Don’t ask me how or why, but the International Center for Journalists chose me as one of two American journalists to travel to Austria for a six-week placement with a major Austrian newspaper. My employer, the Adirondack Daily Enterprise was generous enough to grant me a leave of absence to work with the Salzburger Nachrichten in Salzburg.
The program, I am told, is two-fold: I will continue to write for the Enterprise; I will make myself as useful as an American with limited German-language skills can be to my host newspaper.
The journey begins with three days of meetings with U.S. and Austrian diplomats, journalists, academics who have been graciously meeting us and stuffing us with rich food at luxurious restaurants.
WASHINGTON, D.C. I hope you won’t think Salzburg too provincial, the Salzburger Nachrichten is a fine newspaper with many grand opportunities, the Austrian ambassador said to me as two dozen journalists and diplomats clutched champagne flumes to a toast in my and three other journalists’ honor held at the ambassador’s palatial residence in Washington..
How did I get here? I keep pinching myself. But forgive me, I’m getting ahead of myself; allow me to start from the beginning.
It’s early Sunday morning. The taste of the Saranac Lake Winter Carnival a weekend punctuated by unbridled revelry and merriment still lingered in my mouth as I arrived at the Adirondack Regional Airport in Lake Clear. My mouth was dry from the previous night’s beer, my limbs ached from the dancing to Los Blancos upstairs at Waterhole # 3 and there was a faint odor of ordinance from Saturday evening’s impromptu fireworks program.
Arriving at the airport, I realized that I’d forgotten to write down the name of my hotel in Washington. Fortunately, the friendly staff at the airport let me use their office computer to retrieve my itinerary; otherwise, I would’ve been completely helpless when I arrived at Dulles Airport.
I’d never flown in such a small commercial aircraft. We could see down the aisle through the front window and watch the pilots struggle to keep the plane level despite a biting crosswind and flurries that blanketed the runway. I felt a pang of homesickness as we accelerated skyward and the plane turned its nose toward New England. Forty minutes later, we were in Boston but it might as well have been a different world. The sun was shining brightly and crowds thronged Logan. I swallowed hard, I would be away from home for a long time.
Arriving in Washington, there was a flurry of introductions. The program is an exchange. Aside from myself, the program is sending a similarly young reporter from the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel to Austria. She will be at Die Presse, a prestigious paper in Vienna. Sheila Lalwani, a 26-year-old native of Indiana, is a fast-talking fountain of exuberance that only the Midwest can produce. Multilingual in a number of languages from Europe and Asia Minor, she’s examining the role of minorities and immigrants in Austrian society today. Her blog is here.
The Austrian journalists are also an impressive bunch. Christoph Prantner, a 35-year-old foreign affairs reporter at Vienna’s Der Standard, Austria’s most left-leaning national newspaper, is being sent to USA Today’s Washington office. His cynical sense-of-humor is of the type that seems to unite journalists around the world no matter their national or cultural background.
Twenty-seven-year-old Michaela Roithmayr is bound for WCBS radio in New York City. Hailing from Life Radio, a regional radio station in Linz. She’s already got her blog a’blazing which I’ll link here. For some reason, she insists on writing in Austrian; the pictures are pretty, though.