Sweet Krems: Something like a Nativity Story

Lauren Franklin
September 16, 2015

There were plans. There were detailed plans for a group of us IES students to take a late train into Budapest. We'd made arrangements with a hostel and we'd thoroughly exposed our true American identities while we searched high and low for the ÖBB ticket stand that turned out to be just to our left. We crowded 'round, pressing the wrong buttons and muttering confused questions to each other far too loudly- like we Americans do. Then, we went to the nearby Spar to grab some snacks for our weekend journey. Just as I was deciding whether to splurge on jam in the store, my friend got an email that we'd have to surrender our Hungarian dreams and save them for another day. Thousands of refugees were leaving Hungary and trains were piling full. Not only had we been warned by IES not to go, we couldn't venture out that night even if we'd wanted to. Trains weren't pressing on towards Budapest anymore. 

The following day, I turned in my German exam at noon. As I walked out of the classroom, my roommate and another friend from class were chatting about finding trains out of Vienna that night. They weren't interested in completely losing the opportunity to explore only because Budapest wasn't an option anymore. I was tired and hot, and the idea of spending a rainy weekend in Vienna, crowding out the narrow side streets and slurping up fruit for breakfast at the market near my apartment sounded grander and grander to me. Since hearing that Budapest was off the table, I had sort of begun planning a "weekend-at-'home'" itinerary for myself to indulge in. But when I heard the two of them sparking up about seeing new facets of Austria, I really wanted to venture out, too. So we found ourselves searching words, like "cheap," "most beautiful," "must see," and "day-trip." 

Everywhere past the Austrian borders was quickly chopped off our list, along with Salzburg, due to high train prices. We were left with the cheapest tickets we could find. We quickly bought tickets to Krems. Time was running out, and we were more than ready to run out, too. For the first hour after we bought our train tickets, I could scarcely remember the name of the place we were headed. I kept picturing Kerns Nectar guava juice cans and imagining myself chugging into a little shack on the shore of someplace tropical and pleasantly muggy. I was continuously corrected, but "Crèmes" didn't sound half bad either. I pictured white whirling into brown in a little white cup and the pleasure of that vignette alone being framed into one day in the country. I recognize the ridiculous romance of this, but I was clearly dreary and rearing to either go right to sleep or let my adrenaline plunge me into an entirely new place. One thing led to another, and the three of us ended up on a 6:15pm train to Krems with scantily packed backpacks, no hostel reservations, and just barely enough Euros to get us fed for a night. We joked about arriving there and necessarily spending the night in a church. We entertained the thought of eating at a small, family-owned restaurant and getting close with the adorable, hospitable, maternal owner, who would proceed to invite us into her cottage for a night. We anticipated that these would be our safest bets, since all hostels and inns would probably be full at our 8:00pm arrival time. 

We wandered straight off our train and into town. The Wachauer Volksfest twinkled hello at us. We certainly hadn’t expected such a rowdy welcome! The children inside all of us, I’m sure, leapt. Just to the left of the fest’s entrance, there was a small inn. It was crowded with our soft Austrian elders who were gathered ‘round the downstairs bar. Smoke billowed there, and a similar, muskier smell coated the curtains surrounding. A painting of the Biblical Mary graced the reception desk. We meekly- because we had only just been tested on our German hotel reservation vocabulary earlier that day and it was approaching 9:00pm-asked the receptionist, “Ict mochte ein Dopplezimmer, bitte.” I kid you not, the kind receptionist responded gently that she had just one room left in her hotel and that it was ours. The Park Hotel offered three alien wanderers a simple piece of the Nativity story that night. We didn’t need to sleep in a church.

That night, we spent nearly all of our money on the spinny rides at the festival. We went so high over the little town. We could see the church and the Donau and all night-shadowed aspects of the little town. We also ingested awfully good food. I tried a fried potato and ground meat mixture that had some egg scrambled lightly into it. It tasted herby and made me feel like I could work on a farm for an entire day without going hungry. Then we shared tears of the doughiest, most sugar-coated pretzel donut. 

The following morning, we grogged downstairs to our free breakfast, and then we grogged our way up some more stairs to Piaristenkirche. A wedding was clearly about to commence later that day. (My very best wishes to Barbara and Jared!) What I’ll remember most about that enchanting building is its vaulted ceilings, like creamed honey poured back into the comb. Later, the sweet hotel receptionist offered us bikes to rent for 5 Euros. We got lost biking in the green along the Donau River. It’s almost difficult for me to talk about the green. It had begun to sprinkle. Krems is charming in the sunlight, I have no doubts, but I do think the tender side of her shone even a little brighter when she offered us a rainy afternoon. The green rolls and trees and spotless hunks of stout grass were all dripping and dewy. I remember it as intoxicating. My pedals turned faster. We stopped to pilfer grapes from a vineyard huddling in the mist. We gobbled up the green, and it tasted so right. The seeds had to be spat out, though. Then the most magnificent children's park tumbled into view. We dropped our bikes to spin on the go-round and bounce back and forth on the teeter-totter. We were dizzy with it all. I could barely walk, I spun so much. 

We slowed our day with the best kaffee gelato I’ve ever had at Eisedele Venezia Gelateria. While my fellow adventurers sought warmth in cups of cocoa at Cafe Ulrich, I couldn’t stop thinking about my gelato experience. I went back for my second encounter, when they finished their cups. Seriously, I did; I’m so ashamed. 

I would certainly come back to this little village for another visit. I would be eager to not plan much, because relying on the fortunate providence of a hotel receptionist and the surprises of little joys like a bright fest and a playground that very well might've been dreamt up by 5-year-old engineers is attractive in a tantilizing way. One thing I will plan on, though, is that I'll return with ruthless intent for an enchanting meal in the courtyard of Krems' Alte Post. It looks green around the edges and bricks are stacked in between. 

Thank you, Krems, for your polite provisions. I am so far from home, but I experienced a sense of nativity in this new country when I inhaled your green and relied on the kindness of your people, and when the happy child in me was born again, spinning 'round and 'round. 

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Lauren Franklin

<p>Hello, hello! I&#39;m Lauren Franklin, and I&#39;m a junior at the University of San Diego. I&#39;m an English major with a minor in psychology, and I&#39;m trying to squeeze in as many theology and art classes as I possibly can. I would love to be the sort of student who&#39;s constantly found in the library studying away, but that&#39;s not always the case here: What bring me the most joy are grand stories, fresh produce, the green rolling outdoors, and creating and learning with friends who want to venture out together.</p>

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