Friday, June 8 (Laakirchen in Austria)

The view from Fraunfeld near Laakirchen
Cherries about to be picked at our new friend Loisi’s house
… and Loisi’s red currants (almost ripe)
Michl’s daughter Kathi talking to us (in excellent English)

Today, we enjoyed a much quieter, no-travel, no-tourism day. We were up fairly early, which meant that we still caught our host, Loisi, before she had to go off to work. She is a physical therapist who makes home visits to severely disabled people who cannot come to a PT office. Michl asked her to host us because she has a huge house in which she raised four kids, now all in their 20s and off to college, so there‘s lot of room in her house. We had a nice little chat over coffee and rolls (which she had obviously gotten just for us that morning), and she showed us the cherry tree in her back yard, from which I picked lovely sweet ripe cherries twice today. After she left, we sat in her dining room area with our breakfast and our blogs for quite a while, and only left to explore the village of Laakirchen around 10 am, again with gorgeous sunny weather. A total of 10,000 people live in this small town and its surrounding villages, and it doesn‘t have that much of a city center—but we walked around a little, basically to Michl‘s house and back, and then bought some cheese and cold cuts to have with our pretzel rolls for lunch. We had gotten up a bit too early, I guess, because a nap sounded wonderful, and we slept for over an hour—we lay down around 12:30 and I think it was 2 pm before we got back up. Then we went for a little walk out into the countryside—not very difficult from here, since it is really very rural—and enjoyed the view of the Salzkammergut mountains in the distance, across fields of rye and barley, as we found our way up one hill and down the next, cycling back around to the cafe/bar downtown, where we had sumptuous ice cream concoctions (mine with amarena cherries, Mark‘s with banana slices) before walking home to Loisi‘s house.

We talked to Loisi for a bit and hung out until Michl picked us up around 4:30. We went to his house and said hi to his daughter, Kathi, and her boyfriend, who had come in today from two different cities (Graz and Vienna) to spend the weekend. I admired the many new renovations in Michl‘s house since I last saw the house in 2009, and Mark got a full tour, including the glorious remnants of the former owner‘s artwork in the basement—when they first bought the house, it basically had these strange Henri Rousseau-style jungle murals on every wall, dark green jungles with portraits of the owner‘s wife on every wall! Although Michl and Silvia painted over it everywhere, they kept the ones in the basement to prove this unlikely story about the way the house looked when they first got it. But I saw it when they first moved in, on our 1997 visit (which included Bruce, Ginny, and a 1-year-old Kati), and can confirm that those murals were everywhere, as were the bushes and fir trees that covered basically the entire plot on which the house sat, and almost completely hid it from view. Since we actually had a couple of showers coming down and needed some indoor things to do, Michl dug up the album that showed the transformation of the house over time, and another one that had photos from the 90s, including from the Bowling Green years. That was a trip down memory lane! There were even photos that finally filled the gaps in my patchy memory about a trip on which we stayed with Michl and Silvia, but also met Monika and Walter—that was in 1993, as it turned out, on the last trip Bruce and I took before the kids were born. (We were back in 1997, and then I returned in 2001 by myself with both kids, and again in 2009. In 2016, we saw Michl and Silvia in Munich instead of coming here.)

Afterwards, the rain stopped and we had a lovely barbecue feast with grilled meats, fruits, and veggies, garlic bread, salad, tsatsiki, and fresh strawberries for dessert. It was delicious, and we had a good time talking not just to Michl (who even lit a fire in the back yard) but also to Kathi and her boyfriend, both of whom spoke excellent English. We sat outside until after 10 pm, and then Kathi drove us back to Loisi‘s house. It really was a nice low-key day, just what we needed!


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