A Long Ovedue Post

I think you can probably relate. Sometimes life just goes a bit South and there is something you have been meaning to do, want to do, but it just doesn’t happen. There isn’t really any explanation…’no time’ just¬† doesn’t cut it. But that creative energy that it takes me to write, even a simple blog post, sometimes just seems to seep away. (I really wish it would leave a forwarding address, but no; I just have to wait for it to return from whatever excursion it decided to go on.) I managed to pull it together for Annie’s birthday, but there hasn’t been much action before or since that. I am getting on track again (at least for the time being) and really want to capture a visit from a good friend, so I’m taking you all back, way back, to several weeks ago when I could still take shots of snow.

My lifelong friend, Shannon, and I were best buddies down at West Hawk Lake where our families both had cottages. The summers of my childhood spent in the Canadian Shield were almost idyllic, with constant swimming, water skiing, boating, sailing, visiting with friends and even cliff jumping! Ah, youth.

Shannon was in Europe at the end of April as she was attending a wedding of a friend from her time working in the U.K. She only spent a few days in London, though, and I was thrilled when she decided to spend the majority of her trip with us in Austria.

Shannon and me on our balcony

Shannon and me on the balcony

Of course, we talked and talked. I really do miss having long conversations in-person with native English speakers as well as long-time friends. It is just different and fills a place in my soul that nothing else can.¬† Unless a actually live in an English-speaking country for an extended period, like Markus did, the nuances of the language are just not there for non-native speakers, and makes whatever you are talking about less interesting and more difficult to express. I’m sure the people I interact with here find it to be the same when I am using my mangled German.

It is so fun to show friends the city where you live when you reside in a beautiful part of the world. I always enjoyed that in lovely Victoria as well. We walked around the old town (1o months and counting and still every time I walk amongst those 800-year old buildings I think, “I live here??!!”) and ate at some of the great, simple restaurants, cafes and bakeries.

And of course, life goes on with a busy family of a teenage and a toddler, but Shannon joined right in and even graciously shot some photos.

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No teenagers were hurt in the shooting of this photo

No teenagers were harmed in the shooting of this photo

The inevitable playground time regardless of who is visiting.

The inevitable playground time regardless of who is visiting.

But there were definitely adventures. Shannon, who took full advantage of the mountains when she lived in Europe, did manage to get in a morning of figle skiing (short metal skis used in springtime…no poles) with Markus. I think they had a blast, although there were some nerve wracking moments from all accounts (and facial expressions.)

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Our big adventure together was taking the train to Salzburg. I’ve been there before with friends Ryan and Renata, and managed to, yet again, choose a day that was pouring rain and cold. Oh well. We did see a fairly different side to the city than the first time I was there, so that was great for me. I actually thought that Salzburg was a bit deary, but as we walked along the river this time the buildings we saw were gorgeous. Large and colourful and beautifully designed.

On our walk from the train station into town we checked out the intricate gardens at Schloss Mirabell. Even in the rain they were impressive. I ripped this pic from wikipedia…weird how it looks overcast as well. (It is better larger, so I suggest clicking on the image.)

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Instead of visiting the inner city castle, Hoshensalzburg, we decided to trek out to Helbrunn Palace. And I do mean trek. We were using a small tourist map as navigation, and it looked very walkable from the inner city. Well, not so much. After about half an hour we were looking around us feeling a bit lost when a nice passerby asked if we needed help. I was quite proud that my German was up to asking for and receiving directions, although it was clear that we would be walking for at least another 40 minutes to get there. In the rain. Oh well…we were this far along, so might as well go for it. It actually was an interesting journey down a country lane lined with fields, trees and the occasional turn of the century buildings (the other century.)

Once we arrived at the palace we were told that we needed to join a guided tour to go through the fountains, so we looked in the small palace while we waited. Built in the 1600’s, Hellbrun was strictly a day palace for royalty coming out from the city, therefore no bedrooms. The main attraction of the area is beautiful natural springs that a frisky and obviously humorous Prince-Archbishop Markus Sittikus von Hohenems employed to construct an intricate system of trick fountains. Using detailed architecture, guests would be drawn into an area, grotto or garden, and then the Prince would activate a switch to soak everyone. For example, while dining guest would all of a sudden have a very wet bottom. Oh, those rascally royals.

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One of the most impressive features to me was the mechanical theatre, with 200 water-driven figures depicting the life of a small Baroque city. Unbelievable when you realize there are no computers and all movement of the tiny villagers is driven by the flow of water.

But truly one of the nicest things about being with visitors in this part of the world is just enjoying the beautiful scenery and mountains. Shannon commented that it was like a postcard everywhere you looked. A giant movie set blue-screen follows you around on which is constantly projected images of snow-peaked mountains, wildflowers, roaming cows and hillside chalets.

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The fresh air always wears her out.

The fresh air always wears her out.

Shannon’s visit was wonderful and way too short. Luckily I’ll see her in the summer when Annie and I head back to Manitoba to enjoy a few weeks at the lake.

And we have more Canadian visitors coming in August to keep me sane; I will commit to being a bit more timely about that post.

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