I’m sitting in the kitchen, listening to Mozart chamber music, drinking root beer (thanks to the American friend who can get such treats at the UN store), and ignoring the fact that I should be getting some sleep before a 6:30 a.m. train to Innsbruck. The past few weeks have so FULL, this is could get long, but I’ll stick to a summary — piano recitals, the end of school, friends Matt and Kathleen coming, a trip to Prague (not in that order).
Thursday (yesterday, if I can manage to post this before midnight) I said good-bye to my Russian friend and fellow TA Alexandra. She’s heading to Ireland next fall for an Irish dance study program, but I’m hoping we can meet up again here in Austria or in Russia or the U.S. I will miss her a lot next year at Keimgasse — always ready for a chat between classes, full of funny stories, and game for outings to the opera or ballet.
Wednesday was my last official day at school for the year. The morning starting out with a visit to the visa office (after all my flurry, frustration, and tears collecting paperwork, I was told I had come too early — try again in a few weeks). Never mind. It was a beautiful day, and the morning at school seemed really special. I won’t be at Bachgasse next year, so there were last lessons to teach, keys to turn in, secretary and director to thank, and good-byes to be said. Even though teachers are still in the midst of the busyness of the end of the year (a month to go for them), there were snippets of time to talk and requests to get together over the summer, which meant a lot. After having written 20 plus card to teachers in both school in 24 hours, I realized I’ve gotten acquainted with so many people. And, the school year has gone so quickly! …After school at Bachgasse, I headed over the other school for more sort-of good-byes (hurray for being back next year) and leisurely chatting before a rehearsal with one of the music teachers for a violin-piano piece we’re contributing to the school soirée next week.
Backing up, the main event of the past two or so weeks has been a visit with friends from home! Kathleen and I met at grad school and played several cell0-piano duo concerts in Knoxville, and we’ve talked for months about meeting here. She arrived just in time to get thrown into my trying to pull off two Klassenabend performances (which meant graciously traipsing along and putting up with my stress level). If having company arrive on Wednesday and participating in two recitals on Thursday wasn’t enough, we added a bus trip on Friday to Prague for the weekend!
How does one describe Prague? It’s awfully full of tourists (note: we don’t like to include ourselves in that hoard, do we?), but there’s good reason. I’ll let pictures do the talking, adding only that highlights included probably the best conversation I’ve had in months, the treat of a morning jog and later that day a private guided tour through parts of the old town (thanks, Kathleen, for prompting both things!), and a lovely breakfast at the Café Louvre.
Also wonderful was a day trip to the town of Kutna Hora (absolutely grand cathedral, charming views, interesting medieval silver mine). The Czech Republic has a really different feel, even if Vienna is actually east of Prague. Notice our “local train” from one end of Kutna Hora to the main train station; these little guys were hanging out at the train stop.
Back in Vienna, Kathleen and I have continued in tourist mode (well, amidst school and uni and visa stuff for me and some music rehearsal for both of us). …Mid-week, my head teacher at Bachgasse took us on a stroll in the woods surrounding Mödling; I felt like I got a whole new view of where I’ve worked all year — and I hope I can explore more.
…Friday (much of the day “wasted” day on visa paperwork) was redeemed by a full evening of the Lange Nacht der Kirchen (Long Night of Churches). The booklet of places to visit for talks, concerts, tours, etc., was way longer than the booklet for the museums night; so we didn’t have any trouble staying out from 6:00 to midnight. The festivities began with a slack-line walker balancing above Stephansdom, although the highlights for us were (literally) climbing the 300 plus spiral stairs to the top of the tower and hearing two marvelous concerts in the chapel of the Hofburg. The group of eight singers formerly part of the Vienna Boys Choir was great, and the Baroque chamber ensemble was the sort of enchanting, joy-producing music you only hear once in a very long time.
…Sunday, Kathleen’s husband Matt joined us here, overcoming jet-lag to enjoy a very chilly picnic in Schönbrunn gardens, church, and a round-about walk home. They headed to Venice on Monday, and I’ve spent the week tying up things at school and thinking about moving out (I’m house-sitting for the summer and making space here for a sub-renter).
Now, to the present. After weeks and weeks of mulling over hiking ideas, our hut-to-hut plan for early June has fallen flat. It’s rainy and cold in much of Austria, and some places in the Alps have fresh snow. Nevertheless, I’ll catch an early train to Innsbruck, where Matt and Kathleen will meet me. We’ll brave the elements and take short hike to a hut for one night. Sounds like we’ll be the only guests, so I’m looking forward to getting acquainted with our Austrian hosts. With a copy of Three Men in a Boat, a deck of cards, and friends to chat with, we should be warmed sufficiently to dive into bed in the unheated rooms. (Kathleen, if you’re reading this tonight, don’t be mad I didn’t tell you the rooms aren’t heated.)
We’ll see what unfolds from there. With a hostel booked for Sunday night in Innsbruck and a rental car, we’ll do some exploring and head home to Vienna in time for me to start my dog-sitting duties Tuesday morning and for Matt to attend the work conference that helped bring him over to Europe.
Schönes Wochenende! (Have a great weekend!)