After many years of planning, the joint tour of the AVC Melody Choir and the AVC Edelweiss Dancers was finally underway. On August 26, a tour of approximately 85 people – 12 dancers, 1 accordian player, 1 pianoplayer, 34 choir members, 1 videographer and tag-a-longs – was started. We had 15 days before us with six performances throughout the country and we were ready.
We departed Vancouver Airport at about 9:00 p.m. and it was a very full and long flight. After fitfull dozing on the flight, we arrived in Frankfurt Airport and proceeded to gather our numerous baggage. Our excitement overshadowed our exhaustion and we were ready to roll. We were met by our drivers and tour guides and Bus Canada and Bus Austria were ready to go.
Our first stop was Heidelberg for one night where we were to recuperate from the long flight and time change. Brenda had organized to meet a young man, Mario Herger, who is a Viennese now living in Heidelberg. Mario came out to meet us and we all went to the local Kulturbraürei for drinks. It was a great first night and helped us set the theme for the rest of the trip. The next morning, after a walking tour of the city, we continued on to our next stop – the town of Westendorf in Tyrol.
We stayed there for three nights which gave us the opportunity to relax and settle in. On our first night, we found a great night club with a live band and danced and drank the night away. The club was a neat little place that was below street level and the band played a good mix of popular western rock, alpen rock and songs from other countries. The beer flowed that night. As the night wore on and as Chris drank more and more, her German became more and more unintelligible. She became chummy with the bartender and before we knew it, she was pouring schnapps and beer like a pro. We think the bartender had just as much fun with this bunch of Canadians speaking their stylized pigeon-German as we did.
During these three days, we visited the Swarovski Kristallwelten, had a tour of Innsbruck and spent the night watching a Tirolerabend. We also found out that two of those dancers had performed at the Münich Festhaus at Expo 86 in Vancouver. The next day, the Ellmauer Männerchor, who sponsored our show, also treated us to a trip up the Ellmau Talfahrt and to a luncheon at the peak. They had also put an advertisement in their paper about us coming so the show was sold-out. Our first performance was in their town and the applause was deafening after our first set of dances. Our bus drivers and tour guides were not sure of our ability before the show but when we were done, their ear-to-ear grins and thumbs-up did enough to alleviate our apprehension.
The next day we left for our destination of Eugendorf for another two nights. On our way there, we did a day tour of Salzburg and checked into our hotel in time for dinner. Chris’ cousin came out and visited for the evening and Chris practiced her “Germish” and made plans to spend the next day with her. The following day was a day trip to Bad Ischl where Brenda again met some people who gave her information regarding Austrian tracht. These people went to great lengths to meet her. They only got her letter the week we arrived and then they called tourist information in Westendorf, called our hotels and then finally got a hold of our tour guide’s cell number and arranged with him to meet us in Bad Ischl. We had a tour of the Kaiservilla and that night we had our second performance in Frankenmarkt. Now it was Eric’s turn to have family there. It was their first time seeing him dance and they were impressed. They came back to our hotel and some of us sat in the bar talking with them til all hours of the night.
On September 2, we left Eugendorf and moved to our next stop of Bad Kleinkirchheim in Kärnten for four nights. This was a winter resort and was made up of numerous old houses that were moved to this site and each house was made of four apartments. Out of the four days there, we had three concerts with the first being the night we arrived. The concert was in the upstairs lounge of the restaurant and the Sepp Kolbitsch Chor also performed. We were very impressed with this 9 man choir (3 of the members were not there) and they came to Vancouver in October and performed at the Club for our Weinlesefest. The second day in Bad Kleinkirchheim, we got a chance to see Klagenfurt and had our second of these three shows in Moosburg. One thing that sticks in our minds about this show is the Mayor of Moosburg and his wife did not even crack a smile throughout either our's or our choir's performance.
