Monday, November 26, 2012

Brian Williams (1988) Visits Gastfamilie in Salzburg

Dear Salzburgers!

   Frohe Weihnachten und ein gutes neues Jahr!! 


   Jane and I (and our three kids) traveled to Europe (Germany, Italy and Austria) in mid-October to celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary.  I didn’t think we’d make it 20 years either.  Just kidding.  The weather was outstanding and the fall colors were spectacular.
   The best stop of the trip, of course, was Salzburg.  After hitting all of the sights (Hohensalzburg Castle, Getreidegasse, Augustiner, etc.), I drove the family out to Am Abstwald 10.
   I wanted them to see where “Dad” lived in Europe -- twenty-five years ago (really??).  After parking the car, we walked down to the Paeske house to snap a couple of photos.  The house was quiet.  Much to my amazement, the name on the gate still said Gerhard Paeske. 

   I wondered if the Paeske children now owned or took care of the home.  We began walking back to the car when my eldest son spotted a tiny, gray-haired woman coming from the backyard.  “Dad, I think that’s her,” he said.  I couldn’t believe my eyes. 
   “Frau Paeske?,” I called out.  “Ja?,” she answered with a truly puzzled look.  I nearly fell over. 
   “Ich heise Brian Williams.  “Ich war 1987 hier” (close enough, I figured).
   I’m not sure which of us was more shocked.  Of course, she immediately invited us all into her house (which hadn’t changed much at all).  Frau Paeske is now 94 years old.  She looks great (and could pass for someone at least ten years younger).  She is as sharp as ever.  She has lived alone in the house for seven years (since Herr Paeske passed away).  Sadly, she informed us that one of her daughters had also died of a brain tumor.
   We spoke (or I at least tried to) for the better part of an hour (my daughter recorded a fair chunk of it on video).  Many times throughout our short visit, Frau Paeske said, “I so happy.”  Her English is probably still better than my German.  Ha.  We had a wonderful time paging through her scrapbooks and recalling a few moments from our semester stay.
  I got a big laugh from her when I re-enacted Herr Paeske scolding us for plugging the toilet – “Zuviel papier!!!  Zuviel papier!!!”  Frau Paeske also laughed when she realized that I married the girl who called the house so much when we lived there.  “Brine, telephone.”  We almost have those phone bills paid off.  Ha.

   She took us upstairs to view the old bedrooms and the bathroom mirror made famous by Der Salzburger Butcher (Metzger, if you prefer).  After our visit, we stopped at a local grocery store (unfortunately, the ADEG is no more) and purchased some rolls and “burp” wurst for a quick lunch in our car.  We returned to the house a while later with a few small gifts, and Frau Paeske forced us to take some chocolates in return.
   Our time with Frau Paeske proved to be the highlight of the entire trip.  By the end of our visit, it had become clear that CSB/SJU’s Salzburg Program had affected her life as much as it impacted mine.  I will always cherish our time together in Salzburg in 1987.  Thanks for all the great memories!  We should find the time to meet for a cold Austrian lager real soon.   

Peace and Merry Christmas,
Brian Williams
16670 7th Street South
Lakeland, MN 55043