The ending and the lessons we learned.
Leaving Innsbruck was bittersweet: we loved everything about it...except for the heatwave that came through the last couple of days we were there. Things got a bit too toasty in town; sure could have used a place to camp up in the mountains to cool down at night. Regardless of the weather, we loved getting to know Innsbruck.
This is probably my favorite story from our travels: We sat down for dinner one night in a crowded beer garden. We were joined by an elderly couple, speaking German. The man knew English though his wife didn't. We had a little chat then settled in for dinner. They ordered the special, which Curt and I couldn't read because it was in German. When the special came, I inquired as to what it was; it was some sort of sliced meat with pickled red onions. As the man was explaining to me that it was a good dish to cool down when the weather was hot, his wife realized I was asking about their food, and she sliced me off a bite of meat and onions and handed it across the table for me to try! Then she did the same for Curt! The food was delicious and we were so touched by the hospitality and how welcomed they made us feel. Food and generosity don't need a shared language to be communicated.
We spent a hot day walking around Zurich. Bustling big city but easy to navigate with small, intimate streets and pedestrian pathways. We walked around and saw gorgeous old buildings, like the opera house and abbey. We ascended a very tight and very stuffy spiral stone stairway up into the steeples of on the churches and got a spectacular birds-eye view of Zurich.
We did as the locals did and headed to Lake Zurich during the heat of the day. The entire bank was public access. So we stripped down to swimming attire and hopped in to cool off. It was the perfect temperature! Cool enough to feel refreshing on a hot day. A little gelato added into the equation and we managed to cool down just fine :)
For our last dinner in town, we had Raclette again! Remember from Chamonix what raclette is? This was a different style, a different mechanism to melt the cheese.
We concluded our trip with an early morning train to Zurich airport. From Zurich, we flew to London. We had a long layer there where we reminisced and talked about what we would miss about being abroad and what we were excited to come home to. We wished that we had processed more, but we came home to deadlines and projects and more travels and all the dramas of daily life.
One thing is certain: we are so excited to take Indiana University students and alum on these three European Adventures next summer. Traveling internationally truly broadens our perspectives on life and culture. We learn new ways of doing things and new takes on things we take for granted.
One of my biggest takeaways from our travels is to slow down. People in Europe (generally speaking) do a lovely job of putting down their phones and enjoying a drink, a coffee, a meal, a gelato, a walk, a shop, etc. with a friend. What a great lesson and reminder to not let "life" bully us into hustling or mindlessly doing. Look up, have a genuine conversation, slow down and enjoy a moment.