Austrian Untour, Summer 2000
by Marianne Gunther, Idyll StaffAustria is great for families...so I took mine!
This year our family decided to combine my work with vacation, so we all went to Austria. When we told our friends what we were doing for vacation, many commented "Oh, you are going to the summer Olympics!" Someone even said "Where is Austria?"
Our children even wondered where we were going. They were not sure they were going to like it since they had never been out of the country. I have been traveling internationally since the age of 16, and I thought it was time for my children to start seeing the world. My husband was in full agreement—Austria would be the first stamp on their passport.
This was my fifth trip to Austria. The best part of this work/vacation was seeing this beautiful country again through the eyes of my 9-year old daughter, 11-year old son, and with my enthusiastic husband, who loves mountains.
I soon discovered that my kids had inherited my wanderlust. No fear of flying or concern about a few delays, just get out the deck of cards. Everyone stayed up all night, unfortunately, on the flight going over. I told them it is referred to as" the pajama flight" since everyone tries to sleep. Not these kids! They were filled with wonder just taking in everything. They passed the time talking, watching movies, eating, listening to instructions in English and other languages... and getting stuck in those little bathrooms!
We stayed in an spacious apartment in the beautiful village of Werfen, about 55 minutes by train south of Salzburg. It was so convenient to have our own apartment. We could travel around all day and then return back to our "home". Sending the kids to the local grocery stores was a good education in everyday math, figuring out prices from dollars to schillings. They helped shop for our meals and make morning runs to bakeries, and they stopped in the post office to ask for stamps for post cards to their friends. The children soon realized how easy it was to communicate in a foreign country. They discovered that a smile is international, and even a few words in German open many doors to newfound friends. We all learned that most people speak some English.
Our discoveries were endless, and our days were filled with town festivals celebrating the harvest, enjoying new foods with locals, and watching the farmers bring the cows down from the mountains after summer grazing. The natural wonders were also awesome— right from our apartment balcony we had a view of the rugged Alps and a castle built in 1077! Austria is so green and clean!
We were only half an hour by car to the lovely city of Mozart's birth, Salzburg. We all remembered that our favorite movie, "The Sound of Music," was set in Austria. My daughter said it was more beautiful than she ever imagined.
For me, some of the best memories come from the people you meet and the relationships you establish on your journeys. Of all things, our 11-year old son Nick found a table tennis store in the small village of Kuchl. The young man who ran the store told us that table tennis is very popular in their village (and very popular with Nick at home) and that he has been playing since he was six years old (around the same age our son started to play). Now he was playing in international tournaments. He told us that the team would be practicing that evening from 5:00 to 8:00 and extended an invitation. Nick and my husband Ed had quite a memorable evening with the table tennis team. Since we've returned from our trip, Nick is looking for tournaments in our area.
The kids learned so much from this first trip to Europe! They even seemed to develop more confidence and people skills. The time was right for them to realize that it is a small world after all. Our daughter Christine bought a souvenir t-shirt that says "There are no kangaroos in Austria." I think all her friends in school know where Austria is now! We are looking forward to our next country to visit...when Mom goes to work overseas.
[Marianne Gunther works with the German, Hapsburg and Austrian Untours.]