Wow, what a month! This was hands down my most exciting month this far. February started out with a bang- skiing in the Austrian Alps. The day started out with a 5-hour bus ride to Austria at 6am. Good thing the bus ride was so early because I slept the whole way there. Upon our arrival the weather was cloudy and not so good, but the weather app said it was supposed to clear up (fingers were crossed!) we headed up the ski lift to the part of the mountain where the ski resort started. Yes, I know that is confusing but you don’t actually ski down the mountain to street level; the resort actually is a quarter of the way up the mountain where fresh powder is and not rocks! So, as we were riding in the ski lift and reached the clouds, then eventually passed the clouds, WOW is all I can say. Absolutely clear skies with full sun. It was breathtaking and very surprising to realize that once you are out of the clouds the weather can be totally different! Now we were ready to ski. Might I remind you, I have not skied since I was probably 8 years old. I was a snowboarder as a teenager, so it’s safe so say I was totally expecting to just bomb this first hill and boy was I right haha. I stepped off the lift, tried to take one stride and just plopped on my face- classic Lauren. Once I stood back up I was ready to go (yeah right???). Just a little reminder that this is a mountain and not some ski hill back in Minnesota, there is not anywhere to “practice”, you are on the top of a mountain with only one way down! Contrary to my expectations it didn’t go as bad as I had prepared for, it is essentially like riding a bike! You never really forget, you just need a few embarrassing moments falling to learn again :). We skied all day; the weather was so nice that we sat outside for lunch and just took in the amazing view with an ice-cold beer. I had an amazing Austrian dish for lunch called “Bratkartoffeln”. It was spiced potatoes with a fried egg on top and green onions served in a skillet- it was delicious! For dessert we had something called “germknödel mit vanillesoße” which is a sweet roll filled with plum jelly and covered in a vanilla sauce of some sort! Wow again, delicious. I understand I am extremely easy to please when it comes to food, but those were both some of my favorite things I have tried my entire experience overseas! There were a few funny things that happened to me on this trip (naturally I embarrass myself). When you glide up to the ski lift, there is a bar blocking you out and you scan your card and the gate opens so you can get on the lift. Well, I scanned my card and one of my legs made it through the gate before the gate closed again, and the other was still on the other side- so there I stand in the splits with my skis locked into my boots. Everyone around me was laughing so hard and I was just so helpless and laughing as well.. how could you not?!
Next event this month was the “Weiberfasching” party. What is Weiberfasching you ask? Pre-Lenten festivities celebrated in grand style in mostly the predominantly catholic regions of the German-speaking countries. This is a weeklong carnival that is celebrated with costumes, parades, and most importantly- beer! Essentially Tracy and I compared this to our Halloween, since they do not celebrate Halloween. We went to a Weiberfasching party at the city theater with some of our teammates. Of course we dressed up, we had robbers, cat woman, a circus conductor, etc. No one is ever too old for a reason to get in a costume!
My last adventure this month was a trip to Istanbul Turkey with 3 of my teammates! This was a spur of the moment location-decision to go to Istanbul. We knew we wanted to go on a trip and we all decided that we wanted to see a totally different culture. We definitely got that goal accomplished there. Turkey is a beautiful country and Istanbul is right between the Sea of Marmara and the Black Sea. This is the only city that it is part of two different continents- Europe and Asia (Eurasia). We did a weekend trip to Turkey, which consisted of 3 days, Saturday-Monday. Our first day in Istanbul we got in mid-afternoon. We decided to do the Grand Bazaar, which we had heard was huge! They were definitely right, this bazaar was so big, and essentially all the vendors sold the same thing. There were purses (lots of knock offs), jewelry, pottery, lamps and lanterns, etc. It was so big that we got lost in it and had no idea how to get out haha. And you don’t dare ask someone because I have never seen more “sales people” in one area before. As soon as you step into the bazaar you are approached asking “how can I help you spend your money” and “I have the best deal in the whole bazaar for only you” yeah yeah yeah, we’ve heard it all before! After the bazaar we found a nice rooftop bar and had a few drinks while we watched the sun set over the water, truly amazing. The next day we spent going to see the beautiful Blue Mosque. You are allowed to go inside and tour but you must respectfully cover yourself up if you are a woman. We chose to just view from the outside, the Mosque is huge! Not sure if I should be announcing to everyone that I thought the Blue Mosque would be blue, but I am here to tell everyone that no, the mosque is indeed not blue haha. One strange thing that we saw everywhere around the mosque is that there were stray sleeping dogs. Just lying in the middle of the sidewalks sleeping?! They looked well fed, I have no idea how, but clearly they manage. Another thing that was a surprise to me is how loud the call to prayer is! They have the call to prayer, which plays 5 times daily and it plays outside the Mosque on loud speakers so that you can hear it almost anywhere in the city- including from your hotel room at 6 in the morning, good morning!!! That night we planned to go on a dinner cruise with a belly dancer show. It was very cool seeing how many different countries were on this boat with us. Each table had the flag of the nationality of the people at the table. There were people from Canada, Germany, Iraq, Palestine, Dubai, Russia, Spain, and so on. The food was authentic Turkish cuisine, which was not too shabby! Not to mention open bar- just saying. Overall the trip was very unique and cool to see, glad we chose that destination. We did pick up on a few cultural differences, for example you did not see women workers. Yeah, you saw a few every here and there but for the most part there were only men who worked and the women I presume were to be at home with the children and the house.
Last but not least, the reason I am here in the first place, hockey! My team has beaten teams who definitely have outplayed us, and we have lost games where we have outplayed our opponents. That’s why hockey is such a dynamic sport; the game is a constant battle to find a way to win. We slipped from second place to third place because we lost both games in Bergkamen- games we definitely should have won. This is a bummer, but regardless 2nd place plays 3rd place in the playoffs so it essentially didn’t change that for us. We are beyond excited for playoffs and a chance to win the championship! These will be my last hockey games ever on a competitive team; definitely a surreal feeling and I wouldn’t change a thing about my journey!