Once the wedding location was chosen, the real work started. The first struggle was with the invitations. We decided to have two ceremonies, one in the castle and one in my hometown church. People had to be given Save the Dates and invites to both or one of the locations and in a language they understood. So that led us to making 3 different Save the Date designs, 2 different invitations and 3 styles of RSVP cards. For anyone who has planned a wedding before, you’d know how difficult it is to even pick one design! Thanks to our design and print companies in the US and in Austria, they turned out great.
One thing I am struggling with is my need to involve Reinhard in everything. I know it’s getting old for him too. My German knowledge doesn’t contain the necessary negotiation vocabulary involved in wedding planning. So the poor guy even has to call around at the hairdresser to see who can fit in a “large” group of women (there are only 4 of us, but that’s apparently too many for Tirolean shops to handle). I still don’t have one as of today, so if you have any suggestions for a Kufstein Friseur, let me know!
And don’t even get me started about the wedding dress. I really shouldn’t complain, but of course I will. My parents bought my dress for me in the US when I went to visit in February. It was perfect and beautiful and just had to have it. The shop had to order it, which meant it had to be shipped to Austria from the US. Let me tell you that DHL charges an absolutely crazy amount to ship a dress and charges whatever INSANELY high customs fees they feel like. The dress didn’t even leave the US and they were already demanding customs fees – so clearly they were making them up. A tip for you international brides – don’t use DHL unless you like throwing away money. But I got the dress and then I had to be brave enough to go alone to the seamstress for some alterations. Of course bridal dress alterations is not a vocab lesson in German class, so I was struggling there. Fun fact, a train is called a Schleppe in German, as in ‘to schlep around fabric’. I forgot about the need to have the dress bustled for the reception, though I’m sure the seamstress asked me. I was just afraid she wanted to shorten my Schleppe so I kept saying no! So I had to go back a week and a half later (with a German-speaking girlfriend this time!) to describe what I needed. Let’s hope it turns out alright!
There are some pretty funny Austrian wedding customs that I’m not so sure how we will follow. Reini went suit shopping with his Best Man and sister. He said he thought it was so funny how all the grooms’ suits were so shiny! But he wasn’t tempted by the shine – he got a regular one. Furthermore, from what my groom said, it sounds like suit rentals aren’t really a thing here. So once you buy your shiny suit – you’re stuck with it! (kinda like with a wedding dress though….) Another funny tradition in the stealing of the bride. This one I know Reini does want, so we might take it but with some rules… The friends of the groom steal the bride away during the couple’s first dance. And the girlfriends of the bride are supposed to steal the groom away too. Then they go away from the wedding site and get drinks at a bar somewhere for like an hour. I’d much rather stay at the very expensive event I had planned for a year than go to a bar, so we’ll see what happens with this one…
Food plays a big role in any wedding, but it definitely does here too. I saw in one of Reini’s friends’ weddings that the bridal couple breaks a huge pretzel during the ceremony. The person who gets the larger piece (usually turns out to be the bride) is said to have the dominant position in the marriage. Goulash seems to be a topic of conversation. Austrian weddings last super late into the night/morning so a midnight snack is expected. All the castles have talked about their goulash… but I’m just not impressed. It’s hard to eat and messy. So we have an alternative planned that I was told our Bavarian guests will find really funny.
Language and customs differences are definitely providing extra challenges to the wedding planning experience, but at least I have an excellent partner who is willing to learn about wedding hair trials and corsage styles just to make me have the most special day.
Wedding planning is no easy task, couple that with a mega language barrier and you’ve got quite a challenge! More about that in another post. After our engagement in Portugal, Reini and I have been planning for not one but two weddings. We decided to have two events so that we would be able to celebrate with both sets of families and friends. As a girl who grew up watching Disney princess movies, I, of course, wanted to have a castle wedding. Luckily enough, Austria has a bunch! Reinhard and I went castle venue shopping this past fall after setting up some appointments. We saw some pretty awesome ones! One must consider that as castles are really old buildings, their layouts are not designed for weddings. These real castles are designed to keep bad guys out and not so much for Cinderella-esque balls. But with a little creativity, a modern bride can see the absolute beauty in these structures. Abundant candle lighting is all an authentic castle needs to create an utterly romantic atmosphere.
The first castle we visited was Schloss Friedberg. I’m not 100% sure, but I think this castle has some relation to the Von Trapp family… This fact alone almost had me sold before we even got there. It has the most beautiful views of the mountains and is just about a half hour from Innsbruck. They had a really cool cellar/crypt space where I could imagine the guys partaking in a few drinks. The layout of the rooms for the reception did not quite fit in with what we had envisioned, so we had to pass on this gem.
