It is relatively easy to look back at the past few years and see the pieces fall into place. But at the time, going through it, I had absolutely no idea where this part of my life was taking me. One minute I’m helping Mom clean out the basement and the next minute I’m in the middle of this great journey. One that would change my life forever.
For some reason, “wanting to visit Austria” seems like such a lame excuse. I had very little incentive other than knowing my grandmother was from Tyrol, Austria. Mom was very helpful providing me with the name and address of Grandma’s first cousin (named Fani) in Pflach, Tyrol Austria. I wrote her a letter, introduced myself and asked if it was okay for me to visit in September.
As July rolled into August, I hadn’t heard from Grandma’s family in Austria. Maybe they didn’t want me there; maybe they were busy; maybe they didn’t care about meeting any family member from America. I thought these things and more but decided to proceed as planned with my trip. My main objective was to see Grandma’s hometown and as far as relatives were concerned, I’ll just see what I find when I get there.
The trip from Chicago to Zurich, Switzerland was rather uneventful other than my growing anticipation. I was a little nervous about not knowing the language, but knew I could probably figure out the communication part of things. I took one train and three buses to travel from Zurich to Pflach, Tyrol Austria—Grandma’s hometown.
Stepping off the bus, looking around at the vividly blue sky and beautiful mountains, I felt a sense of peace. It’s a small village with one main road running through it. I walked approximately 50 feet to the hotel where I was staying.
The next day I asked everyone I saw if they knew Grandma’s cousin. I showed them her name in writing, thinking my pronunciation was wrong. By the end of the day, I had not found Fani.
In the meantime, I walked everywhere in Pflach. I saw the Lech River, the church, a few stores and one other hotel/restaurant. But mostly, I looked at the mountains. Grandma loved mountains and now I knew why. The Austrian Alps are truly beautiful.
While eating breakfast, I asked the owner of the hotel about Grandma’s cousin. He immediately recognized the name and offered to call her. Within a half hour, Fani’s daughter walked into the hotel. They had received my letter. In a letter sent to me, they said they looked forward to meeting me. I never received this letter.
That day I met my Austrian Family. What an amazingly wonderful group of people! And, I rediscovered my grandma. There was a side to Grandma that I was going to learn about, get to know and share with the world. Little did I know, I would have the opportunity to honor her, her homeland and celebrate her life.
To Be Continued…