It’s been 6 wonderful days since our arrival in Salzburg. As I’m writing this, I’m sitting in the lovely Café Tomaselli, a well-known café in the heart of Old City, and am devouring a creamy iced coffee and delicious slice of chocolate cake—eat your heart out Dunkin Donuts.
As I reflect on our adventures, encounters, and occasional blunders, it blows my mind that our group of Mounties has only been here for 6 days. Today was my first solo exploring session around the Old City, and I was amazed of how well I knew the in-and-outs of Salzburg without having to fiddle with my GPS. Not even a week ago, I was walking around dumbfounded by the seemingly endless cobblestone streets of Salzburg, and I refused to walk even a foot away from the group like a good tourist. But besides my theory that I lived in Salzburg in a previous life, I can only think of one reason why Salzburg is beginning to feel like home, and that is the warmth of the Austrian people.
As a general rule, the Austrians are incredibly kind and accommodating, but if you’ve traveled to a country where the spoken language is different than your own, then you know that speaking with a local can be a frightening experience. While the majority of Austrians and Germans do speak English, the intimidation still lingers. However, that quickly goes away once you start talking with them, as they are usually patient and kind and genuinely seem to be interested in the conversation.
Something that I believe attests to this warmth is simply the traditional Austrian greeting, Grüß Gott, which translates to “God be with you.” Nine out of 10 times, this is the greeting you will receive when talking to an Austrian. I would assume that this greeting can be linked to Austria’s long-standing connection to the Catholic Church, even though present day Austria is somewhat religiously diverse. To me, these words hold more goodwill than a simple hello, regardless differing religious beliefs. While the phrase Grüß Gott is obviously tied to the country’s Catholic history, I believe this phrase goes beyond the Catholic tradition and is indicative of modern Austrian’s kindhearted nature.
We certainly have been saved by the kindness that we’ve seen so far. While a group of us were exploring the lake town Königsee, we missed the last bus to get to the train back to Salzburg. As you can imagine, we were all slightly terrified that we would be sleeping in Königsee that night. But, through the help of a local, we were able to get taxis to the train station and return home. This man did not speak English and had no real reason to stay and help a group of stranded American tourists, yet he did without question and expected nothing in return.
Upon reflecting on that whole situation, the parable of the Good Samaritan comes to mind. As our group continues to travel Austria, I’m sure that we will encounter many more Samaritans along the way, as God is truly with the Austrians. Gruß Gott!
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