Entry 1: Orientation In Mariazell

Fionna Lehmann
January 24, 2015

It was around the time that the plane finally dipped below the cloud cover and I could see the first bits of actual “Austrian Ground” that I felt the first nerves start tingling in my stomach. Though I had been preparing to go to Vienna since September, up to that point I had only (minus the small worries about packing and plane-transfers) thought about how exciting it was that I was actually going to Vienna. It wasn’t until that moment that the thought popped into my head: What if I hate it?

Luckily this feeling didn’t last long: We were whisked away to the gorgeous Mariazell, located in the Styrian Alps, just hours after our arrival. The nerves were quickly lost in a rush of people, meetings, and overall new-ness.

Now, I have a confession: Typically the word “orientation” makes me head in the opposite direction at a full on sprint. It conjures up thoughts of icebreaker games, long meetings, and general discomfort. So, though I was excited to see more of Austria, I was not per se looking forward to the baggage that came with it. Yet, our weekend in Mariazell was legitimately fun. From dance lessons to tours of the basilica to cross country skiing/hiking, it was a great experience in a beautiful landscape.

By the end of the weekend, though, we were all ready to finally head to Vienna (which, up to that point, we had only glimpsed in passing) to see our apartments, get settled in, and begin building our lives for the months to come.



The view from our wing of the Hostel. I can only imagine how beautiful it must be in summer!


The Mariazell Basilica is one of the most important pilgrimage sites in Austria. It honors a wooden statue of the Virgin Mary, which, according to legend, protected a monk from the robbers on his tail. He was amazed by the feats she had performed and fell in love with the place he had discovered. He decided to build a small wooden cell to honor her, which was embellished into the Basilica you can see today as she performed more and more miracles for people with ailments of all sorts. We weren't allowed to take pictures inside, but I don't think they would have been able to do the gold and silver adorned interior justice anyway.


The first thing I noticed about Austria (and especially in Mariazell) were the colorful houses: each row is a rainbow of pinks, greens, yellows, and blues. Sure makes for a cheery sight, even in the gray of winter.


Did I mention the colorful buildings? 


On Friday night we all gathered in the meeting room and these lovely gents performed a traditional Austrian dance, the Schuhplattler, and (tried) to teach us a small part of it. A great evening!


On Saturday the scheduled cross-country skiing turned into a (very snowy) hike, due to the "warmth"/rain. 


A barn we passed on the hike. I thought it was quite picturesque! 

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Fionna Lehmann

<p>Fionna studies Anthropology and Molecular Biology at the University of Pittsburgh. Though she is originally from the Netherlands, she has spent the last ten or so years in California. Her free time is spent reading, horseback riding, nerding out about television shows, hiking, and dreaming of future travels and adventures. She is looking forward to spending her spring semester enjoying the life and culture in Vienna, Austria and the surrounding countries.&nbsp;</p>

2015 Spring
Home University:
University of Pittsburgh
Biological Sciences
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