For better or worse, but mostly for worse, we’re almost done. Almost to the point of packing suitcases and getting on transatlantic flights headed for the States. Even with finals looming and the calendar telling us flat out that we only have four days left together in Salzburg, it’s a bit surreal. Last weekend, though, it seemed like we were never leaving. That I was going to spend the rest of my life cooped up in my dorm room writing research papers. Because of my three independent study classes I had three very large papers to write, and fortunately for the procrastinators among us some conveniently timed Austrian holidays gave us a five day weekend to work on them. Over the course of those five days I managed to finish nearly all of the work I have left for the semester, my only remaining tasks being editing one last paper and writing a short summary for my International Conflicts class. My papers will not be the best papers ever written, but they definitely include some creative turns of phrase included to help reach the 6,000 word minimum.
But tales of homework make for a pretty boring blog post. Saturday night Rachelle and Max and I took a study break to head into town and catch a ‘Krampuslauf’ which means Krampus Run. The Krampus are creatures said to accompany St. Nicholas the night before he makes his rounds, and they weed out the naughty children by hitting them with whips or switches. It’s a tradition that basically only exists in Bavaria and this part of Austria, so we figured we had to see it for ourselves. There are officially sanctioned Krampus who aren’t allowed to really hurt you, but then there are also unofficial groups who have no qualms about actually beating people. A combination of both types floated about Salzburg the week leading up to St. Nicholas Day, and many friends reported having not so pleasant encounters with the terrifying men in furry suits and scary masks. When the last Krampuslauf of the season rolled around we were a little nervous, but mostly convinced that they couldn’t possibly be as scary as everyone had said they were. We bravely made our way to the route of their run and then stood in wary anticipation. The crowd got thicker and we eventually heard bells in the distance. When the six or so Krampus got to our spot on the street we found ourselves struggling to reconcile our desire to take photos with our even stronger desire to run for our lives. Krampus are scary. Really scary. They are huge and get right up into your face threatening to hit you. Everyone in the crowd was screeching and attempting to hide behind one another as the Krampus grabbed random people from the crowd and tormented them. When the Krampus (plural Krampi? Krampese?) finally shuffled past us we heaved a sigh of relief and made our way to the bus to get back to our dorm and back to safety. It must have taken a good half an hour before my pulse returned to its normal rate. All I can say is, no wonder Austrian children are perfect little angels. If American kids were threatened with a Krampus instead of lame coal in their stockings, they’d be much better behaved too.
The Krampuslauf was the most drama I experienced this week. We went out for Italian food with Kirsten and Rachel on Tuesday night but that was just about the only other time I left the dorm during our five day homework marathon. Thursday night brought the last karaoke night of the semester at O’Malley’s, an evening of terrible singing and smoke inhalation to be enjoyed by all. Friday we ventured back out to Hellbrunn Palace to see the Christmas Market there. I had been with my parents, but Kirsten and Rachel had yet to see it, so we wandered around for a bit, though their lack of reindeer disappointed me yet again. Friday was a shopping day, and Rachelle and I trekked through the Christmas Market in search of various things for ourselves and our friends. I’m trying real hard not to think about the fact that each time I go into a certain store or catch a certain glimpse of the town might be the last time I do so this semester. Taking my mind off of our imminent departure was a Christmas party at Frau Schoettke’s today, which was fun and probably the last time a large group of us AIFS kids will be together outside of class. It also snowed this morning and again tonight, so we got to experience something at least resembling a snowy Salzburg. It didn’t stick on the roads, but walking home from Frau Schoettke’s tonight was about as wonderfully Christmassy as it gets. This week: the Silent Night chapel, final exams, one last kebap, packing, and more crying than I’ve done in a while.