Austria: Summer on the Westhill


614I was traveling at 160 miles per hour heading from Vienna, Austria towards Slovenia.  It felt like I had been going at that speed for weeks as I trekked through Europe, seeing a new city every couple of days. Exhausted, I laid my head on the train window and began to rest my eyes. Some time later, I was awoken by the relentless July sun beaming in through the glass. I was planning to draw the blinds to shield my tired eyes from the penetrating light but instead, I was stunned by the scene unfolding outside of the train.

My eyes widened as they took in the most intensely beautiful view of the train weaving through the pristine Austrian countryside. There were stunning, rocky peaks, soft rolling hills, and vast plains. The sky was strikingly blue, sparsely clouded, and starkly contrasted against the green terrain. For as far as I could see any way, there was only Earth; seemingly untouched by man with the exception of this one lone train track. I sat there with my jaw slack and my eyes locked on the horizon, captivated by the most sublime scene I have ever been fortunate enough to lay eyes on.

As I watched the seemingly boundless country side wind by me, the song “Summer on the Westhill” by The Kings of Convenience flooded my ears through my small white ear buds. The lulling lyrics, “Now I know there is a world beyond the small place I was coming from. I feel at home here in the middle of nowhere,” immediately brought a smile to my face. My thoughts floated to the small suburban town in South Carolina that I have lived all my life as I looked on my current surroundings with a dreamlike amazement. It was an intoxicating, transcendental moment. I was so content, and so grateful, to be where I was.

During this journey, I became acutely aware of how truly beautiful this world can be. I have always loved architecture; striking cathedrals with stained glass windows enthrall me, but it was during this train ride that I fell in love with the natural splendor of the Earth. There’s something beautiful about being anonymous inside of a big city, but traveling through the anonymous countryside brings an inexplicable sense of peace and has an incomparable beauty of its own.

After the 5 hour journey, the train reached its final destination in Slovenia. Feeling revitalized, however slightly dazed, I got my bags and made my way through the station. Of all the incredible things I got to experience in the weeks I spent abroad, that train ride left the most vivid impression in my mind. I will never forget the surreal views and the way that it made me feel: so small, yet a part of something so big. I am so grateful to have been able to have that experience. I have no doubt that the memory of those remote Austrian hills in the middle of July will stay with me forever.

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