Tales from the Crowned Jewels of Europe, Part II

Trip Start Jan 08, 2008
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Trip End May 17, 2008


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Friday, March 28, 2008

This is continued from Part 1 so don't forget to read the first part!

Spontaneous Encounters

I took my Parents to a traditional Austrian winery when we were in Vienna. Despite my knowledge about Viennese customs, my Dad STILL insisted that we ask to be seated as opposed to seating ourselves. This inquiry fortuitously caused us to be sat at the same table with another couple. Sensing that the language barrier may be of concern to my Parents, I immediately told the couple in my best German, "I spreche nur ein bisschen Deutch." The woman in her best English said, "Oh, do you come from Britain or America?"

"America."

"Oh ok, we can be friends then!"

Her husband could understand the following conversation but was too unsure with his English to respond in said language. Throughout our chat, we discovered that she used to live in Vienna but now she lives in Munich. After a long meal, we found out that her flat was on the way to our hotel and we decided to travel together. Even though she grew up in Vienna, I introduced her to the underground public transportation. Before, she had only taken trolleys. She was so excited to practice her English so on the ride home she sat with my parents and suggested I speak only German with her husband. It was a nerve wracking conversation to say the least and he had to repeat himself about 5 times but I think it was a worthy experience. It turns out that this woman, Karin, was an Olympic figure skater for Austria in the 1950's. It wasn't until about 1980 that people stopped recognizing her on the street. So let's recap: I introduced the underground transportation to a native Viennese Olympic champion and spoke German with her husband for about 30 minutes.

Karin and Thomas wrote down their information for me and offered to be a contact if I travel to Munich and my parents offered to show them around Houston when they visit the US. Apparently Thomas is quite taken with the Houston skyline. Who would have thought?


Poorly Translated English

I am constantly amazed by the European's mastery of the English language. They start studying English at 6 years old and continue with English lessons through high school. I'm having more and more German transactions as my German improves but I took my parents to a lot of touristy places that cater to American tourists so everything is in English. I've noticed that although English is a Germanic language, German does not translate well and it provided some entertainment for my Mom and me.

At the Spanish Riding School, the Master of Ceremonies flawlessly switched from German to English between each event. He was even able to make jokes in English which I think is a major sign of fluency. I made a habit of practicing translating his German into English before he did but I was caught of guard at one of his interjections. He was discussing that every performance was unique because you can't predict the behavior of the horses. He masterfully explained this to the German audience and naively translated it into English by saying "Every performance is different because as we all know, horses are human beings too and they have good days and bad days." His point came across quite clearly, but we all had a little chuckle.


Hungarian Rainy Day Blues

The weather throughout the week was not so good. In fact, it was miserable and Budapest's weather was the worst. In rained most of the time we were in Budapest so we occupied ourselves with boat cruises, Hungarian folk shows, and a bus tour. We dreaded every time we had to go outside and the walking distance to the public transportation seemed to get longer with every goose bump. I'm excited that I will be traveling to Budapest again with my Hungarian professor in May so I will experience that beauty that I've heard so much about but haven't yet experienced.


A Comment on Parents

My parents do a great job of letting me know that they are proud of me and that they miss me and I appreciate them for that. This trip made me realize that parents are the same in every country.

The Hungarian folk show consisted of about 12 musicians and 10 dancers. It was a very entertaining show but what entertained me the most was the interaction I witnessed between the leader of the group (the father) and the child violin soloist (the son). As soon as the boy came out on stage the father's eyes lit up with pride. Although their biological relationship wasn't explicitly stated anywhere, the entire audience could tell by their sweet interaction on stage. Every time the son finished a passage, he would turn and look to receive his father's encouraging and proud grin. The father sprung from his chair when the boy was done and clapped louder than anyone in the audience. The father played his violin grinning from ear to ear for the rest of the concert.

Also, when it was time for my Parent's and me to part ways, my observations about parents were further solidified. My Parents insisted that I take a train back to Vienna the night before their flight to Houston left. They wanted to make sure that I was safe and sound in my flat so they didn't have to worry on their plane ride. My imminent departure was very stressful for my Dad because he was uncertain about the Hungarian train station process and was uncomfortable with my "open ticket" which didn't denote a specific time for my train. We ended up arriving at the train station about an hour before the next train and he paced back and forth looking for the gate number to appear on the departure board.

When it was time to head for the gate, we noticed that a ticket controller was checking tickets at the entrance to the platform which meant my parents could not see their little girl actually get on the train. This made them uneasy. My Dad pleaded with the Hungarian ticket controller to enter the platform without a ticket but she couldn't understand his English. "I just want to see my daughter get on the train. I'm not getting on the train." She refused to let them join me until another ticket controller interrupted and simply said, "Oh, Parents!" and let the through. He recognized my Parent's concern with having their youngest daughter depart by herself in this foreign country and he smiled as he made this exception for us. My Parent's got their wish and escorted me to the train and even got onboard and watched me sit down. I told them they had to let me go but it wasn't the easiest of good byes.

This was a nearly perfect trip and I couldn't ask for anymore. Every time I tell someone new that my parents came for Spring Break, they are all very jealous. Studying abroad really makes a student realize how important their parents are. I appreciate mine very much and can't wait to see them again.
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