The next castle we toured was Schloss Mittersill and is fit for a queen! (Literally – royalty has stayed there!) I have raved about this place before, and it was high on my wedding choice list too. We were guided around the property and were shown their outdoor ceremony garden and their little chapel. They had a large room converted for a reception space. After our tour we had an excellent lunch and then got to spend some time at their spa. Such a treat!! Unfortunately, the space for an indoor ceremony (must have a rain plan!) and the party room for dancing and merriment were just too small for the guests we were planning to invite. I did think for a bit about inviting less people so we could fit in here!
We went to another castle that was just outside the fairytale town of Kitzbühel. Schloss Münchinau is located in down in the valley. It dates back to the 15th Century, though its series of conquerers over the years have forced it to be rebuilt a few times. This castle features a large outdoor garden area which would have made for an excellent ceremony cite. They have a nice restaurant and boast that their chef can make almost anything. The downside to this place was something that they were very proud of. We were told that this was a hunting castle. And therefore, there were little skulls and antlers everywhere. I wish I had taken a picture! But as “hunting” was not to be the theme of my wedding, we decided to look elsewhere.
This brings us to the last castle and the one we ultimately chose – Festung Kufstein. So technically it is not a castle but a fortress, but who’s counting? We knew it would be an awesome place to host our wedding, as we had visited before and snuck peeks into the Kaiser Turm (King Tower) that they use for such events. This place has it all – awesome views of the valley below and surrounding mountains, a lovely garden with ceremony potential, plenty of space for all our friends, an awesome courtyard for cocktail hour, and endless places for guests to explore. We really loved the space for the after dinner party. There is great antique lounge furniture and plenty of space for Reini’s bands to perform!
We hope our guests will like what we have chosen! But I have no doubts that it will be a magical wedding!
It’s been a while since I’ve written, but that’s only because I had a ton of stuff going on! January Reinhard had a surgery that put him in the hospital for a whole week. He definitely required extra attention with all that! I also finished all my Master’s classes in January. Now I’m just in the thesis writing portion of the program. In February I went home to work on wedding planning and festivities. And yes, I said ‘yes’ to the dress! February was also the month that I started an internship that will take me all the way through August, just before wedding activities take over!
But in with all that busyness, we have been able to have lots of fun. Once Reinhard got better enough to walk a bit, we’ve been going on loads of nature walks. I just had to keep reminding him that he should be more careful when walking on the snow and ice! Despite the ice, the scenery has been beautiful. But the snow is in the clearing stage now – so it’s more just brown slush.
This last week Kelchsau celebrated Mardi Gras. They call it Fasching. Austrians like to dress up in silly costumes, kind of like Americans do on Halloween. Every other year the village hosts a big parade with a few floats. Kathrin rode on one with some friends and dressed up as the manager of the village’s one restaurant. They acted out a little skit once they got to where the crowd was waiting for them. The parade participants didn’t throw out beaded necklaces but they did throw plenty of candy that sent the children running!
Here’s a little video of the village’s costumed marching band.
I’m in Austria for another Christmas season. They certainly do have lots of interesting traditions. The Krampus is one that I don’t know if I’ll every really understand, but nonetheless, the village of Kelchsau embraces the beasts. Santa comes a bit earlier to the Austrian children than he does to the American children. And the children that he doesn’t bless get snatched up by the krampuses. Reinhard and a few other musicians welcomed in Santa’s horse driven sleigh with flugelhorns, trumpets, and baritones. Santa read a story from his sleigh to the families as the adults drank glühwein and ate bröderkrapfen. Because Santa was so appreciative of Reinhard’s cheerful flugelhorn playing, he rewarded Reini with some presents of his own!
Of course, I’m celebrating Christmas in my own way too. Austrians do the ultra traditional Christmas tree only up on Christmas Eve thing – but not me! I had mine up the day after Thanksgiving. And we did do Thanksgiving again this year. I didn’t have as many left overs last year as I had hoped, so I made 2 turkeys! That was a bit much, but it was a bunch of fun. We enjoyed the evening with a few bottles of wine and telling stories about different holiday traditions.
Autumn in the Alps would simply be amiss if it did not include an Almabtrieb – or as I like to call it, the cow parade! Farming is a very important piece of culture for Tyroleans, so naturally they love to put on a big show when it comes to their precious cows. I’ve written before about the trek the cows make, but I’ve never gotten to witness the big day firsthand. During late spring we (me too!) walked the Fohringer cows through the village and up into the mountains where they would be spending their summer at the family Alm. There they get to meet up with some other cow families, graze outside all day long, and enjoy the cool mountain breezes. But during the fall season, the cow ladies must make the journey back to their home farms. The farmers make this ‘homecoming’ into a huge celebration. The cows get huge floral headdresses and wear signature bells. They proudly march through the village. If you happen to know one of the farmers, they’ll offer you some schnapps that they keep with them! After the farmers drop off their cows in the farms, they come back and enjoy the village party!
