Austria, or Österreich as the locals call it, is the land of alps, Apfelstrudel and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. I arrived in this stunning country after a long flight from New Zealand to the bright sun, the temperature warm and a hint of summer in the air. I was in Österreich for a week, initially staying with my dear friend Katie and her family in Kirchberg in Tirol, near the famous resort-town Kitzbühel and then on to Salzburg.
My first impression of Austria was its strikingly beautiful and verdant countryside. The alps are still sprinkled with snow and as it’s high spring, greenery is peaking and blossom is in full swing. As a big fan of blossom and springtime in general, I was in heaven. Words of hope, like “summer is coming” adorned the kitchen walls of a few of the houses I visited and to me this is what spring is all about – hope that the warmth of summer will bring light into lives. Winters are long in this part of the world.
Another observation is that the people in Austria are incredibly sweet. Upon getting off the train, a gentleman carried my luggage and made sure I got to where I needed to be without me lifting a finger. As I’m a bit of a princess, this really did appeal. People were only too willing to help: “You need a place to live in Berlin? I’ll ask my friend”; “You wanna see some sights? I’ll take you to Innsbruck”. Hearts of gold, these Österreicher.
I was lucky enough to take part in an amazing yoga class in Katie’s hometown. The class was led by Tania Wimmer, a New Zealand ex-pat, in her purpose-built yoga studio which has the most amazing view (see above). The class was filled with ex-pats and English-speakers and I was happy to hear that they all spoke very good Denglish. In case you haven’t heard of this language before, it’s a mix of German and English and what my Beau and I speak zu Hause. Tania is everything that you want in a yoga teacher – warm, encouraging, funny and heavily involved with the health and wellbeing of the community. She is also organising the Yoga Festival Kitzbühel in early September, which looks to be a total winner.
Another aspect of life in Austria that I was super pleased about is the abundance of places to kneipp. This is something that is not commonly done or known about in many parts of the world, but is something I’ve been doing for a long time now. The health resort I used to work at in Kaiteriteri, New Zealand, is owned by a Southern German man who knows how good it is to kneipp and has a stream dedicated to kneipping in the middle of the forest.
Kneipp therapy is a form of hydrotherapy that was developed by the Bavarian priest Sebastian Kneipp (1821-1897). Walking barefoot through water or on wet grass, stones, or snow is one of Kneipp’s very effective techniques. The benefits of kneipping include improved circulation, which increases the blood supply to the organs, skin, nerve centres and strengthens the immune system. There are places to kneipp all over this part of the world, particularly in Austria, Switzerland and Bavaria and there is nothing better than a kneipp in the (very) fresh water after a hike in the hills.
When my Beau and I are not living in Europe, we try to live like we are in Europe, so we kneipp as often as we can in summer. This can certainly lead to some strange looks from people and can clear an area pretty quickly. I mean, so what if we’re kneipping in a fountain in the middle of the botanicals? Don’t knock it till you try it, uncivilised folk.
My next stop was Salzburg, which if you’re unfamiliar with its history, is where The Sound of Music was filmed and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791), one of the most influential composers, like ever, was born. Much of my time was spent meandering through this pretty little Stadt, down the narrow, cobbled alleys of the Old Town, soaking up the history with thousands of other tourists. Many a song from The Sound of Music was heard throughout the Old Town and Mirabellgarten, where slightly humiliated-looking tour guides were giving their “original” tours of the city. The Sound of Music equates to big bikkies around here.
Even though the weather was inclement, I loved seeing the beautiful chestnut trees in full bloom, in either pink or white, lining the streets and Salzach river. I also went on a most beautiful walk, from the Festung Hohensalzburg, the massive fortress which towers above the city, along the Mönchsberg to the Museum der Moderne. In the light spring rain, with the chorus of the birds going about their springtime tasks, the dramatic alpine views and enchanting castles along the path, I couldn’t help but feel incredibly free.