Bittersweet Goodbyes

Today is my last day in Innsbruck. In a few hours I will board a bus to take me to the Munich airport, where I will fly back home, and then it will all be over. I have no idea how five and a half weeks have gone by already, but it’s extremely hard for me to grasp the fact that this experience is coming to a close. I had so many expectations for this trip, but at the same time I had absolutely no idea what to expect. I can say with absolute certainty that the experiences I have had here have completely surpassed everything I had ever hoped they would be.

These past few days have been an emotional rollercoaster. Since my first week here, I fought internally with the fact that I would have to eventually go back home. I went through every scenario in my head, any possibility I had of staying here. I even looked into applying to the University of Innsbruck and becoming a full-time student there. If I didn’t miss my friends and family so much, and if there weren’t so many complicated factors involved in transferring here, I would do it in a heartbeat.

These next few hours will be some of the hardest of my life. I keep switching from being sentimental, and saying, “Oh, this is the last time I’ll ever…” and trying to ignore the fact that I’m leaving and become numb to it. I know it won’t hit me until the bus pulls away for the final time, leaving Innsbruck behind in the night. When I part ways at the airport with the amazing new friends I have made here, you better believe that the tears will be flowing.

I am more grateful for this experience than words could ever express. As I walked around Innsbruck today for the final time, I still couldn’t believe how much I have come to love this place. Even after six weeks, its beauty never faded to me. Today was probably the most beautiful day I’ve had since I’ve been here, and it was the perfect end to the trip of a lifetime. I am so sad to leave, but I know that this isn’t really goodbye. I will always come back to Innsbruck.

On a much lighter note, last weekend I went to Croatia with two of my good friends that I made here. Before coming to Innsbruck I had spent hours researching places that I might want to see during the weekends, and a came across breathtaking waterfalls in Plitvice National Park, two hours away from Zagreb, Croatia. I was determined to see them, and two of my friends decided to join me. If we had known all the trouble we would have in Croatia, we probably would have just stayed home, but it was worth it in the end.

We left last Thursday, and we needed to take 4 different trains to get to Zagreb, where we would stay the night. We were supposed to reach Zagreb at 11:15 p.m. Thursday, but our first train was delayed, so we missed our second train in Salzburg. The next train didn’t leave until 1:30 a.m., so we were stuck in Salzburg for 9 hours. We didn’t get to Zagreb until the next morning, so we missed our hotel reservation. I decided to immediately take the bus for two and a half hours to the waterfalls, and my friends decided they would stay in Zagreb for the day and then take a train in the evening to Rijeka, a city on the coast with lots of beaches. The plan was for me to stay in Zagreb that night and meet up with them in Rijeka the next day.

During the bus ride, the driver never announced any stops he was making, and I assumed the waterfalls were the last stop, so I figured I would get off when everyone else did. Then I saw a sign that said we were leaving Plitvicka, where the waterfalls are located, and I’m pretty sure my stomach dropped 100 feet. I ran to the front of the bus and asked him if I missed the stop to Plitvice, and he didn’t speak English, but he pointed behind us. I realized that the bus wasn’t going to stop for another couple of hours, and I had no idea where. The driver pulled over on the side of the road and told me to get off and wait for another bus. I was surrounded by nothing but cornfields. I couldn’t even cry I was so terrified. I had no idea where I was or how far away I was from the waterfalls or when another bus was going to come. Luckily one came in only a few minutes, but the driver spoke absolutely no English, so I wasn’t really sure until he pulled up to the park whether he was actually taking me there. I was so relieved that I could have kissed the ground.

Then I couldn’t find the right entrance to the park, and I was on a serious time crunch if I wanted to actually hike down to the waterfalls and back to the bus stop to make the return bus. I ended up just walking aimlessly around and hoping I was going in the right direction. Somehow I managed to avoid the ticket counter, so I was walking around without a ticket. I was terrified I would get caught or completely lost. But as soon as I saw the waterfalls I calmed down. They were magnificent. The pictures I saw online didn’t even do them justice. There were several series of waterfalls connecting a handful of crystal clear, bright blue lakes. Board walks crossed the lakes from one side to the other and even went over waterfalls, so it was almost like I was walking on top of the lakes and waterfalls. It was so worth all of the stress of the last 24 hours. I couldn’t believe that I was actually there, and that after months of dreaming of going there, I had actually made it happen.

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I had to run back to the entrance to find the bus stop, but I couldn’t get on the shuttle connecting the entrances without a ticket, so I had to run in the opposite direction and try to find the ticket counter I had somehow avoided earlier. I barely made it back in time to make my bus.

When I returned to Zagreb, I received a message from my friends saying that their connecting train to Rijeka didn’t actually exist, so they were stuck in a random, really shady town until 4 a.m. At this point we all just started laughing at all of the complications we were having. I was just grateful that I at least had a bed that night.

The next morning, I took a train to meet them in Rijeka, but halfway through all of the passengers were told to get off and take a bus. We drove for over an hour, and then we were told to get back on another train, which would finally arrive in Rijeka. I almost just wanted to go back to Innsbruck at this point, but once I reached Rijeka and found my friends, I knew all the trouble was worth it. We all just kept joking and laughing about our obstacles and refused to let them ruin our weekend. The beach we went to was beautiful and so relaxing. Although I love the mountains, it was nice to be by the water for once. It ended up being a great weekend, and a great end to the travel weekends we had here.

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