The Salzburg Shift

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For the greater portion of my life I have lived in the same place.  We moved once when I was five, but we only moved 4 blocks, and I barely remember my old house.  When I went off to college it was a big shift for me, but it wasn’t hard to adjust because there were plenty of other people who were going through the exact same thing as me. Plus my college town is very similar to my own town, so it wasn’t some big shocking change. Even when I stepped off the plane in Germany to meet up with my study abroad group I didn’t feel like I was doing anything else but going on vacation. We got all settled into our homes in Salzburg, Austria, my roommate, Cheryl, and I decided to opt out of home-stay and chose to live in the dorm, we didn’t think that we would be living together, but she was a lot of fun so I really didn’t care. For the first couple of weeks it just felt like I was on an extended vacation, I mean I only brought what I could pack in my suitcase which wasn’t that much. It was about half way through our time there that I started to feel like Salzburg was MY city. In the middle of our “semester” we had a two week independent travel/study time, actually it was 17 days of us running around Europe and having as much fun as we could possibly have. During this time I was staying up very late, trying to sneak extra bags on to Ryan Air flights, make sure that no one stole all of my things while I slept on overnight trains, walking several miles everyday. Don’t get me wrong, I loved every second of it, even the time I spent sitting in the US Embassy in Florence trying to get an emergency passport for my friend who got her purse stolen on the train. But after two plus weeks, I was really exhausted. So when we finally got back to Salzburg, I was so relieved to just crash on my bed, and I realized, I was home. After this I even started saying “hey I’m gonna go home for a little bit,” and meaning my dorm, and so did everyone else for that matter. It was like this big shift where I knew the city like the back of my hand, I knew which shortcuts were the best, I memorized the bus scheduled, I recognized people, and people recognized me. The ladies at the grocery store, the guy at our favorite sausage cart, the cute starbucks barista that teased me when I went in there, the bar tender who had seen some of my friends and I’s not so graceful nights. But I think the biggest shift was that I wasn’t a tourist anymore. I was actually annoyed with the tourists. The tourists who blocked my way on the bridge and in the street in front of Mozart’s house, the ones who clogged my lane at the grocery store, and the ones who didn’t understand how the buses worked. I used to be one of those confused tourists, but then instead of moving on to my next destination, I stayed. When I left home for college I didn’t cry, when I left college for the summers I didn’t cry, when I left Salzburg I cried. Partially because I was still a little drunk/had the worst hangover and partially because I didn’t know when I was coming back. When I left for college I knew that I would be coming back home, it was only 2 hours away; I knew I would go back to college after the summer was up,  and when I returned it really wouldn’t have changed that much, my friends and family would still be there. But as I sat on the train with my friends and watched that magnificent city disappear into the mountains, I cried, because I knew never again in my life would I be back in that city with those people again, the thousands of pictures I took would be the only reminder of what had happened in this place. And this thought made me very sad. I could go back to Salzburg, I probably will, but it won’t be the same.  The cobble stone streets, the tunnel I walked to school through, the mountians; they will all be there, but when I see them next they won’t be with Cheryl or Haley, John, Allie, Taylor, Becky, Elliot; and it will feel empty. Still to this day, I tear up when I think about those 104 days when I made Salzburg mine. Leaving that Friday morning, I finally felt like I was leaving home.

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