"Down here at Cape Spartel is the celebrated cave of Hercules, where the hero took refuge when he was vanquished and driven out of the Tangier country. It is full of inscriptions in the dead languages, which fact makes me think Hercules could not have traveled much, else he would not have kept a journal."

-"The Innocents Abroad," Mark Twain

Sunday, August 28, 2011

It's been too long.

Where do I begin? And how? I apologize for starting this and not adding to it; I have been at camp for the past two weeks. The lovely people there pulled out our brains, washed them, rung the water out, and hung them out to dry so that we could all mock each other as we watched to see whose mind would deteriorate the fastest. (So, as you read this, please excuse the grammar. And spelling. And word choice. Just try to stick to the general idea. Maybe.)

Thanks to everyone who has updated me about the weather situations back in the US. It's good to know that everyone is safe and can (possibly) continue to survive without power.

Yes. Language camp. I met some really sweet people and we had so much fun between class! We stayed about 45 minutes from my home town by Traunsee (the deepest lake in Austria), right next to a castle:


Our first weekend there, we hiked up a mountain. (They told us it would be a short walk, but it was muddy and a bit warm, as well as much steeper than the Appalachians.) The view was absolutely astounding, though! That evening, my host parents came to pick me up and took my host sister and I to a concert - part of the Salzburg Festival. (I KNOW. I WAS SO EXCITED!) We heard the Gustav Mahler Jugenorchester - directed by Sir Colin Davis, the President of the London Symphony Orchestra (!). The performers were quite good, obviously. I was not familiar with any of the pieces they performed, but they were very difficult. The second featured an opera singer and was done in French. Tschaikowski's Symphony No. 4 in F Minor op. 36 was the final piece, with the third movement entirely pizzicato, which was stunning. The fifth stand on the outside in the first violin section was quite amusing to watch throughout the whole performance. They would go back and forth trying to outdo each other with the theatrical movements and seemed to have several inside jokes during parts of the pieces. Unfortunately, I could not see the violists from where I was sitting, but the first cellist was so good! He looked like a proper European, too, which added so much character to the performance. Afterwards, my host parents came and took us around Salzburg briefly before we headed back to our house. I was able to sleep in a little bit before heading back to camp for the day's activities, which was refreshing.

We went into a salt mine (it's either the oldest mine in the world or the oldest mine in the world that is still in use), where it was very cold despite the heat outside! (Yes, we have had several very hot days here to balance out the cold ones.) It was fascinating (and a bit creepy) to see the interior before we headed out into the town for the remainder of the day.

We got to wear the most beautiful clothing in the mines...
and look at the huge chunks that were on display!

We walked to the next town over one afternoon after class where there was a pottery  market!

Today, we said goodbye and drove home. I went with my family to visit some of their friends and ended up meeting some really amazing artists! I couldn't resist taking some pictures of their studio (which is actually about 500 years old) that they had renovated themselves:

Miss you and hope you all are well!
<3, Mary Beth

P.S. In case you are wondering, we did actually learn things throughout camp, complete with homework and tests. :)

Thursday, August 11, 2011

And now my fingers are purple.

I hope that you are all enjoying the heat. Today began with a temperature of 10 degrees Celsius, and warmed up a little bit as the day progressed and sun came out. After I woke up at 4:30 in the morning on Tuesday (was it really only two days ago?), I was able to get on my flight to Frankfurt, and after a general amount of confusion, on a train to Salzburg. Currently, I am in the most beautiful small town in the world (quaint, but not elegant like Luxembourg). Yesterday was spent in a state of exhaustion, and I cannot say too much about it other than I unpacked and now cannot remember where I put everything, practiced, saw the town and some of its people, and spoke English.

Today, my host mother and I ran some more errands by bicycle before meeting her friend. The three of us then went up into the mountains (we are in the valley) to pick blueberries! At first, there was some confusion, as the German word for blueberry is Schwarzbeere - Schwarz meaning black. It was difficult to find them; they are spread out over a large area and close to the ground, unlike the cultivated bushes of the US. The result was purple fingers - which will, I am told, be cured by lemon juice. While up in the mountains, we also picked mushrooms, which are in season here (almost as a sport) and have many enthusiastic participants. There are so many different varieties, but my host mother seems to know every one! Gardening, by the way, is also part of the way of life - everyone has one and uses it regularly.

I will not say too much about my host family, but they are the most sweet and helpful people! My host sister will be turning 15 soon, my father works in Salzburg, and my mother is a very good cook. All speak French fluently and very good English, in addition to German.

Guten Nacht!
Mary Beth

Monday, August 8, 2011

I'm not even there yet...

You'll never guess where I am. Why am I typing? I should be on a plane over the ocean right now. HOWEVER, I had a hard time deciding on which pairs of shoes to bring, decided I could not part with any of them, and ended up rebooking to give myself the time to pack and ship them all ahead of me.

Seriously. My flight was supposed to be departing for Frankfurt at 7:30 in the evening, was bumped to 11:30, and is, as of now, leaving for the good of all other students in my school, at 8AM tomorrow. The air traffic controllers (almost) went on strike in Germany. Where does that leave me? In a hotel. Without my main suitcases. In New Jersey. I've only been here once; needless to say, it was by accident the first time, also.

This still poses one problem: I need to get to Salzburg. Hopefully, upon arriving in Frankfurt, I will be able to adjust my flights so that I will not be stuck overnight in Germany, as well.

What a way to begin. And I didn't even get to finish my library book before I left. On the bright side, I have my violin, they gave me vouchers to buy food tomorrow, and I am STILL GOING TO AUSTRIA!

<3 always,
Mary Beth

P.S.If you want to know about the strike: