Updated: Apr 9, 2018
18 May, 2016
So away we flew on the wings of the Qantas Swan, and I knew the second that the plane lifted off the ground that my world at 24 Brentwood Drive would never be the same.
It took such a long time to get anywhere, first stop was Singapore airport and even in 1980 so very, very long ago I can remember the immense heat as we stepped from the plane, it was like a wall of fire hitting you in the face and exploding on your body. I can remember being immersed in the beauty of the orchards and the strange smells of such a magical place (and we didn't even leave the airport). from there to Bahrain and Damascus where we weren't allowed off the plane and there were army and police on the tarmac holding machines, so strange for a ten year old from middle class Glen Waverley. What strange and exotic lands these must all be, this was further enhanced when we flew over the deserts and could see the fires of the oil wells burning in the night. Eventually, after throwing up after eating dark chocolate (still can't eat it) we arrived at Frankfurt airport and now the other part of our journey started. A train ride to the city then panic as dad had 6 minutes to move 4 suitcases from one train to the other and mum dragged me and my 6 year old brother. With seconds to spare we boarded the train bound for Linz, Austria. I remember the different country side, the rivers, the villages and having no food, in the rush to get the other train we didn't stop to get anything, a kind older couple gave me and my brother an apple. I was mesmerized and this continued for the whole 6 weeks we were there.
Arriving at Linz train station, I remember my emotions of meeting family for the first time, older cousins and an uncle and aunt (that had the same name as me), but what I cant imagine is how my dad was feeling he hadn't seen his parents since their earlier trip and his sister for many years and had never met his nephews. The world was a much bigger place then - no Facebook, SMS messages, emails, Skype or Facetime. Letters were rare and calls even rarer.
Arriving at the station everyone was there it was a rush of tears, embraces and my Australian aunt (who married dads brother) stating we must be bloody tired (guess she was glad to talk to those who understood her slang). We then drove the 30 minutes to St Valentin a town over the years that I fell is a little piece of me and going there when travelling feels like arriving home.
The six weeks was filled with so much - touring Austria and almost going to Italy, how fascinating that you could be in one country and then another in such a short time, we can see another country and then go to another. Salzburg where the Sound of Music was from a movie that at 10 I already knew well. Going to Germany meeting more family and their house where I was scared to touch anything as it was all antiques. Meeting family friends that are now like seeing family when I go back there and of course enjoying many schnitzels. I dont actually remember eating anything other than - schnitzels, chips, kartoffelpulfer (correct spelling I am not sure) and potato salad just like dad made it.
I remember being taken to an English lesson at the local primary school and a teacher yelling at me that I had walked up the wrong side of the stairs. How was I to know I had never even known there was schools with two stories before then. Even if I did I would have walked on the wrong side anyway.
Suddenly I had a bigger family, an Oma and Opa that spoilt me and my brother, and cousins how wonderful was that, they were my only ones for such a long time.
And there is snow, a cold fairy floss that you can jump in and you actually sink, not like sand as I envisaged, so in I jumped and ended up up to my waist,enjoyed it for a short time and then was cold and freezing the rest of the day.
Austria is like a picture on a chocolate box - villages with houses with flower boxes, castles that are everywhere, ruins that are older than anything I could ever imagine, different smells and amazing churches and monasteries that took years to build and paint the amazing angelic scenes on the ceilings. E'en the cemeteries are a sacred and beautiful place where the dead are commemorated and cherished its not a forgotten place like many cemeteries here where you only visit occasionally. This was also the trip that I learnt how big the world was and how the joy of a holiday where my world was forever opened also means that at the end you have to say the sad goodbyes that mean again you will be parted by many, many oceans and lands so different from our own.