It’s Thursday once again which means one more week has gone by without me realising. I am not sure whether this is a good or a bad sign. Either way, here we are.
This week I want to take you back in time two – four years to one of my all time favourite places on this planet. Austria. In particular, Innsbruck, a small town surrounded by mountains. The Karwendel Alps to the north and the Patsherkofel and Serles to the south, now this provides pretty stunning photographic opportunities when you (finally) reach the top of any of the (more lower) mountains.
I ended up travelling to Austria for the first time in 2013 through the incredible work of Momentum World, the group of English participants being a mixture of people I knew from previous national projects and strangers who I was yet to meet. This was my first time doing any kind of international work meaning brand new territory for me and everyone around me. We visited the local town and its museums, my favourite of which was the Swarovski diamond museum of course, this was probably the most surreal experience of my life, it felt as if I was in the head of a glamorously rich female who was about to murder her husband. This was the vibe present here. It was so ghoulishly beautiful that it felt like my worst nightmare and best dream at the same time. Alongside this we visited water parks, took part in intercultural evenings, we went hiking up the many mountains and made bread in a bonfire. All of these things are so unique to this trip and were the reason it is so memorable to me. The only minor problem we had was simply a language barrier between ourselves and the Austrian participants who were a similar age to us but could not yet speak English confidently.
Recently it’s been nagging at me how much we English rely on others being able to speak our language, it’s an assumption we tend to make as a majority that foreigners will simply be able to speak English like a native. It’s an internal battle that I am having with myself because the truth is English is the international language and that’s not our fault. But as someone pointed out to me the other week, ‘I’m so jealous of you that you have so much more free time than us’ they continued to explain with, ‘we have to spend so much time learning English because it’s almost essential to us, whereas you are free to learn a new science or study a new period of history, we don’t get that luxury if we want to be able to speak the international language.’ Which really resonated with me and made me realise just how easy we have it, especially if we want to travel to multiple places.
So this was Austria 2013. A couple of years following this Momentum World approached me again asking whether I would like to go along on the same project but this time with an increased level of responsibility, this time a youth support leader working alongside two others. On this project we had two different groups, one from a secondary school, one group from Sheffield and one from a police cadet group down in London. We stayed in the same place which is the AK Seehof seminar center, a beautiful 4* hotel which was perfect for hosting projects such as this as it includes modern training rooms and is located high above Innsbruck providing great access to it’s most fascinating attractions. The project ran very similarly to the previous one I had participated on, which was great for my first project in a leadership role as I knew exactly what to expect and how to interact with the group, all round it was another unforgettable experience and I appreciate Momentum World providing me with the opportunity to develop my skills from participant to leader.
Now there’s a couple of reasons as to why these projects made me appreciate Austria so much. Number one being the phenomenal environment of course. Just down the road to where we were staying was a drinking water fountain which had water that had come straight down from the mountains, for the first time I drank pure water and it was like liquid gold. There was simply no taste at all, no chemicals sanitising it, just pure water sanitised by nature. This was when I noticed how raw everything was in Austria, even the little quaint buildings were still in the original designs, Austria felt real, like it was hiding behind no pretenses. Now reason number two is the healthy nature surrounding the people here, everyday you would see people running up mountains that I couldn’t dream of crawling up, the access to unhealthy food is kept to a minimum. Where in England you would chocolate here you find fruit. Reason number 3, the weather. In summer you have glorious sunshine, you can develop a tan and explore the beautiful area surrounding you but in winter you can do the same just on skis.
So if you’re ever stuck for somewhere unique, true to it’s culture and phenomenally beautiful, I would strongly recommend giving Innsbruck, Austria a visit. Located between Munich in Germany and Verona in Italy, it is the perfect stop off location (if you don’t let a couple of mountains get in your way).
Lots of love, Lottie xoxo