After a couple days of getting Jack situated in his new digs in Wiener Neustadt, we had some time for sightseeing. We’d contacted Hanna, a former exchange student who lives with her family in nearby Baden bei Wien, a spa town famous for its hot springs. Baden is a short train ride from Wr. Neustadt, and Hanna met us at the station to take us to her home for lunch with her mother, Monika.
Afterwards we took a walking tour through town, and Monika pointed out the sights. It had been really warm in Austria since we arrived. It was a relief to have some cloud cover and cooler temperatures.
Baden is the premier resort town of Austria, surrounded by forested hills. It’s historically known for being the favored retreat of Austrian emperors and famous composers. During the summer it hosts Europe’s largest outdoor photography exhibit. The theme this year is “I love Africa,” and we strolled through photos displays of wildlife and people from a different continent.
The town has a very upscale but relaxed vibe. It felt a lot to me like our own Sun Valley, only less cowboy and more Mozart.
I don’t ever remember being that little girl who envisions her wedding. I don’t remember setting any particular expectations of parenthood, or thinking about what my first house might look like.
There is one little daydream I have long entertained, though, without really ever thinking about it: that of our kids going to the same university their dad and I were attending when we started dating.
Since the boys were little, we’ve been taking the six-hour drive North to Moscow, Idaho, for a football game every fall as often as possible. There were years we couldn’t make the time, or waited too long to get a hotel room, but there was a while when we made it a regular habit.
We joked about indoctrinating our kids as future Vandals. We bought all the swag, we took tours through living groups, we showed them where we’d lived and hung out. They dug it. And who wouldn’t? The Palouse is ridiculously gorgeous in the fall when we would visit, and the 130 year-old campus is the picture of time-honored tradition, with cobblestone lanes weaving through stately brick buildings. I’m sure most of it doesn’t look much different from when my grandparents attended in the 1920s.
My dad liked to tell a story about a conversation he’d had with a colleague, maybe an intern or some other young employee, about how time passes faster every year the older you get.
“Well, the years must just be whipping by for you, then,” this person pointed out, a statement my dad found particularly adroit, and enjoyed sharing with us a number of times over the years.
I usually think about that “whipping by” sentiment this time of year, when I realize summer has snuck up on us again, leaving me totally unprepared for weeks of juggling family activity and working from home, and I’m on the edge of frantic all the time when I’d much rather be taking some time to enjoy the season.
In fact, I think shared that little anecdote about my dad in an earlier post, so apparently, I’m at the age where not only are the years whipping by, but my memory regularly takes a powder as well.
I’ll just warn you, I don’t think things are going to improve.
Anyway … that’s not the point of this blog. The point is: it’s summer. Already. And while we don’t have any big trips planned, we will be having company. Jack’s invited a friend to visit from Denmark. He’ll be staying with us a little less than a month, which is just about the perfect amount of time to share a summer sampling of my awesome hometown. Here’s a little list of ten very Boise (and close to Boise) things we’ll be doing with our out-of-town guests this summer:
“I’m a weed detector,” Jack said as a distinctive acrid aroma filled the foyer. From the living room we heard the front door open and then close not one second later, followed by a chorus of giggles.
Apparently our Weed Detector had been successful in locating the enjoyer of said aromatic herb, standing in her own little fog on the front porch about five feet away from our entry.
I don’t know if most towns would appreciate a travel blog starting out with an anecdote about pot, but if you’re planning a trip to Seattle with adolescents, it’s probably helpful to come to grips from the outset with the fact that that Seattle is one of the most weed friendly towns in the US. If you happen to hail from a conservative state like ours, and you’re traveling with a small gaggle of teens, you can probably expect a little fascination with the topic, as well as someone pointing out the head shop on just about every single corner.
If nothing else, we established right off the bat this weekend that our sophisticated older kid is quite the bloodhound, able to suss out cannabis smoke within a radius of little more than arms length. Nothing gets by that guy.
