In the lulls between travels much has transpired.

I boarded my flight home from Saint Petersburg with fingers crossed. On this morning the chairs would be announced for this year’s honor orchestra while I was somewhere over the Continent.

(It being Anna Grace’s senior year, she like her peers is anxiously awaiting the cyber equivalent of the “thick envelope” in the post from her top college choice. Add this to the regular stress of a full IB schedule and our house is like Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride some days. 

But for Anna Grace another stressor was at play. Would she, or would she not, earn a chair in her final honor orchestra competition?)

As soon as the plane touched the tarmac I turned on my phone. Anna Grace had messaged with the news of a First Violin chair for honor orchestra!

Each year beginning with Grade 6 (when we arrived in Austria) Anna Grace has successfully auditioned for a violin chair in the Association for Music in International Schools honor orchestra. She is the only AIS musician to have earned a chair in each of the seven years of eligibility, too.  Entirely due to our daughter’s talents, we have traveled to Zurich, Frankfurt and The Hague for the European Middle School performances; and to Qatar, Luxembourg, and earlier this year, Singapore for the combined European/Asian High School performances.

For this season’s performance we will be traveling in February all the way to…Salzburg! A rather fitting location for our violin diva’s swan song performance, we think. Certainly new concert attire is in order, and so we had a lovely mother-daughter shopping day in Vienna in search of said frock. We did not find a dress but did enjoy lunch at Gerstner’s, one of the two former royal and imperial sweets purveyors to the court and now housed in Palais Todesco, the former home of Baroness Sophie von Todesco and her glittering salons.

Their Tartare has now risen to the top of my short list. But I shan’t dine here again.

Because there is an interesting postscript to our luncheon. Whenever Anna Grace and I are out-and-about we decide whether we shall speak in English or in German; it is just a game we play. At Gerstner’s we conversed with the waitstaff in German and spoke together in English. When the wait staff presented our bill, Anna Grace asked me a question in English. The waitstaff then stated, “Please note that the service is not included in the total.” (In English)  So he perceived us to be tourists, at a minimum. Are (American) English-speakers cheap? Uninformed on tipping protocol? Or did he not like Americans? The matter is of little concern, because I will not drop in again.

A few days later attention was turned to the final varsity soccer tournament of the season, hosted by AISV.  The Lady Knights entered the tournament 8th seeded (last), so expectations were tempered. This being Anna Grace’s first and last season on the soccer team, Tony and I did our best to follow along, but mostly sat quietly while other parents animatedly discussed the happenings on the pitch. Soccer isn’t really our sport; the coach had recruited Anna Grace to play because she is a left kicker, a rarity, apparently. But it’s easy enough to cheer when there is a GOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAALLLLLLLL!

In keeping with the tradition, the opening game teams (AISV and Zurich) entered the pitch with child mascots gathered from the Kindergarten class. Too cute!  Though our favorite Striker’s goal attempt was blocked, I did get to see her as 2nd Goalie. (We tied Zurich 1-1.) And, if the whole Aerospace thing doesn’t work out for her, she could always audition for the Rockettes.

For the Lady Knights in tournament play, one tie (Zurich); one loss (The Hague); and one win (Cairo). In the finals, a big win against Zurich earned the team the Bronze! Congrats Lady Knights!

Our housers were two lovely ladies from London who gifted me English toffee, yum. In keeping with my tradition I always provide a range of snacks. The Doritos are never left behind. 🤣

The following day Tony and I made haste to one of our favorite castles for the final day of its exhibition on Byzantium and The West. Schloss Schallaburg is nestled in the hills of the Wachau Valley and its curators prepare outstanding exhibitions. The castle alone is worthy of a visit; but with the added bonus of the exhibits we have learned about India of the Maharaja; The Vikings; Islam; and Austria in the ’70s. Regrettably photos are not permitted, so you’ll have to enjoy the handful of castle snaps I took in lieu thereof.

Another curious postscript about which to write. Both of us hold the Niederösterreich Card, offering gratis access to numerous activities and so forth in the region. Entrance to Schloss Schallaburg is on the card; however, my card was successfully swiped and Tony’s was rejected. The first clerk, an older woman dismissed us when Tony asked (in English), “What’s wrong with the card?” and refused to even type the card number into the system as a doublecheck. So, we paid the €11 for his ticket.

I thought to ask the clerk at the second window to check Tony’s card. This young 20-something knew exactly the problem. A short time ago the NÖ folks decided to deactivate cards that were not registered because, apparently, there have been some theft issues. Fair enough, except that they didn’t inform card holders! Because I ordered both cards, mine had been activated and Tony’s had been deactivated. This thoughtful young person fixed the problem and refunded the €11. Hmm.

After the incredible exhibit lunch is the next important order of affairs. For me, a perfectly dressed Backhendl Salat.

The Wachau Valley in November along our drive home.

The holiday season fast upon us, we have traded our hiking shoes for day trips to hidden castles and palaces open for Christmas markets. ‘Tis the Most Wonderful Time of the Year!