In 2012, I went to Europe for the first time. It was with my orchestra, I play cello and we had the chance through our flourishing music department as well as with our wonder of a music director, lets call him Mr. L. For a week over spring break we planned to play as a group of about 50 instrumentalists in the cities Prague, Vienna, and Salzburg. It was the first time traveling without my parents and across the sea with people I really did not know. I, however, considered this an opportunity to expand my horizons and get out of the mundane Chicago suburbs for a change. I was exited to see historic art and culture, even though at the time I had no idea what it meant to be immersed within that experience; this was my first go at adventure, and I sure found it.
We were coming from Vienna, we left that morning and started to travel West. The Austrian country side is picturesque, it is the sight you see in movies, in fact it really was; we saw the snow covered mountains where the Sound of Music was filmed. When you think of a mountain, it is exactly the picture you would imagine, jagged, grandiose, and in many ways poetic to the fact of the realization that by this time during the trip I knew I had to come back. Maybe not to this exact moment, but I had to come back to experience more of what the world has to offer. I did not know if that was possible at the time, yet it was the wish I made while I was on that traveling bus. We arrived in the town of Mondsee, a bit East of our final destination in Salzburg. It is a page from a storybook. The homes wave in and out on the cobblestoned streets, daisy yellows, rosy pinks, eggshell whites, and baby blues all bordered by brown wood support beams. In the distance I saw homes nestled in the spring, green mountain side just below the reach of snow’s blanket. There is a large green grass field and beyond it a river with a single house across the lake. I could see myself building a house here to grow old some day. Windows encircling the walls, wood and stone from the mountains create the interior design, and a peaked roof line that opened to the sky’s midnight stars. I may have even imagined myself taking early morning strolls to the town square with my dog, assuming I had one, and I would buy fresh apples and jam made from the people I will grow to know neighbors. I can see myself here, it was quiet and peaceful.
A low fog rolled in, and we went a bit further into town. We went to a church that was part of an abbey. It was the place where Maria married Captain von Trapp from the Sound of Music. It was different from the abbey we would later see in Salzburg. This building was from the Renaissance period, with a light yellow stucco exterior and white boarders and detailing. Two towers lined the westwerk (the west facade of a building), leveled to see where the main aisle and side aisles laid respectively, which was traditional for that time in church architecture. The light yellow was very fitting with the town’s color scheme, not too bright, yet soft and it gave a glow to the areas surrounding the structure. I stopped in the gift shop, note that after this trip I learned that gift shops are very over priced and you can get much more authentic collectibles from smaller shops that are not as touristy, I bought my mom a rosary as well as jarred water from the holy fountain in the church. It was not for a religious purpose as much more of a memento for the moment were I felt calm with myself and genuinely happy.
Looking back, this was the first time I would ever imagine myself growing old, peacefully. After I walked out of the church I looked down streets to see people walking around the center markets, the children playing in the field, and people enjoying other people. At the time, I did not think too much of it. If I was on my own and the person I have become today I would have walked around more to see what people enjoyed about this small town. I still sense the euphoria it brought to light for me. A small town in the middle of mountains, it is a bit of a fairy tale; I am not one to plunge into the unrealistic, yet Mondsee made it seem possible to have both simplicity and magic in the same place. It is the closest I have ever been to perfectly peaceful, and I will be back.