A couple of weeks into our trip, we had another opportunity to explore Copenhagen, when we returned from Finland with the honeymooners, en route to Sønderborg. The flat we rented this time was more centrally located than the one in Nørrebro, and if the weather cooperated, we’d easily be able to walk to a few attractions.
The weather did cooperate (which in Denmark means temps in the low to mid 60s, intermittent rain and some sun. As with our last trip to northern Europe, I made the mistake of packing sundresses. Sigh.), so we came up with a plan to do way more than would be physically possible for mere mortals in one day (if you know us, you know that’s kind of our MO).
We returned from Germany on Sunday and dropped Jack off at his host family home in Sønderborg (he’ll finish out the last week of his exchange and then travel home from Billund. Our tickets are outbound from Copenhagen), and continued on to see a couple of other points of interest in Denmark.
One of those was the town of Haderslev, not too far north of Sønderborg. Mike picked this place out because he thought it would be a quiet stopover on our way north, and also because at least one of my ancestors is from here: my grandmother Betty’s great grandfather Nis Jensen Krough, to be exact. Nis was born in 1849 in Haderslev, and died in 1908 in Des Moines, Iowa. He married Gertrude Marie Christiansen, also of Denmark (although her birth city is unknown to us).
It has happened before: regardless of what Einstein said about the definition of insanity, we’ve done the exact same thing we’ve always done and had something totally unexpected happen. Take this trip, for example. We’ve had such good luck finding lodging with minimal knowledge about where we were going or extra wads of cash to spend. Even when we were in Copenhagen, and I’d made our airbnb reservations after reading exactly one article on how cool the Nørrebro neighborhood is, we ended up getting a hip, little flat in what turned out to be the neighborhood about which everyone we’ve talked to since has made that sucking-air-through-your-teeth-sound at, even then we had good luck.
That luck-with-the-lodging thing kind of went pfhht in Hamburg.
Our oldest son is a young man of many talents, but I must say, he’s got a ways to go if he wants a future in the travel industry. When we’ve talked about the town he’s called home this past year, he totally undersold it. The impression he left us with was: safe, small, and rainy. There’s a rocky beach and a harbor, a decent mall, and a great kebab shop within walking distance.
We weren’t really prepared to be blown away by Sønderborg, a seaside town of around 30,000 that straddles the narrow straight of Alsslund in southern Denmark.
Two summers ago, Saara, who’d been our first exchange student nine years ago, visited with her beau, Joona. We did all the usual Idaho stuff to see if we could scare him off. We camped, set off fireworks in the street, made him drink cheap beer at a baseball game in a zillion-degree heat, and asked him all kinds of intrusive (to Finns) questions like “how was your flight?” and “did you sleep well?”
Anyway, we and the other members of Saara’s Boise circle failed to scare him off that week and – long story short – he proposed before breakfast on their last day in town, and then we all hugged (more intrusion), and sat down to pancakes.
Later that same year, Saara sent me a locket with a small slip of paper inside asking if I would be a bridesmaid. Saara’s the kind of person who puts a lot of thought into things like that. The fact that she knows I am more of the kind of person who recruits bridesmaids over beer and still thought I would be suitable for the job tells you a little about the bond we have.
It’s obvious how much thought Joona and Saara and others have put into planning our stay in Finland. On our first full day, Saara had to work for part of the day, so Joona took us on a short walking trip around Pori and to visit a natural history exhibit in the town museum. That evening Joona’s parents, Matti and Pirkko, fixed another meal for us in their home in town.
Pori is a town of about 85,000, with a university, and lumber and manufacturing as major industries. Established in the 1550s, it has burned down and been rebuilt nine times until someone got the great idea to install wide esplanades as firebreaks.
Next week, it will host its annual Pori Jazz Festival, and organizers were setting up tents and platforms in the streets while we were exploring in the drizzly weather. I don’t know a lot of the artists on the bill, but Chaka Kahn and Grace Jones were two I recognized.