Steinlechner, AignerstrasseA lofty oak staircase led to three floors of guest rooms filled with coeds. Judie, Sherrie and I lucked out with a corner suite on the 2nd floor, and a decent bathroom with a six-foot footed tub. A rickety library table and a single bed occupied a little nook off the main bedroom. With two blue gumballs and one red, we drew lots for the nook. I closed my eyes, made a wish, and chose the red.
The lobby personified Gemutlichkeit (hospitality.) Quaint fabric lampshades; heavy, dark wood paneling; drapes and tablecloths of bright blue cotton with folks dancing around yellow flowers and red hearts. A green tile Kochelofen (wood-burning furnace) filled the corner and heated the room. Oak chairs, carved with hearts, sat around tables topped with dried posies. Kitsch (junk) in it's authentic element is utterly charming.
My nook at SteinlechnerThe Steinlechner was run by a family who had escaped from Communist-controlled Czechoslovakia. An older mother was in charge, her daughter-in-law kept everything spotless, and her son was the chef—his cooking was incredible. We became accustomed to the best Austrian cuisine: pancake soup, Wienerschnitzel, Apfel Strüdel. Our whole group ate together, and we held regular meetings afterward to coordinate activities.
It was hard to sleep that first night. A lumpy 3-sectioned mattress, covered by a thin black blanket had me fidgeting. I got up, wrote in my diary and put my boyfriend's picture on the wall. I was home.
February 10th I was on a bus from downtown, going back to the Steinlechner. Some passengers got off and I saw that I was standing next to Dee. He recognized me as part of the BYU group so I smiled, glanced out the window, and said, "I wonder what that sign says." He translated, "Get your sweetheart flowers for Valentine's Day." Coyly, I said, "I wish I had someone to give me flowers for Valentine's." (OK, I was 19 . . . it was the best I could do.)
As we walked home together I remembered my boyfriend, and Christa, and realized this little flirtation was a bus to nowhere.