We literally hit the ground running. I can only imagine how strange it must have been to see nearly 300 student musicians and singers running through the Heathrow Airport with their all of their luggage and carry-ons, desperately trying to stay on schedule. Our London tour guides were already waiting for us and we were anxious and excited to get on our busses and begin our adventure. To us, there was no such thing as jet lag despite the fact that we had flown from Seattle to New York and then from New York to London, most of us, without sleeping. London, England was the first stop on our great adventure as the Washington Ambassadors of Music and, with adrenaline pumping through our veins and smiles spreading onto our faces, we were ready to go.
In addition to England, our itinerary included stops in France, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Austria, Italy, and Germany. Our group was made up of a band and a choir and each performed once to amazing crowds in England, France, Switzerland, Austria, and Germany. Although each country had something very special to offer, my favorites, by far, were Switzerland and Austria.
Switzerland and Austria have some of the most beautiful landscapes I had ever seen. Coming from Seattle I was used to greenery and nature’s beauty but nothing like what I had seen when I traveled to Switzerland and Austria. Switzerland’s snow-capped mountains and crystal clear blue water were like paintings and I was excited to channel my inner Julie Andrews when I got the opportunity to frolic through Austria’s rolling green hills. However, what made these two stops stand out specifically to me were the people. Our hosts, guides, and crowds in both Austria and Switzerland were some of the most genuine, nice, and lively people I had ever met.
The highlight of our stay in Switzerland was the cheese fondue party. We learned how to blow alpenhorns and they taught us Swiss dances. We stuffed ourselves to the brim with cheese covered bread and most of us were cautious not to drop the bread in the cheese as it is custom to politely kiss each member (of the opposite sex of course) on the cheek if you do happen to do so. Everyone in Switzerland was so gracious and hospitable that I definitely did not want to leave. The view from my hotel room did not make leaving any easier either. Our stay in Austria was just as delightful. The staff at the inn that we stayed at made us feel at home and laughed with us when we thought we broke the door (thankfully it was supposed to open like that). The food was absolutely amazing and I could taste that it had been cooked with love. There was never a dull moment in Austria and I made some of my best friends during that leg of our adventure.
On the way home, leaving Germany, the scene was much different. We all walked very slowly, none of us wanting to leave just yet and dreading having to say good bye. Most of us with tears running down our faces, we were not ready to go, but we left knowing that all 300 of us shared a bond that no one else could understand and we were happy for it.
There are only two things that I would do differently if I were blessed enough to take this trip again: I wouldn’t use a battery powered camera (the batteries kept dying and I couldn’t take all the pictures that I wanted to) and I would do more things that I wanted to do (I spent much of my time following my group around and I didn’t get to do or see much of what I wanted to do or see).
This trip truly was a trip of a lifetime and I am so happy that I was able to experience it. I would definitely recommend to anyone that they go on this trip or one similar because it is a wonderful introduction to all of these countries and a great reason to go back for more.
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