Skiing in the Austrian Alps.

Our church had a ski retreat this past weekend in Tyrol, Austria, and at the last minute John and I signed up to go. And we were so glad we did; we got to know some more people at our church here, we got some good skiing in, and we enjoyed a weekend away in the gorgeous Pitztal Valley. I get really panicky when I think I might have to share a room with 12 strangers, shower in ten-stall bathrooms, play ice-breaker games all night, and generally be in a non-introvert environment for an entire weekend. But I'm happy to say that this ski retreat was perfect in that it was in no way like that. We had our own room and bathroom (!), not one ice-breaker game was played (hallelujah!), and I felt like there was a great balance of hanging out/talking and quiet time. John could play games to his heart's content, and I could quietly sketch in a corner. I'm embracing my personality more these days...or I'm trying to, at least!

It's hard to be new and to feel like people might mentally check out when you tell them you're only here for a few months. After all, friendships take time to form, and relationships are built on time and trust. We're aching to be a place for an extended period of time, to build long and deep friendships and to strengthen those we already have. And yet here we are in this place for a few months (two more at this point), and we're realizing we have to work with what we've been given for the time we have before us. We won't become best friends with everyone in our church, but we can invest as much as possible in the friendships we do have, right here, right now. And having two, three, four friendships is a wonderful thing, no matter where you are. Who knows how God may use and grow those friendships in the future?

Not your average church retreat spot, right? This was the view from our chalet.

Not your average church retreat spot, right? This was the view from our chalet.

(Some) new friends from church.

(Some) new friends from church.

Here's the million-dollar (or million-Euro) question in the ski lodge restaurant: TAGESHIT? I looked this up in the dictionary, and it apparently doesn't mean anything.  Tag  means "day" and  shit ...well, we all know what that means.  Dayshit ? Hmm? The food was good, regardless! :)

Here's the million-dollar (or million-Euro) question in the ski lodge restaurant: TAGESHIT? I looked this up in the dictionary, and it apparently doesn't mean anything. Tag means "day" and shit...well, we all know what that means. Dayshit? Hmm? The food was good, regardless! :)

Action shot on the 8km sledding course. This was kind of dangerous, considering that I cannot multitask, but I managed not to go off the side of the mountain (which was strangely unprotected by barriers...), so all is well.

Action shot on the 8km sledding course. This was kind of dangerous, considering that I cannot multitask, but I managed not to go off the side of the mountain (which was strangely unprotected by barriers...), so all is well.

A few of my favorite things / Spring break in Austria

Lots of walking, one bus ride, one flight, three train rides, and nine and a half hours of traveling (!) later, we arrived in Salzburg, Austria. Whew. After a long day of travel, we stepped into a comfortable Airbnb (below); it was so dark we couldn't even see the snow-capped mountains until we woke up in the morning. When people think of Austria, Mozart and the Sound of Music probably come to mind immediately. While Mozart was well on display in every gift shop in the city, the Sound of Music was surprisingly under-advertised, which was kind of nice. Our Airbnb host mentioned that the original Von Trapp house was a fifteen minute walk away, so we stopped by it before leaving town (photo below). In a quiet and unassuming neighborhood, it has been turned into a hotel. I got as close as I could to take a picture without being shooed away by management.

We enjoyed two quick days here. I only wish we could have stayed a little bit longer and enjoyed the mountain view on our back deck!

A few of my favorite things about Austria:

1. Where we stayed. This was one of the best Airbnbs that we've stayed in, and the host gave the best recommendation for a local place for breakfast. Which brings me to my second point:

2. Good, hearty food. Ben's Cafe in the morning reminded me why breakfast is such a good meal. (See photo below.) Stieglkeller's in the historic district served up some wonderful dumplings and sauerkraut, kaiserschmarrn (fried pancake with stewed plums = YUM), and fresh radlers (hello light beer with lemon soda!). Zwettler's Stiftskeller near the river (on the old side of town) was cozy and full of Austrian charm; sharing tables with strangers in a packed restaurant is charming, even though smoking is still legal indoors (unlike in Spain, thank goodness) and you are second-hand smoking during the entirety of your meal. Cafe Mozart is touristy, yes, but has good strudel, great service, and a delicious caffe latte to enjoy while writing your postcards and resting your weary feet.

3. Even going to the public bathroom is a pleasure. You know why? Because Austria is CLEAN. I've never seen anything like it (except Germany).

4. People smile. Even though Salzburg is an incredibly touristy city, I was amazed at how friendly everyone was. And how much Austrians smile. Because it is so touristy, waitstaff and people in the city were very accommodating of our very limited German (well, mine is non-existent) and happily spoke English with us.

5. We were mistaken for Germans/Austrians multiple times. You know, until we opened our mouths. It was refreshing to be somewhere where we aren't immediately pegged as gringos. :)

Our Airbnb was the top level of this building. Quiet, bright, and super cozy--we'd highly recommend this property if you find yourself in Salzburg! Type in "Amadeus Is Love" when searching properties in Salzburg on airbnb.com.

Our Airbnb was the top level of this building. Quiet, bright, and super cozy--we'd highly recommend this property if you find yourself in Salzburg! Type in "Amadeus Is Love" when searching properties in Salzburg on airbnb.com.

The view from the porch at the Airbnb. We really couldn't have asked for a better view!

The view from the porch at the Airbnb. We really couldn't have asked for a better view!

The Von Trapp residence, turned hotel.

The Von Trapp residence, turned hotel.

Austrian Breakfast of Champtions: creamy yogurt, chopped fruit, and the best granola I've ever had. My mouth is watering.

Austrian Breakfast of Champtions: creamy yogurt, chopped fruit, and the best granola I've ever had. My mouth is watering.

The fortress atop the city. Take the funicular up to the top for great views and to see inside this city-in-a-fortress that is nearly 2,000 years old. Unsurprisingly, it was never overtaken.

The fortress atop the city. Take the funicular up to the top for great views and to see inside this city-in-a-fortress that is nearly 2,000 years old. Unsurprisingly, it was never overtaken.

Austrian flea markets: your antler and Tyrolean hat supplier.

Austrian flea markets: your antler and Tyrolean hat supplier.

One of the main squares in Salzburg.

One of the main squares in Salzburg.

The Easter markets were out and stocked with hollowed out, painted eggs. 

The Easter markets were out and stocked with hollowed out, painted eggs. 

A bridge over the river with tons of locks.

A bridge over the river with tons of locks.

The side of town opposite the fortress.

The side of town opposite the fortress.

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