The Day I Confused The Mountains For the Sky
I believe that more often than not, people’s lives turn out differently than they could ever expect. It is up to each person to decide how to handle the unexpected curve balls which life occasionally throws our way. At 26 years old, my life had changed drastically and I was often stuck wondering what I should be doing with it. The answer came after drinking in a bar one Saturday night with my friend Mell in October of 2013, when she said “Kate, you need to come to Europe with me!”
My answer to my friend turned out to be an equation that changed my life. One Saturday night out with a friend. Two rye and gingers to say yes. Three days to buy my plane ticket to Italy. All of this equaled an instant life changing moment from that day forward.
Two months later, Mell and I boarded a plane with three other friends to Milan Italy. We were spending a few weeks traveling between Italy, Austria and Hungary. Though I wasn’t sure which place I was looking forward to seeing the most, I was very excited for our 7 hour train ride from Venice, Italy to Salzburg, Austria, knowing that I would see “some mountains.”
On December 31st, 2013 we left Venice before the sun had even risen. It was an eerie feeling traveling on the water bus down the canal that early in the morning. Everything was so quiet, and the people, who were on the bus with us couldn’t stop staring at the loud and excited Canadians. We had just spent several amazing days in Venice eating black pasta that made our lips tingle and searching for authentic Italian messenger bags, and now we were off on our next adventure. Being tired from our busy trip hadn’t caught up to us quite yet.
It took us three trains to get to Salzburg, but once we got onto our last (and longest) train ride of the day most of my travel companions had fallen asleep. Only myself and my friend Thomas were able to stay awake as our train barreled through the Austrian country side. I ordered a delicious cappuccino while Thomas sipped on some beer. It was 10 in the morning at this point. Silly Thomas…
When I had long envisioned our train ride to Salzburg, I could never have imagined what we actually saw. Our little, fast moving train zoomed through the Alps, with mountains after mountains on each side of us. These mountains had little villages in between them which seemed to pop up out of our windows every couple of minutes, and every house was painted bright colors and designed so differently from one another. A very different contrast then what Thomas and I were use to back in our hometowns in Ontario. There were so many moments that we would start giggling because we couldn’t get over how happy we were, and there were so many moments where we had to wipe away tears of happiness because we couldn’t contain them anymore. When I look back on my life, I know that this train ride will stick out as one of the most amazing memories I will ever have. It’s a memory that feels as fresh as yesterday.
When we eventually arrived in Salzburg we stayed at Hotel Scherer, which costs us more then all of our previous accommodations combined. However, it was New Years Eve in one of Europe’s most beautiful cities, and it was our only option. After staying in a hostel in Venice for a few days, Hotel Scherer was like a dream. Those pillows. They were also life changing.
As it was New Years Eve, we of course had to celebrate! We went out for dinner at an adorable little pub near our hotel. This was the dinner where I decided to try Schnitzel for the first time, and also shooting a packet of sugar in the hopes of getting more energy. I was getting pretty tired since I didn’t have that nap with the rest of the group.
After dinner we walked into downtown Salzburg for the first time and I immediately fell in love with the city. The winding, cobbled streets felt so authentically European. Thinking back on that walk, I believe that this was the moment I became a traveler for life. As soon as the words “Oh, wow look how weird the sky looks!” came out of me, I realized how beautiful the world really is. That sky I thought I was looking at was actually a mountain and the so called clouds I thought I was looking at, were its snow covered peaks.
The streets in downtown Salzburg were lined with people, many of whom were drinking champagne. It was clear that everyone, including my friends and I, were ready to celebrate the new year and all of its promise together. The entire city seemed to gather at the town square shortly before midnight so my friends and I bought some beer and joined them. As we all counted down to midnight we embraced each other with hugs and love and were on top of the world when the clock struck midnight. It was a foggy evening but still clear enough to see the fireworks exploding over Hohensalzburg Fortress, a medieval structure which towers over the city-centre. While my friends and I noticed that the traditional “Auld Lang Syne” song did not play we were pleasantly surprised when everyone started Waltzing in the street, which I learned later is actually called the Blue Danube Waltz, a tradition in Austria. Those Austrians know how to be romantic.
Our New Years ended like everyone else’s- Dancing and drinking till early into the morning. The next day we all woke up with hangovers, but it didn’t stop us from climbing Kapuzinerberg, a hill located along the eastern bank of Salzach River which overlooks Salzburg. We also took a lift up the side of the mountain to check out Hohensalzburg Fortress in person, where we took amazing photos of the city below and the mountains surrounding us. Out of all the places I have had the good fortune of traveling to, Austria is my favorite. As I have said many times it is beyond gorgeous and the people are friendly and know how to party and love all at the same time- which is really amazing.
I speak from experience when I say that life altering situations often happen when you least expect them. However, while we cannot always control what fate as in store for us, we can choose how we will face our brave new worlds. I have chosen to embrace the chance to live in the moment and I live to make memories. I cannot wait to one day look back on my life and tell my grandchildren about the day that I took a train ride through the Alps and danced the Blue Danube Waltz with thousands of others. If you’re looking to have those memories and stories too, be sure to grab a friend or two, and take a plane to anywhere. I promise that you will not regret it.