Last month I took a break from my usual monthly writing to enjoy a lifelong dream of going to Austria. This trip can almost be called a pilgrimage with the number of churches we visited. Sometimes we visited up to six or seven in a day! I have several dreams for travel and I am knocking them off one by one. I have always considered myself careful with spending money, but I have to balance that with leading a balanced life, and enabling my husband and me to also enjoy our passion for travel. He reminds me that we should travel while we can and while our health allows for it. You never know when changing circumstances can stop you from doing the things you had planned for.
As a musician I had dreams of going to Vienna, Austria, and seeing the streets that the great composers walked. I had seen Amadeus in 1984 as I graduated eighth grade; Mozart is shown giving concerts and leading his tumultuous short life. On my second night in Vienna, we secured concert seats at the nearby Karlskirche, or St. Charles Borromeo. The concert included many famous composers including Bach, Mozart, and Vivaldi. During that first full day in Vienna, we visited the Franciscan church in the old city as well as the famed St. Stephen’s Cathedral, which is one of the tallest churches in the world!
We kept the trip lively and varied. Every day was a new walking adventure or transit adventure. Nothing keeps up my adrenaline more than trying to figure out directions in a foreign country where I don’t speak the language! I figured out (with help) how to make it to the Austrian Alps by train, where we spent the next week. On at least three of these days we took planned hikes. Our first hike, called the Talbachklamm tour, started along the Talbach creek. Walking along this rushing river in the misty grey day and back through meadows and forests was magical. We stayed in the town of Schladming, about 4.5 hours outside of Vienna. It was nowhere near Switzerland, but the homes all looked like the many photos I had seen of Swiss homes, with flowers overflowing from every window and balcony.
Within that week we took a day trip by train to Salzburg, the birthplace of Mozart. We visited many churches there. As a matter of face, Salzburg has earned the name “City of Churches, and the Rome of the North.” There were many choices, but we just wandered around poking our heads into all the churches we came across in our seven-mile walk around the city. Here are a few that we saw.
Collegiate Church (University Church)
St. Mark’s Church near the Klaus Gate at the foot of the Mönchsberg
Late Gothic Mülln Church (“Müllner Kirche”)
St. Sebastian’s Cemetery
St. Andrew’s Church
Dreifaltigkeitskirche (Holy Trinity Church)
St. Blasius Church
Our trip to the Alps had many days of rain. The good news is that I got to witness a rainbow on my last full day, and got the see snow on the Alps! Instead of the day trip I had planned to Halstatt, we went on a long hike in the rain. We got to walk through pastures filled with horses and cows. We saw the local villages in the mountains with houses overflowing with flowers, and just enjoyed the peaceful view of snow capped Alps. On one of the days we hiked Riesachfälle, which consists of two large waterfalls, lower and upper. Included on that hike was a metal suspension bridge. I decided on this hike specifically for the shock and adrenaline value for my husband. It was definitely worth the planning to make it happen. The bus ride to get there was jam-packed with hikers all going to the same place.
After the falls hike, we took the Wild Waters theme trail for a few miles. This trail has earned the title “National Geographic hiking trail.” The photography opportunities are truly limitless as you meander along the river between the mountains in the mist. Waterfalls are truly everywhere. It was almost impossible to choose which photos to share in this article. When we had had enough walking we stopped to eat our PB&J sandwiches and waited for the bus. While waiting we had the pleasure to witness an authentic wedding tradition. The bride and groom stood outside the tavern while accordion music played, and both sawed a log. She was in a wedding gown and he in lederhosen. They took a drink, listened to a toast, and then back to sawing the log, all to the cheering wedding crowd.
While on our trip, it was inevitable that I would get some family drama news that sent me into a tailspin. While I didn’t quite know what to make of the news, I still let affect my stay for a short time. However, I prayed about this, and decided that I would not let it spoil my perfectly wonderful trip, and instead went for a hike. When my spirits had lifted from the absolute beauty of the area, my wonderful companion and I spotted a rainbow. I tried to capture the rainbow at every turn. I was hoping it would stick around long enough to get a good photograph of it. It was a faint rainbow. It took us nearly 45 minutes to get back to our hotel after spotting it. After that long hike my husband took a nap, and I took a shower. When I got out and went to the balcony it was still there. Later when my husband got up from his nap and had some coffee, it was still there! This rainbow literally stuck around for at least three hours! I believe it was again a sign from God of His everlasting faithfulness and a special gift as I was trusting Him and not letting the situation rob my joy.
The next day we headed back to Vienna for a final four days. We spent one day traveling on the train back to Vienna and seeing the Alps once again. We spent the following three days seeing the Churches and Palaces of Old Vienna. It’s amazing that the Catholic church is so rich in heritage and diversity. Within a two-mile radius We saw a Benedictine church, Jesuit Church, Dominican Church, Franciscan Church, Maltese Church, Russian Orthodox, as well as a variety of minor basilicas and a Cathedral.
Out of all the many gifts of beauty I received on this trip, one of the best ones happened while viewing the Benedictine Minor Basilica. While in the vestibule, the organist came to practice. We had the privilege of a private Bach Pipe Organ concert in an otherwise silent church. As a young child, Bach’s pipe organ music inspired me to become a musician. I was able to record the majority of the organ solo to post on social media and have already enjoyed it several times already.
I am grateful for so many precious memories and a true gift to see the world with my husband one bit at a time. Even so, a trip like this can push your comfort zones. Pushing comfort zones comes in a variety of forms and allows for personal growth. It can be in the form of spending 24/7 with a spouse for 2 weeks. It can be learning to compromise with your spouse when you have different preferences in food, culture, and entertainment forms. It can be stretching your understanding of a different lifestyle in a different country, learning the way others eat, use transit, worship, and relate to visitors.
As adults, we know that vacations can be sensory challenging, expensive, and stressful in some ways, and yet rewarding in so many other ways that you would never miss the chance to experience all of it. I will never forget this amazing adventure.
Copyright 2019 Marya Hayes