Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Love At First Sight

Salzburg, February 4, 1969

I arrived in a fairy-tale. Passing dusty forests edged with frosty villages, the train pulled into Salzburg on a bright, wintry day when the city was adorned in snow. Sixty-five college students made up our group. The eight boys moved in with Austrian families, and the girls settled into the Steinlechner, a cozy, vintage hotel BYU leased for the semester.

Steinlechner, Aignerstrasse

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.

Traditional dried flowers in Salzburg

A 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 three gumballs, two blue and one red, we drew lots for the nook. I closed my eyes, made a wish, and chose the red.

My nook at Steinlechner

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.

The 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 StrĂ¼del. Our whole group ate together, and we held regular meetings afterward to coordinate activities.

Dee: an officer and a gentleman.

After lunch the second day, we voted for student body officers. My friend Christa nominated a guy named Dee, and he was elected. Christa was engaged to a boy at home, but she had already captured Dee's attention. All I knew was his name and that he seemed spoken for, if only for the semester.

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.

Bendable bus in Salzburg

Some people re-read a favorite book.

I re-write my favorite story—every February.
It's my Valentine's way to count my blessings.


~Write a post using this quote as a prompt: "Falling in love at first sight is understandable. It's staying in love that's the miracle!"

~Write a Valentine memory as a short story.

~Make a list to remind yourself why you fell in love in the first place.


J, K, L, and D said...

This is a great story - I want more!

I love Salzburg. I only spent about 3 or 4 days there in high school, but what a beauty. In fact, Austria had me at hello. So clean, so picturesque, so charming.

Kay Dennison said...

What a lovely story!!!! And I love Austrian food!!!! We had an Austrian restaurant here for a while and I loved it.

Jake said...

Happy Val-iversary!

Heather Scott Partington said...

What a neat idea. You rock, M. Totally rock. Also, I can't wait to go to Salzburg one day.

Abby said...

I love your story and your homework assignment. I may have to jump on this one!