Revisiting Childhood through Travel | Mariastein, the Village in the Austrian Hills

Family holidays are the fondest memories of childhood that we have. Whether that be seaside trips to Skegness and Bridlington or caravan holidays to a field in the Lake District. It can be your first holiday abroad to the beaches of France or even a school trip to a local museum. One of the standout trips for me is when I visited Austria with my grandparents. It’s a holiday that I will always remember as I’m pretty sure it’s how I caught the travel bug!

As you can imagine, being a young boy and told that you’re going on holiday is the most exciting thing ever, especially somewhere abroad! Since, as long ago as I can remember, I’ve always been obsessed with countries. I would sit and read Atlases and look at globes, studying the different countries of the world. I even had a flag book, which I would read through for hours on end. While in primary and secondary school my classmates would struggle to locate places like Spain or Sweden on a map. I could tell them what the flag of Venezuela or Mauritania looked like. This trip would be my first one abroad and my first tiny step onto the globe! Paving the way for many more explorations afterwards.

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The journey was a coach trip to the small Austrian village of Mariastein. We stayed at the Hotel Alpenhof – I only know this now because I managed to find it online after scouring various search engines and it’s still there! I think it’s the only hotel in the village and it’s not a changed a bit. It’s like an ever standing image of the past. I’ll always remember when you walked up the decking to the entrance there was a garden gnome that used to wolf whistle at you when you strolled past it. I think it’s amusing, the short snippets of memories that just stick with you after all of these years.

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From what I remember you would walk in the main entrance and to the left there was a bar/restaurant area and I used to sit on a barstool most nights, playing darts with the other people staying there. I’m sure I put them all to shame. One night they must have had a disco on and me and my grandma showed off our moves! There was also a swimming pool, we tried to use it one day but it was freezing so we never attempted that again. (It was probably before they even had heated pools there!). Our room was on the second floor and we had a little balcony that looked out onto the scenery. Every night I used to lay next to my grandma and she would read Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone to me while we ate Pringles. I ended up kicking my grandad out of bed and he had to sleep in the small single at the other side of the room!

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I remember one day we went into the village of Mariastein, which was only a very short walk from our hotel. There was a parade on and all of the locals joined us in standing on the street and watching the soldiers walk by. At this time Austria had just joined the euro and when we went to change some money we ended up getting loads more than we should. The town was really small with only a few shops and houses dotted around the place. I wonder if it’s still that small Austrian village today. It would be an amazing opportunity to be able to go back and see how everything has changed.

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We had many trips out while we were visiting Mariastein. Looking back through the photo album I don’t remember all of them. It looks like on one of the trips we went on a boat but my memory has failed me as to where to – I look happy enough anyway! I was lucky enough to see a lot of Austria. I feel like when people go abroad they find themselves stuck to one location. As a consequence they miss out on much of the area they’ve come to visit. I always make sure I branch out and see new places while I’m away. I probably got that from my grandparents as well!

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We also went to Salzburg for the day. I remember this trip because we broke off from the group to go and explore the city by ourselves. There was a giant chessboard in the middle of this square and I watched the locals while eating a big chocolate ice cream, eager to have a go myself. When it was time to meet up with everyone else again, I swore that I knew the way back and my grandparents trusted me but I ended up getting us completely lost!

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We also went to Tratzburg castle. We had to get one of those small road trains up to the top. I can only appreciate its beauty now I’m all grown up and looking at pictures of it online to refresh my memory. I feel very lucky to have got to see it because I doubt many people will have heard about it. We got to walk around the castle as we spent most of the day there. When we arrived we were each given one of those audio tapes. However, my volume was turned on really loud and I remember shouting “it’s too loud, it’s too loud” not knowing that people could hear me just fine. It amused everyone else… apart from the tour guide!

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It’s a trip full of memories that’ll treasure forever. We still talk about it today and laugh at the little stories we remember about it. I do believe that’s why I have my website today and why I’m always eager to get on a plane and discover my next destination. I caught the travel bug from my grandparents at a really early age! The trips you take with family are always the most special ones.

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