl from the program that is also living here-but in a different room) and me up right after we arrived in Salzburg. They live on the north side of town, and their house is really quite charming. They also have a cat, named Enzo (christened after the creator of the Ferrari) who is an older tiger. My designs are to befriend him, and he will have to be the proxy for our sieben Katzen in South Portland. They fed us a wonderful meal of salad and pasta (Ruby and I are both vegetarians-these poor Austrians!) followed by apple and plum cake. Plum cake tastes a lot like rhubarb! I tried conveying this discovery, but I don't think they got it. They do speak very good English, though, but I hope to soon be speaking mostly German around them. Tonight they watched the Austrian equivalent of Lawrence Whelk/a PBS concert before going to bed.
So! It has been several days since I posted, but now that I am here with the convenience of a wireless network at my disposal, I shall keep you all informed. The rest of the field trip has been very busy.
On the second, we managed to hit three towns for a brief visit in each. The first was Bonn, where we stopped at the Geschicter Museum to learn about Germany's history in relation to the Berlin Wall's erection and destruction. It is a very new museum, chocked full of snazzy exhibits and artifacts from the times. We got to see handmade goods that the people improvised with once the war was over, Konrad Adenauer's car (he was the first Chancellor of West Germany), slices of the Berlin Wall, and learned a great deal about the differences between the two states. West Germany was the capitalist state after the war, and was able to make an economic recovery due to the introduction of the Deutschmark. Meanwhile, East Germany was a socialist state that worked it's people hard, and was very resistant to the capitalist West. But, they had certain aspects of gender equality long before West Germany. Eventually the two reconciled, and apparently Berlin is still in the economic after shock.
Next was Worms, which was a center of Jewish culture in the Medieval Ages through today. We began our tour on the Judenstrasse (Jewish Street) at the old Synagogue. Like Cologne, much of Worms was rebuilt after the war, and the Synagogue was no exception. In fact, it had been destroyed several times (basically whenever the people most recently felt like expelling the Jews). Next to the Synagogue was the Mikveh; a purifying spiritual bath underground. After entering a graveyard, giving birth, and a few other events, it is tradition to be washed with flowing water to cleanse the soul. It looked cold. We made our way through the city, passing a monument dedicated to Martin Luther, who began the Reformation in Worms. Then we came to the oldest Jewish cemetery in Europe, and I was able to reveal my inner Trekkie.
The cemetery was beyond the original city wall, as by tradition, and contained a tombstone nearly a thousand years old! But there were some more recent ones, and on of them featured two hands making a gesture known to us all as the Vulcan symbol of "Live long and Prosper". Of course, as all good Trekkie's know (shout out to Amanda Pratt and my mom), Leonard Nimoy took this gesture from a Jewish prayer that you're not actually supposed to watch, lest the light of God blind you. But, it is part of a blessing, and the hands actually form the shape of a Jewish letter, which I felt very clever and extremely dorky in explaining to the tour guide and other members of the group. Go Spock.
After our foray into Jewish History, we hopped back on to the bus (driven by the steadfast Eddie) to head to Heidelberg for the night. This lead to an ordeal, as dinner was on our own, and therefore the various individuals in our group had to navigate a bus system to the downtown of Heidelberg and then the eventual choosing of a restaurant, acting like completely obnoxious tourists along the way. But, we endured, and Julia, Julie, Laura and I from the group slip off to form our own faction and found a nice Italian restaurant, where I had a delicious plate of gnocchi. Then we took a turn about the old city, and retired in the hostel for the evening. So, that was Thursday.