One thing that sold me on studying abroad this summer is how close Austria is to so many countries. UGA’s travel writing professor, who is teaching the class this summer – and hopefully I’ll get in during drop/add – calls Austria the “hub of Europe.” I don’t really like the word “hub,” so I’m going to try to avoid that term. (It’s just not a very euphonic word, you know? It’s boring.)
I’ve always been good with maps. When I was little, my parents and I would play a game where someone would name a country and I had to say which continent it was in, and I was damn good at that game. At 5, I knew things my 17-year-old sister still doesn’t know. The schools I went to before high school really pushed geography. I’ve labeled maps, pasted countries made out of construction paper together, and put puzzles where every piece was a different country together. And even though my high school curriculum covered very little geography (which wasn’t exactly a huge issue for me since geography has always made sense to me), I have had to make a few in high school for my AP history classes. Well, I didn’t physically draw the map of Europe for my European history class. That one I filled in while riding an Amtrak from Boston to New York.
Anyway, back to the point I was discussing in the first paragraph. Here’s a map of Central Europe, just so you (and I, since I definitely don’t have it memorized) can get a clearer picture of it.
Look at how many countries Austria brushes up against! I knew I’d be close to Germany (Innsbruck, where I’m staying, is an hour away from Germany) and some hours away from the Czech Republic, Italy (which isn’t in this map but borders Austria), and Slovenia, my latest obsession. I didn’t realize that so many countries are packed into Central Europe. (Actually that’s a lie. I’m fully aware that Central Europe’s demography has changed drastically since World War I. An easier way of explaining this? The pre-WWI map was way easier to fill in than the post-WWII one because I didn’t have to worry about all the names overlapping. So let’s just say that I forgot that so many countries are packed into this area. Literature and journalism are taking over my life, after all.) I’ve always wanted to go to Hungary – the name amused me when I was little, I’ll be honest, and I can just pull so many puns out of that one – and Croatia caught my attention a few years ago. The March issue of Conde Nast Traveler actually has a short story on Croatia, and oh good god that place is beautiful and so green. And Slovakia? I forgot that borders Austria.
So what’s the point? Well, I’d like to completely exploit the fact that I’ll be living somewhere so close to all these countries for six weeks. I can see places, watch people, eat different kinds of food, and get lots of stamps on my passport, which will make me feel really awesome about myself – I have this thing about passport stamps, okay? My passport is completely naked! Oh yeah, and I want to get shot classes from each country I visit. Central Europe would be a nice start to the collection. I’m in college, okay? It’ll be awesome.
So here’s to chaotic long weekends in other countries, new passport stamps to fawn over, and yes, new shot glasses.