DAY 17 – Tuesday, July 9, 2019 – Munich >> Passau >> Scharding
We woke early in the morning. I watched Barbara stress over packing her suitcase. She used Ceil’s scale, but it never got below 50 pounds.
We grabbed a sack breakfast: apple, juice, two rolls, one with meat and one with cheese. We loaded the bus, drove to the airport, and got everyone (except me) checked in.
Vladymir (our original busdriver who returned a few days ago), Vladya, Misa and I left on the bus. Misa put the end of the Sound of Music DVD on again. We arrived at the Regensburg train station about one hour later.
Vladya took me in and helped me get my ticket to Passau. My departure time was about an hour away. Vladya left. I bought a hot chocolate, sat in the café, and texted my arrival time to Anna. Getting a key to use the WC was a challenge.
I started to my gate about 20 minutes early. On my walk to the gate, I realized it was the train to Wien (Vienna) that I’d be taking to the stop in Passau. I confirmed with a random guy that I was correct. He told me that I could also take the train to Munchen (Munich) to get to Passau, but that didn’t make any sense to me – I had left Munich earlier this morning. At the gate, I tried to re-confirm that I was in the right spot with a German woman. She didn’t speak any English, but seemed to be assuring me that I was in the right spot. But, what did she know? Later, I saw people had to redirect her to the location where she was supposed to be.
The Munchen train came first (at exactly the time my train was scheduled to arrive). I resisted boarding and waited ten more minutes for the late Wien train. I managed to get all of my bags hoisted into the train. I took the first seat. I was sitting at a table facing towards the back of the train. I eventually concluded that I was probably sitting in a reserved seat. I asked the ticket man if that was the case; he said it was fine for me to stay there until Passau. It was SO awkward. I was the only person facing the back of the train; everyone else was looking forward – at me. It was very stressful not knowing the system and not understanding the language, even though they repeated most stuff in English (with a very thick German accent it was still difficult for me to understand).
Anna and her mom, Susanna, greeted me at the arrival gate in Passau. It was an overwhelming feeling to see Anna again.
Before I proceed with the story of my European vacation, I’m going to tell you about how I came to meet Anna – this young woman who is beautiful inside and out. In 2012, I was wandering around alone at the International Fest at the Overture Center in Madison, Wisconsin. There were colorful booths filled with amazing artwork, upbeat music, and delicious foods from all over the world. On the second floor, in the back corner, I stumbled upon a plain booth with a few pamphlets manned by a bald, white guy. Such a contrast from the vibrant colors, sounds, and scents surrounding the booth. I assumed the man was just really bad at display design, but in hindsight, maybe that was his schtick. I inquired about the plain booth. Ben explained that he was providing information on the Lion’s International Camp that occurs two weeks every summer. He’s looking for families to host campers from around the world for a few weeks before and/or after the camp. I had always thought about hosting an exchange student, but was deterred by a yearlong commitment. This seemed perfect! Unfortunately, I was going to be in Alaska that summer, so it wouldn’t work. I gave Ben my email address for future years. Sometime after that, my email changed, and I stopped receiving his updates. In 2015, I found some literature or an old email, and I contacted Ben to inquire about the program again. He sent me the dates of the camp and a list of campers who were looking for hosts.
My 23-year old daughter, Lexie, was living at home with me at the time, and since both of my children and I had studied German in high school, I knew I wanted a German speaking girl. I read their bios and chose 19-year old Anna, from Scharding, Austria. Luckily, she chose us, too. Unfortunately, Lexie moved out of my house before Anna arrived in early July 2015.
We laughed so much. Everyone that I introduced her to absolutely loved her. Anna went back to Austria at the end of August. Here I was now – 4 years later – heading to her hometown.
Susanna drove us from Passau, Germany to Scharding, Austria.
Scharding (population 5,000) is located on the Inn River. It is directly across the river from Neuhaus, Germany. According to Eyewitness Travel Austria, Scharding’s best feature is the row of gable-roofed houses it the city center.
Anna informed me that her family is no longer living in the large green house in the city center. They are renting a “cottage” from their friend, Silvio. The cottage is very small, they share a garden, and I will be sleeping at Silvio’s house. Anna had originally planned to have me stay with her grandparents in their beautiful home with a pool, but her uncle unexpectedly came and took the bed in the spare room (while his house is under construction).
We pulled into the driveway. Anna helped me carry my bags into Silvio’s house. Silvio was not home. The interior was very modern. Anna took me upstairs to sparse, but adorable, bedroom where she had placed flowers and delicious chocolates.
We walked across the garden (yard), to the cottage that Anna’s family is renting. It is very cute, but small and kind of dark (except for the sun porch). Susanna had made a delicious apricot cake that we enjoyed on the patio.
Then, we took a walk to the city center. We saw the house they used to live in.
We came back to the cottage and rested in the garden. Anna only stays at the cottage when she has a break from college; otherwise, she lives in an apartment, where she has a large bedroom, in Vienna. Her dad is working in Vienna this week, so we’ll see him in a couple of days when we go to Vienna.
She pointed through the backyards to a house where her aunt and uncle live.
Tomorrow, she has a surprise for me! We’re going to take a helicopter ride over the lake district. I could tell she was so excited; I hoped my fear of flying in small aircraft that I was feeling inside was not showing on the outside.
After a restful afternoon, we walked to Anna’s grandparents’ house and visited with them over a bottle of wine. Frank and Monika were very nice and very funny!
In the evening, back at Anna’s house, we had traditional Austrian tapas. Before heading over to Silvio’s house to settle in for the night, I asked Anna if I should shower at his place in the morning or if I should come over to her house to shower. She said, wherever I feel most comfortable, but she told me that Silvio would be at work by the time I got up, and she assured me that even if he was home he would not walk in the bathroom while I was in there. Ummm . . . did she notice that his bathroom door is clear glass? He doesn’t have to walk in. He can sit on his sofa and have a clear shot through clear glass bathroom door into the clear glass walk-in-shower!
Silvio was still not home. According to Anna, “he’s very sporty.” About an hour after I got into bed, I heard knocking. I feared I may have locked Silvio out. I crept down the open staircase – with no railings on either side. No one was there, but the door was wide open. Did I not secure it correctly? I went back upstairs. I continued to hear noises. I peaked downstairs again, but I never saw Silvio. I continued to hear noises. I texted Anna and asked her is Silvio was home. She said she’d come over to check. While I was waiting for her to come, I got my courage up and went downstairs. All three of us arrived at the door at the same time. I’m not sure who was most startled! After short introductions (in my pajamas), I went back up to bed.
Have you ever hosted an exchange student? What was your experience like?