Klag'n All Around

Can I preface today's entry by saying how enjoyable it's been to be here? Ha, that's not meant to rub salt in all of your eyes, but seriously, I wondered how it would go down, you know, spending so much time with the fam. I guess it's one of those things that really can't be explained. You love your family so much, but you know each other so well that there's never any surprises or change, and without that, you can kind of all fold in on each other.
Maybe I've been away from my family for such a long time that there are new things, or maybe it's the nature of this trip. Or, maybe we've all grown in patience and understanding and matured. Maybe it's just me.
Regardless, everything has been made into something good. Today we traveled from Venice to Klagenfurt, Austria. The goal was to make the church meetings in Klagenfurt, which began at 11. We woke up early and ate a hearty breakfast, then took off. I let dad drive for the first time this trip, which wasn't a mistake, but...well...I should start over.
Dad drove today, which wasn't a bad thing...I see where this is going. One more time.
I was coerced into taking a break from driving, since I've been doing it a lot, and of course I don't sleep a lot. Dad drove, and it's been a while since he drove a stick. He's used to the big vans I guess, and so the Peugeot was a different handler. I have to say that even I thought it felt weird at first, mostly because it seems to be geared a little higher than my GTI, which makes sense, since that's got 6 gears to share the RPMs. Anyway, I apparently slept on the way here to Klagenfurt, but I don't know how because every time I did look up, I kept thinking, 'Holy crap it's a good thing it's Sunday and we're trying to go to church.' I seriously thought he was gonna run into the car in front of us about every time he went to pass them. Haha, I always gave him a hard time about his driving, but at least I've always felt safe. This time I had to exercise a little faith.
ANYWAYS. I love my dad, and he got us to the church at 11.01. We hurried into Sacrament meeting after one of the sisters came outside. As she greeted dad, I saw my dad break out his german for the first time this trip. I was impressed, because he was speaking quite freely, or at least continuously. After that, he kept trying to speak in english. Anyway, I was happy for him, and church was great.
It was fast sunday, so a lot of emotional german. And some english. A gal from Logan got up and thanked everyone for their support. She had been here, trying to do grad school, but soe things happened with her teacher, so after spending a year here, she decided it was best to head back. Crazy.
After church, I got a talking (got a talking? wow...come on, self) with a kid who had very recently returned from the Hamburg, Germany mission. He spoke what I call foreign missionary english (you are pushed to learn english on your mission if you don't speak it...problem is, your companions hardly like speaking it with you because they're trying to learn your/the mission language and you never hear it except in your mission meetings). That is, he spoke well enough to communicate (I'm not criticizing him in any way, I appreciate his efforts, and I feel shamed that I couldn't speak to him in german). He asked what we were doing, I mentioned I was a missionary in Albania and he immediately mentioned that he was in the training center in England with an Elder Cocoli that was going to serve there. Well, of course I know Cocoli, so it was a cool 'small world' moment (which I've become accustomed to, but I still like the feeling). Crazy thing is, Cocoli was in England for only a few (4 or 5) days because he couldn't understand things that were going on. So for this kid to remember him, that's cool.
After church and chatting with the missionaries and the sister from Logan, we decided to explore Klagenfurt. Of course, everything had changed since dad's days here, but we went to the square and saw the Lindwurm, the dragon that once haunted the city. We then decided to go to Minimundus, which has quite the story behind it. It's a park, of sorts, and inside, there are models. No, not supermodels, although the models are quite superb. They are models of some of the most famous buildings in the world. Eiffel Tower, CN Tower, Radio telescopes in Germany, castles and train stations throughout the world, mosques from the Middle East, temples from Asia, even the Space Shuttle (which even lifted off), the White House, and the Statue of Liberty. The coolest thing isn't that they are all together, but that they are to scale and quite detailed. The replica of St. Peter's square and Basilica, for example, cost over 700,000 euros and would have required one modeler 32 years to build. Wow. I really wanted to get up and close with my camera to make it look like I got some crazy aerial footage of the Vatican, but they didn't allow you too close. We took lots of pictures, so one day I'll make a real vs. model slideshow or something, since a lot of the stuff we took saw there, we've seen in the past.
From there, we decided to find our hotel. We've had quite the luck the last couple of days, since all of our hotels have been super great, low key, and off the beaten path. Our streak continues today. We're staying in the city of Feldkirchen, a small town just outside of Klagenfurt. and I must admit, I love it here. We're only here for a night, but the hotel is more like resort, with a bunch of apartments, about 6 to a building, surrounding a lake. They call themselves a village, but it reminds me of nothing and my parents of the Homestead in Midway. All I know is that it's way cool. We're just 10 minutes from the city and we're in the Austrian forest. Seriously, if I were in England I'd say this was Sherwood. All around Klagenfurt is forest, and so we are just right in it. It's beautiful, and all of the 'apartment' buildings look like old German cottages (or Austrian cottages...it would make more sense.)
We swam a little in the lake, but to our delight (it's been quite hot lately) it started raining as we went for dinner. Ah...dinner and lodging in the Southern Austrian Alps. If anybody needs recommendations for places to stay in Florence, Venice, or Klagenfurt, you just get in touch with me.
Anyway, here's for staying low-key (although that means this entry is going up a day late), and off the super touristy trail.

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