Living in the Alps means summer is quite different from what I’m used to. Oppressive heat and humidity are nowhere to be found. The Biergarten culture is alive and well under mature chestnut trees. I love spending time in Kelchsau during the weekends, picking strawberries and raspberries off the vines and going on hikes cooled air coming off the rivers. Last weekend Reini redeemed a birthday gift certificate from his sister and we (Reini, Kathrin, Cousin Eva, and I) went to a high ropes climbing course! Surprisingly I did much better with the heights than Mountain Man Reini, but we had a great time zooming around way up in the Alpine treetops. I wish I had some pictures of us in our gear!
There are lots of activities in Innsbruck too. My girlfriends and I like to bike ride to the Baggersee lake just on the outskirts of the city for some swimming and sun lounging. Evenings are filled with open air concerts and under the stars movies. Innsbruck is such a great small city. It has plenty to offer but is small enough that it really feels safe and comfortable.
It’s often hard for me to make time for all the fun things that an Alpine summer has to offer because I am still taking classes. The regular semester finished at the end of June and then I started to take summer classes. Because I’m classified as a “local Austrian student” (haha) I get to take the same classes as the kids from UGA and the University of New Orleans who come to Innsbruck for their summer study abroad, but I get to do it all for free. So I’m taking max advantage of that! I’m taking three classes which are all smushed into 5 weeks – pretty intense! Many afternoons we have field trips around the region, so I’m staying very busy. We first took a day trip to the Dachau concentration just outside of Munich to learn about some history that will not soon be forgotten. Next I went with my Management course to the BMW plant for a private factory tour for glimpses into the future. The robots they use are so cool! We also went to one of the region’s big banks and engaged in a strategic planning activity. Next week we will be headed over to one of the big GE locations with my Marketing class.
Immediately after my finals next week, I head to Munich again to catch a flight for my first trip back home since I arrived here for school in October! I look forward to being reunited with family, friends, and air conditioning 🙂
With so many interesting cities just a short drive away, weekend trips in this part of the world can be awesome. So Reini and I decided to make a cultural exploration of the city of Linz! Linz is a city right on the Danube river. We had a view of the river from our hotel and loved watching the riverboat cruisers.
Linz is now largely a university town with great restaurants that don’t break the bank. Reini had been a few years ago, so he had some idea of what we should see. We bought the Linz city card, giving us access to all the city’s museums for a low price. After wandering a bit through the old town, our first stop was to the Höhenrausch exhibit. Its tagline ‘Art about the Rooftops’ was very fitting. You climb a wooden tower that leads you to bridges which peek into the tops of various buildings. One of the churches had its top windows removed, allowing for a platform to be inserted. I don’t know if I’m describing it very well, but if you find yourself in Linz, it’s worth a visit! Höhenrausch allows for great views of the city and sneaky vantage points of some historic sites.
Our afternoon break involved finding a spot with some surprisingly tasty nachos and then heading back to the hotel for some sauna time! Hotels in central/northern Europe tend to have pretty small rooms, but many make up for that with nice sauna facilities! Once refreshed, we headed for dinner at Wirt am Graben which was totally delicious. Their ingredients are as locally sourced as possible. The Europameisterschaft (European Championship) soccer tournament had just started and there were viewing parties everywhere. On our way to the hotel from dinner, we took the long way and wandered through their main street. Everyone was happily carrying gelato or sipping a beer at the outdoor cafes with TVs. We stopped at a Greek cafe, but because we were full up from our dinner, just ordered a couple of glasses of wine and cheered on England as they pulverized Russia.
The next day we focused our efforts on the Ars Electronica Center. It’s a really huge interactive science museum focusing on energy, which was definitely Reini’s thing! My favorite part was their gigantic “Deep Space” show that made us really feel like we were zooming through space with our 3D glasses. We stopped for lunch at a fun Asian noodles place, where the rain met up with us. We ran to the next museum, the Lentos Kunstmuseum, just across the street (I had a small umbrella but of course Reini did not). We did not stay too long, but enjoyed looking at their variety of artistic offerings before heading back west.
I have been practicing driving a bit, so Reini let me drive a little of the way home. The manual car issue in Europe seriously sucks, but I’m learning to accept it (sort of). I feel much more comfortable driving on the autobahn (the Austrian one has speed limits unlike the German potion) because you don’t have to shift gears. But driving in the city! Forget it! Too many gear changes makes me so nervous. It’s time for these silly Europeans to just accept that automatic cars are superior.