Monday, September 5, 2011

Ashlin Gunn-Hiking the Austrian Alps, Vienna, Austria

The most memorable experience I had while studying abroad in Vienna, Austria was having the opportunity to celebrate the 85th anniversary of the Astro American Institute of Education, the school where we were studying. We were lucky enough to be a part of the celebration. The last week of the study abroad program we loaded onto a coach bus and headed on an adventure to see Linz, Salzburg and Dorfgastein. Linz and Salzburg were absolutely breathtaking but Dorfgastein really won my heart over. Dorfgastein is a small ski town just outside of Salzburg in the Austrian Alps. With its cozy atmosphere and local customs, Dorfgastein has been able to retain its traditional village character. We stayed in a beautiful pension right in the center of town. Every morning we would wake up and go into the breakfast dining room and enjoy some delicious authentic Austrian food. It typically consisted of coffee, juice, a meat plate, soft boiled eggs, all the bread you could ever dream of, Nutella and yogurt. Oh and the most delightful honey! It was all so yummy.

One experience that I will never forget is when we rode a gondola up to the top of the Austrian Alps. It’s one of the only places in Austria where you can witness a 360 degree view of the Alps. The beauty that was presented to us cannot be put into words.

The adventure really started when we, six girls in the program, attempted to make our way back down. The gondola runs on a funny schedule and we couldn’t communicate with the gondola operator to figure out how to get back down. So, we waited and finally got on but had to get off half way down. We had the option to wait 45 minutes for the next gondola to come or walk the rest of the way down. We decided that it’d be a nice walk down and maybe take us an hour max. By the way, none of us was properly dressed for a hike down the Austrian Alps and we thought it’d be a “nice walk.” Well, really funny. We started down and about 15 minutes into our “walk,” the trail just sort of disappeared. We were walking straight down the Austrian Alps. In attempts to zigzag down the mountain, we came across cows, bulls, cow pies, barb wired fence and rain. At one point we actually just had to sit down and slide through mud and pine needles just to get down to the next flat area. I had never laughed so hard in my entire life. We found hiking sticks and were hunched over like little granny’s grasping as tight as we could to the sticks while slipping and sliding all over the place. Every time we’d find a pathway we’d all cheer and start to follow the dirt way to find it only taking us a few feet. 2 hours and 45 minutes later we had made our way to the bottom. Somehow we were all alive with no broken bones.

We are happy as can be after such a wonderful adventure through the Austrian Alps. Bonding, sliding, granny walking, walking with hands on hips, cow pie stepping and a run in with bulls truly brought us all together. This is an experience that I will remember for the rest of my life and these girls hold a special place in my heart. Who can say, “I have hiked down the Austrian Alps?” I can!

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