I spent this past weekend in Austria and it was too wonderful. So wonderful that I didn't want to get on the train and come back to Siena where it has been pretty rainy. I didn't think about any school work, just wandered around Vienna and Salzburg for four days in the sunshine, got a little burned while eating outside, rode a bike through Salzburg's many parks, and failed entirely to understand the German language. I picked up a few useful words, though, like ausgang (exit) and kartoffel (potato). My friend Carolyn and I had some good hearty food and beer (things quite absent from my time in Italy), and were mistaken many a time for true Austrians (which also never happens in Italy, where in fact many people think I'm British).
The only downside (seriously, the ONLY one) was traveling somewhere without really knowing the history. In all my classes in Siena we're constantly learning about Italy's history, culture, language etc, so I have a broad foundation to understand anywhere I travel. But in Austria I had no one to explain to me the importance of very large buildings in Vienna (except that they were mostly built by the Hapsburgs) or how Salzburg became such an important cultural center.
In Salzburg we went on the Sound of Music tour, which may sound corny, but it was really pretty great. Especially because our bus took us to a small town in the lake district outside of Salzburg where they filmed a scene. Also, one night in Salzburg we went to a small classical concert where a violinist and pianist played Mozart and some others. It was so wonderful! Mountains and lakes and bikes and Mozart and schnitzel and goulash--what a wonderful country. I missed the wine, cheese and pasta of Italy, but a break was nice.
I'm putting some pictures up on Flickr, hopefully you won't get sick of looking at the Alps (they compose about 60 percent of my pictures).