Austria: Growing Up

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Growing up, I think I never truly appreciated the beautifulnature that surrounded me. I took it for granted as it has alwaysjust been there. Living in the heart of Europe I was alwaysdreaming about the big cities of our neighbouring countries.Austria just seemed so small, and the village I lived in is so tinythat it doesn't even appear on most maps. Attersee was the onlything big and almost endless to me.After moving to Graz, I learned to appreciate the beautyI left behind. I do love the city's unique atmosphere, like thearchitecture in the centre or the tree-clad hill Schlossberg (whichliterally means castle-mountain), home of a fortified medievaltower and a castle to whom the city owes its name (slavonicGradec means "little castle").

I sometimes still wish I could go back to my sanctuaryfor a moment. Now I always get excited to go back during mysummer break to relax and calm down from busy city life. Thebest place for me is the Attersee.It is Austria's biggest lake, and to someone who hadnever seen the sea as a child, this was my substitute when I waslittle. It is surrounded by tiny villages consisting of beautiful oldstone houses with yellow, purple and white flowers all around. Inbetween those villages are deep green woods. My aunt alwaystook me there to collect mushrooms and blueberries growing inhidden places. She also taught me how to prepare them and howto make her famous blueberry cake. I remember how fresh andcool the forest air felt on my skin. The way it tickled my face inthe early morning while drinking hot chocolate on our woodenbalcony. The feeling of it filling my lungs with air so pure, italmost made me feel clean. There is no other place that makesme feel that way.

One of the best places to see the Attersee in all its beautyis from the Buchberg. Even though it is called a mountain it isnot really one by Austrian standards. Just like most lakes inAustria the Attersee is surrounded by huge mountains. Theseold, grey rocks always make me feel small, but in a good way.They shield you when they are all around you; and they give youa sense of freedom when you are on top of them and can seemiles and miles of nature. Stepping onto one of the countlesspaths again feels like coming home. The way the cool windblows down from the mountains and moves the bright greenleaves seems so unique. The crunchy gravel and hundreds ofleaves under my feet seems so familiar and yet it never getsboring.

A lot of people are afraid of the woods, but I am not. Ithink it is more important to respect it than to fear it. Growingup in a heavily wooded area I had to learn how to behave in aforest and how not to disturb nature. My father always told uskids where to go and how to avoid damage by not breakingplants or scaring wild animals. In the end, we all share the sameearth and we all breathe the same air. Walking through darkwoods and open fields I can listen to all the songs the sparrowsand blackbirds sing and hear the bells of cows somewhere in thedistance. It smells like freshly cut grass and wet but warm earth.Going up the mountain isn't a challenge, so I can focuson just enjoying the moment. This truly is a magical place wheretime flies by so quickly. As I get more excited and my heart beatgets faster, I know that I am close to the top. And after what feelslike just a few minutes I am finally there. As my eyes adjust tothe sudden rays of bright sunshine, I take a few deep breaths offresh, clean air and then I see it. Underneath me, lies the deepblue lake with crystal clear water and tiny sailing boats bobbingaround on the surface. As I look around to see the mountains,forests and fields, I feel at peace. I am home.

I know that there are many beautiful lakes in Austria,but the Attersee is my lake. It will always be that one sanctuarywhere I can forget all the stress and anxiety that builds up overtime. That one safe space that I will treasure forever.

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