Since we had been on the move everyday at 9:00, we decided that the next day would be a relaxing one of late breakfasting and a shopping day in Spittal. Chris had some more family come and meet her and Eric’s cousin’s son, who was not at our show in Frankenmarkt, drove for three hours to visit. After touring Spittal and returning back to our resort, we had dinner together and later that night, we had a large party in one of the apartments. Lots of drinking, singing and dancing. It was one of the only nights that the choir and dancers were able to get together and relax and party together. As our video shows and the pictures, we had a great time and it ended too soon. The next day we had a tour of Hochosterwitz and our second to last show was at Kurbad Althofen. (Before we left for the trip, Brenda received a book on Viennese tracht from Gudrun Foelsche and she and her husband took a holiday at the Kurbad just to see us dance and meet Brenda. She offered us help in getting any information we need for tradition, tracht or dance.)
The next morning we headed east to Steiermark and stopped in Graz on the way where we visited the Parliament offices and met Waltraud Klasnik, the Governor of Steiermark. We then moved on to our hotel, the Thermenblick, a spa in Loipersdorf, to rest before the Heuriger dinner. The Heuriger was hosted by the MGV “Fürstenfeld” and that was one fun night. The wine kept flowing and flowing – especially from the bottle to Richard’s glass. Richard was feeling the worst for wear that night and the next morning and the next (it took him two days before he could have another drink). We still don’t let him live it down. On September 7, we had a rest day and half the crowd stayed at the spa and the other half went into Graz for more shopping. That night, we drove over the border for a gypsy night of music and dance in Hungary. That was an experience. We got to the border, the Hungarian guards looked at all our passports and OKed them, but they didn’t like our buses. They claimed that our buses didn’t have the environmental permits to pass the Hungarian standards (which was a laugh because Austrian standards are higher than the Hungarian). After waiting for two hours, Franz Majcen, an MLA from Fürstenfeld. created an appropriate permit and came and escorted us to our restaurant. Even though we were two hours late, the food was great and the music and the restaurant had an authentic feel to them.
On September 8, we were taken for a walking tour of Fürstenfeld, some shopping and then we had to get ready for our final show. This show was in Fürstenfeld and it was a great end to a very memorable trip. We did two shows and in between, we were presented with the 10 flags of Austria as a gift from the MGV “Fürstenfeld”. After the show, we all went to a Gasthaus and enjoyed a delicious late dinner with much drink and song. Many personal gifts were exchanged between Frank Posch and the Choir and Frank was definitely the proud Opa that night. We all made some friends that night and none of us wanted to see it end. This Choir is also coming to Vancouver but in two years. This was our last night in Austria and some of us retired while other stayed up packing for the long trip home. The next day, September 9, it was a mad scramble to pack all of our equipment, costumes and now gifts and flags, including flagpoles. We departed after 9:00, and made the long trek to Vienna for our last stop where we had ½ a day. This was definitely not enough time to see the city as Vienna is so large compared to all the other cities that we had been to. We all had an early dinner together and the 15 people of the tour (four of them dancers), who were the only ones leaving on the scheduled time, went and boarded their train to Frankfurt.
It was an eight hour train ride and they all had sleeper wagons to rest in or there was the bar car to visit (which I heard some did). Upon check in at the airport, Eric found out that he had 140 kg. of gear that he was shipping back.
During our tour, we not only visited the major cities as mentioned but also many others: Kitzbühel, St. Wolfgang, St. Gilgen, Gmünd, Velden and Wagrain.
This was the first tour ever made by a group from the Austria Vancouver Club and it was a terrific time and learning experience. We all made new friends on this trip and hope that they are lasting ones. Brenda met lots of people in connection with dancing and tracht and, as we are already talking about another tour in three years, we can hopefully use those connections to help make our plans.
There are two people we would most like to thank regarding this eventful trip: Frank Posch, for all his determination and hard work in organizing this; and Helmut Hoegler, a dedicated schuhplattler at heart. We thank him for his generosity and fund raising efforts on our behalf – the tour wouldn’t have been complete without him.
No rest for the weary. Within one week of the remaining dancers returning from Europe, our Oktoberfest season began with a flourish.
Also, within a few months of returning, we received a copy of an article from the Fürstenfeld paper and the Kanada Kurier, a Canadian German newspaper, asked us to write an article about our experience.